But natural bait is not the only thing a hungry redfish will eat, and anglers who do not use artificial lures may be missing out on fish, not to mention a lot of fun. Artificials will work in the same areas where live bait is productive; the biggest difference is in how much of that area can covered in the same amount of time.
Rob Beglin of Pawley's Island, a redfish tournament angler and owner of Inshore Extreme Fishing Charters, like there's an advantage in being able to find more reds and put artificials in front of them.
"I can cover five times more ground, faster, with artificials than with live bait and have a lot more hook ups," he said.
Chris Wilson of Charleston's FinAddict Charters agrees.
"I think artificials work great when searching for fish, because you can cover a lot of the area you are wanting to fish and find them," he said.
Beglin prefers just a few artificial lures for reds. In the spring, summer and fall he primarily uses weedless spoons and spinner baits like the Redfish Magic. "The vibration from the blades really entice the bite, because the fish are more aggressive during these months,"he said.
Even in murky water, redfish can find baits that give off a lot of vibration thanks to their lateral line, a series of nerve ending running down the length of their bodies that allows them to locate prey by feel.
Wilson also likes to throw an artificial when the redfish are active, and he loves the visual excitement of taking them on topwater lures.
"I like to use the Zara Spook and Rapala Skitterwalk on calm, early mornings or afternoons when the reds are feeding on mullet," he said.
Redfish are designed to feed on the bottom, as indicated by the position of the mouth on the underside of their head, but they will feed on the top when the opportunity arises. Reds are not easily hooked on topwater baits, but it is perhaps the most-exciting way to target them. To get the bait in their mouths, they have to raise their heads above it and come crashing down on it, which is always a thrill to witness. Wilson said the walk-the-dog action of a topwater bait is something redfish often can't resist.
When the water approaches cold, Beglin switches over to a scented soft bait like a Gulp! shrimp on a flutter hook, using a dead-stick technique of allowing the bait to rest on the bottom and attract the fish.
"Smell is the thing that works," he said. "I like to cast into a school, let it sit, and slowly move it at times."
When the water cools and clears, Wilson also prefers soft plastics, but relies on colors more than smell and uses new penny, chartreuse/copper and silver mullet colors . His rigs consist of 2-foot leaders of 20-pound fluorocarbon, weighted flutter hooks and 4-inch D.O.A. jerkbaits or paddletails threaded on a jighead.
"I tell my clients to use a slow to medium retrieve with a twitch of the rod tip every few seconds," he said.
Natural and artificial baits are not an either/or situation. The most-productive way to use them is in conjunction with each other. Starting out with artificial bait, especially when fish are active, can put anglers into the fish quickly.
"Once you find them and they start to shy away from your artificial, you can switch over to live or dead baits." Wilson said.
Likewise, Beglin uses artificials on his charters to locate fish.
Beglin and Wilson both like 7- to 7 ½ foot rods with a 3000 series Shimano reels. Beglin likes his rods medium heavy with fast actions for solid hooksets.
When it comes down to it, fishermen who choose to only fish with natural baits are missing out on more than they may know. Adding artificial baits and lures to their arsenal can greatly increase both numbers and excitement. Artificials allow anglers to locate reds quickly so they can get down to the business of catching them, and it also can be a visual experience that will not be soon forgotten.