How To Fish For Redfish

Redfish, also known as Red Drum, are a popular and esteemed game fish found primarily in the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. These fish are identifiable by their copper-bronze body, a distinctive spot or multiple spots at the tail base, and a slightly down-turned mouth. They inhabit both inshore and offshore waters, often in shallow bays, estuaries, and sometimes venturing into freshwater.

Redfish are popular among anglers for their fighting spirit and great taste. They are relatively easy to catch, making them ideal for both beginners and experienced fishermen. This guide will help you learn how to fish for Redfish with best tackle, bait, techniques, time, and location. We also have the tips and tricks for beginners, as well as recommended gear and tools.

Redfish Fishing Setup

Catching Redfish requires a specific setup to handle their strength and the varied environments where they are found. The most common and effective tackle for Redfish includes a medium to medium-heavy spinning or baitcasting rod, around 7 to 8 feet in length. This size offers a good balance between sensitivity for detecting bites and the power needed to handle a strong Redfish, especially when fishing around structures or in strong currents.

For the reel, a medium-sized spinning or baitcasting reel is ideal. It should have a smooth drag system to handle the powerful runs of a Redfish. A reel in the 3000 to 4000 size range when using a spinning setup, or a comparable size for baitcasters, matches well with the recommended rod size. The line choice is also crucial. A braided line of 15 to 30-pound test is commonly used because of its strength and sensitivity, allowing for better feel and control, especially in areas with heavy cover or strong currents.

When it comes to the best rig for Redfish, the most effective and versatile is the popping cork rig. This setup involves a popping cork attached to the mainline, followed by a leader (often fluorocarbon for its invisibility and abrasion resistance) of about 18 to 24 inches, ending with a hook or jig head. This rig is excellent for live bait like shrimp or mullet, but can also be used with artificial lures. The popping cork attracts fish by creating noise and disturbance on the surface, mimicking the sound of feeding fish, while the leader allows the bait to float or swim naturally below.

Another popular rig for red drum is the Carolina rig. This setup consists of a sliding sinker on the mainline, followed by a swivel, a leader (around 12 to 24 inches), and a hook. This rig is great for live or cut bait and allows the bait to move more freely in the current, making it attractive to Redfish.

Best Bait For Redfish

Redfish have a diverse diet that includes crustaceans, small fish, and mollusks, making them responsive to a variety of baits. Among the live baits, some of the best for Redfish are live shrimp, mullet, and crab. These baits closely mimic their natural food sources and are highly effective.

Live shrimp are the most popular bait for many anglers targeting Redfish. They can be fished under a popping cork, on a jig head, or on a Carolina rig, and are irresistible to Redfish of all sizes. Mullet, another excellent choice, can be used whole or as cut bait. When using mullet, hooking them through the lips or behind the dorsal fin allows for natural movement. Crabs, especially fiddler crabs and blue crabs, are also highly effective, especially for larger Redfish. They can be fished on the bottom using a Carolina rig or near structures where Redfish forage for them.

When it comes to artificial lures, spoons, soft plastic jigs, and topwater lures are among the best. Gold or silver spoons are classic Redfish lures, easy to use, and highly effective, particularly in clear water. The wobbling and flashing action of the spoon mimics a fleeing baitfish, triggering strikes from Redfish. Soft plastic jigs, such as paddle tails or shrimp imitations, can be extremely effective when worked along the bottom or through grassy areas. They can be rigged weedless to avoid snagging in heavy cover. Topwater lures are especially exciting to use for Redfish, as they elicit spectacular surface strikes. They work best in calm, shallow waters, particularly in the early morning or late evening.

caught red drum with lure
caught red drum with lure

Redfish Fishing Techniques

Here are some of the most effective techniques for catching Redfish:

Sight Fishing

Sight fishing is an exhilarating way to target Redfish, especially in clear, shallow waters. This technique involves visually locating the fish before casting. It’s most effective in flats, shallow bays, and along the edges of marshes where Redfish feed. Use a light spinning setup with 10-20 pound test braided line for better casting accuracy and sensitivity. Soft plastics rigged weedless or small spoons are ideal for sight fishing. This technique requires stealth and patience, as well as clear water conditions and a sunny day for better visibility.

Popping Cork Fishing

Popping cork fishing is a widely used and successful technique for Redfish. This involves a popping cork rig, with a leader around 18-24 inches long, attached to a live bait like shrimp or mullet, or even artificial lures like soft plastics. The cork makes noise when twitched, attracting Redfish with the sound and the sight of distressed prey. This technique is most effective in deeper grass flats, along marsh edges, and over oyster beds. The best conditions for this method are slightly choppy waters, where the popping noise stands out more distinctly.

Bottom Fishing

Bottom fishing is a classic and effective technique for Redfish, particularly in deeper waters or when they are less active on the surface. A Carolina rig is ideal for this method, using live bait like mullet or crab, or cut bait. The weight on the rig allows the bait to stay near the bottom, right in the Redfish’s feeding zone. This technique is particularly effective around structures like jetties, pilings, and drop-offs. It works well in a variety of conditions but is especially useful when the water is murky or during colder months when Redfish are deeper.


Trolling can be a productive way to catch Redfish, especially in larger open areas or when searching for schools. This involves moving slowly through the water with lures or baited lines trailing behind the boat. Use medium-heavy gear with stronger line (20-30 pound test) to withstand the constant motion and potential strikes from big Redfish. Diving crankbaits, spoons, and soft plastic swimbaits are effective. Trolling is most effective in deeper channels, along the edges of flats, or around barrier islands. It’s particularly useful for covering large areas and locating active fish.

Best Time To Catch Redfish

Here’s a detailed guide on when to catch Redfish:

  • Spawning Season: Redfish spawn in late summer and early fall, usually from August to October.
  • Best Time of Day to Catch Redfish: Early morning and late afternoon are prime times for Redfish. They feed actively during these cooler parts of the day.
  • Best Time of Year to Catch Redfish: Fall is the best time to catch Redfish due to their spawning behavior, but they can be caught year-round.


During spring, Redfish are found in shallow waters, making them accessible to anglers. The warming waters increase their metabolism and feeding activity. Sight fishing and using popping corks are effective techniques in this season. Early morning and late afternoon remain the best times for fishing, as Redfish are more active during these cooler periods.


In the summer, Redfish are more active in the early morning and late evening to avoid the heat of the day. They tend to move into deeper waters or areas with more cover. Trolling along deeper channels or fishing near structures like docks and jetties can be productive. Live bait, like mullet or crab, is particularly effective during these months.


Fall is the peak season for Redfish due to their spawning activities. They are more aggressive and can be found in larger schools. This is the ideal time for sight fishing and using popping corks in shallow bays and flats. The best fishing times are during the cooler hours of early morning and late afternoon. The use of both live baits and artificial lures like spoons and soft plastics can yield great results.


In winter, Redfish move to deeper, warmer waters. Bottom fishing with live bait or cut bait is most effective during this time. Although Redfish are less active in colder temperatures, fishing during the warmest part of the day, typically midday, can be successful.

Where To Find Redfish

Redfish are predominantly found in coastal waters, particularly in the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. They thrive in estuaries, bays, and lagoons. Redfish are often found in shallow waters, typically in depths less than 6 feet, but can also be found in deeper waters around structures.

A fish finder can be incredibly useful in locating Redfish, especially in deeper or murky waters, as it helps identify underwater structures and schools of fish.


Estuaries are prime locations for Redfish, offering abundant food and shelter. Here, sight fishing is highly effective, especially in clear, shallow waters. A light spinning setup with a 10-20 pound test line is ideal. Soft plastic lures or live bait like shrimp and mullet, used under a popping cork or on a jig head, work well in these brackish waters. The best times are during moving tides, as Redfish actively feed during these periods.


In bays, Redfish are often found around oyster beds, grass flats, and mangroves. A medium-action spinning setup with a braided line is suitable here. Popping corks with live bait are highly effective, as are weedless-rigged soft plastics and spoons. Targeting the edges of grass beds or shallow flats during high tide can be particularly productive.


Lagoons offer a calmer environment where Redfish feed around sandy bottoms and seagrass. A lighter tackle setup works well in these areas. Sight fishing with soft plastics or using live bait like crabs or shrimp can yield excellent results. The key is to fish during moving tides and to look for signs of Redfish, such as tailing in shallow waters.


Shore fishing for Redfish is common and rewarding. Anglers can find them near jetties, piers, and in surf zones. Heavier tackle may be required due to the potential for larger fish and rougher waters. Bottom fishing with cut bait or live bait such as mullet or crab is effective. Casting spoons or swimbaits near structures or in troughs in the surf can also attract Redfish.

Tips To Catch Redfish For Beginners

  • A medium-action spinning rod and reel combo is ideal for beginners. It’s versatile and easier to handle, suitable for various Redfish environments.
  • Use 10-20 pound test braided line for better casting and sensitivity. Attach a 2-3 foot fluorocarbon leader (20-30 pound test) for added stealth and abrasion resistance.
  • Live shrimp are the best bait for beginners. They are irresistible to Redfish and easy to rig.
  • Use a popping cork rig for live shrimp. Attach the cork to your main line, then tie a leader to the other end of the cork, and finally attach a hook (size 1/0 to 2/0 circle hook is ideal).
  • Hook the shrimp just under the horn (on the head) to keep it alive and active. Avoid piercing the black spot, which is its brain.
  • Cast near likely Redfish spots like grassy edges, oyster beds, or around docks. After casting, periodically twitch the rod tip to make the popping cork create noise, attracting Redfish.
  • Redfish might take some time to bite. Watch for the popping cork to dive under the water, indicating a bite.
  • With a circle hook, avoid a hard hook set. Simply reel in steadily when you feel a bite; the hook will set itself in the corner of the fish’s mouth.
  • Look for signs of Redfish activity such as tails (tailing Redfish in shallow water), or disturbances in the water.
  • If you’re not planning to keep the fish, handle it gently and release it promptly to preserve the fish population.

Best Redfish Fishing Gear And Tools

Fishing Rod

The ideal fishing rod for Redfish is a medium to medium-heavy action rod, ranging from 7 to 8 feet in length. This range offers a good balance of sensitivity and power, essential for both casting accuracy and handling the robust fight of a Redfish. The longer rod helps in casting further distances, which is particularly useful when sight fishing or covering large areas in bays and flats.

Fishing Line

Braided line is the top choice for Redfish due to its strength and minimal stretch, which provides superior sensitivity and a direct feel for the bite. A 10-20 pound test line is perfect for most Redfish situations. It’s strong enough to handle the power of a sizable Redfish while still offering a good casting experience. Attaching a 20-30 pound fluorocarbon leader to the braided line is recommended, as fluorocarbon is less visible underwater and more abrasion-resistant, an advantage in areas with sharp oyster beds and structures.

Fishing Reel

A spinning reel is often preferred for Redfish, especially for beginners or when using lighter baits. Look for a reel that is rated for saltwater use to ensure durability against the corrosive marine environment. The ideal reel should have a smooth drag system and be capable of holding enough of the specified 10-20 pound test line. A 3000 to 4000 series reel balances well with medium-action rods, providing enough power to fight Redfish effectively without being too bulky.

Fish Finder

A fish finder is incredibly useful for locating Redfish, especially in deeper or unclear waters. The ideal fish finder for Redfish should have a good resolution to distinguish between fish and structure and include GPS mapping to mark productive spots. Side-scan and down-scan technologies are beneficial for covering a larger area and identifying Redfish-holding structures like drop-offs, channels, and oyster beds. A portable fish finder is a great option for anglers who fish in a variety of locations.