Meet the redfish — tournament ready, but fun for all

When top-shelf inshore anglers show up for the Yamaha Bassmaster Redfish Cup Championship presented by Skeeter, Nov. 12-14 in Port Aransas, Texas, they'll definitely need to bring their A game. With a daunting level of competition, this event will likely showcase highly specific bait selections based on conditions and habitat details.

We really aren’t overstating things here — the event’s host site boasts the title “Fishing Capital of Texas. That all but guarantees any redfish worth catching has seen more baits than the Bass Pro Shops fulfillment center on Black Friday.

No doubt, hunting down tournament-quality fish, making the right presentations and then keeping feisty reds buttoned up all the way to the boat demands diligence. 

But then there’s the casual side of redfishing.

There’s the often visual delight of spotting your targets, watching the water boil and then launching into the rod-bending, drag-pulling thrill of wrangling one of the sea’s hardest fighters. Whether it’s tournament-quality fish in that 26- to 27-inch range or something less than 2 feet in length, redfish are actually among the most user-friendly inshore species.

Built like tanks and perfectly formed for foraging in and around shallow marine habitats, redfish won’t disappoint — at the end of your line or on the dinner plate. Here’s a look at the copper-scaled bruisers and how you can find them.

Who they are

Known to marine biologists as Sciaenops ocellatus, the redfish belongs to the Sciaenidae family, which also includes the spotted seatrout (Cynoscion nebulosus), another popular inshore species often found in similar habitats. Redfish — properly known as red drum — are also kin to another inshore neighbor, the black drum (Pogonias cromis).

Reds are easily distinguished from black drum by their shiny scales, which can range from a deep, auburn red to pumpkin orange, to a light rosy hue and their prominent tail spots (sometimes more than one per side). Also, redfish have a lower profile than the taller black drum. The latter’s chin barbels and longer pectoral fins are dead giveaways. 

One of the most widely distributed saltwater species, redfish roam throughout the Gulf of Mexico and East Coast from Florida to Massachusetts.