Crawl a Mudbug
Bait shrimp, even frozen ones, may not be available from midwinter to early spring, but large populations of crawfish will be, and like humans, redfish do eat crawfish!
Acquire the smaller bugs for redfish bait. Those between 3 and 3 12 inches long seem best. Buy them alive, put them in a small ice chest with a wet towel covering them, and keep them cool but not cold.
Crawfish can be rigged on a naked quarter-ounce jig head or on a fish-finder rig. I prefer the former because I have better feel with it. However, it can twist your line badly. The fish-finder rig may not prevent that entirely, but it will help.
Fish-Finder Rig: Slip an egg sinker no heavier than half an ounce and a red plastic bead onto your line, and tie it to one end of a No. 3 barrel swivel. Then tie a 2-foot length of 20-pound fluorocarbon to the swivel and the other end to a size 2/0 J hook. Do not use a Kahle-style hook, as it hooks fish too deeply for a safe release. And a circle hook doesn't work too well because the crawfish's hard shell back can prevent its point from penetrating the fish's jaw.
Grasp the bug at the base of its head, and insert the hook into the bottom of its tail and out the top. And yeah, if you fish with mudbugs long enough, you will get pinched! Don't sweat it - a crawfish can't come close to matching a crab in the pinching department.
The crawfish should be retrieved at a snail's pace to both prevent it from finding something to hide beneath and to cover more area. Mudbugs make a considerable racket in the water - the reason for their effectiveness - and they can pull fish from some distance. Just don't reel them in too quickly. Maintain contact with the bait at all times, and set the hook on suspicion alone - one fish will eat the bait gently, while the next one will hammer it!
Joe Mahler / www.markerjockey.com