The best way to choose rigs for any marine gamefish is to understand the basic ways in which they feed. Redfish feed along the entire water column. But being a drumfish, it would be fairest to characterize them as scent, sound and vibration-sensitive predators that orient to the bottom and often graze the substrate to drive out food sources like crabs and shrimp. The crushers they possess in the back of their throats — like bonefish and permit — attests to some of their hard-shelled food sources.
When the water is warmer, calmer and full of surface-swimming bait, redfish will indeed feed at the surface. But it is essential when fishing them at the surface to give them a chance to grab the offering solidly with their underslung mouths and then turn away before striking. In practice this means not striking at the splash but rather at the weight of the fish pulling down your rod tip.
Here are four offer great offerings for redfish.
1. Scented Soft Plastic Jigs
Perhaps the most universal offering is a jig which has a "tail" that emits the scent that drives redfish crazy. Remember that unlike snook that feed by sight, redfish often feed by scent. My first choice is to pin a Berkley Gulp! shrimp to a properly sized jig head. My speed and action will be determined by where the redfish are in the water column. Always be sure your jig tracks properly in the water. The best tackle setup is spinning or plug casting with braided line and a graphite rod for sensitivity and power transmission for striking your fish.
2. Weedless Soft Plastic Twitch Bait
Weedless soft plastics are ideal when you are sightfishing redfish over heavily grassed bottom. Good examples of locales like this are Florida Bay and the marsh grass habitats of Georgia and South Carolina. One of my favorite weedless lures is the Yum Money Minnow. You can cast it into and over the deepest cover and it will not hang up.
In addition, since the Money Minnow has a paddle tail that gives it built-in action, all you need to do is reel. You can twitch it or reel faster if needed. Since the hook is embedded in a weedless sleeve, strike your fish strongly to ensure a solid hookset.
3. Soft Plastic Replica Swimbaits
Soft plastic replica swimbaits are exactly what the title implies: they look like a real life form and often have a protruding hook. And, yes, certain weedless twitch baits can be life-like so the line of distinction may blur.
My two favorites are the D.O.A. Shrimp and Bait Buster. In the former case, the shrimp must be worked by swimming and twitching it slowly and is best reserved for sightfishing presentations for cruising and tailing redfish. I love to use it when redfish are crawling half out of the water along the island shorelines of the Mosquito Lagoon.
The Bait Buster only needs reeling since the two opposing tails move enticingly when retrieved. I like this lure in slightly deeper water. This lure is excellent as a presentation when the big redfish school up in Florida's Indian River.
4. Popping Cork With Shrimp-tipped Jig
This one of the most effective rigs when the water is colder and the redfish are lethargic.
Firstly, the chugging sound of the popping cork "wakes them up" with the prospect of action sounds and once they get there the odor of the shrimp seals the deal. It should be noted that redfish absolutely love smelly old shrimp that permeate the water. This is one of the favorite cold weather lures of the folks at Cajun Fishing adventures in Buras, La.
The only requirement here is to strike the fish when the cork goes down. Quickly wind down on the fish and if you feel solid weight, strike hard!