Best Redfish Bait: Expert Tips

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Written By Russ Egan

Russ is a professional fisherman with over 20 years of experience. He has fished all over the world for more than two decades, primarily for saltwater game fish but also for local trophy fish. Russ comprehensively tests and reviews all his fishing gear to help others achieve their own fishing goals. There is nothing he prefers than heading down to his local tackle store, buying the latest fishing reel, and taking it to the water to test.

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Redfish, also known as red drum, are a popular target for anglers across various fishing habitats. From deep wrecks offshore to shallow muddy flats, these fish are sought after for their aggressive behavior and captivating fight. To land a redfish, choosing the right bait is crucial, as they can be quite picky in their eating habits.

While many seasoned anglers have their personal favorites, some tried and true baits consistently prove successful in attracting redfish. From live bait like cut mullet and blue crabs to artificial lures such as the Z-Man DieZel MinnowZ and MirrOlure MirrOdine, each option offers its advantages depending on location and season.

Understanding redfish’s feeding patterns and preferences will make your fishing experience more fruitful. By arming yourself with a selection of top-performing redfish bait options, you’ll be well-prepared to entice these popular game fish and increase your chances of hooking up on your next fishing adventure.

BaitStar Rating
Live shrimp⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Cut mullet⭐⭐⭐⭐
Finger mullet⭐⭐⭐⭐
Live crab⭐⭐⭐
Dead shrimp⭐⭐⭐
Soft plastic jerkbaits (artificial)⭐⭐
Hard plastic lures (artificial)

Types of Red Fish Baits

Redfish, also known as red drum, are a popular target for anglers due to their strong fight and delicious taste. There are several types of baits that can be effective in catching redfish, including both natural and artificial options.

Natural Baits

Natural baits are often the most effective choice for redfish as they mimic the fish’s natural prey. Some popular natural baits for redfish include:

  • Mullet: Cut mullet is a top choice for catching redfish, as it is one of their favorite meals. Fresh mullet is preferred, but frozen can work as well, keep in mind it may be less effective.
  • Shrimp: Both live and dead shrimp can be used as bait, with live shrimp generally more appealing to redfish.
  • Baitfish: Other common baitfish such as pogies, pilchards, and greenies are also effective natural baits, especially in spring when redfish are feeding on large schools of these fish.
  • Crab: Redfish enjoy feeding on crab and other shellfish, making them an excellent natural bait option. Blue crabs and smaller local brown-colored crabs can be especially irresistible to redfish.

Artificial Baits

Artificial baits can also be effective in catching redfish, and they come in various styles to mimic different types of prey. Some popular artificial baits for redfish include:

  • Soft Plastics: The Berkley Gulp Shrimp is a top pick as it imitates live shrimp, making it an attractive choice for redfish.
  • Topwater Lures: Lures such as the Rapala Skitter Walk are designed to mimic swimming baitfish, creating surface commotion that attracts redfish in stillwater flats.
  • Spoons: The Johnson Silver Minnow is a popular spoon lure for redfish, offering a simple yet effective design that mimics the movement of baitfish.
  • Artificial Crab: An often overlooked option, the artificial crab is a great choice when redfish feed on crabs. These artificial baits accurately replicate the appearance and movement of live crabs.

Choosing the right bait, whether natural or artificial, can greatly impact your success when fishing for redfish. Be sure to consider factors such as the activity of the redfish, the time of year, and the location you are fishing to select the most effective bait for the situation.

holding a redfish caught in savannah georgia


Live shrimp are a popular and effective bait option for redfish. They are easy to find and can be used in various fishing situations. To rig live shrimp, pass the hook through the tail or horn, which makes them very appealing to redfish. Pilchards are another shrimp-like option that works great in attracting redfish, as they are prevalent in many coastal areas.


Mullet is a common baitfish that can be found in many inshore waters. Redfish naturally prey on mullet, making it an excellent bait choice. To rig live mullet, insert the hook through the mouth or dorsal area, allowing the baitfish to swim naturally and attract redfish.


Crabs, specifically small crabs and live crab, are excellent bait for targeting larger redfish. Removing the legs and setting the hook through one leg hole makes the bait appear more natural and enticing to redfish.


Using various baitfish is a versatile and effective way to catch redfish. Some popular baitfish options include:

  • Pinfish
  • Grunts
  • Pigfish
  • Croakers (Atlantic)
  • Ladyfish
  • Ballyhoo

To rig baitfish, insert the hook through the mouth, dorsal area, or through the tail, depending on the size of the baitfish and the desired swimming action. Offering a variety of baitfish increases the chances of attracting redfish, as it mimics their natural prey found in local waters.

Redfish caught and held up in front of a lake

When targeting redfish, having a variety of artificial baits in your tackle box will increase your chances of success. We’ll cover some popular types of baits, including soft plastics, spoons, topwater lures, jerkbaits, and spinnerbaits.

Soft Plastics

Soft plastics are a versatile and effective option for redfish. Some popular choices include:

  • Soft plastic shrimp: These imitations closely resemble the natural prey of redfish and can be rigged on a jig head or a weedless hook.
  • Soft plastic swimbait: Swimbait designed for saltwater fishing, like the Z-Man DieZel MinnowZ, is perfect for targeting redfish in shallow water.
  • Soft plastic crab: Another natural prey imitator, artificial crabs can be highly effective when reds feed on crab species like blue crab or small brown crabs.


Spoons are a classic choice for redfish that create flashes and vibrations to attract them. Some excellent options include:

  • Classic spoons: These simple lures work well for redfish in various conditions.
  • Johnson Silver Minnow: A gold-colored weedless spoon perfect for windy conditions and fishing in areas with significant cover.
  • Weedless spoons: Similar to the Johnson Silver Minnow, these lures are designed to resist snags while maintaining their attractive movement.

Topwater Lures

Topwater lures are suitable for targeting redfish in shallow water, particularly on calm days. Some popular options include:

  • Rapala Skitter Walk: A topwater lure designed for redfish on stillwater flats.
  • Frog lures are ideal for targeting reds in shallow grassy areas or around mangroves.


Jerkbaits, like the MirrOlure 17MR-18, are suspending lures that work well for redfish in shallow water. They offer an erratic swimming action that can entice strikes from both redfish and other inshore gamefish species.


The Z-Man Chatterbait is an example of a popular spinnerbait for redfish that combines a jighead, a soft plastic bait, and a metal blade to create a unique action in the water. This type of lure works well in shallow inshore waters and can be particularly effective around oyster beds and other structure.

Lure and Bait Presentation


When selecting lures for redfish, the color choice can significantly impact your success. Commonly used colors include chrome-and-blue, spectrum, and bone-and-silver. It is essential to consider the area’s water clarity and the natural prey of redfish.

In clear water, natural colors like green, brown, and white can be effective.

In murky water, brighter and contrasting colors, such as chartreuse, orange, and pink, can be more visible and attract redfish.

Here is a list of popular lure colors for redfish:

  • Gold
  • Silver
  • Chartreuse
  • Root Beer
  • Pumpkinseed
  • Black and Silver
  • White
  • Pink
  • Electric Chicken
  • Red and White
  • Copper
  • Pearl
  • Blue and Silver
  • Green and Silver

Sink Rate

The sink rate of a lure determines how quickly it descends in the water column, which can influence the depth at which it is most effective. When targeting redfish, it’s important to match the lure’s sink rate to the depth at which the fish are most likely to feed.

For shallow water, such as flats or grassy areas, use lures with slower sink rates that keep them near the surface.

In deeper water or when fish are holding near the bottom, faster sinking lures, such as jigs, can be more productive.


Redfish respond to sound, making lures with built-in sound chambers attractive. Topwater plugs, crankbaits, and rattling jigs can all generate noise that can draw redfish closer to the lure. When selecting a lure with a sound chamber, consider the type of environment you’re fishing in.

Louder, more disruptive sounds may be more effective in rough water, while more subtle sounds may work better in calm, shallow water.


Vibrations generated by lures can also play a key role in attracting redfish. Lures that create a lot of movement in the water, such as soft plastic baits like the Z-Man DieZel MinnowZ, can be highly effective due to their lifelike swimming action. Spinnerbaits and spoons are also productive choices, as their spinning or fluttering motion generates vibrations that redfish can sense through their lateral line.

Vary your retrieve speed and action to find the optimal combination of vibrations to entice redfish into biting.