Redfish in Louisiana’s Marsh

The Best Bait for Redfish

Source: Penny Richard /

Redfish, otherwise known as red drum or channel bass, have long been a valued prize for anglers. Redfish have a blunt nose, a barbel-less chin, and a white belly with a bronze hue that shimmers on the rest of their bodies.

Anglers love to talk about the best bait to use for redfish. Unfortunately, there is no definitive answer because the ideal redfish bait depends on several variables.

Redfish change their preferences according to what baitfish activities and time of year. If you understand how common redfish prey behaves at a specific time of year, your chances of hooking a redfish will increase.

Seasonal Choices

Baitfish populations migrate according to their habitat's water temperature, which in turn fluctuates with the seasons. 

Baitfish prefer warm water and migrate toward warmer, southern climes in the cold months and move north as the weather warms. Many redfish will follow these baitfish in their search for warmer waters.

Springtime Movement

As large schools of baitfish migrate up the Atlantic, Pacific or Gulf coast, the redfish swim right along with them. Additionally, bigger redfish spend the winter offshore and move inland to feast on baitfish as they arrive. 

The baitfish that redfish love to hunt are pogies, mullet, pilchards and greenies. They also feast on crab and other shellfish, but the baitfish are easier to catch.

If you're fishing for redfish in the spring, look for large baitfish schools, like pogies, on the warm tidal currents. Sometimes, when mullet and pogies amass toward the surface, the schools are so plentiful that you can't see the bottom. 

Use a live pogie or live mullet, although frozen also works, and cast right offshore. Your rig should be lower than the baitfish school. The hope is that the redfish will mistake your bait for one of the many other small fish in the area. Look for these clouds of bait and wait for a strike. 

Summertime Stasis

friends fishing

Redfish congregate in estuaries, creeks and bays as the summer sun warms the waters. They usually spread out, with some staying in inlets and streams and others moving closer to jetties or piers. 

In the summer, redfish look for convenient food sources such as crustaceans, small crabs and shrimp. Redfish will follow this type of prey into the grass and mudflats, unaware that they might become trapped as the tide ebbs. Look for reds in the inlets and creeks with the outgoing tides.

Small crabs are an excellent choice for bait, and you can use them on the hard-bottomed flats. When the tide goes out, reposition yourself at an inlet's mouth to catch reds as they try to get back to deeper water.

Redfish also love to eat shrimp, which move into estuaries to spawn at this time of year. Wherever you find shrimp, you can find redfish hunting them.

Fall Folly

In the autumn, redfish are looking to spawn. You have the opportunity to catch some huge reds during this time of year, although, in most states, it's illegal to keep them. 

Even so, catching and releasing a 30-pound red is thrilling for any angler. Just make sure you're prepared with the right gear, like a fishing neck gaiter, to protect you from the cold.

Shop Fishing Neck Gaiters

A small live blue crab is the best bait for redfish during the fall. If you can't find one small enough for your hook, cut a larger one in half or quarters. 

Wintertime Woes

This season presents the most challenges for redfish fishing. Sadly, these fish become more lethargic in colder waters.

The redfish that did not follow the baitfish down south are probably hiding in deep waters and offshore reefs or wrecks. You don't want to go after these larger fish in the winter because the pressure disparity that occurs when you pull them up from a depth of 60 to 100 feet will kill them.

Smaller redfish will move into inlets and creeks to survive the winter. Look for warmer waters that sit under the sun, like shallow mudflats. Crab and shrimp are excellent bait choices in these areas.

fly fishing for redfish on the south carolina coast

Source: Junior D /

Reel in The Redfish 

Angling for redfish is thrilling in any season. To catch redfish, pay attention to their favorite prey and their favorite places to congregate.

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Browse our full range of men's, women's and youth apparel on our website and contact us for more information on how our gear can enhance your fishing experience.