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7 Best Redfish Baits to Use

Redfish are among the most popular gamefish in the American South, and anglers from the world flock to the Southeast U.S. each year for a chance to fight one of these prolific gamefish.

person holding a redfish

Redfish are a drum species, and they’re also commonly referred to as red drum or channel bass. 

Whatever you call them, redfish are among the most robust and hard-fighting fish you’ll find in the Gulf of Mexico and southern Atlantic.

person holding redfish above water

These fish are far from picky, and they’re happy to turn most any bait you throw them into a quick meal. But, they do have a few favorites. Reach for one of the baits below, and you’ll have no trouble catching your share of redfish. 

Crab

If you’re hoping to land a bull redfish pushing 30-pounds or more, you’ll want to bring a mess of crabs with you to use as baits. Redfish aren’t incredibly picky, but they do seem to prefer whole medium-sized blue claw crabs. 

blue crab for redfish bait

You can harvest bait crabs yourself or purchase them at virtually any bait shop on the east coast.

Leave the crabs’ whole and rig them by inserting the hook into one of the leg sockets and out through the top of their shell. For this, we highly recommend a circle hook.

Mullet

Mullet is perhaps the most popular and effective bait for redfish, probably because they’re a significant food source for redfish throughout the Southeast.

a whole mullet for bait

When a mullet sees a redfish, whether cut or whole, they have difficulty resisting. 

You can find mullets in virtually every bait shop along the east coast, and you can also harvest your own if mullets are prevalent in your waters.

Fish smaller mullet whole, rigging it through the top of the head if you’re after a monstrous red drum. You can also cut the bait into pieces and fish it in chunks.

Pinfish

If you’re fishing for red drum along the flats and in the shallows, pinfish could be the most effective bait there is.

pinfish for fishing bait

These tiny fish grow to about 4” in length, and they’re prevalent in the shallows throughout the Southeast and gulf coast.

You can find pinfish in some bait shops, but they’re easy to catch on your own to use as bait with a simple trap. This bait is typically fished live and rigged through the top of the head or the nostrils. 

Spot

Spot is another go-to bait for catching red drum. These tiny baitfish are a favorite meal of red drum and many other predatory fish in the Southeast.

a cooler full of spots

These fish inhabit the waters from Massachusetts to Texas, but they’re rarely seen in bait shops. Fortunately, they’re easy to catch with bloodworms or a cast net. 

Your best bet for landing a bull drum is hooking a small spot through the back of its head and live lining it. Larger fish can also be pieced out and used as cut bait.

Shrimp

Live shrimp is a favorite of virtually every predator in the Southeast, especially redfish. This bait is easy to find, easy to rig, and effective, so you’ll always want to keep some live shrimp on hand when fishing for drum. 

person holding shrimp for bait

To rig a live shrimp, pinch off their tail and thread the tip of the hook through the opening where the tail was and out the top of the shell. 

Pogies

Pogies, sometimes called bunker or menhaden depending on where you live, are a proven killer when targeting redfish.

live menhaden

If you’re fishing in the Chesapeake Bay area, you’ll want a big bucket of pogies when targeting drum. 

Pogies can be used as cut bait, but live lining the smaller ones seems most effective. Hook the fish through the top of the head or its mouth, drop it off the side of the boat, and it will find you a bull red drum in no time.

Squid

We’ve yet to find a fish on the east coast that doesn’t count squid as one of its favorite treats. This bait is plentiful, available at virtually every bait shop in America, and effective. 

squid for fishing bait

For smaller redfish, cut squid into 3” strips and fish a strip or two at a time. If you’re targeting monsters, use a snood rig to hook up a whole squid for bait. 

Final Thoughts

Whether you call them redfish, drum, channel bass, or anything else, these powerful fish are one of the most fun species to target in the Southeast.

When you head out on your next redfish trip, be sure to reach for one of the seven best baits for redfish from our list above, and you’ll be well on your way to putting a trophy redfish on your dinner table after your trip.

If you’re not a fan of live bait, you may want to check out some of these deadly lures that redfish can’t resist!

Rocco Smith

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