Red drum are some of the most popular fish caught on the Atlantic Coast of North America. In other words, red drum fishing is quite popular among the eastern anglers beginning with Massachusetts to Florida and the Gulf of Mexico, with a higher predominance in the Gulf of Mexico. They’re also called spottail bass, channel bass, redfish or reds. As you probably are aware, they draw their name from the drumming / croaking sound they make during spawning or when they are caught.
Red Drum – Habitat and Habits
Although red drum are anatomically shaped to forage for food on the bottom, with a downturned mouth, they can also be caught in mid water or even at the surface in some cases. They select their food by sight or touch.
The young reds populate the inshore waters usually, and can also be found in estuaries, or even higher on rivers, bays, canals and the relatively shallow waters near the shores. They typically inhabit these waters for 4-5 years of life, they move offshore, joining the larger schools of adult red drum.
Red drum prefer shellfish beds, mussels and shellfish, along with shrimp, small crabs and sand dollars being quite an important part of their diet during summer and fall. In winter and spring, adult red fish feed on mullet, pinfish, small flounders, Atlantic croakers, sea robins and menhadens.
For better results on red drum fishing, outgoing tide seems to be a better choice, but they can be caught anytime regardless of the tide, so this shouldn’t be one of your main factors to consider if you’re going for red drums. Don’t waste time not fishing, just because the tide is not right.
In winter, red drums pile up in big schools and usually hand out on shallow flats, but in close vicinity to deep holes. In case the water temperature drops, they will quickly move to deeper water. Winter red drum fishing requires some scouting until you find them. However, since the water is colder, they won’t move that much, so if spooked, you won’t have to move too far to catch up with the school.
Red Drum Fishing Methods
One of the most productive methods for red drum fishing is bottom (still) fishing with heavy sinkers and live bait or dead bait. Float fishing, also with dead or live bait, with gliding sinkers or jigheads instead of normal hooks, is also a fun and productive red drum fishing method, however, it’s best to fish this way in shallower waters.
Red drums can also be caught at various lures such as jighead in combination with various rubbers and plastics, crankbaits, or even surface poppers. Also, red drum can also be caught on various flies, red drum fly fishing becoming more and more popular.
Bait and Lures for Red Drum
For bottom fishing, the best baits for reds are blue crabs cut in half and mullets, or mullet pieces. Shellfish meat can also be an excellent bait for still fishing, though. In general, the best dead / live baits for reds are small crabs, shrimp and mullets.
When it comes to artificials, you can try all kinds of plastics in combination with a jig head. However, some of the best results I had with a Mr. Wiffle, white or yellow, or scented grubs (various colors from brown to chartreuse) such as Berkley’s Power Baits. Anyway, as a general idea, mullet (gold and silver) imitations should work anywhere.
If you’re a fan of spoons, Hopkins or Kastmaster (2-4 oz.) spoons should work excellently, but typically, any large, gold / silver colored spoon will bring great results.
When it comes to crankbaits, the best are the shrimp imitation ones, such as Jackal Chubbies or H2O XPRESS Shrimp are great. However, mullet imitation cranks (white, yellow, or chartreuse for murky water) will never fail.
Red Drum Tackle
Rods. There are two main types of rods to use for red drums: long, heavy or medium heavy surf rods, in case you’re surf fishing, or with light / medium action, shorter rods, when you’re fishing from a boat. A few selections to go with would be Okuma Longitude Surf Graphite Rod, a Daiwa EC1202MHFS Emcast Surf Rod, an Offshore Angler Power Plus 9′ or an Okuma Tundra Surf Glass Spinning Rod, if you’re going to fish from a pier or from the beach. These are great for still fishing, with natural bait. Also, Tica, Ocean Master or Tsunami surf rods are not bad, and they won’t burn a hole into your bank account.
For active fishing with lures or wobbling live or dead bait, a Shakespeare Medium Action Ugly Stik, or an Abu Garcia Vengeance Spinning Rod should do just fine, they’re also rather cheap.
Reels. For your surf rod, you can go with a Sealine-X Sha 30 Casting Reel, or a Daiwa SL20SH Sealine. If you prefer a spinner, something similar to a Shimano 6500b should do just fine.
For lighter gear and lure fishing, it’s best to choose a reel within the 3000 range, to pair with your medium, medium-heavy action stick. A few good examples would be: Daiwa Freams 3000 or a Shimano Sahara 3000.
Line. Most anglers I know use monofilament line for red drums. Your line should be somewhere between 12-15lb. test. However, if you’re going for bigger reds, get yourself some 20+ lb. test line.
Hooks. When it comes to hooks, an excellent choice for red drum are Gamakatsu or Owner circle hooks, 7/0 – 10/0, depending on the size of fish targeted.
Rigs. It’s always best to use a gliding sinker than a fixed one at the end of the line. That’s because the red drum “inhale” their prey, and if they feel something “fishy” with it, they can easily and quickly spit it right out. A gliding sinker should allow a longer time for the angler to hook the fish. The simplest rig to use is with a single hook at the end of the terminal tackle and a gliding sinker.
Another rig, mostly used for surf fishing, is with a heavy triangular or pyramidal sinker at the end of the terminal tackle, and 1-2 hooks right above it.
However, before using any rig, it’s best to check the regulation in that particular area. Not all rigs may be allowed.