Best Redfish Fishing Tackle and Lures – Pro tips!


Best Redfish Fishing Tackle and Lures

This article will feature the best redfish fishing tackle and lures. The proper name is “red drum, but they are known as redfish, reds, puppy drum, and channel bass. Redfish are an extremely popular inshore saltwater species. They are found all along the Gulf Coast up to the mid Atlantic states. Redfish average 5 pounds but grow close to 10 pounds!

best redfish fishing tackle

Anglers can purchase Capt Jim’s E-book, “Inshore Saltwater Fishing” for $5 by clicking on the title link. It is 23,000 words long and covers tackle, tactics, and species.

Redfish have an “inferior” mouth. That means that the nose extends out over the mouth. This gives anglers an insight into the manner in which they feed. Reds mostly use their hard nose to root around in the bottom. However, they are not scavengers, though they are opportunistic. Crabs, shrimp, and other crustaceans are their primary forage.

Sarasota fishing calendar

Redfish do most certainly feed on live bait fish as well! Depending on the location, these include mullet, pinfish, grunts, sardines, herring, mud minnows, pogies, and any juvenile game fish. Fresh fish are used effectively as cut bait in many instances, especially for anglers surf fishing.

Best redfish rods and reels

The vast majority of anglers that fish for redfish are targeting fish in the 3 to 10 pound range. Therefore, medium spinning and light conventional outfits work best. However, those fishing for large reds in inlets and around bridges will require stout conventional gear. Surf anglers use the same outfits that do well for larger bluefish and striped bass.

Gulf of mexico game fish


Spinning rods and reels for redfish

Medium spinning rods with a fast action and a 3000 or 4000 series reel work very well for anglers fishing for redfish. “Fast action” means that the rod is stout at the butt and middle section, but tapers to a limber tip. This allows for casting of light lures and baits, but enough muscle to handle a decent fish.

Anglers can shop at Amazon for a Daiwa Black Gold reel and St Croix Triumph 7′ MF rod spinning combo in this link.

“Fishing Lido Key is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.”

Spinning rods are used a lot by anglers who fish with lighter lures and live baits. This rig works great for those casting ¼ ounce jigs and spoons as well as free lining live shrimp and bait fish. Also, many areas have reds that are mostly 30” and under. These outfits are fine for those fish, especially in open water.

Light conventional rods and reels for redfish

redfish fishing tackle

Light conventional, or bait casting, outfits are well suited to anglers chasing redfish as well. They are especially popular in the Gulf Coast states where larger fish are more often caught. Also, these rigs work well for anglers casting larger lures and live baits. These conventional outfits are also great as casting heavier popping cork rigs, which are extremely popular in that region.

Heavy conventional redfish tackle

best redfish tackle

Heavy conventional outfits are used by anglers chasing the largest redfish. This often occurs in inlets and passes whee strong current is an additional factor. The same applies to fishing near bridges and docks, stout tackle is required to land a big, strong fish in these conditions. Heavy conventional gear is best for this application.

Surf fishing tackle for reds

Anglers catch redfish in the surf as well. This is particularly true in the Atlantic from Georgia to Maryland. The Outer Banks is a famous surf fishing destination. Reds vary greatly in size, from 18” puppy drum to 50 pound monsters. Anglers need to match the surf fishing tackle to the size of the fish being pursued.

Fishing line options for redfish anglers

fishing for reedfish and speckled trout

Anglers fishing for redfish have two basic choices when it comes to fishing line, braided line and monofilament line. Most anglers now use braided line. It costs more, but lasts longer, have zero stretch, great sensitivity, and is thinner in diameter so it casts further. Knots are a bit trickier. Some anglers still prefer the stretch and feel of monofilament. There is not a wrong choice, it is just a matter of individual preference.


fishing in Carolina

Anglers will need leader material as well when fishing for redfish. Flourocarbon leader is the best choice in most applications. 30 lb leader is good for inshore fishing. Anglers can bump up the strength as the fish get larger or the water gets less clear.

Best artificial lures for redfish

plug fishing Sarasota

Anglers fish for redfish with both live bait and artificial lures. The main advantage with lures is the ability to cover water in search of fish. This is especially true when they are scattered out on large, expansive flats. Here is a selection of proven artificial lures for reds.

Gold Johnson Silver Minnow

It would be hard to argue that the gold Johnson Silver minnow spoon is not the top redfish artificial lure of all time. To this day, gold weedless spoons produce many redfish. They are terrific search baits. Spoons can be cast a long distance. This allows anglers to cover a lot of water in search of fish.

Florida fishing tips

The Johnson Silver minnow spoon started out as a largemouth bass lure, as did many saltwater baits. While it does come in silver and other finishes, gold is the more productive color for redfish. The Silver Minnow is relatively weedless as it rides hook up and also has a weed guard. Spoons have an enticing wiggle and put out a lot a flash and vibration. They can be fished in water as shallow as a foot deep effectively.

Read these redfish fishing tips

The technique when fishing with weedless spoons is fairly simple. Anglers make a long cast and reel the spoon back in using a slow, steady retrieve. It is extremely effective when used overlarge expansive shallow grass flats. The Johnson Silver Minnow can also be used along oyster bars and shorelines. The 1/2 ounce size is most popular.

Bass Assassin Sea Shad

Second on the list of Capt. Jim’s best seven fishing lures for redfish is the 4 inch Bass Assassin Sea Shad soft plastic swim bait. These types of lures have been around for a long time. They are still very effective for catching a wide variety of fish species, and redfish are no exception.

redfish lures

These soft plastic swim baits are simple, economical, and very effective. The bait is 4 inches long and has a shad style tail which produces a lot a vibration and a natural swimming action. Bass Assassin offers a myriad of color options for anglers to choose from. Lighter colors work well in clear water while darker colors perform best in stained water. Hot pink and chartreuse work best when the water is muddy.

Anglers have several choices when it comes to reading these baits. Most often, a jig head is used. The jig head provides both weight and hook. The lure rides with the hookup, making it relatively weedless. However, the jig had will pick up grass. Special shallow water jig heads have a tapered head which helps reduce this. Anglers can also rig this bait on a weighted swim bait hook.

Venice Louisiana fishing

One of the keys to this baits effectiveness is its versatility. The bait can be rigged on a very light jig head and fish and extremely shallow water. Anglers will swim it over the grass than allow it to sink down into potholes. It can also be bounced down the edges of oyster bars. When used with a heavier jig head, this lure can be used when redfish are found in deeper water such as and inlets and passes.

Rapala X-Rap

Number three on the list of best redfish lures that Capt. Jim likes is the Rapala X-Rap Extreme Action Slashbait. This is a shallow diving jerk bait that is very effective on redfish as well as other species. The bait floats at rest that dives down several feet upon retrieve. The best retrieve is usually an erratic one with a pause in between. The bait has a lot of flash and vibration.

redfish fishing lures

X-Raps are available in several sizes and multiple colors. In the waters of Sarasota were Capt. Jim fishes, the 08 X-Rap is often the best choice. It realistically mimics the smaller forage such as finger mullet, glass minnows, and sardines that are available. Olive is a great all round color with white being his second choice. Gold works great in rivers and tannin stained waters.

As in all fishing applications, anglers should match the size and color of the bait to the locally available forage. If redfish are feeding on larger pogies, pin fish, mullet, and grunts, stepping up to the #10 X-Rap is probably a good decision. Again, lighter colors in clear water and darker colors in dark water is a good rule of thumb.

Redfish Magic Spinnerbait

The strike King Redfish Magic spinnerbait is number four on Capt. Jim’s list of the best seven fishing lures for redfish. Once again, this is basically a converted largemouth bass fishing lure. Spinner baits are really a combination of two very effective baits; a jig and a spinner. The lure has a wire frame with a jig and grub combination at the bottom and a flashing spinner blade at the top.

fishing for edfish and speckled trout

Like the spoon, this is an excellent search bait that allows anglers to cover a lot of water. The best approach is usually to cast it out, allow it to sink a second or two, then reel it back in using a slow, steady retrieve. This bait puts out a ton of vibration and is an excellent choice when the water is murky. It is also an excellent lure for novice anglers to use as it has a lot of built in action.

This bait really shines in conditions of limited visibility regarding water clarity. The Redfish Magic spinner bait puts out a lot a vibration and flash. This will help fish locate the bait when visibility is poor. The swim bait tail can be easily replaced when anglers want to make a change in color. Gold is the preferred blade finish.

Gulp! Baits

The Gulp! line of baits made by Berkeley work extremely well for anglers fishing for redfish. Soft plastic baits have been scented for many years. However, these are a whole step above that. The lure is actually manufactured from scented material. On days when the bite is tough, this added advantage of the scent can make a huge difference.

The two Gulp! baits that Capt. Jim likes to use are the 3 inch Gulp! Shrimp in the 5 inch Gulp! Jerk Shad. Both will fool redfish as well as just about every other saltwater species. The Gulp! Shrimp works best on a jig head and water depth from 2 feet and deeper. The jig had is matched to the depth and current. White with a chartreuse tail and new penny are his favorite colors.

The Gulp! 5 inch Jerk Shad is a tremendous bait in shallow water. It can be rigged with a very light jig head. However, it really shines when rigged up weedless on a light swim bait hook. These are specially designed hooks that have a weight near the bend of the hook. This allows for the lure to be presented and a horizontal manner. This rig can be worked through the shallowest of grass effectively without hanging up.

Rapala Skitter walk

The Rapala Skitterwalk is six on Capt. Jim’s list of the best seven fishing lures for redfish. Redfish have an inferior mouth. This means that the nose of the fish protrudes forward with the mouth being behind and underneath. However this does not prohibit redfish from taking a top water plug!

Since redfish are often times found in very shallow water, top water baits are often a logical choice to use. These baits will ride over top of submerge grass and not get hung up. They will also call fish up to the surface. The Skitterwalk is a “walk the dog bait”. This means that it does not have a lot of built in action, the angler must provide.

The lure is cast out and allowed to set motionless for several moments. With the rod tip held low near the surface of the water, the bait is retrieved back in while the rod tip is twitched. When the proper rhythm is found, the lure will dance seductively from left to right on the surface. It is important to wait until the weight of the fishes fell before setting the hook. Otherwise, most fish will be missed and the plug will come flying back to the boat.

D.O.A. Deadly Combo

Last, but certainly not least, on the list of top redfish lures is the DOA deadly combo. This is really a system that consists of a noisy cork, a short leader, and then and artificial shrimp. This is a very productive bait, particularly in stained or muddy water. It is also a great choice for novice anglers as it is fairly easy to use.

The idea of the bait is fairly simple. The noisy float is twitched sharply, causing it to pop and rattle. This simulates feeding fish. This will attract game fish in the area to the sound of the cork. Once there, they will see the shrimp dangling underneath and devour it. It really does work quite well! It really is just and artificial lure version of the venerable popping cork and live shrimp combination, which has been catching fish for many decades.

This is a great lure choice for children. The more they jerk and clack and make noise, often times the better it works. The bite is also visual as when a fish takes the court just disappears. For these reasons, this makes the DOA deadly combo a good lower for both kids and novice anglers. It will catch plenty of speckled trout as well.

13 Productive Redfish Fishing Tips

This post will highlight 13 productive redfish fishing tips. Redfish, also known as “reds”, “red drum”, “channel bass”, and “puppy drum”, are an extremely popular inshore saltwater game fish. They are found along the United States coastline from Texas to the mid Atlantic. Redfish are a hard fighting species that many anglers consider to be very good eating as well!

redfish fishing tips

The 13 productive redfish fishing tips are;

  • redfish have an inferior mouth
  • low, incoming tide is best for redfish on the flats
  • shrimp are the top live bait when fishing for redfish
  • redfish love structure
  • oyster bars are top redfish habitat
  • live bait fish will produce when redfish fishing
  • inlets and passes will hold redfish
  • Weedless spoons are excellent redfish fishing lures
  • redfish will move offshore in the fall
  • soft plastic baits will produce redfish
  • anglers surf fishing will catch redfish
  • cut bait produces redfish
  • redfish will take a fly

These 13 redfish fishing tips will help anglers catch more of these highly desirable inshore game fish species throughout their range. Each tip will be covered in detail in the sections below.


Fishing with popping corks

Capt. Jim Klopfer is a fishing guide in Sarasota, Florida. He mostly fishes inshore for redfish, speckled trout, snook, and other species. Redfish are without a doubt one of the most highly coveted species on the West Coast of Florida. Capt. Jim is sharing these tips which he has learned out on the water with anglers in the hopes that they will become more successful.

Redfish have an inferior mouth


fishing with lures for redfish

One look at the mouth of a redfish will give anglers a clue to how it feeds. Redfish have an “inferior” mouth. That means the nose protrudes out in front of the mouth. This results in a fish that is designed to feed on the bottom. The hard nose is used to root along the bottom in search of it’s favorite food; crustaceans.

Anglers can purchase Capt Jim’s E-book, “Inshore Saltwater Fishing” for $5 by clicking on the title link. It is 23,000 words long and covers tackle, tactics, and species.

Crabs and shrimp are the primary forage of fish that have an inferior mouth. Bonefish are another great example of this. Redfish will certainly take bait fish as well and anglers do catch them even using topwater plugs. However, the vast majority of redfish are caught by anglers presenting their baits and lures on or near the bottom.

Low, incoming tide is best for redfish on the flat

Most anglers fishing for redfish on the flats prefer a low, incoming tide. This is next on list list of redfish fishing tips. The primary reason for this is that it will concentrate the fish. Reds will stage up in holes, channels, and edges, waiting to the water to rise so that they can move up and feed. Generally speaking, the fish will be in an aggressive mood at this time.

Read Capt Jim’s article on the best redfish tackle and lures

As the water rises, redfish will move up on the flat to search for shrimp and crabs. They will also scatter out and disperse. This makes locating them more difficult, there is a lot more water in which they can be found. As the tide peaks and begins to fall, redfish will move back towards deeper water. They can still be caught, but are often not as active as they have been feeding on the incoming tide.

Capt Jim has been a fishing guide in Sarasota, Florida since 1991. Anglers who are interested in purchasing the equipment that he uses and writes about in his articles and reports can do so on the PRODUCTS page.

Shrimp are the top live bait for fishing for redfish

Shrimp are the top live bait for several reasons. Most importantly, shrimp are a favorite forage of redfish and are found throughout their range. Shrimp offer game fish a lot of protein while being fairly easy to catch. Gulf Coast redfish grow fat on shrimp!


saltwater fishing with shrimp

Read this in depth article on fishing with popping corks by Capt Jim

Live shrimp are also readily available. Just about every coastal bait shop will sell them. Shrimp are also fairly easy to keep alive. A small aerator will do fine. Live shrimp are also versatile and can be presented in several ways. A live shrimp fished under a popping cork is tough to beat for catching redfish. Shrimp also catch every other inshore saltwater species.

Redfish love structure

Like many game fish, redfish often are found around some type of structure. Docks and bridges are prime spots, as are jetties, ledges, submerged rocks, oyster bars, and wrecks. Any type of natural or man made structure is likely to hold redfish at one time or another.

Anglers have several choices when choosing redfish tackle. However, the same inshore rod and reel used for other types of fishing work fine. Capt Jim like a 7′ Medium action rod with a 3000 series reel. This will handle all but the largest redfish.

Anglers can shop at Amazon for a Daiwa Black Gold reel and St Croix Triumph 7′ MF rod spinning combo in this link.

“Fishing Lido Key is a participant in the Amazon Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. ”

Oyster bars are top redfish habitat


Redfish love oyster bars! The reason for this is simple; food. Oyster bars hold all kinds of crustaceans, especially crabs and shrimp. These are the primary forage of redfish. Also, oyster bars are fairly easy to fish. They are readily seen on the lower tide stages as well as on the higher tides. Live bait and lures can be equally productive.

Live bait fish will produce when redfish fishing



While redfish feed primarily on crustaceans, they will certainly eat bait fish as well. This is particularly true as the fish get larger. The type of bait fish used will vary depending on the region being fished. Finger mullet, pinfish, pigfish (grunts), scaled sardines, Spanish sardines, threadfin herring, mud minnows, and menhaden are all used as live baits by anglers fishing for redfish. This is another tip on list list of redfish fishing tips

Inlets and passes will hold redfish

fishing for redfish

Inlets and passes (“pass” is just a term for an inlet that is used on the Gulf Coast) are natural holding spots for migrating fish, and redfish are no exception. Many of these areas have long rock jetties which provide desired cover. Also, current flow will bring forage to the fish hiding in ambush mode.

Read more about fishing for redfish in Capt Jim’s article

Fall is a prime time to fish for redfish in inlets and passes. Redfish school up and move from the inshore water to the open water as part of their spawning run. This is perhaps the prime time to catch the largest redfish. Anglers use heavy tackle and cut bait fish and crabs on the slack tides.

Weedless spoons are excellent redfish fishing lures


Locating redfish can be difficult as they roam about in large areas. Anglers casting artificial lures can cover a lot more water than they can with live bait. The best lure for this is a weedless spoon. It casts a mile, puts out flash and vibration, and can be used successfully in very shallow water.

The gold Johnson Silver Minnow spoon in the ½ ounce size is a time proven redfish lure. It still catches fish to this day. Anglers have a lot of other choices as well.

Redfish will move offshore in the fall


Redfish have a well defined seasonal migration pattern. They roam about in the inshore bays, then start to group up in large schools in late summer. These schools can be found on the flats before they move out. Quiet, patient anglers can get them to bite, but they are skittish in the shallow water.

At some point, they then move out into the open Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic ocean. These are almost always large, “over-slot” bull reds. Anglers that are fortunate enough to run across one of these schools may experience a truly memorable day. The school can be easily seen milling just under the surface. These fish can also be found on structure such as artificial reefs as well.

Soft plastic baits will produce redfish

Soft plastic fishing lures are effective redfish baits as well. These lures are usually 3” to 6” long with a paddle, shad, or straight tail and are fished on a jig head or swimbait hook. The weight should match the depth being fished. Capt Jim likes the Bass Assassin line of lures, but there are plenty of quality baits for anglers to choose from.

Anglers catch redfish surf fishing


surf fishing for redfish

Surf fishing for redfish is very popular all along the coast from Texas to Virginia. Anglers can use the basic medium inshore tackle to cast lures in the trough. However, most redfish are caught by those using traditional surf fishing tackle. These are long, heavy rods that allow anglers to cast a bait with a heavy weight out past the breaking waves.

Read more about surf fishing tackle

Cut bait is usually used in this application. These baits stay on the hook better during a long cast and in strong current. Any locally available fresh fish will work, mullet are a favorite bait. Crabs can be used as well, though to do not stay on the hook as good.

Cut bait produces redfish


There are times when cut bait is the best choice for redfish. It is another tip on list of redfish fishing tips. As mentioned in the previous tip, surf fishing is a prime example. Also, when the water temperature gets high on the shallow flats from Texas to Florida, redfish often are reluctant to chase down a live bait or lure. The same can apply at the other end of the spectrum in cold water. A fresh chunk fished on the bottom or under a float will often produce when nothing else will. Mullet, pinfish, and ladyfish are top baits.

Redfish will take a fly


flats fishing

Sight casting a fly to tailing redfish is terrific sport! This can be challenging, especially in areas where the water is clear and where angling pressure is heavy. Anglers fly fishing for redfish usually pursue them on the shallow flats where they can be found feeding. In areas where the water has a bit more color, redfish can be easier to fool. Floating lines and flies that imitate crabs and shrimp are usually used.

In conclusion, this article on the best redfish fishing tackle and lures will help simplify the lures and techniques for catching reds! 



Jim Klopfer

Capt Jim Klopfer has been a fishing guide in Sarasota, Florida since 1991. He grew up in Maryland, fishing the Chesapeake Bay waters. Capt Jim has been creating an writing articles about fishing for decades, contributing to many regional and national publications. He also lives part time in the North Carolina mountains where he fishes for trout and other species. Capt Jim Klopfer is a wel rounded angler with 50 years fishing experience, and he loves to share what he has learned with other anglers!

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