How to catch red drum from the surf or a pier: Ultimate Guide!

Surf or a pier to catch redfish from

Red Drum are an epic fish to target in the surf.

Whether they are still Puppy Drums or fully matured into the monsters they are, you are promised a great fight!

Find out the key difference between Puppy Drum vs Red Drum – click here!

Catching Red Drum in the surf can be incredibly rewarding and equally as difficult. Let’s review some of the best ways to catch Red Drum in the surf.

You will find Red Drum in slightly rough waters near sand bars, deep wholes, and jetties. Red drum feed along the bottom for crustaceans and other species. Using the Fish Finder, Flapper, or Carolina Rig will all work great for targeting this fish. You can use fresh baits such as peeler crab or artificial baits. Be sure to use between 20-35lb braid with a sufficient leader. 

Need a great surf reel? Picks for many different surf fishing applications here.

When to Catch Red Drum from a Pier or Surf

When it comes to targeting Red Drums in the Surf or from a pier conditions are everything. Some days they will be near the pier and others they will be in the middle of the surf. Knowing where the fish are isn’t as simple as saying here or there. The fish will go where they can feed the easiest.

The Red Drum also feeds aggressively at dusk and dawn. Fishing in both of these areas around that time should be quite productive. Fish from dark till dawn and from day to dusk for the best results.

When to Pier fish for Red Drum

Fishing near a pier, bridge, or structure in the water is always promising. Crabs and other species that the Red Drum feed on, love to hang around these areas as they protect them from the currents and other predatorial species. 

You can catch these fish anywhere around the structure, look for the down current at the structure. It usually pushes the bait to one side. It helps to know that Red Drum travel in schools as well so when you find one there is bound to be more close by. 

Throw for Red Drum around Jetties and structures when you see the surf is very flat with the little moving current. Red Drum might still be in the surf but they rely on currents to pull easy-to-catch prey over sand bars next to a drop-off to feed. Your best bet in super calm conditions would be at a pier. 

When to fish the surf for Red Drum 

Fishing in the surf is another story. You can find Red Drum if you know where to look. In the surf Red Drum love to swim along sand bars with a drop-off against it. The reason for this is that as they swim along the current pulls bait fish, crabs, and shrimp over the top of the sand bar making for an easy meal. 

Red Drum are also strong swimmers so you can find them in areas with strong currents such as rip-tides or other outlets with strong water flow. Sand bars usually develop further out in the surf and thus need a further cast.

The best time to fish for Red Drum would be when the ocean is quite rough and churning and about two hours before the low tide. If you find banks closer they might produce at a higher tide as well. Once again, fishing for these fish at dusk or dawn will be very productive. 

Where to Catch Red Drum from the Pier or Surf

Where from the Pier to catch red drum

Fishing at the pier is always great fun. Many anglers always think they need to cast as far as they can to catch the fish, but the truth is they are generally right in front of you off a pier. 

The first thing you need to know is that the Red Drum will stick close to structure. Baitfish and crabs will generally stick on the sides or pillars of the pier. The Red Drum will be close to these areas as well. Try to keep your bait or lure close as well. 

If you are fishing with a lure a great idea is to stand at a distance and cast along the side of the pier. This should give you a good retrieve distance and draw the attention of the Drum. With bait, you can drop next to the pier as close as you can get without getting stuck.

Where from the Surf to catch red drum

In the surf, you are dealing with a whole other story. As said, Red Drum prefer to swim along sand bars near a deep drop off, or near a strong current or Rip-tide. So how do we spot a hole or rip in the surf? 

To find a hole in the surf you want to look for churning sand in a wave. In front of the sand, you should see consistent white water after the wave has passed. Behind the sand, you should see a dark patch of water without white water.

 This tells us that the peak of the sand bar is where you see it churning in the wave. In front of the wave is the top of the bar and behind is the whole. When casting remember the drum stick closely to the bar so you want your bait to land on the slope of the bank or as close as possible. 

When it comes to Rip-tide they can be easy to spot depending on how fast they are running. One easy way to spot a Rip-Tide is by getting onto higher ground and looking for the head of the rip.

 Rip currents pull water and sand out to deeper water. There you will see the sand congregate and make a head almost like a mushroom cloud. When the rip pulls it creates smaller sand bars within itself. The Drum will either swim along these or just at the end of the rip. 

Best Tackle to Catch Red Drum from the Pier or Surf

The tackle you use when targeting this beautiful fish is definitely going to change depending if you are fishing the surf or from a pier. Let’s take a look at what rods, reels, and lines would best suit fishing in both areas.

Best pier or surf Rod for catching Red Drum

If you are fishing off the pier you aren’t going to want or need a super long rod made for casting, but you will need one strong enough to handle a strong fight when bottom fishing. You’re going to want to use about an 8-9ft Rod which gives you a reasonable distance between your line and the pier.

A great rod choice would be using the Shimano Teramars 9ft. This rod is a fiberglass rod, perfect for the conditions on a pier. It is affordable, strong, and durable. It all comes down to personal preference though. If you prefer a graphite rod that will do the job also. 

When fishing the surf you want a rod with more length to get you your casting distance. You also want a read with a medium to heavy tip to help give you the backbone needed in a fight. We would suggest the Penn Battalion 2 10-12ft. This rod might be on the more expensive side but it is well-known for its quality. 

Best Reel for Catching Pier or Surf Red Drum 

When choosing a reel it all comes down to what type you prefer. You could use a multiplier or a spinning reel. If you prefer a multiplier we would suggest you use the Avet HX Single Speed Lever Drag. This reel has a great drag, is much smoother, and has a decent line speed ratio. 

For spinning, we suggest going for the Penn Slammer 6000-8000. This reel is epic! This reel has a strong drag, waterproof seal, and is super durable. This reel is also great for off the surf. 

As said above the Penn Slammer is a great spinning reel for in the surf. Its waterproof technology makes it longer lasting than most reels and its drag is great for long fights. Another great option would be the Shimano Saragosa 10000. 

The Saragosa is also a highly-rated surf reel. It is incredibly smooth with a great drag system and line ratio. This reel is also very durable and has a large line capacity. Great for fighting big fish. 

Check out our article that looks at the best spinning reels for surf fishing available this year.

Best rigs to catch red drum from pier or surf

Some of the best rigs for catching Red Drum from the surf or off the pier are the Fish Finder, the Flapper, and the Carolina. Each rig is aimed at bottom fishing and works well. 

The Fish Finder Rig

If you’re searching for a straightforward rig that will produce decent results, the fish finder rig is fantastic. A steel leader (or fluorocarbon leader) with a circle hook is what it is made of. Just behind the sliding fishfinder sinker, which has a pyramid sinker attached with a snap swivel, a barrel swivel is also hooked to the main line.

The Flapper Rig

The Flapper rig is an incredible technique that enables you to cast numerous baits simultaneously without becoming tangled. A double or triple flapper rig is an option.

This rig is tied by threading a steel crimp onto a piece of monofilament or fluorocarbon and stopping it there with your fingers. The swivel, a bead, a third bead, and your final steel crimp are then threaded.

Then, tie your sinker to the end of the main line by repeating the process further down the line.

You can use a circle or a J hook and add a fluorocarbon leader to each swivel for the hook.

The Carolina Rig

The Carolina Rig is used in bottom fishing, as mentioned. The rig consists of a J hook attached to a steel or fluorocarbon leader and a swivel fastened to the main line. The bead that often sits between the swivel and sinker is optional. The mainline must be slideable for an egg sinker to run loose on it.

Need to know the best size hook for Red Drum and other surf species? Click here forhook sizes for 13 species!

Best baits to catch red drum from pier or surf

Whenever you go fishing it’s always suggested that you take a variety of different baits with you. Baits that we know work well for Red Drum are fresh shrimp, peeler crab, bait fish such as mullet ( live or dead ), and cut baits. 

Whatever bait you use you want to present it well. If you are using a shrimp thread it onto your hook from the hook head to the tail, or just from the head coming out before the abdomen. This gives the shrimp the look as if it is injured and struggling to swim. 

If you are using a bigger chunkier bait such as peeler crab, make sure the point of your hook with its barb is showing slightly to allow it to set when the fish take. 

Need to choose the right rig for your bait and target species? Click here for 12 of the best surf fishing rigs and all the info.

Best lures to catch red drum from pier or surf

Depending on where you fishing, several lures could work well. Fishing from the pier you could use the DOA Shrimp or the GULP Shrimp. Both would work great off the bottom. A bonus is the GULP shrimp is scented as well. 

You could use the same lures as above but another option would be to through Rapala, jigheads, or weedless soft bait lures. A great option would be the Z-Man DieZel MinnowZ. This lure comes in multiple colors and is said to be the best overall lure for targeting Red Drum in the surf. 

Catching Red Drum from the Pier or Surf Summary 

There you have it. A guide to helping you catch the famous Red Drum from the surf or off the pier. Remember the drum will stick close to the structure so if you are fishing in the surf or from the pier wherever you cast needs to be close to structure as well. Wish you all the best out there, tight lines.

Want to know how to handle Redfish, and if they have teeth? Read this next – click here.