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Redfish are a great saltwater sport fish to go after whether you’re young or old. They have a strong bite and are a blast to catch with on all tackle setups. They also don’t run too far and tire out young anglers. Redfish go after many types of bait and lures, so there are a lot of options if you want to fish for them. But what are the best redfish lures? Don’t worry, we got you.
In this article, we’ll cover the best redfish lures depending on the season/location, where and when to fish for redfish, as well as what kind of saltwater equipment you should use. Redfish are some of the most fun saltwater fish to catch in the Southern United States, and we want you to extra prepared next time you fish for them. Let’s dive in!
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Best Topwater Redfish Lures
What Are Redfish?
Redfish (or red drum) are a saltwater gamefish found on the east coast of North America from New England to the Gulf of Mexico. Redfish are dark red/orange and brown in color with one or two black spots on their tail. Scientists believe their spots are similar to snakehead’s distractive tail spots. Redfish use the spots to trick predators into attacking their tail instead of their actual heads. This gives the redfish a better chance at escape.
Redfish get their official name (red drum) because they’re red (duh) and that they make a drumming sound during their mating season by vibrating their swim bladders rhythmically. The sound is used to let other redfish nearby know that they’re in their territory.
Redfish often grow to 20 to 40 lbs with the record redfish weighing in at 94 lbs. Redfish enjoy eating mullet, crabs, shrimp, shad, and other small underwater creatures. As with most kinds of fish, the best redfish lures typically mimic their natural prey. You’ll soon see it isn’t any different with redfish!
Where Do Redfish Live?
As we mentioned earlier, redfish live relatively close to shore along with the East Coast of North America. They’ve been known to live as far north as Boston, and as far south as the Gulf of Mexico. They enjoy living in salty marshes, open sounds, sand flats, and oyster bars. Smaller redfish tend to school up in groups more than older large redfish. We like using an inshore kayak to pursue redfish in the shallows. Kayak fishing for redfish is as good as it gets!
The Top Tackle for Red Drum
Redfish can grow to be fairly large so you need to be prepared with fishing tackle that can handle their size. We recommend using a medium saltwater fishing reel or surfcasting reel and a 7 to 12 ft fishing rod. If you plan on casting from shore, your best bet will be a surf fishing rod. Otherwise, get a robust inshore redfish rod.
As far as what fishing line you should use, we recommend using monofilament or braided line. You can use fluorocarbon, but it isn’t as flexible as monofilament and can tangle when casting. If you end up using braided line, we recommend also using a monofilament leader. Redfish can see many types of braided line in the water and get spooked easily. It’s also worth noting that redfish tend to live near underwater structure and will try and retreat to rocky areas when hooked. In order to ensure your line doesn’t break against underwater structures, we recommend sizing up on your fishing line weight rating.
What Are The Best Redfish Lures?
There are many different fishing lure presentations and bait that work well for redfish. Both natural lures/bait and artificial lures will work depending on the season and where you’re fishing. We’ll cover our favorite presentations and best redfish lures below.
Artificial Redfish Lures
The best size artificial redfish lures are between 2 and 6 inches long. We really like topwater plugs and imitation shad for tarpon. For imitation shad, the Sebile Magic Swimmer works particularly well if you find feeding redfish. Rattling plugs also work well if you need to get a feeding redfish’s attention, or if you’re fishing in muddy/unclear water.
If you’re fly fishing for red drum, we recommend using either the Clouser Minnow or Deceiver Minnow fly patterns. Both of these were designed to fish for striped bass, which feed on the same types of baitfish redfish eat.
As far as presentation goes, we recommend casting your lure close to where the redfish are feeding or schooled up. If you’re sight fishing, look for redfish fins sticking out of the water while they nose through the sand for food. They often do this up creek inlets, in estuaries, and on shallow sand flats. Schools of minnow and birds feeding along the edge of the water are also good signs.
Another pro tip: use a fishing scent to mask your lures after rigging them. Red drum have a very acute sense of smell and foreign smells from your hands can scare them off. And as always, don’t forget: you need to use bigger lures if you want to catch bigger fish!
Natural Redfish Lures
If you’re planning on using live bait/lures, mullet, shrimp, and crabs work especially well for redfish. This is even more true during the yearly mullet run each fall. Mullet make a great live or dead bait if you can set up a baitfish trap to catch them ahead of fishing for redfish. You can also almost always find them at the local bait shop. For crab, we recommend catching some the night before you’re going fishing. Look for small to medium-sized crabs hiding under rocks nearshore.
For hooking natural lures, use a medium circle hook and a 40 lb monofilament leader. Hook the mullet or shrimp through the back so it can still swim. For crabs, hook them through the edge of their shell on the side. This will entice even the most reluctant redfish. If you plan on using your bait cut up, use the heads when targetting larger redfish and the body pieces for smaller ones. For surf fishing, we recommend using the time-tested fish finder rig. This rig works well for many types of saltwater gamefish, so don’t be surprised if you hook a cobia or a shark instead!
For presentation, cast your redfish lure in front of where the redfish are swimming. This will allow them to discover your lure “on their own time” and not scare them away with a splash. You can also try casting your bait past where they’re feeding and slowly reel it in until it’s on top of them.
Redfish are often just as much to catch as other saltwater gamefish but have the added bonus of tasting great. They also have a tendency to bite when other species aren’t feeding. We hope that after reading this article you now know what the best redfish lures are as well as how to fish them. Have another redfish lure setup that works really well? Let us know in the comments below.