Seven Redfish Rules
If you’ve been looking to get started in saltwater fishing, there is probably no better species to begin with than redfish. The red drum should be considered the official gateway fish to saltwater fishing. Redfish are plentiful, cooperative and inhabit a wide variety of inshore depths and ecosystems, from dark brackish bays and oyster bars to vast grass flats and sandy beaches.
Reds are not picky eaters; they will dine on a variety of artificial lures and live bait. And you don’t need a boat to catch them, either. I’ve caught plenty of redfish from the bank and by wading.
But before we get into specific redfish lures, it might be best to take a closer look at a redfish’s overall demeanor, attitude and habits.
If you read the first edition of The Saltier Side, I recounted how many years ago I caught my first redfish from under a dock, just like if I were bass fishing. What I didn’t reveal was that I spent the next year hounding every dock along a 20-mile stretch of Florida’s Panhandle with very little results. The fallacy in my reasoning was that redfish were cover or object oriented, just like bass, which was a bad assumption on my part. Since then I’ve realized I have made a lot of bad assumptions about redfish behavior based on my knowledge of freshwater bass behavior.
With that in mind, here are seven rules of redfish behavior – and when I say “rules,” I am talking general patterns in the way redfish behave, most of which are different than bass behavior.
Redfish are roamers and do not relate to cover and objects in the same way bass do. Sure, some redfish do use docks for a feeding opportunity from time to time. But, trust me, flipping docks for redfish is not exactly the fast track to redfishing success. Jetties in passes are about the only hard structure I’ve found redfish on with any consistency. In general, redfish don’t seem to lock down on pieces of cover for long periods of time; they always seem to be on the move.
I have discovered that redfish are not nearly as solitary as bass. Redfish are more “social” or school oriented, roving around in pods, groups or big schools. A single redfish is a rarity. So remember, if you find one redfish, there are usually more.
Tides are crucial. Whether they are 6-inch tides or 6-foot tides, the daily rising and falling of water is absolutely a critical element in the brine. Redfish want to move up shallow onto shoals, bars or bank lines on high tide and will retreat to ditches, gullies, holes, troughs and edges of flats on low tide.
Whereas the predictability of bass is based upon their tendency to relate to cover or structure, redfish predictability is determined by their daily tidal migrations and intercepting them along that migration route is the key to their predictability.
Redfish are more rooters and grubbers, always kind of poking their noses down into the dirt, foraging around for morsels. At times they remind me of the armadillos of the shallows.
Though redfish will readily eat finfish and certainly do rise to the surface for topwaters, I still believe they would much rather eat something that’s a little crunchier on the outside – crabs, shrimp, sand fleas, etc.
This one is critical, so say it three times: Bait! Bait! Bait! Bass might very well be found in areas where forage seems scarce. But by comparison, redfish want that all-u-can-eat buffet nearby at all times. I cannot stress enough how important the presence of bait is in redfishing. Always look for forage first!
Scent is huge in redfishing. I’ve never been fully convinced that bass are truly attracted to scent. I think scents can help lead to a few more bites in bass fishing by covering up other unnatural odors.
But without a doubt, redfish are actually attracted to scent. The evolution of Berkley’s Gulp scented baits proved this to me years ago. I have literally watched redfish track down and snap up a Gulp bait that was just sitting dead still on the bottom like cut bait – all because of the scent.
If you’re interested in dabbling in the redfish market at the coast, keep these “rules” in mind. They will give you better insight to the way redfish relate to their environment and that intel will pay off with a few more hook-ups.