Best Live Bait for Redfish

July 20, 2020
0 Votes

Redfish, also known as red drum, are popular inshore species and rely on sight and smell for success. To catch redfish, use baits native to their natural environment and crustaceans. Capt. William Toney, a fourth-generation guide, uses live baits in Homosassa, Florida, targeting redfish year-round. Knowing local natural baits and tides helps produce fish in boats, even during seasonal variations. Using fresh baits is the most effective choice for near-guaranteed success.

Redfish, also known and red drum, are one of the more popular inshore species and bait, live or dead, gives anglers the best chance to achieve your bag limit. What is the best live bait for redfish, you might ask? The answers will vary. The best advice we can give is to use baits that are a part of the natural environment where redfish live. What baitfish and crustaceans reside in the waters you are fishing? Your best bet is to use baits that redfish are already accustomed to eating. Now, this varies destination to destination, so what I am going to discuss here may not be specific to your area, but it will go a long way to helping you become more informed on live baits for redfish to use.

I recently visited with my good friend and very reputable inshore fishing guide Capt. William Toney. William has spent his entire life fishing the coastal waters in and around Homosassa, Florida. Homosassa is a historic fishing destination on Florida's Gulf coast. I have made several redfish fishing videos with William Toney and many of them focus on live bait. We always have live shrimp with us, but we will routinely catch small bait fish right where we are fishing. This is perhaps the single best approach to targeting redfish with live bait. You are catching what the red drum consumes as part of it's everyday diet. The bait looks right and it smells right.

Redfish are a unique inshore species and one of the more popular for anglers. They have a downward facing mouth that they use to gulp food off the bottom. Red drum rely heavily on sight and smell. These two senses are super acute in this fish. You can certainly trick a red into hitting artificial lures, but the smell of fresh live bait is irresistible. Natural baits are the singular most effective choice for near guaranteed success. Even when redfish are being hammered on by anglers, a fresh “crippled” pinfish is something they cannot resist.

Capt. William Toney is one of the most respected and successful inshore fishing guides on Florida's Gulf Coast. He is a fourth generation hunting and fishing guide which brings with it a depth of fishing knowledge that is, quite possibly, unrivaled in the state. William targets redfish all year every year. He knows their habitat, how the tides impact the bite and all the natural baits swimming in the local waters. This is the key. Knowing the local natural baits and what works throughout the year puts fish in his boat on a daily basis. Even though there may be seasonal variation in bait, there are a few examples of bait that will produce fish all year and in any conditions.

My recent conversation with William zeroed in on the best live bait for redfish on the Gulf coast, for him. These are baits that work all year. What we discussed were live shrimp, live pinfish and live mud minnows. Shrimp will be the easiest to get, as your local bait shop will have them. Pinfish are readily available and easily caught in the same areas as the redfish. You can also set pinfish traps and quickly catch a load. Mud minnows are a smidge harder to procure, but if you know what to look for, you should be able to catch several in short order. I just finished a redfish fishing video with Capt. William Toney on how to catch and rig these three baits, if you are interested in knowing more.

All three of these live baits for redfish work very well. Shrimp are probably the least hardy, but they are available in quantity. This means you can get a nice bag of shrimp and just send them out to be destroyed. If shrimp are not producing, move to the pinfish. Use the shrimp as bait for the pinfish. Once you catch a pinfish, rig it up and put it in the kill zone. Pinfish work wonders on redfish. If you want a bait the is super hardy, go with the mud minnow. They last a long time.

In our new redfish video, William shows you how to catch pinfish and how to catch mud minnows. You will have fresh local bait in no time with his easy to follow techniques. If you want to know how to rig live shrimp, how to rig pinfish or how to rig mud minnows, watch our redfish fishing video.

Seth Horne


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