Sarasota Fishing Report

Sarasota Fishing Report

I will be posting my current Sarasota fishing report on this page. It will be updated every week or two as conditions and species change. It will include the baits or lures along with the species and locations.

Capt Jim has been a fishing guide in Sarasota, Florida since 1991. Anglers who are interested in purchasing the equipment that he uses and writes about in his articles and reports can do so HERE on the PRODUCTS page.

Sarasota fishing report Aug 1

As has been the case all summer, the fishing remains very good on the deep grass flats in Sarasota Bay. The water close to the passes has been the cleanest, with a fair amount of bait. Casting jigs at first light then switching to live bait mid morning continued to take advantage of the morning fishing window. Speckled trout fishing was very good, with both numbers and quality. Bluefish, ladyfish, sharks, grouper, sea bass and more were also caught. Mangrove snapper are seemingly everywhere, on the flats and in the passes, providing anglers seeking a meal some fine fillets along with a good fight.

Sarasota fishing report

7/25 Sarasota fishing report

Fishing was good once again this week for anglers fishing with Capt Jim on Sarasota fishing charters. The deep grass flats in the north bay were best early in the week. Anglers casting jigs and Clouser Minnow flies caught some nice trout along with bluefish, mackerel, ladyfish, sea bass, jacks, sharks, grouper, snapper, and more. Later in the week, the was got a little stirred up with rain and wind, and the flats closer to the passes were better. Live bait produced some good mangrove snapper along with spotted sea trout later in the mornings when the jig bite slowed.

Sarasota fishing report

Fishing report for 7/18

Once again, the action on the deep grass flats continued to please anglers casting jigs and free lining live baits while chumming. The early jig bite improved later in the week as the wind finally turned out of the east. That resulted in more pleasant conditions and better fishing. Speckled trout were plentiful, with bluefish, jacks, grouper, ladyfish, and sharks mixed in. Mangrove sapper numbers and size improved this week, which is good for clients looking for a few fish tacos!

fishing report for Sarasota

7/11 Sarasota fishing report

It sounds like a broken record, but the fishing on the deep grass flats continues to be very good. Speckled trout, bluefish, Spanish mackerel, jacks, sharks, ladyfish, grouper, snapper, sea bass and more kept the rods bent and Capt Jim busy!  The pattern of casting jigs at first light then catching bait when that bite slowed continued to be the best bet.  Chumming with live bait produced fast action later in the morning.  The flats near the passes, Marina Jack, Bird Key, Radio Tower, and Middlegrounds were best.

Sarasota fishing report

July 4 Sarasota fishing report

Fishing was excellent once again this week, despite the heat and water temperatures near 90. The best action was on the grass flats in 6′ to 8′ of water. Speckled trout were plentiful, with some nice fish over 20″ hitting jigs and live bait. The pattern of jigging early then switching to live bait worked well, though the jig bite has been slowing a bit earlier.  Bluefish, Spanish mackerel, jacks, sharks, grouper, snapper, sea bass, ladyfish, flounder, and catfish were also caught.  The flats closer to the passes were better this week, perhaps the water was a tad cleaner.  There certainly was a ton of bait as well!

Sarasota fishing report

Sarasota Fishing Report 6/27

Fishing was good once again this week for clients on Sarasota fishing charters. I took a two-pronged approach to my trips this week. We got out on the water at first light, at around 6:30 AM and headed for the deep flats. Anglers casting jigs produced a ton of speckled trout and ladyfish. There were quite a few decent sized trout mixed in. Bluefish, mackerel, jacks, grouper, snapper, sharks, and catfish also kept the rods bent. This bite lasted for an hour or two, depending on the breeze and cloud cover. It did slow down a bit later in the week as water temperatures eased up to 88° and there was no wind and weak tides.
Once the jig bite eased up, I ran into the passes to catch bait and do some live bait chumming. This produced the same species as well along with nonstop action most mornings. I just like to take advantage of that first light bite casting lures instead of spend it searching for bait. Also, structure in both passes produced a ton of mangrove snapper along with some black sea bass and small grouper.
Sarasota fishing report

Fishing report for Sarasota, 6/17

I was on vacation in the North Carolina mountains for a week. Upon returning, I found the fishing to be as good as it was when I left. The best bite has been for action and variety on the deep grass flats. Speckled trout were numerous and up to 23″. Anglers casting jigs caught them, along with bluefish, ladyfish, jacks, grouper, sea bass, snapper, sailcats, and more. I get a lot of families this time of year and this type of fishing is easy for even novice anglers to quickly learn. Drifting the flats in 6′ to 10′ of water is both productive and fun!

Sarasota fishing report

Sarasota Fishing Report 5/30

Fishing was very good this week for clients on Sarasota fishing charters.  I finished up the week with a family trip, catching around 100 fish!  Speckled trout, bluefish, jacks, ladyfish, sharks, sea bass and more kept the rods bent.   Bass Assassin jigs and Gulp Shrimp caught all the fish. On other charters, spin and fly anglers had similar results.  The Middlegrounds, Stephen’s Pt., Bishop’s Pt., and Buttonwood were all productive.  Big Pass produced a bunch of snapper and sea bass for clients bottom fishing with shrimp.  Nearby flats held a bunch of silver trout.  One client caught a sennett casting a Gulp Jerk Shad.

Sarasota fishing report

Sarasota Bay fishing report 5/23

It sounds like a broken record, but the best bite in Sarasota continues to be drifting the deep grass flats. We have had some breezy days, so the wind dictated where we fished. On east wind, the Ringling flats produced and with a west wind Bishop’s Pt and Buttonwood were better. Clients casting Bass Assassin jigs, Gulp Shrimp, and chartreuse Clouser pattern flies caught some decent speckled trout, bluefish, Spanish mackerel, jacks, and ladyfish. Speaking to other guide buddies, there are a few tarpon out on the beach, but it has been pretty tough.

Sarasota fishing report


May 9 fishing report for Sarasota

Once again, the best bite for clients on Sarasota fishing charters has been on the deep grass flats. Just about every flat in 5′ to 8′ has fish on it. I basically let the wind decide where we fished. Bass Assassin jigs and GULP! Shrimp caught them. Speckled trout to 22″, bluefish to 3 pounds, Spanish mackerel to 2 pounds, ladyfish, sea bass, jack crevalle, mangrove snapper, sailcats, and more were landed. Small snook, jacks, and some decent trout hit Rapala X-Raps near bars and mangrove shorelines. I went out to Evers Reservoir (Jiggs Landing) on a day off to chase some bluegill. I was disappointed to see that they had sprayed, killing all the weeds. The lake had really healthy weeds all along the shoreline. I really don’t understand it. Not surprisingly, fishing was slow, caught a few on Beetlespins.

Sarasota fishing report

May 2 Sarasota fishing report

Once again, weather made things a bit challenging this week as we have been experiencing some breezy days of late. Still, I was able to get out several times and clients experienced good action. Once again, the best bite was on the deeper grass flats on the incoming tide. Anglers casting Gulp Shrimp and Clouser Minnow flies caught speckled trout, bluefish, Spanish mackerel, jacks, grouper, sea bass, whiting, ladyfish, and other species. Bird Key, Radio Tower, Middlegrounds, and Stephen’s Pt were all productive. We also caught a few fish in Big Pass, mostly ladyfish.

Sarasota fishing report

April 25 fishing report

Weather was once again an issue this week. Tuesday and Wednesday were nice and I was able to get trips in both days. On Tuesday I had my “regulars”, Bill, Doc, and John. We started off near Stephen’s Pt and found fish feeding on the surface.  Action was good for 3 hours as the boys caught a bunch of fish. Speckled trout were plentiful with some nice ones mixed in. Spanish mackerel, bluefish, ladyfish, and sharks kept them busy. 5″ white Gulp Jerk Shad was the hot bait. We finished up fishing docks, landing small reds and decent snapper, losing a big red that broke us off on the dock.

On Wednesday I took out fly angler Steve Schulmerich. The bite was a little slower, but still steady. There was no wind, which is not great for the flats. Still, Steve caught a bunch of bluefish, ladyfish, a mackerel, and a nice trout. He was casting chartreuse/white Clouser Minnow patterns on a 7 wt.

fishing report for Sarasota

Sarasota Fishing Report, April 18

Weather was definitely an issue for anglers this week. On days that we got out, the fishing was very good!  Just about every grass flat in 5′ of water and deeper held fish. The flats north of New Pass were best. The key was to let the wind determine where to fish and then find clean water. Anglers casting Bass Assassin jigs and Gulp Shrimp caught big bluefish, speckled trout to 22″, Spanish mackerel, jacks, ladyfish, small sharks, sea bass, whiting, catfish, and other species. Docks around Big Pass produced black drum and mangrove snapper for anglers fishing live shrimp.

Sarasota fishing report

April 11 fishing report

I got out three times this week, doing something different on each trip. On Sunday we went out on the beach in search of a king mackerel. It was cool, cloudy, and drizzling, not ideal conditions and the bite was slow. We caught a few mackerel and jacks. I had an excellent fly fishing charter on Tuesday! My angler caught several nice trout early at Bishop’s Pt., then finished up with a flurry of Spanish mackerel, bluefish, and ladyfish on the east side. On Thursday we went to the Myakka and it was pretty slow, though the gar did provide a little excitement.

mackerel on fly

Fishing report for Sarasota, April 4

Like most guides in Florida, most of my clients had to cancel their vacations. However, I did get out a couple of times this week with local “regulars”. Bill, Doc, and John fished with me on Monday. WE decided to do something different and fish the bars and mangrove shorelines between Stickney Pt and Blackburn Pt. The bite was steady with the fellas catching most of the fish on #8 Rapala X-Raps. Doc had the hot hand, catching a half dozen snook, some nice speckled trout, and a redfish to complete the “slam”. He also caught 3 keeper mangrove snapper, with one really nice 15″ fish. Bill lost a big red that ran under a dock. Jacks and ladyfish were also caught. Later in the week I fished the Manatee River.  It was after the front and the bite was pretty slow. We caught a few small snook and snapper on plugs.

Sarasota fishing report

Sarasota fishing report March 28

As with most Florida fishing guides, I was booked solid but had cancellations due to the health emergency.  I still got out three times this week. Early on, I had a fly/spin trip.  There was no wind and we headed out in the Gulf just off the Siesta Key beaches. Rapala X-Raps produced Spanish mackerel for the spin angler while the fly anglers scored using Clouser patterns.  After a bit we went back inside and caught ladyfish and trout on Gulp baits, the bite was slow for the fly guys.  Another inshore trip produced speckled and silver trout, ladyfish, and other species on jigs.  Bottom fishing produced a ton of action on snapper, grouper, sea bass, and sheepshead.  It looks like the run of sheepshead is winding down.  I ran a trip to the Myakka River as well.  It was a bit slow as the water temperature was in the upper 70’s.  However, we landed a nice snook on a white #10 Rapala.

Sarasota fishing report

March 21 fishing report for Sarasota

Fishing was very good this week for anglers going out on Sarasota fishing charters with Capt Jim Klopfer. The best bite was on the deep grass flats. Clients casting Bass Assassin Sea Shad baits and Gulp Shrimp on a 1/4 ounce jig head landed a variety of species.  Speckled trout and ladyfish were plentiful with Spanish mackerel, pompano, bluefish, grouper, jacks, sea bass, small sharks, and catfish also being landed. Middlegrounds, Radio Tower, Bishop’s Pt and Stephen’s Pt were the top spots. Sheepshead are still around docks and structure in the passes.  Bottom fishing with shrimp produced some nice sheepies along with tripletail, sea bass, grouper, and snapper. Rapala X-Raps worked along a mangrove shoreline produced a few small snook one morning.

Sarasota fishing report

March 14 Sarasota fishing report

Fishing was very good this week! Anglers on Sarasota fishing charters experienced good action and variety on a multitude of species. Big Pass was hot for several days. Pompano, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, and a lot of ladyfish hit Bass Assassin and Silly Willy jigs on the bar and in the channel. Sheepshead took shrimp fished on the bottom. The wind eased up, allowing us to fish the deep grass flats. Gulp Shrimp on a 1/4 ounce jig head produced speckled trout, pompano, jacks, mackerel, bluefish, and ladyfish. I finished up the week with a fly trip, where anglers caught trout anfd ladyfish inside, and Spanish mackerel out on the Fisher reef casting Clouser Minnow flies.

Sarasota fishing report

Sarasota fishing Report for March 7

Wind was a factor that clients on Sarasota fishing charters had to deal with this week. Strong breezes out of the south limited area that we were able to fish. Big Pass was fairly protected and provided good action. Bottom fishing with shrimp produced sheepshead, snapper, grouper, sea bass, and pompano. Drifting with jigs fooled pompano and ladyfish. I had two river trips, which is another option for experienced anglers to deal with the wind. Rapala plugs, Gulp Jerk Shad, and chartreuse/white Clouser Minnow flies produced snook to 32″, big jacks, snapper, bass, and gar.

Sarasota fishing report

Sarasota Fishing Report, 2/29

Weather was certainly an issue for clients on Sarasota fishing charters this week. Early in the week, action was very good both on the deep grass flats and in the passes. The cooler weather seemed to help the sheepshead bite fire up. Decent numbers of these feisty bottom dwellers were caught by anglers fishing shrimp on the bottom. A few pompano were landed as well. Speckled trout were numerous on the deeper grass flats at the Middlegrounds, Stephen’s Pt and Bishop’s Pt, hitting Bass Assassin and Gulp baits on a jig head. A severe front moved through Wednesday, bringing strong winds. I finished up the week with a fly angler in the Manatee River, who caught a few small snook.

Sarasota fishing report

February 22 fishing report for Sarasota

The best action for clients on Sarasota fishing charters this week was on the deep grass flats. Speckled trout were numerous, hitting jigs and live shrimp. Bluefish, Spanish mackerel, jacks, pompano, ladyfish, small sharks, big sailcats, and other species were also landed. The flats from New Pass north were best as the water cleared up the further from the passes we got. Sheepshead fishing in the passes was hit or miss.  We had a couple good days and a slow day as well.  There are a LOT of smaller snapper, sea bass, and pinfish which makes getting a shrimp to the sheepshead difficult.  Perhaps the cooler weather will help as the water temperature was a bit too high for mid February.  Anglers drifting with jigs in Big Pass caught a few pompano, mackerel, and ladyfish as well.

Sarasota fishing report

February 15 Sarasota fishing report

Fishing was good over the last couple weeks for clients on Sarasota fishing charters.  Sarasota Bay is a bit warmer than normal, resulting in good action on the deep grass flats.  Speckled trout, Spanish mackerel, pompano, bluefish, jacks, ladyfish, and more hit jigs cast while drifting the flats.  Anglers free lining shrimp around oyster bars found juvenile permit, snook, redfish, sheepshead, flounder, and snapper.  Sheepshead seem to be moving into the passes as anglers bottom fishing with shrimp caught some decent sheepies mixed in with a ton of small snapper and sea bass.  A fly angler scored his first couple jack crevalle up in a residential canal one breezy morning.  The warm water has not been good for river fishing, which has been a bit slow.  Persistent anglers caught snook and gar on Rapala plugs.

Sarasota fishing report

Sarasota fishing report for February 1

We have settled into our normal winter fishing patterns. Clients on Sarasota fishing charters caught a variety of species using multiple techniques. One key to success is to keep moving in search of fish, locations will change daily. Action on the deep grass flats was steady, with a very good bite on Friday afternoon as the front approached. Spanish mackerel, pompano, bluefish, trout, and ladyfish hit jigs, Rapala plugs, and live shrimp. Clients fly fishing scored using chartreuse/white Clouser patterns. Docks and oyster bars held redfish, sheepshead, snapper, grouper, black drum, and sea bass for anglers fishing with shrimp. Rapala X-Raps and jerk baits produced snook, jacks, and reds in creeks and canals. The pompano bite in the passes has slowed considerably.

Sarasota fishing report

January 25 Sarasota fishing report

Winter arrived in Sarasota this week!  Prior to the severe front, Mike Tyler landed a very nice snook in the Myakka River on a Rapala Jointed BX Minnow plug. Clients did well on Sunday morning on the flats and in the passes.  Monday was tough and Tuesday and Wednesday were blow-outs as the wind blew hard from the north and temperatures were in the 30’s in the morning.  After the front, clients fishing docks and bars with shrimp caught redfish, sheepshead, and jacks.  Jigs produced bluefish, Spanish mackerel, speckled trout, ladyfish, pompano, and jacks on deeper flats.  Pompano and small permit hit jigs in the passes.  Small snapper and sea bass were thick on bottom structure in the passes as well, with a few sheepshead mixed in.

Sarasota fishing report

January 18 fishing report for Sarasota and Myakka River

Pompano continued to please anglers on Sarasota fishing charters this week, both in the passes and on the flats.  Banana jigs, small pompano jigs, and Gulp Shrimp on a jig head caught them.  There are a ton of small bottom fish in the passes such as snapper, sea bass, and grouper that took the jigs as well.  A few Spanish mackerel, bluefish, and ladyfish were also caught.  In other words, a good way to keep the rods bent!  Early in the week, action on the deep grass flats was good, with a lot of speckled trout to 20″ being caught.  It is nice to see them rebounding!  Pompano, mackerel, blues, and ladies were also landed.  That bite slowed a bit later in the week, for whatever reason.

Sarasota fishing report

Trips to the Myakka River produced a few snook, largemouth bass, and several gar.  The water is really a bit too warm for ideal fishing, I think that is the reason clients caught so many gar.  Rapala plugs both cast and trolled caught the fish.

Sarasota fishing report

Jan 10 Sarasota fishing report

I spent all of my time fishing rivers, creeks, and canals this week. Two trips to the Manatee River produced small to medium sized snook for fly anglers casting chartreuse over white Clouser Minnow patterns. Later in the week I fished in Sarasota Bay, and it was quite breezy! We sought refuge in protected creeks, bayous, and residential canals. #8 Rapala X-Raps produced decent numbers of jacks with a few snook mixed in.

fishing report for Sarasota Florida

Good fishing in Sarasota to start 2020!

Fishing was good this first week of 2020! Clients on Sarasota fishing charters caught a variety of species using different techniques. The best bite in Sarasota Bay has been pompano in the passes and out on the flats. Small jigs produced the best, and color really did not seem to matter. Pompano in the passes were found near structure while those on the flats were located fairly shallow, in 3′ to 4′ on the bars. Action on the deep flats slowed a bit, with anglers catching trout, bluefish, pompano, ladyfish and more. Wind and dirty water hampered the bite.

Snook and jack crevalle were caught in Robert’s Bay along with residential canals by anglers casting and trolling #8 Rapala X-Raps. We found a school of very large jacks in a foot of water and landed a couple. Trips to the Myakka River produced snook and largemouth bass on larger #10 X-Raps.

Sarasota fishing report

Last fishing report of the year!  12/29/2019

Action on the deep grass flats was hot early in the week as a severe front approached. Trout to 22″, pompano, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, jacks, ladyfish, grouper, ladyfish, and other species hit jigs over grass in water between 4′ deep and 10 feet deep.  The flats north of New Pass were best.  Pompano were thick in the passes later in the week.  The bottom of the falling tide was best and there were plenty of ladyfish mixed in to keep the rods bent.  Action on the flats slowed later in the week as persistent wind had the water churned up a bit.  A trip to the Manatee River produced some nice jacks on Rapala X-Raps and white Gulp Jerk Shad on a jig head.  We missed a few snook as well.

Sarasota fishing report

December 21 Sarasota fishing report

Wind was a bit of an issue this week for clients on Sarasota fishing charters. The deep grass flats at Stephen’s Pt and Middlegrounds produced a wide variety of species. Speckled trout, bluefish, Spanish mackerel, jacks, ladyfish, and more hit Gulp! Shrimp and Bass Assassin Sea Shad baits on 1/4 ounce jig heads. Stiff breezes made it a bit tough to fish as well as stirring up the water. The key was to keep moving and casting. Perhaps the best bite this week was in Big Pass. Ladyfish were plentiful, with a few pompano, Spanish mackerel, and bluefish mixed in. Small chartreuse pompano jigs worked best. We went up into canals to hide from the wind and landed jacks and snook trolling and casting #8 Rapala X-Raps.

Sarasota fishing report

December 14 Sarasota fishing report

The big news this week was the increase in pompano that showed up throughout the area. Pompano are one of the most desirable species, both for their hard fighting abilities and their incredible flavor. Pompano are fantastic eating! Small jigs bounced along the bottom in the passes and out on the flats work well as they mimic the crustaceans that pompano feed on. Anglers drifting in the passes caught pompano as well as bluefish, mackerel, and ladyfish. Pompano on the flats were found fairly shallow along the edges of bars. Speckled trout, jacks, bluefish, grouper, sea bass, ladyfish, and other species hit jigs and Gulp Shrimp on the deep flats north of New Pass.

Sarasota pompano

December 7 Sarasota fishing report

Action in Sarasota Bay has been very good! The deep grass flats north of New Pass provided clients casting jigs and flies with a variety of species. Spanish mackerel, speckled trout, pompano, bluefish, jacks, grouper, and ladyfish kept the rods bent.  Gulp Shrimp and Bass Assassin jigs produced for spin anglers while Clouser patterns worked well for those casting a fly. River trips produced snook and jack crevalle on Rapala plugs and flies.

Sarasota fishing report

November 25 Sarasota fishing report

The best bite the last two weeks has been on the deep grass flats. Bluefish to 5 pounds, Spanish mackerel to 3 pounds, pompano, speckled trout, grouper, sea bass, jacks, ladyfish, and other species hit Bass Assassin baits and Gulp Shrimp on a 1/4 ounce jig head. The flats north of New Pass were the most productive spots. Big Pass had ladyfish and a few mackerel, pompano, and small permit. Action on the beaches has slowed in regards to mackerel and kings, though patient anglers are finding some very large tripletail on the crab pot buoys.

Sarasota fishing report

November 11 Sarasota fishing report

Action in the Gulf of Mexico off of the Sarasota beaches has been outstanding the last two weeks! The water temperature is now in the low to mid 70s and bait fish are plentiful. Not a lot of the action was found on the surface. The best bet has been trolling spoons and planers and chumming with live bait. Clients did have a few casting opportunities. King and Spanish mackerel, sharks, bluefish, and the stray false albacore were caught. Sharks are plentiful and great fun on medium tackle. They tend to migrate with and feed on the mackerel. This bite is dependent on conditions; strong winds from any direction other than east shuts things down. Hopefully, this will continue until Christmas.

Light tackle trolling in Saltwater

October 26 Sarasota fishing report

Weather has been an issue the last couple of weeks. A harsh rain storm, persistent east winds, and unusually warm temperatures made fishing a bit challenging. The best bite continued to be the deep grass flats. Spanish mackerel to 2 1/2 pounds, bluefish to 3 pounds, speckled trout to 20″, gag grouper, ladyfish, and more hit jigs and live baitfish on the grass flats in 6′ to 8′ of water. Snapper and small redfish took live shrimp under docks near the passes. I ran my first river trip this week. The water temperature was 81, which is too high for the snook to move in. Still, largemouth bass to 3 1/2 pounds and big gar made the trip fun.

Sarasota fishing report

October 13 Sarasota fishing report

Fishing has been steady over the last several weeks. Speckled trout, bluefish, Spanish mackerel, and ladyfish hit Bass Assassin jigs cast over grass flats in 6′ to 10′ of water. The flats north of New Pass have been best. Spanish mackerel are showing up in the inshore Gulf of Mexico as well. This action should really take off and hopefully false albacore and king mackerel will join the party. Jacks are schooling up in Robert’s Bay and Little Sarasota Bay. Snook are moving into these areas from the passes and beaches.

Sarasota fishing report

September 17 Sarasota fishing report

This will be my last report for a couple of weeks as I am heading to the NC mountains to terrorize the smallmouth bass and trout!  LOL  I had a charter today with my local regular clients Doc and John.  Action was steady for the 6 hours we fishing with 17 species being landed.  With zero breeze, we started in Big Pass, bouncing pompano jigs on the bottom. We also saw some breaking fish and cast into them. The boys caught tons on ladyfish, jack crevalle, another type of jack, blue runners, and a small permit. A move to structure using live shrimp produced red and gag grouper and mangrove snapper. We finished up casting Gulp Shrimp on a 1/4 ounce jig head on the deep flats north of New Pass, catching Spanish mackerel, speckled trout, bluefish, catfish, and other species.

Sarasota fishing report

August 30 Sarasota fishing report

Between vacation and some rain, it has been a while since I posted a Sarasota fishing report. Action continued to be very good on the deep grass flats in Sarasota Bay. The water is a bit less murky north of New Pass. Anglers casting Bass Assassin Sea Shad baits, Gulp shrimp, Rapala X-Raps, and chartreuse over white Clouser Minnow flies did well. Speckled trout (several were between 20″ and 23″), bluefish, jacks, gag grouper, mangrove snapper, ladyfish, mackerel, and a cobia were landed in recent weeks. Stephen’s Point, Middlegrounds, Bishop’s Pt., and Buttonwood were all productive spots. Fishing will probably shut down for a week or so due to the hurricane.

Sarasota fishing report

August 10 Sarasota Fishing Report

Fishing continued to be good on the deep grass flats in north Sarasota Bay, though we did have to deal with storms early in the week. The flats north of New Pass were the most productive. Clients on Sarasota fishing charters caught bluefish, speckled trout, Spanish mackerel, jack crevalle, ladyfish, grouper, and catfish casting Bass Assassin jigs and Gulp Shrimp. The Middlegrounds, Stephen’s Pt., Buttonwood, and Long Bar were all productive spots. Snook are in the passes and starting to move back inshore. Spanish mackerel were schooling in the inshore Gulf of Mexico before the wind turned west.

Fishing report for Sarasota

August 3 Sarasota Fishing Report

Anglers on Sarasota fishing charters experienced good action on a variety of species this week. Once again, the best bite was on the deep grass flats. Afternoon showers have the water temperature around 85 degrees, which is good for this time of year. Spanish mackerel showed up in decent numbers and were found feeding on small bait on the surface. Speckled trout, bluefish, jacks, grouper, snapper, ladyfish, and catfish were also caught. Bass Assassin Sea Shad baits and Gulp Shrimp caught all of the fish. Stephen’s Pt. and Buttonwood were the top spots. Structure in the bay is loaded with snapper and grouper, though most of the fish are small. Live bait fished on the bottom worked well.

Sarasota fishing report

July 26 Sarasota fishing report

The best bite continues to be working the deep grass flats in North Sarasota Bay with jigs. Bass assassin Sea Shad baits and Gulp Shrimp were very productive. Both were fished on a 1/4 ounce jig head. Speckled trout numbers were on the rise and bluefish, jacks, ladyfish, grouper, snapper, catfish, and other species were landed. Stephen’s Pt. and Buttonwood were the top spots, though the Middlegrounds produced a few fish as well. Weather was an issue late in the week and I had to cancel a couple of trips.

Sarasota fishing report

July 16 Sarasota Fishing Report

Weather was an issues last week as Tropical Storm Berry shirted the area, bringing some rain and wind. As it passed, fishing rebounded quickly. The Gulf of Mexico is churned up a bit, bringing dirty water in through the passes. The best fishing spots have been in north Sarasota Bay where the water is clearer. One great sign is the dramatic increase in speckled trout. The season is closed to harvest as they bounce back from last year’s red tide. Along with trout, anglers landed bluefish, jack crevalle, mangrove snapper, gag grouper, ladyfish, catfish, and other species. Bass Assassin jigs and Gulp Shrimp caught all of the fish.  Stephen’s Pt. and Buttonwood were the top spots.

fishing report for Sarasota, Florida

July 5 Sarasota fishing report

I took the end of the week off as the 4Th of July festivities kind of take over the town.  Action was steady this week, though we had one morning that was breezy and the fishing a bit slow.  The best spots this week were Stephen’s Pt. and Big Sarasota Pass.  Clients on Sarasota fishing charters caught Spanish mackerel and ladyfish in the pass on jigs and live minnows.  Spephen’s Pt. and the Middlegrounds held bluefish, speckled trout, jacks, snapper, grouper, sharks, ladyfish, catfish, and other species.  Most of the fish were caught on Bass Assassin jigs and Gulp Shrimp.

Sarasota fishing report

June 29 Sarasota fishing report

Despite water temperatures in the upper 80’s, fishing was very good this week.  The deep grass flats yielded speckled trout, Spanish mackerel, pompano, bluefish, jacks, grouper, snapper, and ladyfish.  Most of the fish hit Bass Assassin jigs, but free lined shrimp produced a few fish as well.  Bait is plentiful on most of the flats and that attracts the game fish.  Stephen’s Pt., Middlegrounds, Bishop’s Pt., and Buttonwood were the top spots this week.

Sarasota fishing report

June 22 Sarasota fishing report

Once again, the best bite has been on the deep grass flats in north Sarasota Bay. Just about every flat with submerged grass in 6′ to 8′ of water held fish. There was a lot of bait fish that accounted for the good fishing. Anglers casting Bass Assassin jigs and Gulp Shrimp caught some decent sized bluefish, speckled trout, jack crevalle, ladyfish, catfish, and more. Middlegrounds, Bishop’s Point, and Buttonwood were the top spots. There are a lot of snook in the passes and off the beaches. However, west winds have hampered that fishing.

inshore saltwater fishing

June 15 Sarasota fishing report

Clients on Sarasota fishing charters experienced good action on the deep grass flats in Sarasota Bay.  Bass Assassin Sea Shad baits and Gulp Shrimp on a 1/4 ounce jig head caught most of the fish.  Southwest wind had the Gulf churned up a bit, so the flats that were a bit away from the passes produced best.  Middlegrounds, Buttonwood, and Bishop’s Pt. were the top spots.  Bluefish, speckled trout, jacks, flounder, mangrove snapper, sail cats, and loads of ladyfish were caught.

Sarasota fishing report

June 8 Sarasota fishing report

Anglers experienced good action this week. The best bite was on the beach, in the passes, and on the flats close to the passes. Jigs with a Gulp Shrimp produced most of the fish. Spanish mackerel, bluefish, jacks, speckled trout, catfish, and a bunch of ladyfish and a little shark kept the rods bent. Spanish mackerel were found in the Gulf, just off of New Pass, although they were scattered out and a bit fussy. Small Rapala plugs fooled a dozen or so. Ladyfish were schooled up heavily on the New Pass bar, feeding on the surface.  Middlegrounds and Marker #5 were the best flats.

Sarasota fishing report

June 1 Sarasota fishing report

Fishing was good this week on the flats, passes, and off the beach.  Clients on Sarasota fishing charters caught a ton of Spanish mackerel off of the Lido Key beaches.  Schools of aggressively feeding mackerel were seen between Big Pass and New Pass.  The top producing bait was a #8 white Rapala X-Rap slash bait.  Jigs and spoons fooled fish as well.  Large ladyfish, bluefish, whiting, catfish, and mackerel were caught in both passes on jigs and X-Raps.  Gulp Shrimp on a 1/4 ounce jig head produced ladyfish, jacks, bluefish, and speckled trout on the flats near the passes.

May 25 Sarasota fishing report

The best bite this week for anglers on Sarasota fishing charters was Spanish mackerel out on the beaches. Schools of mackerel were plentiful as there is a ton of bait. Silver spoons, plugs, and jigs cast into the fish produced strikes. A lot of the fish were on the small side, but there were some decent ones mixed in, too. Both Big Sarasota Pass and New Pass also had breaking fish, along with ladyfish and a few bluefish. The flats at Marker # 5 and Middlegrounds produced a couple of speckled trout, ladyfish, and sailcats.

Sarasota fishing report

May 19 Outer Banks fishing report

I was up in North Carolina in Kill Devil Hills this week for a little vacation. Of course, I did some fishing along with some great seafood meals and adult beverages.  Whiting, known locally as “surf mullet”, and skates hit shrimp fished on the bottom. One of the whiting went 18″, which is a good one.  On calmer days, I cast Gulp Shrimp on jig heads from the surf and landed spotted sea trout and bluefish.  The trout were tough to land in the surf with their soft mouths, but most were going to be released anyway.  We saved enough whiting and a couple of trout for a little fish fry, great fun!

fishing report

May 11 Sarasota Fishing Report

Fishing was decent this week, with the highlight being schools of breaking jack crevalle. We encounters schools of jacks feeding on the surface in several locations throughout Sarasota Bay and Roberts Bay. They hit Bass Assassin jigs and Rapala X-Raps. Ladyfish were caught in Big Pass, the nearby flats, and up in the north bay. Snook hit plugs early in the morning and speckled trout and bluefish were caught on jigs on the deep grass flats.  I am headed to the Outer Banks for some surf fishing and R&R, next report will be in two weeks.

Sarasota fishing report

May 4 Sarasota fishing report

Once again, ladyfish on the deep grass flats provided the majority of the action for clients this week.  Most of the fish were caught by anglers casting Bass Assassin jigs, but live shrimp caught fish, too.  It was good to see that some very healthy speckled trout were caught as well.  This is a good sign as Sarasota Bay bounces back from the red tide.  The FWC has just passed a law that speckled trout, reds, and snook are catch and release for the next year.  Some anglers look down on ladyfish, but they really are a lot of fun and put up a good fight for their size.  They are a great little fish for kids and novice anglers to practice on and gain experience.

fishing report for Sarasota, Florida

April 27 Sarasota fishing report

With sheepshead pretty much done, the best action this week was on the grass flats.  Ladyfish provided most of the action, keeping rods bent for clients.  Bass Assassin jigs and live shrimp worked well.  A few bluefish, mackerel, speckled trout, and sailcats were caught as well.  It was tough on Monday as a severe front had moved through.  However, the bite picked up each day, with Thursday being very good early in the morning.  Another front moved in on Friday.  Bait is showing up on a lot of the flats, which is a good sign for our summer fishing.

Florida bluefish

April 20 Sarasota fishing report

Clients on Sarasota fishing charters had decent action tis week, although weather was an issue early and late in the week.  Wind not only makes it difficult to fish, it stirs up the water.  Finding “clean” water was important.   Every spot that was dirty only produced catfish.  Flats that were better produced a lot of ladyfish with a few jack crevalle and bluefish mixed in.  Most of the fish hit Bass Assassin jigs, but shrimp caught some fish as well.  We had an excellent fly fishing trip on Thursday morning.  The grass flats north on New Pass were very clear with a lot of bait.  Fish were busting on the surface and chartreuse/white Clouser MInnow patters were very productive.

Sarasota fishing report

April 13 Sarasota fishing report

It is all about bending the rods with a lot of family trips this time of year.  Action was decent this week for clients going out on Sarasota fishing charters.  Big Sarasota Pass, Marina Jack flat, and Middlegrounds had good numbers of hard-fighting ladyfish along with bluefish, Spanish mackerel, and speckled trout.  Bass Assassin jigs (glow/chartreuse), Rapala X-Raps were all productive.  Friday was the best day, as we encountered large schools of ladyfish with bluefish and mackerel mixed in terrorizing bait in shallow water on the Big Pass sand bar.  Then, later in the morning, we caught Spanish mackerel and blue runners trolling spoons near Siesta Key Beach.  Sheepshead are really thinning out, though there are still a few around, mostly smaller males.

fishing report for Sarasota, Florida

April 6 Sarasota fishing report

Anglers on Sarasota fishing charters this week experienced decent action on the grass flats near Big Pass.  Ladyfish were fairly plentiful with a few other species mixed in.  Speckled trout to 18″, Spanish mackerel and bluefish to 2 pounds, jacks and sail cats hit Bass Assassin jigs, live shrimp, and threadfin herring.  Brian caught the fish of the week as he wrestled a nice redfish out from under a Siesta Key dock using live shrimp.  Ladyfish were also caught in Big Pass on jigs.  I only targeted sheepshead one day, but the bite was still strong in the rocks in the pass.

fishing report for Sarasota, Florida

March 30 Sarasota fishing report

Fishing was decent this week, though clients on Sarasota fishing charters had to battle some wind and a little rain.  The sheepshead bite continued to be very good.  Live shrimp fished on the bottom near structure and docks in both Big Sarasota Pass and New Pass produced plenty of nice sized fish.  Though the spawning run is winding down, there are plenty of fish that are still around.  Anglers seeking action found it by casting Bass Assassin jigs on the grass flats on the east side of the bay.  A couple of speckled trout were caught as well, which is a great sign.

fishing report Sarasota

March 23 Sarasota fishing report

Fishing was steady once again this week, though anglers did have to battle some breezy conditions.  The sheepshead bite was very good, with most of the fishing being in the 2 pound range.  Rocks, docks, and other structure, particularly in the passes, held plenty of fish.  Live shrimp was the best bait.  Ladyfish hit Bass Assassin jigs in Robert’s Bay on the incoming tide.  Anglers casting flies hooked them as well as a snook up in a residential canal.  One young angler sight cast to a couple of tripletail in the bay and caught one on a live shrimp.

Sarasota fishing report

March 16 Sarasota fishing report

The sheepshead bite remains strong in both Big Sarasota Pass, New Pass, and surrounding docks and bridges.  Live or frozen shrimp fished on the bottom worked well.  Most of the fish were in the 2lb range, with some larger ones mixed in.  Small Spanish mackerel hit Rapala plugs trolled and cast in the passes and inshore Gulf of Mexico.  Ladyfish and the occasional Spanish mackerel and speckled trout hit jigs and shrimp on the deeper flats.  We had perfect conditions on Tuesday and caught a half dozen king mackerel trolling spoons in the Gulf of Mexico just off off the inshore artificial reefs.

fishing report for Sarasota

March 2 Sarasota fishing report

Sheepshead were caught around structure in Sarasota Bay and on the artificial reefs in the inshore Gulf of Mexico. This has been the most consistent bite for the last few weeks. Live shrimp caught them along with a few mangrove snapper. Docks and structure in both passes were the top spots. Also, there is a ton of tiny fry bait in Robert’s Bay which has attracted good numbers of ladyfish. Clients caught them using Bass Assassin jigs and live shrimp. Dolphins were aggressive and shut down the bite several times. A few speckled trout were landed as well.

Sarasota fishing report


February 23 Sarasota fishing report

Action really picked up this week in Sarasota Bay!  Water temperatures were in the mid 70’s and small fry bait is plentiful on the flats.  Anglers casting jigs experienced fast action on large ladyfish and a couple of speckled trout.  Snook and jack crevelle hit live shrimp and Rapala plugs in creeks and residential canals.  The sheepshead bite remains strong.  Very few of the fish are under the 12″ minimum.  Some decent mangrove snapper were landed as well.  Live shrimp worked well fished on the bottom.

Sarasota fishing report

February 16 Sarasota fishing report

The best bite in Sarasota Bay right now is sheepshead.  These tasty saltwater panfish are hitting live and freshly frozen shrimp under docks, bridges and around submerged structure.  Most of the fish were decent sized, over 14″ or so.  Mangrove snapper to 14″ were also taken in the same areas.  In addition, a few snook and jacks were caught on Rapala X-Raps in creeks and canals.

Sarasota sheepshead fishing


February 2 Sarasota fishing report

The big jack bite was hot for another week, but then slowed down after the cold front.  Water temperatures in the mid 50’s sent the fish seeking warmer water. Before the front, jacks to 12 pounds, snook, and redfish hit Rapala plugs in the Manatee River.  Hopefully the upcoming warm weather will get them biting again.  The best action in Sarasota Bay was sheepshead hitting live shrimp around structure.  The fish are spread out and it seems like their numbers are increasing each week.  Small snook hit lures in creeks and residential canals.

Sarasota fishing report

January 19 Sarasota fishing report

Winter fishing patterns continue in Sarasota.  The best two patterns have been fishing docks with live shrimp for sheepshead and black drum and casting plugs and jigs in creeks and rivers for jack crevalle and snook.  Docks in 8′ to 10′ of water near Big Pass produced sheepshead and drum.  Most of them were solid fish in the 14″ to 16″ range.  Anglers casting Rapala plugs in Phillippi Creek fooled snook and jacks.  The Manatee River has some VERY big jacks that were breaking on the surface and hit jigs and plugs.

Sarasota fishing report

January 5 Sarasota fishing report

Fishing has been fair over the last two weeks.  Fishing pressure was high due to the Christmas traffic and we are still rebounding from the red tide.  Sheepshead showed up under docks and around structure near the passes.  We caught them and mangrove snapper using live shrimp fished on the bottom.  Big jacks were found on the flats and in the channel and hit plugs, jigs, and flies.  Ladyfish were caught in deeper areas using jigs.

Sarasota fishing report

December 22 Sarasota fishing report

Weather was an issue over the last two weeks.  However, the forecast is good for the holiday week. Ladyfish hit jigs on drop-offs in 7′ to 10′ of water.  Sheepshead were present in good numbers under docks near Big Pass.  Snook and jacks have moved up into residential canals and creeks.  Anglers fishing the Myakka River hooked snook and gar casting plugs.

Sarasota fishing report

December 8 Sarasota fishing report

Weather has been an issue the last two weeks. Several severe fronts moved through and I had to cancel several trips due to wind around 20 knots. It does seem to have helped the rd tide, though. Ladyfish and small Spanish mackerel were breaking on the surface off of Siesta Key. Sheepshead and snapper took shrimp fished under docks and along rocky channel edges, especially south of Siesta Drive Bridge. Cooler water has snook and jacks moving up into area cheeks and rivers.

Sarasota fishing report

November 24 Sarasota fishing report

Fishing remained steady, though unspectacular, over the last two weeks.  Red tide still persists off the beaches and in Sarasota Bay, from the passes north.  The best fishing has been in the area from Siesta Drive south to Blackburn Point.  Sheepshead moved into the area and were caught under docks by clients using shrimp.  Mangrove snapper were caught in the same spots as well.  Jack crevelle hit plugs in residential canals and creeks.  Ladyfish were caught on jigs on the open flats.

Sarasota fishing report

November 10 Sarasota fishing report

I ran both Myakka River charters and Sarasota Bay charters this week.  Anglers casting Bass Assassin baits and Gulp! Shrimp on jig heads experienced fast action on ladyfish.  With the persistent red tide, the area between Siesta Drive and Blackburn Point were the most consistent areas.  A few speckled trout were caught as well.  Pilchards fished under docks fooled jacks, snook, and snapper.

Action in the Myakka River was fair this week.  It got VERY warm by the end of the week, and that slowed the bite.  Still, anglers casting Rapala plugs hooked a couple large snook and landed fish to 24″.  The approaching cold front should improve the fishing.

Sarasota fishing report

November 3 Sarasota fishing report

I did most of my fishing in the area rivers.  Anglers had good success on snook, jack crevelle, and largemouth bass casting Rapala plugs.  Snook ranged from 15″ to 15 pounds.  We landed fish to 35″ and lost two larger ones.  #10 gold Rapala X-Raps and BX Minnow plugs fooled all of the fish.  The Braden River, Myakka River, and Manatee River were all productive.  Charters in Sarasota Bay were a bit slower, with jack crevelle to 4 pounds and mangrove snapper hitting pilchards fished under docks and along shorelines.

Sarasota fishing report

October 20 Sarasota fishing report

Sarasota fishing report

Fishing was fantastic this week! I got out four days, taking a mixture of clients and friends. The snook bite was on fire all along Siesta Key. Snook to 34 inches were landed this week and several were hooked that we could not handle. A few the fish were caught on white #8 Rapala X-Raps first thing in the morning. Speckled trout to 16 inches, ladyfish, mangrove snapper to 14 inches, and jacks also hit the plugs early in the morning.

However, most of the fish hit live pilchards. Redfish to 24 inches, jack crevelle to 4 pounds, and mangrove snapper to 15 inches were also caught on the live bait. I like the combination of taking an advantage of the early morning bite with lures than switching over to live bait when that action slows.

Action from this week!


Regular clients Doc and John had a great day on Thursday. They caught snapper, jacks, snook, ladyfish, and a trout casting Rapalas. A switch to live bait resulted in over 40 snook along with several other species. Doc finished up with an inshore slam, catching snook, trout, and redfish all in one trip.

Bait fish were plentiful in Sarasota Bay this week. At the end of my charter on Thursday, we saw a dozen large schools of bait on the flats near Marina jacks. This is a great indication of quality water. It can also mean that the mackerel, false albacore, and other migratory fall species will be arriving soon. They are generally right on the heels of the bait. Hopefully the approaching front will kick start the inshore Gulf fishing.

October 13 Sarasota fishing report

The area south of Siesta Drive down to Blackburn Point provided steady action for clients on Sarasota fishing charters this week.  I got out a couple of times after Hurricane Michael moved through.  The water was a bit stirred up, but the fish did not mind.  We had outgoing tides in the morning this week.  The best spots were creek and canal mouths along with docks on points.  Rapala X-Raps produced a few fish at first light, but most of the fish were caught using live pilchards.  Bait was present on the flats in several spots near Big Pass.  Chumming docks, shorelines, oyster bars, and creek mouths produced snook (mostly schoolies), jack crevelle to 4 pounds, and mangrove snapper to 15″.  Action should improve as it cools off.  Great to see the bay clearing and the fish biting!

Sarasota fishing report

October 7 Sarasota fishing report

I am back from a long road trip up to New Hampshire and Maine. Red tide was pretty bad when I left around Labor Day. It is still present, though the effects have eased off a bit. Persistent anglers can find juvenile snook, jacks, and mangrove snapper’s in the area at the south end of Siesta Key. A few schools of ladyfish are showing up in the flats around the passes and out on the beach. This is a good sign of things clearing up!

Sarasota fishing report

I have been doing a little freshwater fishing and local lakes. Bluegill and other panfish along with a few crappie are caught using jigs and small spinner baits. This fishing, like our saltwater fishing, will pick up as it cools off and the water temperature drops.

Sarasota fishing report information

There are many factors that go into fishing success. My Sarasota fishing report page will reflect this. Seasonal patterns are one of the primary factors influencing fishing success. Anglers can view my complete Sarasota fishing forecast.

Fishing in the cooler months is all about the weather. We start receiving serious cold fronts here in Sarasota, Florida around November. They usually persist until mid-March. Unseasonably pleasant winters will result in fish maintaining their spring and fall patterns. Conversely, an unusually cold winter will keep fish in their winter pattern.

Sarasota fishing report

In the winter time I do three types of fishing; bottom fishing, River snook fishing, and on nice days drifting the deep grass flats. I use live shrimp to bottom fish for sheepshead, snapper, drum, and other species around docs and other structure. Local area rivers produce snook and bass for anglers casting plugs. When conditions are favorable on the open flats, we use jigs and live shrimp to catch a variety of species.

As it warms up fish move out of the deeper waters where they spend the winter. The flats and passes become alive with snook, redfish, speckled trout, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, jacks, ladyfish, and other species. The passes and deep flats produce the most action while some anglers seek the challenge of catching snook in redfish in the back country.

When conditions are right, the fishing in the inshore Gulf of Mexico can be fantastic! East winds will result in clear water and plenty of baitfish. This will in turn attract Spanish mackerel, false albacore, sharks, cobia, and other species. Often times, the fish will be seen feeding aggressively on the surface. This is great fun as just about anything tossed into the feeding frenzy will draw strike.

Sarasota fishing charters

For many anglers, the heat of summer means one thing; tarpon! The silver Kings invade our area in early May and stay until late July. This is very challenging fishing, and not for everyone. However the reward is the fish of a lifetime! Tarpon to 150 pounds are landed off of the area beaches every summer.

While I still do a little tarpon fishing, most of my summer trips are run in Sarasota Bay. With all the anglers out on the beach chasing tarpon, fishing pressure in the Bay is lighter. My normal approach is to cast lures or shrimp at first light then use my cast net to catch bait and chum mid morning. Either way, with the heat of summer, we are will off the water early.

You’ll see me mention “deep grass flats”often in my Sarasota fishing report. This is where the majority of fish on my fishing charters are landed. These areas are large with a mixture of grass and sand bottom. Shrimp, crabs, and bait fish all hide in the grass. That obviously makes it an attractive place for game fish to feed.

Speckled trout in particular are associated with these deeper grass flats. But anglers will also catch Spanish mackerel, Pompano, bluefish, jacks, a lot of ladyfish, snapper, grouper, cobia, sharks, catfish and more while fishing the deep grass at one time of year or another.

Sarasota fishing

We primarily drift fish while working the deep grass flats. Anglers cast out lures, flies, or live bait as we drift across a productive areas in search of fish. Bass Assassin jigs, Rapala plugs, and spoons are effective artificial lures. The top live bait is a shrimp. These are fished either free line or under a noisy cork. In the summer time, live bait fish such as scaled sardines are used.

Both Big Sarasota Pass and New Pass produce a lot a fish for clients on Sarasota fishing charters. Anglers reading my Sarasota fishing report will see Big Pass in particular mentioned quite often. Sheepshead school up there thick and late winter and early spring. Mangrove snapper and snook are found in the rocks in the summer time. Ladyfish are often times thick right in the middle of the pass itself. Bluefish and mackerel can also be encountered as well.

Anglers drifting the passes cast jigs out and bounced them along the bottom. This is very effective and produces Pompano, bluefish, mackerel, and loads of ladyfish. Free lining a live shrimp with a split shot or fishing a live shrimp on a jig head can also be very productive. However, when the fish are biting jigs are more efficient as there is no need to stop and rebate the hook.

Sarasota Bay fishing report

There is a ton of structure in Big Pass as well. This is particularly true of the whole area along the north side of Siesta Key. The water is deep, there is good current flow, and abundant structure. This is a recipe for an excellent fishing spot, and it is! Bottom fishing with live shrimp and bait fish is very productive. Anglers do need to time this during periods of lesser current flow. It is difficult to anchor in fish when the tide is screaming.

Spinning tackle is used on the vast majority of my fishing charters. The reason is quite simple; it is effective and easy to use. Many freshwater anglers are experienced with close to faced reels. However, it usually only takes a few minutes before there casting like a pro with the spinning outfits. 10 pound spinning outfits are light enough that anglers enjoy the fight of even a smaller fish while still giving them a chance of the hook something larger.

Anglers seeking a bit more of a challenge will opt to targets snook, redfish, and jacks in the back country areas. This type of fishing is more of a “quality over quantity approach”. I use the trolling motor to ease the boat along a likely looking shoreline, while anglers cast lures towards the shoreline. I do use live bait occasionally as well.

River fishing charters

Visitors to my site will often see ”River snook fishing”in my Sarasota fishing report. This is a unique angling opportunity that I offer to clients. I am not aware of any other guide to do so. I use my 14 foot Alumacraft jon boat for this fishing. Shallow water and primitive ramps require this. However, this also results in less boat traffic and a quiet, serene angling adventure.

The Manatee River, Myakka River, and Braden River, are all within a 45 minute drive from the Sarasota beaches. Each has a distinct feel and personality. The Myakka River has some stunning scenery and big snook. The Manatee River is pretty as well but a bit more developed. It offers the most variety. The Braden River is the most developed but offers fantastic fishing for jack crevelle in the cooler months. Snook and redfish are available as well.

One unique aspect of fishing the rivers is the chance to catch freshwater species as well. The Manatee River and Myakka River are both brackish below the dams. This results in saltwater fish such as snuck, redfish, jacks, and juvenile tarpon being found in the same water as largemouth bass, sunshine bass, catfish, gar, and bream. These freshwater species will take the same lures meant for the saltwater fish.

In the spring and again in the fall we experience runs of pelagic species. This means that they spend most of their time in the middle of the water column and do not relate as much to bottom structure. Spanish mackerel and false albacore are prime examples. King mackerel show up here offer beaches as well. This fishing is dependent on conditions, the water needs to be clear and calm. When it is, fishing can be outstanding!

Inshore Gulf of Mexico

This type of fishing is very exciting in that it is visual. Often times we don’t even fish until we actually see the mackerel and false albacore busting baits on the surface. We will also look for big schools of bait fish which can be seen dimpling on the surface. Artificial lures work very well when the fish are breaking. We will also catch some of the live bait fish and cast them back into the school of bait.

On days when the fish cannot be seen working on the surface, trolling can be an effective technique. Trolling spoons and plugs is a great way to locate Spanish mackerel, false albacore, and even big King fish. It is also a great way to put a lot of fish in the boat quickly and is an easy technique for anglers with limited experience.

The “inshore artificial reefs”will be mentioned regularly in my Sarasota fishing report. I am referring to three man-made groups of structure that were placed between one and to miles off of Lido Key. The Gulf floor is for the most part flat and featureless. Therefore, any structure will attract fish and hold them there. Those three reefs provide excellent fishing for bottom fish such as sheepshead, snapper, and grouper along with pelagic species such as mackerel, King fish, cobia, and false albacore.

Fly fishing

Fly fisherman are certainly not to be left out of the action! False albacore in Spanish mackerel will most certainly hit a well presented fly out in the Gulf of Mexico. This is terrific sport for anglers wielding a fly rod. Any inshore species that can be caught on a jig will also take a fly. Speckled trout, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, ladyfish, jacks, and more will hit a Clouser Minnow on the deep flats. Snook and jacks prefer whiteCrystal Minnow patterns in the back bays.

An 8wt outfit is a good all-around choice for fly fishing in Sarasota. It might be a tad light if the false albacore are running large. Otherwise, it is a good choice for the water and species that Sarasota offers. An intermediate sink tip line and then 9 foot tapered leader with a 24 inch piece of 30 pound bite tippet finishes off the outfit.

Readers will see a lot a families including children and my Sarasota fishing report. I really enjoy taking families out, it has become a big part of my Sarasota fishing charters. Many of these anglers have limited experience. One great thing about fishing here is that there are many species that do not require a great deal of skill or patience to catch. This is a good thing!

Also, while I don’t mind if clients keep a couple fish for dinner, I strongly encourage catch and release. Sarasota gets a lot a visitors and thus a lot of fishing pressure. It is important that the focus of the fishing trip beyond catching fish and enjoying quality time with families. I will certainly filet and bag up your catch at the end of the trip.  Current Florida fishing regulations and license requirements can be found HERE.

Fishing Articles

Fishing Articles from Capt Jim Klopfer

This post is the list of fishing articles written by Capt Jim Klopfer. These articles will be broken down into several categories. These include Sarasota fishing articles, Florida fishing articles, freshwater fishing articles, and miscellaneous fishing articles. Simply click on the article title to read the article.

fishing articles

Saltwater fishing articles

Inshore Saltwater Fishing, a Complete Guide

Surf Fishing Tackle and Techniques

11 Valuable Tampa Bay Fishing Tips

Best 6 Topwater Plugs for Saltwater Fishing

Best 7 Saltwater Fishing Spoons

Best Sheepshead Fishing Tackle and Baits

Tarpon Fishing Tackle and Gear, an Angler’s Guide

Best Redfish Fishing Tackle and lures

Best 12 Spotted Sea Trout Fishing Lures

Best Flounder and Fluke Fishing Tackle and Techniques

Best Grouper Fishing Tackle and Lures

Best False Albacore Fishing Tackle and Lures

Best Live Baits for Saltwater Fishing in Florida

Best 7 Fishing Lures for Redfish

Top 9 speckled trout fishing lures

Top 6 Spanish mackerel fishing lures

Jack Crevalle Fishing, a Complete Guide

Light Tackle Bottom Fishing Tips

What is the Best Saltwater Fishing Fly

How to Catch Saltwater Fish with Jigs

Spotted Sea Trout Fishing, Tips to Succeed

Spanish Mackerel and False Albacore Fishing Tips

Fishing for Redfish and Speckled Trout

Fishing for Bluefish, Tips and Techniques

Top 15 Sheepshead Fishing Tips

Best 6 Saltwater Fishing Lures

Fly Fishing for Jack Crevalle

Top 6 Spanish mackerel fishing lures

Florida fishing articles

Fishing for Snook, a Complete Guide

Florida Inshore Fishing Tips

Florida Offshore Fishing Tips

Florida Pompano Fishing

Florida Bluefish

Freshwater Fly Fishing in Florida

Fly Fishing in Florida, Gulf Coast Tips

Tarpon Fishing in Florida, an Anglers Guide

Light Tackle Trolling in Saltwater

Jacksonville Florida Fishing Tips

Best Snook Fishing Tackle and Lures

Florida King Mackerel Fishing, Tips and Techniques

Top 21 Florida Saltwater Game Fish

What is the Best Bait for Shark Fishing?

Fishing for Florida Panfish and Crappie

Top 25 Florida Game Fish

Florida Saltwater Fishing in Winter

Fishing for Ladyfish in Florida

Freshwater fishing articles

Best Smallmouth Bass Fishing Tackle and lures

Rock Bass Fishing Tips and Tackle

Fishing for Crappie, Bluegill, and Panfish

Walleye Fishing Tackle and lures

Top 13 Freshwater Fishing Plugs

Best 11 topwater plugs for freshwater fishing

Top 11 Freshwater Fishing Spoons

Largemouth Bass Fishing in Creeks

Spinnerbait Fishing Tips and Techniques

Bass Fishing Tackle and Equipment

Best Catfish Fishing Tackle and Gear

Best 13 Brown Trout Fishing Lures

Freshwater Fishing Tackle and Lures, a Beginners Guide

Ice Fishing Tackle and Gear

Top 10 Northern Pike Fishing Lures

Top 11 Musky Fishing Lures

What is the best Northern Pike Fishing Lure

Best 13 Largemouth Bass Fishing Lures for Beginners

Best River Trout Fishing Lure

What is the best live bait for freshwater fishing?

Fly Fishing for Bluegill and Panfish

Fishing with Spinners in Rivers and Streams

Top 13 Rainbow Trout Fishing Lures

What is the best live bait for smallmouth bass?

Best 9 Fishing Lures for Streams and Small Rivers

Ice Fishing for Crappie, a Beginners Guide

Crappie Fishing Tackle and Lures, a Complete Guide

Best 9 fishing lures for bluegill and panfish

How to Catch Catfish, a Comprehensive Guide

Walleye Fishing, a Beginners Guide

Fishing for River Catfish, Tips and Techniques

Smallmouth Bass Fishing for Beginners

Best 7 River Smallmouth Fishing Lures

Fishing Franklin North Carolina

Top 27 Freshwater Game Fish Species

Minnesota Walleye and Pike Fishing

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Sarasota fishing articles

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Sarasota Fishing Calendar

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Sarasota Offshore Fishing

Sarasota Redfish

Sarasota Chumming Techniques

River Snook Fishing Charters

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Sarasota Fishing Forecast

Sarasota Crappie Fishing

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Sarasota Freshwater Fishing

Best 6 Sarasota Fishing Lures

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Best Sarasota Fishing Charter

35 Best Sarasota Fishing Spots

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Sarasota Trolling Techniques

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Fishing Charters in Sarasota

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A Guide to Kayak Fishing for Beginners

Florida Saltwater Fishing in Winter

Florida Saltwater Fishing in Spring

Florida saltwater fishing in spring can be outstanding! Like most parts of the country, warming weather and rising water temperature has fish moving and feeding. Many species spawn or are preparing to spawn. Forage is abundant and the fish are hungry. Anglers have a wide selection of species to pursue. Anglers can view Florida fish species and Florida saltwater fishing regulations in the FWC link.

Tampa Bay redfish

The flats come alive in Florida in the spring. The severe cold fronts that quickly drop water temperatures to uncomfortable levels are no longer an issue. Bait fish become more plentiful, as do shrimp, crabs, and other crustaceans. This in turn attracts the game fish to move out of their deeper winter staging areas to feed on them.

Anglers will have plenty of offshore and nearshore options in the spring as well. Of course, offshore fishing will be dictated by the weather. Pelagic species such as mackerel and false albacore will migrate along the beaches. Bottom fishing will be good both inshore and offshore.

best false albacore fishing tackle and lures

Deep grass flats in Florida provide excellent spring fishing

Anglers seeking action and variety will do well to fish the deep grass flats in Florida in the spring. These are large areas of submerged vegetation in water that is between 4′ deep and 10′ deep. These areas will hold forage and therefore attract game fish. Many of the species caught on the deep grass school up in large numbers, which can result in fast action.

Florida saltwater fishing in winter

Spotted sea trout or speckled trout are probably the Florida species most associated with these deep flats. Trout are available in good numbers throughout the state. Along with trout, anglers will catch Spanish mackerel, bluefish, pompano, jacks, sharks, snapper, ladyfish, and more.

Top fishing techniques on the deep flats

There are several different techniques that anglers use to produce when fishing the deep flats. Most drift as opposed to anchor in order to cover more water. A live shrimp fished under a noisy float has probably accounted for more spotted sea trout than all other methods combined. The noisy float attracts fish to the helpless shrimp hanging below. Other live baits such as pinfish, grunts, mullet, and sardines can be fished under a float or free lined out behind the boat.

Florida saltwater fishing in spring

Once a school of fish is found or a productive area is located, anglers can anchor and use live bait to thoroughly fish the area. Chumming can be an effective method to bring fish to the boat. Frozen chum blocks can be used, but live bait used as chum is even more effective. Once a school of fish is attracted to the chum and excited, the action can be fast and furious!

Many anglers prefer to cast artificial lures when drifting the deep flats. Lures allow anglers to cover a lot more water than they can using live bait. The most popular lure is the jig and grub. This uses a jig head, usually ¼ to ½ ounce, with a plastic grub on the hook. The grub can mimic a shrimp or bait fish. Silver spoons and plugs can be cast and retrieved as well as trolled to locate and catch fish. Suspending plugs are particularly effective for trout, with the MirrOlure MirrOdine being a top bait.

Shallow Florida flats come alive in spring

When the term “flats fishing” comes up, many anglers picture fishing in gin clear water that is a foot deep for bonefish, permit, and maybe even tarpon in the Florida Keys. That style of fishing was basically invented there. However, anglers chase fish on the shallow flats throughout the entire state.

Top 25 Florida game fish

In the Keys, tarpon, bonefish, and permit are pursued on the flats in very shallow water. This is quite challenging fishing as these fish are quite skittish in the shallow water. Patience is required as well as good angling skills. Anglers sneak up on fish in special skiffs designed to float very shallow. Live bait, lures, and flies are all used.

guide to inshore saltwater fishing

In the areas north of the keys, snook, redfish, and trout become the main targets of anglers fishing the skinny water. The same techniques are used, though in many cases anglers are fishing grass beds instead of sandy flats. Anglers can sight fish, but blind casting produces as well. A gold weedless spoon is a top lure. Light jigs and plastic baits on swim bait hooks work well, too. Topwater plugs can produce exciting strikes!

Best 6 fishing lures for redfish

Spring time tarpon fishing in Florida

Tarpon fishing gets going in earnest in the early spring in south Florida. As the water warms up, fish begin to school up and start moving along both coast lines. The bridges and flats in the Keys all have fish in early spring. As it gets later in the season, areas such as Boca Grande, Tampa, and Jacksonville become better spots.

Sarasota fishing guide

There are several different methods anglers can use to catch tarpon. In shallow water areas, they can be sight fished. This is great sport and is challenging and exciting! In the Keys, boats anchor under bridges in the afternoon on the outgoing tide and fish with live mullet and crabs. Schools of fish can be sight fished as they migrate along the beaches. In the passes and inlets, anglers drift with live bait or jigs.

Spring fishing off of the Florida beaches

As it warms up many migratory species begin to move along the Florida beaches. Much of this action will take place within a few miles of shore. This puts them in safe range of anglers with smaller boats. These fish include Spanish mackerel, king mackerel, false albacore, sharks, tarpon, jack crevalle, and more.

Light tackle trolling in Saltwater

One exciting aspect of fishing the beaches in the spring is that much of the action is on the surface. This results in casting lures, baits, and flies into schools of actively feeding fish. This is great fun as a bite is almost a certainty, as long as the lure resembles the bait being devoured.

When fish are not seen feeding on the surface, anglers can use a couple of techniques to catch them. Trolling is a very effective way to both locate and catch these pelagic game fish. Special spoons designed for fairly fast trolling speeds are fished behind planers. These are devices that take the lure down to a desired depth. Plugs can be used as well.

Anglers can also anchor or drift and use live and cut bait as well. This is often done over structure such as a ledge, wreck, reef, or area of hard bottom. While most of these species do not relate to structure, bait does, so game fish will be close by. Chum can be used to get the fish up behind the boat.

Florida bottom fishing in spring

Bottom fishing is very productive in Florida in the spring. This is a very popular form of fishing that anglers of all ages and skill levels can participate in. Bottom fishing is basically dropping a live or dead bait to the bottom, usually around some type of cover or structure.

best Sarasota fishing charter

There are many different species that anglers can catch when bottom fishing in Florida. Grouper and snapper are the “glamour” species when bottom fishing, there are several species of each that are caught inshore and nearshore. Gag grouper, black grouper, red grouper, mangrove snapper, yellowtail snapper, and lane snapper are some of the most common.

Sheepshead are abundant inshore, especially in early spring. They are a great option on windy days and are usually cooperative. Mangrove snapper are plentiful in most parts of Florida in the bays and passes. Just about every bridge and other structure will hold snapper and other species. Flounder, red and black drum, sea bass, grunts, and other tasty bottom fish can be caught as well. A live shrimp is tough to beat.

mangrove snapper fishing in Florida

Passes and inlets offer good fishing

Passes and inlets are terrific fishing spots in Florida in the spring. Current and structure along with bait results in an ideal environment to hold fish. Most inshore species can be caught in these areas. Anglers can drift with jigs or bait or anchor and bottom fish.

Drifting along with the current while vertically fishing a jig on the bottom is an extremely effective technique in the spring. Pompano are a prized species and many are caught by anglers doing this. Ladyfish can be thick and provide good action. Bluefish and mackerel often feed heavily in passes and inlets.

Sarasota Spanish mackerel fishing

Bottom fishing can be excellent in Florida in the spring, especially for sheepshead, snapper, and flounder. Most inlets and passes have a good amount of structure including docks, bridges, seawalls, jetties, rocks, and more. These all will attract bottom species. The best times to fish are during periods of slack tides.

Offshore fishing in Florida in the spring

Offshore fishing in Florida in the string is all about the weather. There will be some breezy days that will make fishing offshore difficult if not impossible. However, on nicer days, anglers can experience some terrific action on a variety of both bottom and pelagic species.

grouper fishing

Bottom fishing is very good all along the west coast of Florida in the spring. Water temperatures are ideal and bottom fish such as grouper and snapper will be closer to shore than in other times of year. Patch reefs and wrecks in the Atlantic Ocean will also hold a lot of hard fighting grouper and snapper.

King mackerel fishing is at it’s apex in the string. Schools of hungry kings move north from the Keys, right behind the schools of threadfin herring and other bait fish. Trolling is an excellent way to catch them. Fast trolling with spoons will put numbers into the boat while slow trolling with live bait will fool the larger fish. Spanish mackerel and false albacore will be caught as well.

Florida king mackerel fishing

Boats heading out deeper will find the tail end of the sailfish and wahoo season. Tuna and dolphin numbers will be on the rise, especially in the southern part of the state. Amberjack will be caught on the deeper reefs. Cobia may be encountered at any depth.

In conclusion, this article on Florida saltwater fishing in spring will help anglers understand the species and options when fishing in Florida that time of year.

Best Smallmouth Bass Fishing Tackle and Lures

Best Smallmouth Bass Fishing Tackle and Lures

This post will thoroughly cover the best smallmouth bass fishing tackle and lures. Smallmouth bass are a very popular freshwater species. They prefer cooler and clearer water than their largemouth bass cousins. In a way, they are a bit of a combination of largemouth bass in freshwater trout. Smallmouth bass do not grow as large, but put up a terrific fight. They prefer current and are found as often in rivers as they are in lakes.

smallmouth bass fishing tackle and lures

Smallmouth bass fishing, especially in rivers, is pretty basic. Due to their preference of clear water and the fact that they don’t grow as large, the best rod and reel combinations for smallmouth bass are a bit on the light side. Many anglers already own a rod and reel combination that is suitable for chasing smallies. There are a handful of proven artificial lures that still produce smallmouth bass to this day. Many anglers already own these.

Fishing rods and reels for smallmouth bass

There are three different rod and reel combinations that will cover every smallmouth bass fishing situation. These are an ultralight spinning outfit, a medium light spinning outfit, and a medium light bait casting rig. Anglers can certainly get away with only one rod and reel, but to ideally match the conditions, most anglers should have at least a couple different rod and reel combinations.

Medium light spinning rod and reel

The most versatile rod and reel combination would be a medium light spinning rod that is between 6 feet long and 7 feet long matched with a 2000 series reel. It can be spooled up with 8 pound monofilament or 10 pound braided line. This would be a great choice for anglers who only want one outfit that will cover most smallmouth bass fishing situations. This outfit will be a tad heavy for fishing small rivers and a little light for fishing docks and other structure. However, it will cover the majority of smallmouth bass fishing applications.

Options for both medium light and ultra light rod and reel combinations can be purchased from this link.

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Ultra light spinning rod and reel

Many anglers pursue smallmouth bass in small to medium-sized rivers. For the most part, these waters are fairly clear and the fish average three quarters of a pound or so. For this reason, every serious smallmouth bass angler should have an ultralight spinning outfit in his or her arsenal. A 6 foot ultralight rod with a 1000 series reel spooled up with 4 pound monofilament or 10 pound braid is an excellent all round outfit. This combination is excellent for casting very light lures and allows even a hand sized fish to give a good account of itself when hooked.

Medium light baitcasting reel

The third and final rod and reel combination would be a medium light bait casting outfit. For many anglers, this outfit can be omitted. However, serious smallmouth bass anglers who fish larger lakes that hold above average sized bass will usually have a rig such as this on board. It is better suited for casting heavier lures for larger fish as well as fishing around structure such as bridges, rip rap, docks, and submerged timber.

Fly fishing outfit for smallmouth bass

Smallmouth bass are an excellent species to chase with a fly rod. For the most part, they are less finicky and easier to catch than trout. This is especially true in the heavily pressure trout fishing waters that many anglers are faced with. A good all-around fly fishing rod and reel would be a 9′ 5 wt outfit with a medium action. In most situations, a floating line will be fine. However, a sink tip or slowly sinking line does give the fly angler some versatility.

Tackle for fishing with live bait

Many anglers enjoy fishing for smallmouth bass with live bait. Live bait can be extremely effective in certain situations, especially when fish are located. Artificial lures do allow anglers to cover more water. However, live bait can be very productive when fish are located or when they are extremely fussy.

live bait fishing

The tackle required for using live bait on smallmouth bass is quite basic. A selection of light wire live bait hooks in sizes #2, #4, and #6 along with some pinch on weights, small sliding sinkers, and a couple of floats is really all that is required. Anglers to tie up special rigs may also use in-line swivels and three-way swivels.

Fishing for smallmouth bass with lures

It is probably safe to say that the majority of anglers fishing for smallmouth bass do so using artificial lures. There are a couple of reasons for this. Convenience is a major factor, there is no bait that is needed to be purchased, caught, and kept alive. Artificial lures allow anglers to cover much more water in search of fish. Smallmouth bass are aggressive in nature and artificial lures will often trigger a strike even when they are not feeding. Finally, artificial lures are just plain old fun to fish!

best 9 fishing lures for streams and small rivers

There are four basic types of artificial lures, jigs and soft plastics, plugs, spinners, and spoons. Each puts out vibration that mimics a wounded bait fish or other type of prey. Most have some type of built in action, while others require more manipulation on the part of the angler. Each lure type will be covered below including a few examples of proven and productive smallmouth bass lures.

Jigs and soft plastic lures

A jig is a hook with a weight molded at the front near the eye. This weight gives the lure its erratic action and the water along with its name. When properly fish to, the lore will jig up and down. Most strikes occur as the lure falls through the water column. This realistically mimics a dying or wounded bait fish or other form of forage. The jig head can come either dressed with natural or synthetic care or plain so that a trailer can be added.

Jigs are very versatile lures they can be fished in a variety of ways. Also, depending on the dressing or tail, a jig can be retrieved to mimic a bait fish such as shad or bounced along the bottom to imitate a crawfish or other crustacean. Jigs that come with dressing most often use bucktail, marabou or some type of synthetic hair. These are very effective, however not quite as versatile or durable as the jig and grub combination.

Tailwater fishing tips and techniques

Most anglers fishing for smallmouth bass with jigs use a jig head in combination with some type of soft plastic body. The endless combinations result in this being a very versatile and economical way to fish. An excellent example of this would be a 1/8 ounce black jig head with a green or orange crawfish style tail. This is a very universal color combination that is effective anywhere smallmouth bass are found. A 3 inch pearl had tail swim bait on a 1/4 ounce jig is an excellent choice when smallmouth bass are feeding on bait fish.

Below are several examples of effective dressed jigs as well as jig and grub combinations. By no means are these the only choices. There are countless manufacturers who sell quality smallmouth bass fishing jigs. These are a few proven baits which will catch smallmouth bass anywhere.

Tube baits

Tube baits are extremely effective smallmouth bass fishing lures. They have a lot of action when worked slowly and subtly, which entices strikes when fish are not overly active. The body of the tube adds substance while the tails flutter seductively in the water. They are most often fished on the bottom, mimicking crayfish and other crustaceans. Natural colors such as olive in root beer work very well. White can be an excellent color when shad are present. The Berkley Power Bait tube is Capt. Jim’s personal favorite for smallmouth bass.

Bass Assassin lures

The Bass Assassin line of swim baits are excellent smallmouth bass fishing lures. They come in a variety of color patterns in several sizes. Lighter, natural colors are Capt. Jim’s favorite for targeting smallmouth bass. They are most often fished on a jig head, but can also be used on a swim bait hook. These lures are very easy to use and have a lot of built in action.

Hair jigs

Jigs that come with hair dressing are very effective smallmouth bass fishing lures as well. In some ways they are easier in that the angler does not have to match the tail to the head. Marabou is a common dressing for jigs and puts out a lot of action with very little movement. Bucktail is another popular ineffective dressing. Finally, jigs also come with synthetic hair dressing. Darker colors work best when bounced on the bottom while lighter colors are effective when fishing in schools of bait fish.

Yamamoto Senko

The 4” Yamamoto Senko is an extremely effective in versatile bait for smallmouth bass and many other species. It does not look like much nor does it have a ton of action, but this finesse bait certainly catches fish. It is best worked with very little or even no action, just being allowed to flutter down through the water column or drift with the current. It can be fished on a bare hook or a light jig head.

Top plugs for smallmouth bass fishing

Plugs are hard bodied baits, usually made of plastic, that imitate bait fish or crawfish for the most part. Plugs are either worked on the surface or below the surface. Top water plugs float and spend their entire time working on the surface of the water. They are great fun to fish as the strike is visual. However, more fish are caught by anglers using plugs below the surface. These will dive to a variety of depths, based on the size and shape of the lip along with the design of the plug.

live bait for bass

Jerk baits are extremely effective smallmouth bass fishing lures. These are long slender baits that have a very erratic action and the water. They dive down from a couple of feet below the surface to 15 feet or more, depending on the shape of the lip. These lures are worked with an aggressive jerk and a pause in between. Most of the time the smallmouth bass hits the plug on the pause, as it hangs there seemingly helpless.

Rapala X-Rap Extreme Action Slashbait

Capt. Jim’s favorite jerk bait is the Rapala X-Rap Extreme Action Slashbait. The #8 size works best in rivers and in lakes where the forage is on the small side. The #10 size is excellent when anglers are fishing in larger lakes. This plug is also available with a larger lip, allowing it to fish down to almost 15 feet. White is an excellent all-around color, with olive being a good second choice.

Rebel Wee Craw

The Rebel Wee Craw is a legendary smallmouth bass fishing plug. As the name implies, it was built to imitate a crayfish and it does an excellent job of that. The lure is available and several different sizes and a handful of very natural looking finishes. It works extremely well when bounced through deeper holes and small to medium-size rivers. The Wee Craw is also effective when fished around riprap and on sloping rocky points in lakes.

Heddon Tiny Torpedo

The Heddon Tiny Torpedo is an outstanding top water lure for catching smallmouth bass in both rivers and lakes. Many plugs designed for largemouth bass are a bit too large for smallmouth bass. This bait is the perfect size and is very easy to fish. It has a conical nose and a propeller on the rear. When twitched, the propeller puts out a good amount of commotion which will draw smallmouth bass to the bait.

Rapala Shad Rap

The Rapala Shad Rap is an excellent plug to use when smallmouth bass are feeding on shad. It has a wider more substantial profile, better imitating Shad and herring that are often found in lakes. The smaller versions and lighter finishes work best when Shad and other bait fish are present. The lure is available in a deep diving version as well. Both bait fish and crayfish color patterns are productive.

Spinners and spinnerbaits

Spinners have been around a very long time. They are very simple and effective lures that are easy to use. This makes them an excellent choice for novice anglers. The two basic types of spinners are in line spinners and spinner baits. In line spinners have a blade that rotates around the shaft with some type of body and a dress tail. Spinner baits use a wire frame with a spinner at the top and some type of body at the bottom.

smallmouth bass fishing tackle and lures

In line spinners are most often associated with river fishing. They are very effective as the current causes the blade to rotate. Most often, the lure is cast across the stream and allowed to float down with just enough tension on the line to keep a tight. They can be used in lakes as well. Spinner baits are more often used in lakes and have a wider profile. Due to their design, spinner baits are also more weedless and are a better choice when fished around weeds and other cover.

Worden’s Original Rooster Tail spinner

Capt Jim’s favorite spinner by far is the Worden’s Original Rooster Tail Spinner. This is a very effective lure that comes in several sizes and many different color patterns. It is an outstanding lure for fishing streams and small rivers. It is very light in weight and will not sink down to the bottom and hang up as some other spinners well. The 1/8 ounce lure with a gold blade and any bright colored body is an excellent all round choice. One advantage these spinners have is that they will catch a lot of trout as an added bonus and waters where these fish are present.

Panther Martin spinner

The Panther Martin is another effective spinner used when smallmouth bass fishing. It is heavier and more compact than the Rooster Tail. This makes it a better choice for anglers fishing larger rivers where long casts are required as well is getting down deeper into the holes. It is also a better choice in lakes and can even be trolled.

Terminator spinnerbait

The Terminator line of spinner baits are excellent lures for smallmouth bass fishing in lakes and larger rivers. They are well-made and very durable. Spinner baits put out a lot a flash and vibration. There also fairly heavy and can be cast a long distance. Gold bladed lures work best early and late in the day and in stained water. Conversely, silver blades and lighter colored bodies work best on bright sunny days.

Beetlespin spinnerbait

Beetlespin spinnerbaits are smaller and more subtle than the larger versions. These are excellent choices for fishing rivers and smaller lakes as well as in cold, clear water.

Spoons are effective smallmouth bass fishing lures

Spoons are another example of simple yet very effective fishing lures for smallmouth bass and many other species. A spoon is basically a curved piece of metal with a hook in. The design of the spoon will determine its action and how it can be used. This is another lure that is an excellent choice for novice anglers as it has a lot of built in action. Anglers should use some type of snap swivel or in-line swivel with spoons to help eliminate line twist.

Acme Kastmaster spoon

The Acme Kastmaster is a very effective spoon for smallmouth bass in both rivers and lakes. It is compact and dense which results in long casts. It has an excellent built in action and can be either cast and retrieved or troll. Generally, erratic retrieve’s work best. It comes in multiple sizes and finishes. Chrome with a blue neon and gold are Capt. Jim’s two favorite color patterns.

Eppinger Daredevil spoon

The venerable Eppinger Daredevil spoon has been around for decades. It is a proven lure that catches smallmouth bass and many other species to this day. It comes in a variety of sizes and colors. It has more of the traditional spoon shape, sort of an elongated teardrop. Anglers fishing with this spoon in waters that have populations of pike will catch many of them as an added bonus.

Luhr Jensen Krocodile spoon

The Krocodile spoon is a versatile and effective smallmouth bass lure. Like most spoons, it comes in multiple sizes and finishes. These spoons can be cast out and retrieved, trolled, and vertically jigged.

Hopkins jigging spoon

The Hopkins spoon is a bit of a specialty lure. It is primarily thought of as a vertically jigged spoon. The quarter ounce and half ounce silver spoon with the hammered finish is by far the most popular combination. This spoon is extremely effective when smallmouth bass are schooled in deep water over points, channel edges, and other structure. It is one of the few baits that will fool suspended fish into biting.

In conclusion, this article on the best smallmouth bass fishing tackle and lures will help anglers choose the right equipment and baits in order to be more successful!

Fishing for Crappie, Bluegill, and Panfish

Fishing for Crappie, Bluegill, and Panfish

Many anglers go fishing for bluegill, crappie, and panfish. These are the most targeted species in North America for several reasons. Panfish are widely distributed. Most anglers can find a place to catch panfish a short distance from home. They are abundant and often times aggressive. This makes them less challenging than other species, resulting in a great option for kids and novice anglers. Expensive equipment is not required, this is very basic fishing. Finally, a trip for bluegill and panfish often results in a fish fry, they are fantastic eating!

fishing for crappie bluegill and panfish

Blugill and other panfish are found in every warm water body to some degree. Some waters are known for numbers of fish while others produce large fish. In most instances, it is actually beneficial to take out some fish to eat, as the stocks can easily become stunted. A body of water can only support so many fish. That said, many anglers are now releasing the largest specimens to maintain the health of the fishery. Keeping the “medium” sized fish is a great approach.

Panfish species

Sarasota freshwater fishing

There are many different species of panfish that anglers have the opportunity to catch. Some of these species will be covered individually in a later chapter. Bluegill are perhaps the best known and most widely available. They are quite aggressive for their size. Crappie are certainly extremely popular and are the largest of the panfish species. Depending on the area of the country, anglers can catch redear sunfish (shellcracker), spotted sunfish (stumpknocker), pumpkinseed, redbreast sunfish, warmouth, rock bass, and more!

Panfish tackle and equipment

One of the best aspects of fishing for panfish in the simplicity. This is not complicated or expensive, by any means. Many a bluegill and other panfish has been caught by anglers using a cane pole with a worm under a bobber. In some states, a license is not even required for this.

Rod and reel options

In most cases, ultra light spinning tackle is the best choice for anglers chasing these diminutive game fish. A decent rod and reel can be purchased for less than $50. A longer rod will allow anglers to make longer casts as well as have a better chance if a larger bass or other fish is hooked. A 5′ to 6′ ultra light rod with a 1000 series reel spooled up with 4 lb line is a great all round combination.

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While spinning reels, also known as “open faced” reels are considered the most versatile outfits to use, many anglers still prefer to use closed faced reels. These are also inexpensive and easy to use. Many anglers caught their first fish on the venerable Zebco 202! These reels do have their limitations; the retrieve ratio is slow, line capacity is limited, and the drags are fair at best. However, for most panfish fishing, they are more than adequate.

Fishing line choices

Anglers have several choices when it comes to fishing line. These are monofilament, flourocarbon, and braid. Each has advantages and disadvantages. Monofilament line is inexpensive and works well in most applications. It does stretch, which can actually be beneficial when using such light equipment. It is clear and relatively hard to see.

bluegill and panfish lures

Flourocarbon line is almost invisible in the water with less stretch than monofilament line. The only real negative is the initial cost. However, considering how little is needed and the fact that it lasts a long time, it really is a great option.

Braided line is very thin and has zero stretch. It is extremely sensitive, giving anglers excellent feel for the lure or bait. It is expensive, but lasts a very long time. Knots are more difficult to tie as well. Some anglers tie the lure or hook right to the braid, especially in dark water. However, most use a 3′ piece of 4lb to 6 lb flourocarbon leader.

Terminal tackle

Panfish are caught by anglers using both live bait as well as artificial lures. Those using live bait do not need a lot of terminal tackle. A selection of short shank live bait hooks and long shank thin wire hooks in sizes #10, #8, #6 and #4 will cover most situations. Anglers seeking larger crappie may need #2 size hooks as well.

Best 9 bluegill and panfish fishing lures

There are several other items that will be needed in the live bait angler’s tackle box. A selection of floats will be required. Quill floats are used when the bite is very subtle, even the lightest take will result in the float moving upright. The old red and white clip on bobbers are fine as well. Generally speaking, the smallest bobber that will suspend the bait should be used. Split shot in several sizes and rubber core or sliding egg sinkers in a ¼ ounce and ½ ounce will get the bait down when fishing deep. Dipsey sinkers or drop shop weights can be used when using a dropper rig, which will be discussed later.

A selection of artificial lures should be included in every panfish angler’s tackle box. These would include small spinners, spinnerbaits, plugs, and a selection of jigs and jig heads with some grub bodies. It takes some anglers time to grow confident using lures, but they really are productive as well as being fun to fish.

Texas panfish

Finally, there are a few other pieces of gear that will be needed. A tackle box of some type will be needed, the soft bag styles with removable boxes are quite popular these days. Pliers and clippers are handy to have along. Bait boxes and buckets will be needed for anglers who fish with live bait. Some anglers put fish on a stringer, but getting them on ice is a better option where possible.

Fishing for panfish with live bait

It is probably safe to say that the majority of panfish landed by anglers is done so using live bait. A live worm under a bobber has accounted for more bluegill and panfish than any other method. Crickets are a fantastic bait for large bluegill in summer. Live minnows are far and away the top live bait for crappie. Grass shrimp are extremely effective, though not always available. Grubs such as meal worms are deadly under the ice and in open water.

Worms and nightcrawlers

best live bait for freshwater fishing

Worms have been the universal panfish bait for as long as anglers have been chasing them. They are readily available to catch or purchase, are easily kept alive, and are very effective on a variety of fish species. More retail outlets offer live worms these days, from local gas stations to big box stores. Red wigglers are the perfect size for panfish and are extremely lively when placed on a hook. Most anglers use a whole one unless they are extra large in size. They are kept alive in a refrigerator for a long time.

Common earthworms are found all over North America. Anglers can dig them up in moist, fertile soil. Some go extra lengths to make a compost pile in a cool, shady spot in the yard. Sometimes, watering the area before digging will help. Like all worms, as long as they are not exposed to extreme hot or cold, they will live a good while in moist soil. Both wigglers and earthworms can be threaded on a hook or hooked several times through the body.

Nightcrawlers are a fantastic freshwater fishing bait! Whole nightcrawlers are great for larger gamefish such as bass and walleye. Anglers fishing for panfish will do better pinching off a small piece and placing that on the hook. Often times, several fish will be caught on one small piece of bait. This makes nightcrawlers a very cost effective option. They are readily available at most stores that sell fishing equipment.

Minnows for crappie and other panfish

Big fish eat little fish, it is a basic fact of life. While most panfish feed on crustaceans and insects more, some panfish, especially larger bluegill, will take a live minnow. However, live minnows are by far the number one choice of anglers targeting crappie. Crappie are the largest member of the panfish family and feed primarily on small bait fish. Minnows are most often hooked through the lips from the bottom up.

Sarasota crappie fishing

Bait shops that service waters that hold crappie will keep live minnows in stock. The type of minnow used depends on the geographical location. Missouri Minnows are hardy and are very popular. In cooler months when the water temperature is low, a few dozen will remain lively in a bucket or cooler. However, in warmer months when more minnows are needed, anglers will need an aerator to keep the bait alive. These are available in 12 volt of battery operated units at a very reasonable cost. They come with a plastic tube and an air stone.

Anglers can catch their own minnows. In fact, it can be great fun! It is important to check local regulations to ensure compliance. The two best ways to catch minnows are with a seine net and a minnow trap. Minnow traps are easy; the trap is baited with bread or cat food and tossed into the water. If minnows are plentiful, the trap will produce enough bait in a few hours. Many anglers let them sit overnight.

best crappie lures

Minnow seines require 2 anglers. They are usually 4 feet wide and ten feet long or so with poles on each end. Again, check local regulations. With an angler at each end, the net is moved through the water, encircling the bait. This is actually great fun on a warm, summer day!

Insects make great panfish bait

Insects are a primary part of a panfish’s diet. They are just the right size and are plentiful in and around the freshwater bodies of water that they inhabit. While panfish will eat just about any insect, the top two live baits used by anglers are crickets first, followed by grasshoppers.

best bluegill lures

Crickets are commercially raised and sold at many bait shops as well as pet stores. They are mostly gray crickets and are small in size. They are terrific panfish baits, particularly for bluegill in the warmer months. Anglers can purchase special containers for crickets which make it easier to get one out without the others escaping. Grasshoppers are also excellent panfish baits, but anglers must catch their own. This is best done in the morning when the grass is still wet. Later in the day, they are much more difficult to catch. Both are best hooked under the collar behind their head.

Grass shrimp

Grass shrimp are a tremendous bait for just about every species of panfish. In some areas they can be purchased live at local bait shops. Anglers can catch their own by using a fine net with a long handle and probing the weed edges close to shore. They look just like saltwater shrimp, though much smaller. They are delicate baits that are best used with a tiny, fine wire hook. Grass shrimp are usually threaded on the hook.

fishing for bluegill


Mealworms and waxworms (waxies) are without a doubt the top live bait for anglers targeting bluegill and panfish under the ice. They are readily available at shops and can even be ordered online. They live a good while as long as they are not exposed to extreme hot or cold conditions. While mostly used when ice fishing, they are also very effective, though underutilized, in open water applications. They are threaded on a hook.

ice fishing for bluegill and panfish

Live bait fishing techniques

While fishing with live bait is relatively uncomplicated, there are nuances which will increase success for the angler. Bait and hook size combinations are important; anglers should be careful to keep their offerings on the small size. This is especially true in clear water and on pressured lakes. Also, depth presentation is important as most panfish feed facing up.

Shallow water tactics

Fishing for panfish with live bait in shallow water is pretty simple and that is where most anglers fish for panfish. In most cases, a live bait suspended several feet under a bobber is the best approach. The bobber serves as weight to cast, a visual reference for a strike, and presents the bait at the desired depth. This works well with all live baits.

Florida bluegill fishing

The hook size should match the size of the bait being used and the fish being targeted. Erring on the smaller size is usually a good idea. A #10 or #8 hook is a good size for bluegill and panfish. Anglers using worms do well with a “baitholder” hook. These have little barbs on them which helps hold the worm on the hook. Fine wire hooks are better for minnows, crickets, and grass shrimp.

There are several different types of floats to choose from. Many experienced panfish anglers prefer quill floats. These are long and even the lightest take can be detected as the long quills tip upwards. Round floats are easier to cast and work better when using live minnows. A small split shot can be added if current is present or in deeper water.

The best technique is to set the float two feet or so above the hook. Obviously, in slightly deeper water the float can be adjusted. The baited rig is then cast out to a likely looking spot. These include submerged weed beds, edges of grass and pads, docks, fallen trees, gravel bottom, and rocky shorelines. When the float moves or disappears, the angler reels up the slack with the rod tip pointed at the float. Once the slack is removed and the line comes tight, the rod tip is raised sharply.

freshwater fishing lures

Anglers can also free line a live bait. This means hooking a bait and casting it out with no weight or float. This can be extremely effective as it gives a very natural presentation. The bait will slowly flutter through the water column, putting out signals of distress. Fish will find this irresistible and often attack it before it reaches the bottom. If no strike occurs, the bait can sit on the bottom for a few moments. The best approach is to keep the bail open as the bait sinks. When a fish takes, the line will move off. The angler can then engage the reel and come tight on the fish.

Live bait fishing in deep water

Fishing for panfish in deeper water with live bait is a bit trickier. Locating the fish is more difficult as the visual clues are not there. Anglers must understand how fish will use structure to migrate from deeper water to shallow water. Points and main river and creek channels are top locations. Anglers most often target panfish in deeper water in the coldest and warmest months.

Florida crappie fishing

Generally speaking, anglers fishing deeper water for panfish will do so in a boat, most often times using a vertical presentation. This can be done with a dropper rig, split shot, a jig head, or even under a sliding float.

The simplest rig is a hook with a split shot or two attached. This works well in areas that are a bit too deep for a fixed float, but really not much deeper than ten or twelve feet. It also is the best choice for casting out away from the boat or shore. The bait will slowly sink though the water column and settle on or near the bottom.

bluegill fishing

A dropper rig is a very effective method to get a live bait down in deeper water. Some anglers refer to them as drop shot rigs as well, which normally uses a soft plastic bait. However, they both work the same. The sinker sits at the end of the main line and a hook is tied on a short dropper loop a foot or so above the sinker. Anglers can add a second hook another foot above the first one.

Rigs for fishing live bait in deep water

The result is a rig that presents the bait or baits just a little bit above the bottom. This is a very effective way to fish in deeper water, as fish often hold close to bottom structure. It can also be used on suspended fish by stopping the sinker at the desired depth. Crappie anglers use this rig extensively with a pair of #4 thin wire long shank hooks and live minnows.

bottom fishing rigs

Another simple and easy way to fish live bait in deeper water is to simply add the bait to a bare jig head. Most panfish anglers have a good selection of jig heads, so it really is easy to just tie one on. 1/32 ounce is a good size, but anglers can go up if conditions dictate. A piece of worm, grass shrimp, or minnow can be used. Meal worms and wax worms fished on a tiny jig head can be extremely effective when the bite is tough.

Anglers that prefer to fish live bait under a float can do so in deep water as well. This works best when casting out away from shore or the boat. The line slides through the middle of a float and is stopped by a small swivel. A 2′ leader connects the hook to the swivel. A split shot is used a foot above the hook. A bobber stop is placed on the main line at the depth that is to be fished. It is basically a small piece of yarn or thread. The rig is cast out and the main line slides through the float, stopping at the bobber stop. The bobber stop goes through the guides easily. This allows anglers to cast out and fish a bait deep under a float, something that will not happen with a fixed float.

Fishing for panfish with artificial lures

fishing for crappie

Many anglers use live bait such as worms and crickets to catch bluegill and panfish. However, artificial lures can be used successfully as well. This is particularly true for the bluegill. They have a fairly large mouth given their size. Also, they are probably the most aggressive species in the panfish family. Remember, largemouth bass are really just giant sunfish, and we all know how they can be taken using lures! These are the top lures for panfish and crappie.

Artificial lures have a couple of advantages over live bait. The first is convenience; no need to acquire bait or keep it alive. A tackle box full of lures is always ready to fish! Lures also allow anglers to cover water much faster than live bait. This is advantageous in locating schools quickly. Finally, lures will trigger strikes when fish are not feeding.

fishing for crappie, bluegill, and panfish

Anglers can read a comprehensive article on the best panfish lures in this article.

The same artificial lures that are effective on largemouth and smallmouth bass work well on panfish, just in much smaller sizes. These include spinners, spinnerbaits, jigs, spoons, and plugs. For the most part, anglers fishing for panfish with lures can keep it pretty simple. A basic selection of baits will get the job done.

Sarasota trolling techniques


A 1/16 ounce Johnson Beetlespin is Capt Jim’s favorite lure for fishing for bluegill and other panfish. Black is his favorite color, with green being second. The lure is very easy to use. It is simply cast out and reeled back in slowly. Weed edges and fallen trees are top spots. It also works well when trolled to help locate fish.


Spinners are proven lures for most freshwater species and panfish are no exception. The Warden’s Original Rooster tail is Capt Jim’s favorite spinner. It puts out a lot of flash at slow speeds. These spinners are very light, making them a great choice when fishing shallow rivers. The 1/16 or 1/8 sizes in bright colors work best. As with most lures, a slow steady retrieve works best.

bluegill fishing

Spinners work best in fairly open water. The treble hook will hang up on weeds fairly easily. Once cast, the lure should be given a good “twitch” to get the blade spinning. Slow and steady, as slowly as possible to keep the blade turning, works best.


Plastic curly tail and shad tail as well as marabou jigs are proven panfish lures. Jigs are by far the number one lure for crappie as they feed primarily on minnows. Chartreuse is a good all round color. White works well in clear water. Bright colors such as pink are better in tannin or stained water.

fishing for crappie with jigs

Jigs are versatile lures that can be cast or trolled. Marabou jigs have a lot of action with very little movement are work well when fish are finicky. Curly tail and shad tail grubs put out great action when retrieved. They can be used under a float or with a spinnerbait frame as well.

Blakemore Road Runner

The Blakemore Road Runner is a terrific freshwater fishing lure, especially for crappie. It combines a jig with a spinner blade, which adds flash and vibration to the jig. They come in a variety of colors and either hair or plastic tails. 1/16 ounce is best for bluegill and panfish while 1/8 is the better size for crappie. They are very effective when trolled.


Spoons are good lures for bluegill, panfish and crappie as well. They tend to catch larger fish as they mimic minnows. The Acme Kastmaster in the smallest sizes are Capt Jim’s favorite spoon. It can be cast or trolled. They are dense and cast a long distance, making them a good choice to cover open water.

Rapala plugs

Rapala plugs are for anglers looking for trophy bluegill and other panfish. These baits will not catch a lot of fish, but will catch larger ones. They are a mouthful for a panfish. The Original Floating Minnow in silver and the Husky Jerk in gold and black in the smallest sized are capt Jim’s favorite plugs. They can be cast or trolled.

Fly Fishing for bluegill and panfish

When fly fishing is mentioned, many anglers imagine casting for trout in a remote mountain stream. However, bluegill and panfish are great fun on a fly and relatively easy to catch. Bluegill in particular will aggressively take a fly. Short easy casts are the norm, the techniques are not difficult to learn.

fly fishing for bluegill and panfish


The biggest difference between fly casting and spinning is that in fly fishing, the line provides the weight since the fly weighs very little. Once that concept is adopted, fly fishing is not that complicated.

Anglers can read more about fly fishing for bluegill and panfish in this article by Capt Jim

Fly fishing equipment for panfish

Fly fishing tackle has designated sizes. The lower the number, the lighter the tackle. It is dispayed as “Wt” for “weight”. A 2 wt outfit is very light. A 10Wt outfit would be for large saltwater fish. Anglers fly fishing for bluegill and panfish will do well with a 3Wt or 4Wt outfit. Rods are usually 8′ or 9′ long.

Freshwater fish species

The fly line and reel is also designated by “weight”. This makes it easy to match the equipment. Fly lines come in several varieties, but anglers fishing for panfish only need a floating weight forward line. The package will look like this “F4WF”. Floating 4wt weight forawrd. The fly reel basically just holds the line. A decent complete outfit can be purchased for less than $200.

A leader is needed between the fly and fly line. The fly line is thick and easily seen. The leader is tapered, making it easier to cast. Leaders that are 4 lb to 6 lb test at the end (tippet) are fine. This would be a 6x leader.

Fly fishing tactics

Fly fishing is not all that different from spin fishing. The fly is cast out to a likely spot, allowed to settle or sink, then retrieved back in. Just as with lures, subtle retrieves work best. Surface flues are twitched sharply and allowed to settle. Sinking flies are slowly retrieved.

fishing for Florida panfish and crappie


When a fish takes the fly, the angler pulls sharply with the stripping hand (the hand not holding the rod) then raises the rod tip sharply. The fish is then brought in by stripping the line in by hand. If a larger fish such as a bass is hooked, the angler can fight the fish with the reel.

Fishing the Popper/dropper rig

The popper dropper rig is an excellent way to catch bluegill and other panfish on fly. It features a floating fly, usually a popper, with a small sinking fly tied 18” below. A leader it tied to the bend of the popper’s hook. It allows anglers to fish the surface and mid depth. The popper also functions as a float to indicate a strike.

Panfish flies

Florida freshwater fishing

Anglers do not need to get fance when it comes to fly selection. Anything dark and “buggy” works well. In reality, a #8 or #10 black Wooly Bugger is all any panfish fly angler needs. Nymphs such are a Hairs Ear are good for use under a popper. Small baitfish patterns produce as well. A few poppers anf floating sponge bugs will round out the box.

Fishing for panfish in ponds, rivers, and lakes

Panfish are found in just about every body of water that is warm enough to support them. While the fish species are the same, they do behave differently in certain types of water and tactics need to change in order for anglers to be successful.

Fishing for panfish in ponds and small lakes.

Ponds and small natural lakes are ideal habitat for bluegill and other panfish. They are for the most part shallow, weedy, and loaded with forage for bluegill and other species. Ponds are fairly easy to fish, in many cases a boat is not required. It is every angler’s dream to get invited to fish a private farm pond that is loaded with fish and sees little pressure!

Most of the action in ponds will occur close to the shoreline. This is where weeds, lily pads, and other aquatic vegetation will be found. Any cover such as a dock or fallen tree deserves extra attention. Many ponds are “bowl” shaped with little deep water and almost no sharp contour changes. This will concentrate panfish near the vegetation. For these reasons, ponds usually do not provide great action on crappie.

Since ponds are often fished from shore, one good approach is to walk the shoreline while casting a lure or fly. This is an excellent method to cover a lot of water while learning the spots that hold fish. Once a productive area is located, anglers can slow down and fish it thoroughly with lures or live bait. A 1/16 ounce black or green Beetlespin is the perfect lure for this. As an added bonus, lures will often catch a bunch of small bass, if they are present.

Live bait certainly produces in ponds as well. Ponds that are brushy along the shore with limited openings to fish are better suited for using live bait, as access is limited. A live worm under a float is a time proven combination that will produce plenty of bluegill and other panfish. Small docks will usually attract panfish as well and offer a good spot to fish from.

fishing for bluegill

Anglers fishing in larger ponds and small lakes will probably do better using a small boat, canoe, or kayak. The same applies to ponds that do not offer much shoreline access. The best approach is to simply work the shoreline with lures or bait and hunt the fish down. This works best for anglers fly fishing as well.

Fishing for panfish in rivers

Rivers are often overlooked by anglers fishing for panfish, and this is a mistake! There are several advantages to fishing rivers. First, fish are easier to locate; the current and geography will dictate where fish hold. Rivers usually get less fishing pressure. They are also protected, making them good areas to fish on breezy days. Finally, the serenity and scenery add other elements that increase the enjoyment of fishing rivers.

Fly fishing for panfish

Current is the primary factor to deal with when fishing rivers. Water level is a close second. These two will combine to determine where to fish. First off, if the river is high, fast, and muddy, do not bother fishing it, especially for panfish. Conditions will be tough and can be downright dangerous.

Bluegill and panfish do not like current. Slower rivers that meander along are better choices. On rivers with a bit of current, oxbows and coves out of the main current will be spots where panfish will concentrate. The same applies to deep, slow pools, fish will congregate there.

Fallen trees are usually plentiful in rivers as the current under cuts the bank and trees fall into the water. Bluegill in particular love wood! Fallen trees, especially in outside bends with deeper water, will often hold good numbers of fish. Artificial lures work well when prospecting. A small Rooster Tail spinner is a great choice, as is a curly tail grub. Live bait works best when fishing isolated cover such as fallen trees.

fly fishing for bluegill

Anglers may encounter some different panfish species in rivers than they will in lakes. While not technically “panfish”, many small rivers are full of smallmouth bass. Rock bass can also be abundant, almost a nuisance to some anglers. Spotted sunfish, also known as stumpknocker, are aggressive and thrive in flowing water as well. Crappie may be found in deeper holes, especially if the river flows from a productive crappie lake.

Fishing for panfish in lakes and reservoirs

Larger lakes can provide anglers with excellent fishing for panfish and other species. This is especially true for anglers targeting crappie, which prefer and do well in larger bodies of water. The primary issue in these larger bodies of water is locating fish, there is a lot of water that is devoid of fish. The old saying that “90% of the fish are in 10% of the water” is really on point. However, there are some strategies that will help anglers be successful on these larger, more intimidating, bodies of water.

top freshwater species

Many lakes are part of river systems. The Tennessee River lakes are a prime example of this. These long, narrow lakes often have current and fish like rivers. In these lakes, most panfish will be found in secluded coves and tributaries with less current. Bluegill and other panfish just do not like to fight a strong current.

One good approach when fishing larger lakes is to take a large, secluded or isolated cove, and treat it like a mini lake. Learn where the points and deeper areas are along with the prime shallow spots. Areas with sandy or gravel bottom will be prime spawning areas. Weed growth in these areas will only increase the chances for success.

Seasonal migrations in larger lakes

Larger lakes also experience more of a seasonal migration than smaller bodies of water, for obvious reasons. There is access to so much more area, including deeper water. Most panfish, crappie included, will be found shallow in the spring. Bluegill and other panfish will stay there all summer, while crappie will move out after late spring in most areas.

Lily pads, weed edges, submerged vegetation, gravel banks, rip-rap, docks, and fallen trees are all good spots to try for shallow water panfish. Areas that combine several of these will be hot spots. For example, an area with sandy bottom, a small patch of lily pads, and a fallen tree should hold a bunch of panfish. Crappie are particularly fond of submerged brush and timber. Many anglers make their own spots by planting bunches of brush in likely spots.

Both live bait and artificial lures can be productive when fish are shallow. One effective strategy is to take a two pronged approach by using lures to cover a lot of water then switch to bait once the fish are located. This is an efficient fishing method. Trolling the weed lines is another excellent way to locate productive areas in larger bodies of water. Beetlespins and small plugs are perfect for that, as are curly tail jigs.

Crappie fishing tackle

In the warmer months, crappie will have moved out deeper. The same applies to bluegill and other panfish once spawning ends and the water gets too warm in shallow. Sloping points and creek channel edges are prime spots. Fish are more difficult to find, but once located, the action can be fast. Anglers will often find larger than average fish in this situation.

In most cases, a vertical presentation works best for panfish in deeper water. Anglers can use the depth finder to stay right on top of the fish. A double dropper rig with live minnows works very well for deep water crappie. A small jig and grub combination works well for bluegill and other panfish, as does a jig head with a worm. Often times these fish will be suspended, so fishing different depths is important, the sonar will help.

Fall can be a tricky time to fish. In the south, panfish and crappie will start moving shallow. In Florida, crappie will start schooling up to spawn as early as October. These lakes really do not turn over, nor do they get very cold, so fish spend their winters in fairly shallow water.

In northern lakes, anglers will have to put the time in to learn the local migration patterns. Lake turnover is a huge variable. This is where cold surface water “falls” through the water column to the bottom, stirring things up. This can result in tough fishing conditions.

One fall pattern that does hold up is to fish the back ends of creeks. Normally, water levels are low in the fall and these creeks are pretty clear. Panfish, and bass, will move into these areas to feed on shad and other forage. They will stay there until the water temperature drops and pushes them out to the first breaks in 10′ to 15′ of water.

crappie fishing

Panfish and crappie can be caught in the winter up north, especially for those further north where ice fishing is very popular. Despite the cold water, bluegill, crappie, and other panfish will feed. Some specialized tactics and equipment are required, which will be covered in the next chapter.

There are quite a few different panfish species that are available to anglers. While many are similar in habit, there are differences that anglers will need to know in order to maximize their success. Therefore, individual species will be covered in this chapter.


Bluegill are arguably the most popular of all panfish. They are widely available and are one of the larger members of the panfish family. Bluegill tolerate a wide range of water temperatures. They also have a varied diet. These combine to make bluegill a very prolific and adaptable species.

fishing for bluegill in Florida

Bluegill are very aggressive and feed on insects, crustaceans, and bait fish. They also have a fairly large mouth relative to their size. These traits make them prime candidates for anglers casting lures and flies, more so than most other panfish species.

Bluegill have a fairly round body with a small head. Their color varies greatly from blueish purple to a lighter olive or green. Most fish
have six to eight vertical bars, though they can be very difficult to see at times. The fish has a dark flap on the rear of the gill cover, which gives the fish it’s name. There is no lighter border around the flap as in some other panfish. Breeding males take on vibrant dark colors. There are several sub-species of bluegills, which can make identifying them difficult.
Bluegill prefer areas with little or no current, preferably with aquatic vegetation or submerged trees or brush present. They will be found in varying depths, depending on the season. Bluegill spawn in the late spring and summer. They create bowl shaped nests in clusters that are easily seen. Spawning bluegill are very aggressive, especially on the full moon.
Bluegill feed on a variety of worms, insects, crustaceans, snails, fish eggs, and minnows. Smaller fish will mainly feed on insects and very small prey. They will feed throughout the water column and at all times of day, though early and late are best. Top live baits include crickets, worms, grass shrimp, and grubs.
Bluegill are more likely to take an artificial lure than most panfish, excluding crappie and rock bass. Just about any small lure will fool them. Spinners, spinnerbaits, spoons, jigs, and plugs all work well. The best retrieve is usually slow and steady, but as with all lure fishing, anglers should vary the retrieve.
Crappie are an extremely popular freshwater gamefish, second only to bluegill, and that is a subject for debate! They are the largest of the panfish and are fantastic eating. Crappie come in two different varieties; black crappie and white crappie. While very similar, there are a couple of differences. Black crappie prefer clear water and timber while white crappie like vegetation and can tolerate more stained water. For all intents, anglers can treat them the same when fishing for them.


The number one factor when it comes to catching crappie is locating them. They will school up into large schools at times, as well as scatter out in little bunches. In the spring, crappie move in shallow to spawn, and this is when many anglers target them. In most situations, it is the easiest time of year to catch them. Areas with brush piles (often man made) and fallen or submerged timber are top spots.
As reservoirs have become old and submerged timber has rotted, boat docks have become prime crappie holding structure. They really replace the trees as cover. In spring, shallow docks will produce. Deeper docks will hold fish all year long. These same docks also attract shad, which the crappie feed on.
Larger lakes are normally the best fisheries for both size and numbers of crappie. They simply provide the best cover along with abundant forage. Crappie feed primarily on minnows, though they will eat insects and crustaceans. Other than spring when fish are shallow, points, channel edges, bridges, rip-rap, and submerged islands or humps are all good spots to catch crappie.
Crappie are caught by anglers using both live bait and artificial lures. Live minnows are without a doubt the top live bait. Shops that cater to crappie anglers will keep a good supply on hand. Minnows can be fished in shallow water under a float or in deeper water on a dropper rig.
The top artificial lure for crappie is a jig. Jigs realistically mimic bait fish. Anglers can use small marabou hair tied on their jig. Most anglers now use the jig and grub combo. This allows anglers to quickly and easily change colors. Jigs can be cast out or trolled. Generally, a fairly subtle retrieve works best. Another very effective lure is the Blakemore Road Runner. It is a jig with a blade, combining two great lures; a spinner and a jig. It is more compact than a spinnerbait.
Trolling has become an extremely popular method to fish for crappie. It is very efficient, allowing anglers to cover a lot of water while keeping the lure in the strike zone. Jigs are primarily used, but some anglers use live minnows. Trolling can be done simply by dropping a couple of lures down and slowly moving along.
However, there is a relatively new technique called “spider rigging”. It uses multiple rods of varying lengths to cover a wide swath of water as the boat trolls along. The rods are specifically designed for this. The differing lengths keep the lines from tangling. This is difficult to master at first, but those that do put a lot of fish in the boat!
Redear sunfish (shellcracker)
Redear sunfish, also known as shellcracker, grow larger than bluegill and are terrific eating. They get their nickname from the diet they eat; freshwater mollusks and snails. They will also feed on worms and grass shrimp. Redears have been successfully stocked across the country, though native to the southeast. The meat is snow white and delicious!

fishing for redear sunfish

Shellcrackers have a plate in their throat that allows them to crush the shell of crustaceans. They are also found a bit deeper, as that is where their favorite forage is often located. They are most often caught by drifting worms or grass shrimp under a float over deep submerged grass beds. While they occasionally take artificial lures and flies, live bait is usually more productive.
Shellcrackers, or redear sunfish, are easily identified by the red (on males) or orange (on females) ring around the rear of the flap. They are also a little more olive in color than bluegill. They also spawn in late spring and summer over sand or shell bottom.
Sunfish; spotted sunfish, green sunfish, redbreast, longear, green, and pumpkinseed
There are quite a few other species in the sunfish family. These include, but are not limited to, pumpkinseed, green sunfish, spotted sunfish, redbreast sunfish, longear sunfish. These are all fairly similar, with some minor differences. It can be difficult to identify some of these species, especially with the number of bluegill sub-special and hybrid species, it gets tricky. However, for the most part, they can all be treated the same. All of them are very good eating, fun to catch, and in very few circumstances have no special regulations.
In most cases, live bait is the most effective bait. Many of these sunfish have a small mouth and are less likely to take lures, especially large ones. Worms, grass shrimp, and grubs are the best live baits. Small spinners and jigs will catch sunfish as well, especially the spotted sunfish, which is a bit more aggressive.
In states where it is legal, some anglers do use these smaller sunfish for bait. Anglers targeting yellow or flathead catfish in particular use them for trophy fish.
Rock bass
Rock bass are a bit of an under-appreciated panfish. They end up with this dubious reputation partly by smallmouth anglers who find them to be a nuisance. Rock bass are not large by bass standards, but are compared to panfish, and they are very aggressive. They will most certainly take an artificial lure.
fishing for panfish
Rock bass are often associated with rivers, and for good reason. That is why they are often fooled by lures meant for smallmouth bass. They can be caught on just about any live bait, but are so much fun to catch on lures that most anglers chasing them go that route. Small plugs, spinners, spinnerbaits, spoons, and jigs are all effective. They are very good to eat and since they are larger, produce great fillets.
Yellow Perch
Yellow perch are a very popular panfish that prefer cooler water, they are not found in the southern portions of the country. They school up in large numbers and in many instances are found in deeper water. The Great Lakes region is well known for yellow perch fishing. They are an extremely popular fish for anglers ice fishing as they remain fairly active even in the colder water.
fishing for yellow perch
Yellow perch love minnows! That is the top live bait, followed by nightcrawlers. Lures that resemble minnows work as well, including jigs and spoons. The presentation is often a vertical one as the fish are found in deeper water. In the spring, yellow perch will make a run up into tributary creeks and rivers.
In conclusion, this article on fishing for crappie, bluegill, and panfish will help anglers catch more of these hard-fighting little game fish!

Rock Bass Fishing Tips and Tackle, an Anglers Guide

Rock Bass Fishing Tips and Tackle, an Anglers Guide

This post will cover rock bass fishing tips and tackle. Rock bass, also known as “goggle-eye” are a member of the panfish family and are often overlooked. They don’t grow very large, 8 inches is an average size, but they put up an excellent tussle on ultralight tackle. Rock bass are quite aggressive in most instances and will by when other species shut down. Finally, rock bass are very good to eat!

rock bass fishing tips and tackle

Capt. Jim Klopfer is a fishing guide in Sarasota, Florida. However, he grew up in Maryland and has extensive freshwater fishing experience from Maine to Florida. He especially enjoys fishing for panfish, trout, smallmouth bass, and other species in streams and small rivers. He is sharing his tips and experience in this article.

Rock bass facts

Rock bass are found in a good percentage of the United States and even southern Canada. While originally from the Midwest, rock bass have extended their range naturally and through stocking. The Ozarks area is considered to be rock bass central.

Rock bass are most often associated with rivers, and with good reason. As their name implies, these diminutive name fish can often be found in rocky environments. Rivers, particularly those with slow to moderate current are the perfect waters to target these fish.

rock bass fishing tackle

Rock bass can be found in clear, deep lakes as well. In fact, just about any body of water that holds smallmouth bass will usually have a resident population of rock bass as well. Most anglers pursuing rock bass do so in streams and small rivers. Therefore, river fishing techniques will be emphasized. The same lures and tactics will produce and lakes as well.

Rock bass fishing tackle

Special equipment is certainly not needed when fishing for rock bass. Most anglers already have a rod and reel combination that is suitable. One reason that rock bass don’t get the respect they deserve is that they are often times caught on medium spinning tackle. To truly enjoy these hard fighting little fish, anglers should scale it down and use their ultralight bluegill and panfish outfits.

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A 5 foot to 6 foot ultralight spinning rod paired with a 1000 series real and spooled up with 4 pound monofilament line is a perfect all-around combination. Longer rods are definitely an advantage, especially when fishing and rivers. They allow anglers to make a longer cast as well as keeping the lure or bait up out of the rocks.

Fishing for rock bass with live bait

Rock bass can most certainly be caught by anglers using live bait. The normal selection that produces fish in freshwater will be fine when fishing for rock bass. Nightcrawlers and crayfish top the list of live baits, especially when fishing and rivers. However, minnows, helgremites, hoppers, crickets, earthworms, and even prepared baits will catch fish.

rock bass fishing tips

The best approach when fishing for rock bass with live bait is to keep it simple. Rock bass do have a largemouth in proportion to their size. Therefore, anglers can go up a bit in hook size from what they would use for bluegill and other panfish. A number six short shank thin wire live bait hook is an excellent all round choice. A small selection of floats and pinch on split shot is all an angler needs to catch rock bass using live bait.

Top rock bass fishing lures

While live bait is quite effective for anglers fishing for rock bass, the majority of those targeting them opt for artificial lures. There are a couple of reasons for this. Lures are more convenient, there is no need to capture, purchase, and keep alive bait. Second, and most importantly, lures take advantage of the aggressive nature of a rock bass. Many smallmouth bass and largemouth bass anglers have been surprised at catching a small rock bass on a large artificial lure!

The same lures that have been producing in rivers for decades our perfect when chasing rock bass. The best approach is to keep it simple. Here is an article that Capt. Jim wrote on the best river fishing lures for anglers that want more information. Spinners, plugs, spinner baits, jigs, and spoons are the top artificial lures used when fishing for rock bass. Capt. Jim will list his favorite lure in each category below.

Worden’s Oringinal Rooster Tail spinner

Capt Jim’s favorite spinner when fishing and rivers is the Warden’s Original Rooster Tail. This is an excellent bait for fishing and streams and small rivers. The advantage it has over other spinners is that it is very light. This results in less snags than some other heavier spinners. Rooster Tail spinners are available in a wide selection of colors and several sizes.

Capt. Jim’s favorite color combination is a brightly colored body such as green, orange, and chartreuse along with a gold blade. Gold blades just seem to be more productive in streams and rivers. On bright sunny days, switching to a white spinner with a silver blade can prove to be a good choice.

Rebel Wee Craw

The top plug for rock bass fishing is the legendary Rebel Wee Craw. This lure has a dedicated following among smallmouth bass anglers, and for good reason. It is an extremely effective artificial lure that very closely mimics a primary forage of rock bass; crayfish. These baits are available in several sizes and very natural looking finishes. When properly retrieved, the lure works erratically on the bottom, bouncing off of rocks and other obstructions. This very realistically mimics a fleeing crayfish.

It is necessary to add a second lure to the plug category. This would be the Rapala Original Floating Minnow. This is an outstanding lure for fishing streams, small rivers, and lakes. It is been around a very long time and continues to produce fish to this day. It floats on the surface and dive down a couple feet upon retrieve. This makes it excellent in areas with a lot of snags on the bottom. Silver with a black back is Capt. Jim’s favorite color pattern.

Johnson Beetlespin

The number one spinner bait and Capt. Jim’s opinion for fishing for rock bass and panfish is the Johnson Beetlespin. This is a very simple yet extremely effective lure. It is compact, easy to cast, and relatively snag free as the wire frame design bounces over rocks and other obstructions. It is also very easy to use as angler simply casts it out and reel it back in steadily. The 1/8 ounce size with a silver blade and black body is his favorite combination.

Berkley Powerbaittube jig

Just about any soft plastic bait on a light jig head will produce rock bass when properly presented. However, Capt. Jim’s favorite jig/soft plastic lure is the Berkeley PowerbaitTube jig. Two baits are outstanding lures for smallmouth bass, which means they are productive on a rock bass as well. The design of the bait results in a lot of action even with very subtle movements by the angler. Natural colors such as root beer and olive on a 1/16 ounce or 1/8 ounce head are excellent all round choices.

Acme Phoebe spoon

Capt Jim’s top spoon when fishing for rock bass is the Acme Phoebe spoon. While there are many other productive spoons on the market, what makes this one different is its light weight. Heavier spoons will almost certainly snag on the bottom, frustrating anglers. The Phoebe spoon in a gold finish and 1/6 ounce size is an excellent rock bass fishing lure.

Rock bass fishing tips and techniques

Rock bass are not that difficult to catch, once located. In fact, many smallmouth bass anglers actually consider them a nuisance. The reality is that rock bass have saved the day for many anglers when other game fish were reluctant to bite. They are an excellent option mid day and summer especially, when the bite can be tough for other species.

Like most game fish, rock bass are ambush predators. They will lie in wait behind a boulder or fallen tree in a break from the current then dart out to feed on prey that is swept down towards them. Any boulder, rock, drop off, fallen tree, or even a dock can be an excellent spot to catch a rock bass.

rock bass fishing tips and tackle

The best approach is to cast the lure or bait across the stream or river and then let it flow naturally with the current. Some artificial lures such as spinners require very little action, the angler simply needs to keep the line tight enough to make the blade rotate. Other lures will require a sharp twitch with a pause in between. Anglers can usually be fairly aggressive in the retrieve when pursuing rock bass.

Anglers fishing with live bait for rock bass will do best to free line the bait where possible. This means just presenting the bait alone on the hook with no weight or float added. However, and areas where snags are prevalent anglers may need to use a float to suspend the bait up off the bottom. Anglers fishing deeper holes may require a split shot or two to get the bait down.

In conclusion, this article on rock bass fishing tips and tackle will hopefully encourage anglers to spend more time pursuing these overlooked and underrated little game fish. They can often save the day on a hot summer afternoon and produce both excellent action and delicious meals!

Walleye Fishing Tackle and Lures

Walleye Fishing Tackle and Lures

This article will cover walleye fishing tackle and lures. Walleye are one of the most popular game fish species for anglers fishing the northern United States and Canada. They thrive in cold, clear water. The Great Lakes and clear, deep northern lakes offer prime habitat. Walleye are fun to catch and are considered one of the finest eating fish anywhere!

walleye fishing tackle and lures

Anglers fishing for walleye have success using several different techniques. Casting, drifting, trolling, and ice fishing all produce walleye. Each type of fishing requires slightly different tackle. In this article, the tackle and equipment will be thoroughly covered. Anglers can read a comprehensive article on walleye fishing for beginners in this link.

Best rod and reel combinations for walleye fishing

There are several different types of rods and reels that anglers can choose from when walleye fishing, depending on the type of fishing being done. Spinning rods, light baitcasting rods, and trolling rods all serve a different purpose when walleye fishing. In most cases, a rod with a stiff backbone is not desired, a rod that is a bit softer works better. Walleye often take a bait or lure lightly and they also have a soft mouth. A more limber rod will help anglers hook and land more fish.

walleye fishing tackle and lures

Spinning rods and reels for walleye fishing

Anglers who prefer to cast or drift with artificial lures and live bait will do well with a medium light spinning rod and reel. A 7′ to 7 ½’ rod with a medium action and a 3000 series reel is an excellent all round combination. In some fishing situations, a ‘fast” action rod is preferred. This really is not the case with walleye. In most situations, a rod that is a bit softer and more limber is better for this type of fishing.

Spinning rods are versatile and are a great choice in many walleye fishing situations. Anglers casting light jigs and other lures will do that well with a light spinning outfit. They are also fine for drifting and very light trolling. Anglers trolling with larger lures or in deep water will do better with conventional tackle.

Baitcasting rods and reels for walleye fishing

A light baitcasting, or conventional rod and reel certainly has it’s place in walleye fishing. These are versatile outfits that can be used to troll plugs and spoons, vertically drift a crawler harness, and cast larger lures to shoreline cover. The only thing they realll are not suited for is casting light lures.

Trolling rods and reels

Trolling is an extremely popular and effective technique used by anglers when walleye fishing. This is an efficient technique that allows anglers to cover a lot of water in search of fish. Walleye are often found in schools or scattered about in a fairly small area. That means that there are a lot of places that walleye are not! Trolling covers both area and the water column very effectively.

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While spinning rods can be used to troll for walleye, conventional tackle is a much better choice. Special rods and reels that are designed to troll are available at a reasonable cost. The reels have line counters, which is an excellent feature that allows anglers to know exactly how far back behind the boat the lure is running.

Walleye fishing terminal tackle

Many walleye anglers fish with live bait. A live nightcrawler on a Lindy Rig has produced a bunch of fish over the years. Slow trolling or drifting a nightcrawler on a special harness continues to be an effective technique. It is also fairly easy to do. Minnows and leeches are also effective walleye baits.

Nightcrawler harness

Every walleye anglers should have a selection on crawler harnesses in the tackle box. These rigs have multiple hooks and a spinner to attract fish. The Berkley walleye rig has different blade choices to match the water conditions. Silver works well in clear water while gold is better in murky water or low light conditions.

Lindy Rig

The Lindy Rig is another rig that every walleye angler should have. These were designed years ago by the best walleye guides up north. They are used to present live bait on bottom structure without snagging due to the sinker shape. The rig can also be purchased with a float, which raises the bait up a but off the bottom.

Erie Dearie

The Erie Dearie is a walleye fishing legend. It has been around for decades and is fairly easy to use. Anglers can drift or troll very slowly and a half of a nightcrawler is added.


Some walleye anglers prefer to put their own rigs together, either using harnesses or tying up their own rigs. Also, fishing conditions will require different sized weights. Here are a couple of sinker choices that are fairly snag free.

Bottom bouncers are similar to the Lindy Rig, except that they are usually used when trolling. The weights bounces off the bottom, walking over rocks and structure, while the lure or bait swims behind. This rig is effective with both live bait and artificial lures. Anglers can adjust the weight based on speed, depth, and current.

Trolling gear for walleye fishing

Anglers who troll for walleye can get pretty serious about their gear. Obviously, trolling can be as simple as dragging a diving plug behind the boat. However, serious trollers use various devices to present multiple baits and different depths and spreads. These include planer boards, downriggers, and Dipsey Divers.


Downriggers are clever devices that were basically invented by Great Lakes anglers to effectively troll in deep water. They are a bit more complicated, but anglers can very closely monitor the depth that the lures are presented at. Downriggers can get quite expensive and are available in electric or manual models. All serious walleye anglers who troll will use them at one time or another.

Planer boards

Planer boards are devices that take the line off to the side of the boat. This results in anglers covering a wide swath of water. It can be tricky trolling with boards, particularly in choppy water. However, it is very effective, especially in shallow water.

There are two types of planer boards, clip on boards and “big boards”. Clip on boards are simply clipped onto the main line, then removed as the fish is reeled in.

Big boards are fixed to the boat and have clips that release the line when a fish hits.

Dipsey Divers

Dispey divers are clever little devices that can take a lure down as well as off to the side. It works a bit like the bill on a diving plug. It has a clip that releases when a fish strikes. They are best used in calm water when trolling slow with small to medium lures.

Top walleye fishing lures

Many walleye anglers fish for them using artificial lures. There are several advantages to this, with the primary one being that anglers can cover so much water in a much shorter time. This applies to both trolling, drifting, and casting. Since most walleye are caught on or near the bottom, the classic shoreline casting as one would do with bass is less effective.

The three most effective lure styles for walleye are jigs, spoons, and plugs. Jigs are a hook with a weighted head which gives it action. The tail is usually plastic, but can be natural or synthetic hair as well. Spoons are curved pieces of metal that imitate bait fish. Plugs are mostly made of plastic and are designed to dive down to a particular depth. They mimic bait fish, craw fish, and leeches. All three can be cast, jigged, or trolled, though jigs are not trolled as much as spoons and plugs.


There are many manufacturers that design and sell jigs and jig and grub combinations that will catch walleye. In fact, there are way too many to cover. Instead, three proven walleye jigs will be highlighted. These are the VMC Moon Eye Jig, Northland Thumper Jig, and Lindy Fuzz-E-Grub jig.

VMC Moon Eye jig

The VMC Moon Eye Jig head is a quality jig head. It has a strong thin hook, a keeper that helps hold bait and soft plastic grubs on the hook, and a brightly colored head. It is an excellent all round jig head to use with a soft plastic grub or a live bait.

Northland Thumper jig head

The Northland Thumper jig head is an excellent jig head with an added feature; a spinner blade. This blade adds extra flash and vibration. This jig head can be used with a live bait, but is most often used with a grub body of some sort.

Lindy Fuzz-E-Grub jig

The Lindy Fuzz-E-Grub jig is an excellent “finesse” lure for walleye when conditions are tough. It combines the jig head, grub body, and hair tail all in one unit. It has an excellent action when worked slowly. The lure can be tipped with live bait as well.

Bass Assassin

There are countless fine soft plastic baits on the market, and they will all produce. A good approach is to check with local tackle shops to see what produces in area waters. Bass Assassin makes a line of excellent 4” soft plastic swim baits in a variety of colors.


Spoons are excellent walleye fishing lures! A spoon is basically a curved piece of metal with a hook. The shape and size of the spoon determines the action. Long slender spoons have a tight wiggle while wider spoons have a slow wobble. Silver and gold are the most popular finished, but painted lures work well, too.

As with all walleye fishing lures, there are many productive spoons that anglers can choose from. Once again, local tackle shops can provide the best information as to what spoons are productive. There are a few spoons that have proven themselves over time to be consistent effective lures for catching walleye. These include Acme Kastmaster, Luhr Jensen Krocodile, and Michigan Stinger spoons.

Best plugs for walleye fishing

Plugs are excellent walleye lures. While they can be cast out and retrieved, most are trolled out behind a boat. The lip size and design will determine how deep it will dive and the action it produces.

There are many excellent plugs that anglers can use to catch walleye. Rapala Husky Jerk, Reef Runner Ripstick, and Bandit Walleye plugs are all very productive. They can be purchased in a variety of sizes, colors, and depth that they run.

In conclusion, this article on walleye fishing tackle and lures will help anglers choose the proper tackle and gear need, which will result in more success.







11 Valuable Tampa Bay Fishing Tips

11 Valuable Tampa Bay Fishing Tips

This article will feature 11 valuable Tampa Bay fishing tips. Tampa Bay is a large Bay and estuary system on the West Coast of Florida, pretty much in the center of the state. It consists of a large, open bay which still gets significant commercial traffic. It has miles of mangrove shorelines, acres of pristine grass flats, and many tributary creeks and rivers. These are combined to make Tampa Bay an outstanding fishery for a variety of species.

11 fantastic Tampa Bay fishing tips

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One of the advantages of fishing in this part of Florida is the variety that anglers can experience. Tampa Bay offers those casting artificial lures, live baits, and flies the opportunity to catch a myriad of saltwater species. These include tarpon, redfish, spotted sea trout, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, ladyfish, sharks, cobia, pompano, permit, snapper, grouper, sheepshead, flounder, drum, jack crevelle, and more.

Anglers can purchase Capt Jim’s E-book, “Inshore Saltwater Fishing” for $5 by clicking on the title link. It is 23,000 words long and covers tackle, tactics, and species.

Just as with the abundant species, anglers have a choice as to how they want to pursue their quarry. Spinning tackle is the primary choice and is most often used to cast artificial lures or live bait. Anglers can use heavier tackle to bottom fish near the shipping channel and around the Skyway Bridge. Fly anglers have many opportunities as well.

11 valuable Tampa Bay Fishing Tips

Tampa Bay redfish


The list of 11 valuable Tampa Bay fishing tips is a guide to get anglers unfamiliar with the area or the tactics a place to get started. However, even the most seasoned angler may pick up a tip or two

1)  Medium action spinning outfit is the best rod and reel choice

Number one on the list of Tampa Bay fishing spots is choosing the best rod and reel combination. For most anglers, a medium spinning outfit is the best choice. Most of the fish landed will be between 1 pound and 10 pounds. This makes a medium action spinning outfit an excellent choice which will handle virtually all of the situations that an angler fishing Tampa Bay will encounter. Of course, anglers targeting very large species such as big grouper or tarpon especially around heavy cover will have to bump up the tackle a notch or two.

fishing in Tampa Bay

A 7 foot medium action rod with a fast action is an excellent all round choice. Fast action refers to the design of the rod. It will be stout at the lower half to enable fighting a big fish while being limber at the tip to make casting lighter lures and live baits easier. A 3000 series reel spooled up with either 20 pound braided line or 10 pound monofilament line completes the rig. Below is a quality Penn Conflict combo at a reasonable price.

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2)  Chumming with live bait is extremely effective in Tampa Bay

Tampa Bay has become a bit of a live bait fishery. This is especially true in the warmer months. Many guides as well as experienced recreational anglers use a technique called “live bait chumming”. This is an incredibly effective technique that produces a lot a fish and is easy for even the novice angler to succeed with. It is a bit complicated and require some special gear, but the efforts are worth it.

snook fishing in Tampa Bay

In the warmer months, the flats are inundated with millions of small a bait fish. These are locally called white bait or shiners. For the most part, they include scaled sardines, threadfin herring, and Spanish sardines. Large rounded live wells with high-volume pumps are required to keep the bait alive.

Using a cast net, the angler loads up the bait well with between several hundred and a thousand or more frisky live baits. Then, the boat is anchored up current from a productive spot and this live bait is used as chum to lure in snook, redfish, trout, jack crevalle and other species. It can get very exciting seeing the game fish viciously attack the freebies that are tossed out behind the boat. Of course, it is even more exciting when one takes a bait with a hook in!

3)  Live shrimp is the best all round bait in Tampa Bay

Live shrimp are the most versatile and widely available live bait for anglers fishing in Tampa Bay and throughout the southeast part of the United States. Every species in saltwater will happily devour a live shrimp. They are available at every bait and tackle store and are fairly easy to keep alive, especially in the cooler weather. A simple aerator and stone will keep them alive and frisky all day.

Tampa Bay fishing tips

Live shrimp can be fished a variety of ways. Anglers bottom fishing around docks, bridges, submerged rocks, and other structures do well using a live bait hook and just enough weight to get to the bottom. Snapper, sheepshead, grouper, drum, and a variety of other species can be taken. Anglers fish them either under a float or free lined on the grass flats as well for speckled trout, snook, redfish, and more.

4)  Frozen shrimp produces as well

Frozen shrimp can be quite effective as well. There are times both in the summer and in the winter where live shrimp are not available. This usually happens in the winter when several days of rough weather prohibit the shrimp boats from going out. However, anglers who prefer to fish with live or natural bait can do very well using frozen shrimp. In some cases, it is actually preferred.

Anglers will get more bait for their money when purchasing frozen shrimp over live shrimp. While live shrimp are much preferred on the flats, frozen shrimp work very well for anglers bottom fishing. Again, in some cases they actually work better. Frozen shrimp are easier to dice up into smaller pieces. There are many days when sheepshead, drum, and snapper will take a piece of frozen shrimp eagerly.

5)  The jig and grub combo is the top artificial lure

The number one artificial lure for anglers fishing Tampa Bay is the jig and grub combo. In fact, this bait is the most popular lure for anglers fishing the inshore salt waters from Texas all the way up to New England. There are several reasons for both the popularity and effectiveness of the jig and grub combination.

fishing for sea trout

These lures are very cost effective. They consist of a jig head and then a plastic body of some type. The jig head is simply a hook of lead molded near the eye. This molded material is available and several different shapes and designs as well as multiple colors. The grub bodies are available and countless sizes, shapes, and colors. Most are designed to imitate either a shrimp or a bait fish. All of them will catch fish when properly presented.

The weight of the jig had will be determined by the depth of the water being fished and the amount of current that is present. Anglers fishing the deeper grass flats for speckled trout, Spanish mackerel, and other species will do well with a 1/4 ounce jig head and a 3 inch to 4 inch grub body. Those plying the shallow flats will go down as light as 1/16 of an ounce to avoid snagging in the grass.

6)  Understanding seasonal migrations when fishing Tampa Bay

One key to having fishing success is understanding the seasonal migrations that the local fish exhibit. Understanding these migrations is number six on the list of 11 valuable Tampa Bay fishing tips. Basically, at the temperature extremes, both hot and cold, fish will go deep. Then, as the water either warms up or cools off, fish will move to the mid depth areas and feed heavily.

In the winter, many fish species will move up into area rivers in creeks as well as residential canals. This is especially true for temperature sensitive species such as snook, jack crevalle, and juvenile tarpon. Other species such as spotted sea trout and redfish will often move into deeper holes near the flats as well as deeper residential canals.

Tampa Bay tarpon

As it warms up, fish will move out of these winter hunts and scatter out over the flats. This is an excellent time to fish for a variety of species! As the water temperature reaches the mid 70s, baitfish will show up in huge numbers. This action will continue all summer and into the fall. During times of very warm weather, fish may become a little sluggish and once again seek out deeper water. As winter approaches, the pattern will reverse itself and fish will begin moving back into their winter areas.

7)  Noisy popping corks are productive and easy to use

Popping corks have been used in Florida for a long time on the grass flats. A popping cork is basically a float that makes some noise which attracts fish. In times past, these corks had a slit and the side and a stem which held him in place along with a concave face. These corks are handy and that they are easily added, removed, as well is the depth being fished can be easily changed.

Some newer designs are very popular as well. The Cajun Thunder is an example of this. These were designed in Louisiana where the water is much murkier than here in Tampa Bay. A 2 to 3 foot leader is used under the float with a hook attached. This rig is most often fished with a live shrimp. However, anglers can use a jig or artificial shrimp under the popping cork as well.

fishing for snook in Tampa Bay

The concept with either float is that the rod is twitched sharply in the cork either pops or makes a bunch of noise. This noise simulates fish feeding and in turn attracts game fish such as spotted sea trout to investigate. Once in the area, the fish spots the live shrimp or artificial offering dangling below and hopefully takes. This is a great rig to fish children and novice anglers as it is easy to cast as well as easy to see the bite.

8)  Trolling is a very productive fishing technique in Tampa Bay

Trolling is an excellent technique that anglers can use to locate and catch fish. It is simply the act of idling the boat around while pulling artificial lures behind. It can be done in a variety of depths to catch multiple species.

Many anglers overlook trolling on the flats. However, this is a very effective technique, especially when there is little wind which inhibits drifting. The best lures to troll are plugs and spoons. The #8 Rapala X-Rap in olive or white is an excellent bait for this application. It closely matches the size of the locally available forage. The lure also dives down to to 3 feet, which will keep it from snagging in the submerged grass. 1/2 ounce silver spoons are excellent as well. Anglers need to make sure they use a swivel when using a spoon or line twist will ensue.

Light tackle trolling in Saltwater

Experienced anglers have learned that trolling the open waters of Tampa Bay can be extremely effective as well. This is particularly true around the channel edges of the main shipping channel. The steep drop-offs along with abundant structure make this a natural fish holding area. Anglers in the winter troll large deep diving plugs and catch some very large gag grouper. In the spring and the fall, silver spoons trolled behind number one and number two planers produce king mackerel and Spanish mackerel.

9)  Best time of day to fish varies with seasons

Anglers who are successful fishing and Tampa Bay will also adjust the time of day that they fish to the time of year. In the warmer months, the best action is almost always in the morning. Water temperatures will cool slightly on the flats before heating up during the middle of the day. Also, from an angler comfort level, warnings are the way to go in the summer time. The exception to this is anglers who fish at night around the lighted docks and bridges.

fishing for redfish

Conversely, anglers fishing in the wintertime will often do better by going out in the afternoon. Winter tides can be extremely low in the morning, making fishing difficult. Also, the water will be quite chilly. The best bite on the flats in the cooler months is in the afternoon when the tide comes in and the water warms up a tad. The same is true for anglers chasing snook and area creeks and rivers.

In the spring time, action can be good all day long as the water temperature is in the optimal zone and anglers will be comfortable for most of the day. During this time of year, tides are the prevailing factor as opposed to weather.

10)  Understanding how tides affect fishing in Tampa Bay

Understanding tides and their effect on fish is crucial to angling success in Tampa Bay and really anywhere in saltwater fishing. While there is no one perfect tide, it is more about understanding where fish will feed on certain tide stages. There are two things to consider when dealing with tides; the strength of the tide and the height of the water.

The level of the water is crucial when fishing the shallow flats. On extreme low tides, fish will have no choice but to gang up in the holes. As the tide comes in, they will move up out of these holes and scatter out over the flats to feed. By high tide, many of the fish will be up under the mangroves and difficult to reach. Most anglers prefer the low, incoming tide when fishing the shallow flats.

Tampa Bay fishing tips

Tides affect fish on the deeper flats as well. Most anglers fishing for spotted sea trout and other species on the deeper flats prefer two hours before and after the high tide. While fish can certainly be taken at other times, this is an excellent time to fish in those locations.

Tides will affect anglers fishing in deeper water as well, especially when bottom fishing. While the height of the tide matters very little, the strength of the current is a significant factor. While fish like to feed during strong current, fishing can be difficult both anchoring and getting the bait down to the fish. Many anglers choose to bottom fish and the deeper areas during periods of slack tide were controlling the bait and the boat is much easier.

11)  Leaders are important when fishing in Tampa Bay

Anglers will almost always have to use a leader of some sort. That is tip number x on the list of xx fantastic Tampa Bay fishing tips. Most saltwater fish species either have teeth, raspy lips, or a sharp gill plates. This means that tying the hook or lure straight to the running line will result in a lot of lost fish. For that reason, anglers almost always opt for a shock leader of some sort.

In the vast majority of fishing applications, a 2 foot section of 30 pound fluorocarbon leader is an excellent choice. Anglers can bump it up to 40 pound leader or even higher when targeting large snook and jacks around mangrove shorelines and other structure. Conversely, when the water is very clear and trout or snapper are the quarry, anglers can reduce the leader down to 20 pound test. The leader can be attached to the running line by using a line to line not or a small swivel.

Some anglers opt for wire leader’s when targeting king mackerel and Spanish mackerel. However, this can be a trade-off as wire will almost certainly reduce the number of bites in the clear water. It can be necessary though at times, if constant cutoffs become an issue. Anglers targeting king mackerel in particular when using large live bait fish almost always use a wire leader.

In conclusion, this article on 11 valuable Tampa Bay fishing tips will help anglers catch more fish. Check the FWC site for current Florida fishing regulations.

Surf Fishing Tackle and Techniques, a Complete Guide

Surf Fishing Tackle and Techniques, a Complete Guide

This article will thoroughly cover surf fishing tackle and techniques. There is something magical about standing on the shores of an ocean and casting a lure or bait out into it in search of fish. In some ways, surf fishing is very simple and basic. However, there are nuances that will be the difference between success and a slow day. These techniques along with surf fishing tackle, rigs, baits, and more will be discussed.

Special thanks to Henry Busby for a bunch of great surf fishing pictures!

Capt. Jim Klopfer is a fishing guide in Sarasota, Florida. While he runs his trips out of a 22 foot bay boat, he has extensive surf fishing experience. He has caught fish from the beach in Maine, the Maryland and Virginia beaches where he grew up, the famous Outer Banks of North Carolina, the East and West Coast of Florida, and in the Panhandle.

Best surf fishing rods and reels

Like most sports and hobbies, some equipment will be needed in order to participate. While surf fishing is fairly simple and uncomplicated, it does require some special fishing tackle. All of the rods, reels, hooks, sinkers, line, and other gear needed will be covered thoroughly and in detail.

pompano fishing

Spinning tackle is best for surf fishing

The main piece of equipment that an angler will need when getting started surf fishing is the rod and reel. The primary difference between surf fishing outfits and regular inshore saltwater outfits is the length of the rod. 10 foot rods are quite common, but anglers can go as long as 16 feet. Longer rods are used to make further casts as well as to keep the line up over the crashing waves.

The majority of surf fishing situations, spinning tackle is the best choice. It is certainly easier for novice anglers to learn to use. Spinning tackle is easy to use and versatile. Also, with the spool being exposed, it is easier to rinse the sand off when the rod falls, which will invariably happen.

Anglers can purchase Capt Jim’s E-book, “Inshore Saltwater Fishing” for $5 by clicking on the title link. It is 23,000 words long and covers tackle, tactics, and species.

Conventional, or bait casting, tackle does have its place in surf fishing as well. In fact, in the hands of a skilled angler, it will outperform spinning tackle in most cases. It is more difficult to master.

Surf fishing rod and reel combinations

surf fishing

Anglers can get by with one basic surf fishing outfit. However, to really cover all the circumstances and situations that may arise when surf fishing, three outfits will be needed. These are a 7 foot medium spinning outfit, a 10 foot medium surf fishing outfit, and a 13 foot to 15 foot heavy surf fishing rod and reel.

Light spinning outfit

A 7 foot medium or medium light spinning outfit will catch a lot of fish in the surf. A 7 foot rod with a fast action and paired with a 3000 series reel is a great all round combo. The good thing is, many saltwater anglers already own a suitable light tackle rod and reel such as this. It is perfect for casting lighter lures such as jigs and spoons. Often times, fish will be found close to shore, right in the first trough. Casting these lighter lures can be the most productive technique to catch fish in this situation. 10 lb monofilament or braided line works well.

Medium surf fishing outfit

The second rod and reel combination would be a 10 foot rod paired up with a 6000 size or so reel. This is a versatile combination, and if anglers had to only choose one outfit with which to surf fish, this would be the best choice. It is long enough and heavy enough to soak a cut bait on the bottom while still being suitable for casting larger lures such as spoons and plugs to breaking fish. it can be spooled up with 15-20 lb braided or monofilament line.

Heavy surf fishing outfit

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The third outfit would be a heavy outfit between 12 feet and 15 feet long. These are known in North Carolina as “Hatteras heavers” as they are used to cast heavy weights a long way over the breaking surf. Of the three outfits, this one can be omitted by anglers who do not think that they will be doing this type of fishing very often.

best shark bait

Many anglers take a two-pronged approach when surf fishing. By having these several different outfits, live or cut baits can be soaked on the bottom while the rods sit in a rod holder. Anglers can then work the trough close to shore with the lighter spinning outfit while waiting for a bite on the heavier rigs. This is a versatile way to approach surf fishing, and often times the most productive.

Surf fishing rigs

There are two basic rigs that will cover the majority of surf fishing situations. These are the fish finder rig and the high low rig, also known as a spreader rig or chicken rig. Some anglers will use other specialized rigs or variations, but these two basic rigs will get the job done and just about every situation.

fishing from the surf

Fish finder rig

The fish finder rig is a staple among surf fisherman everywhere. The main component is a device called a slider. The running line passes through a hole in the slider and then a swivel is attached. A leader is then used between the swivel and the hook. The leader lengths will vary depending on the situation, but generally around 2 feet or so is used. Some anglers will put a small float near the hook to lift the bait up off the bottom, especially when crabs, sharks, and skates become a nuisance.


surf fishing rigs

The slider has a clip on it which makes changing sinkers quick and easy. Most anglers use pyramid style surf fishing sinkers with these rigs. When cast out, the sinker will dig into the bottom and hold. The hole in the slider will allow a fish to pick up the bait and move off with it without feeling the weight of the sinker. This is an extremely productive and effective rig, especially when fishing for larger species.

High low rig

The high low (AKA chicken rig and spreader rig) is a very basic bottom fishing rig used by anglers surf fishing. It is also used extensively by those vertically bottom fishing from boats and piers as well. The advantage of this rig is that multiple baits can be presented at varying depths. This rig is most often used when fishing for smaller species such as whiting and pompano. However, larger fish can certainly be caught by anglers using this rig as well.


The high low rig consists of a sinker at the bottom and then multiple hooks at several different depths coming off of either the mainline or a prepared rig. Most tackle shops that cater to surf anglers will have ready-made rigs for sale. Some of these consist of wire arms that protrude off to the side, spreading the baits out. Anglers can quickly and easily tie their own by simply using dropper loops. Pyramid sinkers are mostly used, though bank sinkers can be used as well.

surf fishing trigs

Surf fishing sinkers

Most anglers surf fishing will use pyramid style sinkers. These cast well and will generally hold the bottom, unless the current is very strong. In some types of fishing, it is desired to have the bait bouncing along the bottom. In most surf fishing situations, this is not the case. It is preferred to have the bait anchored in one spot. Anglers who desire the bait to move about the bottom will use a sliding egg sinker in place of the fish finder slider.

surf fishing tips

For most anglers surf fishing, 3 ounce or 4 ounce weights will work fine. As in all fishing, the size of the weight can be adjusted to the given conditions. Often times, anglers are dealing with wind right in their face, limiting casting distance. Heavier sinkers may be required in this situation. Conversely, on calm days when the fish are not too far out, a lighter sinker may be a better choice. Anglers using heavy rods and large baits will often go up to 6 ounces or even 8 ounces of weight.

Surf fishing hooks

Hooks come in a myriad of sizes and designs. Anglers often make the mistake of using too large a hook. The hook size should match the size of the bait being used, not the size of the fish being targeted. In most situations, a short shank, stout, live bait hook is the best choice. Some of these hooks have little barbs on the shank which helps hold the bait on the hook. These are called bait holder hooks for obvious reasons. Flounder and fluke anglers will sometimes use a long shank hook.

In Maine and other parts of the Northeast, circle hooks are required to reduce fish mortality. Many anglers have switched over to circle hooks even when not required by law. A circle hook has a unique design which most often results in the hook rotating and ending up in the side of the fishes mouth. This certainly reduces fish mortality, especially when using cut bait.

Fishing line choices

The best line for surf fishing is a matter of debate. The two basic choices are monofilament and braided line. Like most things in life, each comes with its advantages and disadvantages. It really just comes down to personal choice Monofilament line is less expensive, knots are easier to tie, and the line is easier to manage. However, monofilament line will twist up and need to be replaced much more often. It is probably the best choice for beginners and novice anglers. In most situations, 20 pound monofilament line is a good all-around choice.

Braided line is much more expensive, however it lasts a long time. Braided line is much smaller in diameter when compared to monofilament lines of the same strength. It also has no stretch, which is both good and bad. Strikes are very easy to detect. However, the drag needs to be set a bit lighter as there is no stretch in the line from a surging fish when being landed. Finally, knots can be a bit more difficult to tie with braided line. Anglers most often used 30 pound to 40 pound braided line on their surf fishing tackle.

Other surf fishing gear

There are a few other pieces of gear that anglers will want when heading out surf fishing. Sand spikes are essential! They allow anglers to bottom fish with one rod or more as well as casting lures with a lighter outfit. Even if anglers do not plan on bottom fishing, a sand spike gives anglers a place to put the rod up out of the sand while re-rigging or taking a break.


A good pair of saltwater resistant fishing pliers is another basic piece of equipment that all surf fishing anglers will need, for obvious reasons. Anglers will need to work on their terminal rigs as well as release fish. Pliers is assistant both of these situations.

Surf fishing cart

Some serious surf anglers either purchase or build a cart. These can be very handy when getting all of the tackle and gear required out to the beach and back. This is particularly true in places were anglers can’t park very close to their fishing spot. They can be made cheaply and easily using PVC pipe from the hardware store. Carts can also be purchased commercially.

Knives and cutting boards

Surf fishing anglers will need a cutting board and a couple of different knives as well. An inexpensive bait knife can be used to cut fresh or frozen bait. The fillet knife can be used for this as well, though some anglers prefer to save the blade when filleting a fish. Some type of cutting board comes in handy for both cutting bait and filleting fish.

Surf fishing techniques

Many entire books have been written about surf fishing. In this section, some basic tips, techniques, locations, and species will be covered. Fishing in the surf is no different than fishing anywhere else and fish have similar requirements. Game fish will look for advantageous spots to stage where they can feed efficiently and easily. Obviously, some type of forage needs to be present. One different aspect of surf fishing as that most often there is no cover present.

Reading the surf

One of the most difficult things for novice surf fishing anglers to learn is how to read the beach. Experienced anglers will stand on the beach and scan the horizon and pick out areas where fish are more likely to move through and be located. While this really only comes with experience, there are few tips that will help novice anglers achieve success a little more quickly.

The waves are the best indicator as to what is going on below the surface. The further out a wave breaks, the more shallow the water. Gaps in between areas of breaking waves often signal a deeper trough or hole. This can be a prime spot to fish! Also, the further the water pushes up on the beach when it hits the shore often indicates a slightly deeper area. These depth changes are subtle, only a few feet, and they make a huge difference when it comes to fish locations and movements.

While most angler surf fishing prefer the higher tide stages, anglers can learn a lot about the beach by doing some scouting on the lower tide stages. This is particularly true on the extreme low tides. During these times, anglers will be able to better pick out sandbars, cuts, troughs, and holes that can be likely fish holding spots when the tide comes in.

Importance of tides when surf fishing

Tides are one of the most important factors to consider when saltwater fishing, and surf fishing is no exception. The two most important factors are the height of the tide and the strength. It can be very difficult fishing when the tide is running hard. Even large weights will not hold bottom and the bait will roll and tumble in the current. This is especially true up north, were tides can exceed 10 feet of movement and six hours. Capt. Jim ran into this one fish in old Orchard Beach Maine for stripers in the fall several years back.

One tried-and-true rule that seems to hold up well no matter where angler surf fish is to fish two hours before and after the high tide. As the tide reaches both high and low, the current flow eases up and then eventually stops before changes direction. In many situations, due to thermal dynamics, this results in the wind easing up as well. If anglers can time this high tide with dusk or dawn, so much the better!

However, don’t let perfect be the enemy of good. The old saying that the best time to go fishing is whatever you can pretty much holds up. Each trip will bring an angler more experience as conditions change constantly with each fishing trip. The only time Capt. Jim will really cancel a trip is when it is extremely windy and the surf conditions too rough. Fishing cannot only be difficult, it can be dangerous under these circumstances.

windy surf fishing

Best surf fishing baits

The best baits to use when surf fishing will very depending upon a geographical location. In most situations, anglers not familiar with the area will do best to visit a local bait and tackle shop that caters to anglers surf fishing. They will get some excellent advice that will save them a lot of time regarding both fishing conditions, spots, and the best baits to use.

From the Carolinas south around Florida and over to Texas, it is tough to beat either fresh or frozen shrimp. Everything and saltwater eats these tasty little critters! Shrimp are also easy to obtain and fairly economical. Most anglers agree that fresh shrimp is better, however frozen shrimp will work fine in most situations.

Sarasota fishing excursions

The majority of surf fishing anglers who fish with bait or use some variety of cut up fish or other marine animal such as clams, squid, and oysters. In many cases, anglers use one of their lighter rods to catch a smaller fish and then use it for bait. It is important to make sure that it is a legal fish and that all regulations are being obeyed. It is really tough to beat a fresh cut a piece of fish that is locally available. Cut bait also stays on the hook longer than any other bait. These fish vary greatly depending on the area being fished.

Anglers who do not want to catch their own bait can certainly buy it as well. Local bait shops will have a good supply of bait as well as information as to what the fish are hitting. Squid is a great all round bait for a variety of species anywhere on the planet. It is easy to use and stays on the hook pretty well. Anglers fishing with cut squid or cut bait will either use a strip or a chunk, depending on the species being targeted. Smaller chunks are better for smaller fish on a high low rig. Larger strips work better on a fish finder rig when targeting larger species.

There are a few other baits that anglers can you surf fishing as well. Bloodworms and sandworms are popular baits in the Northeast. They are a bit expensive but are also quite effective. Clams and oysters are used by some anglers as well. Clams stay on the hook better than oysters do. Finally, in some parts of the country crabs are used. In the southern part of the country and along the Gulf Coast, mole crabs, also known as sand fleas, are a popular surf fishing bait.

Best surf fishing lures

Artificial lures can be extremely effective for anglers surf fishing as well. The main three types of artificial lures that are used are spoons, plugs, and jigs. These are basically the same lures that anglers have been using and saltwater from boats and from shore for a long time. One difference anglers have one casting lures from the surf is that the bait needs to be fairly heavy as anglers are often times facing a fairly stiff breeze.


Jigs are very effective lures to use when fishing the surf. Anglers most often used them when blind casting. By this we mean when fish are not seen actively feeding on the surface. Capt. Jim was visiting Nags Head in the spring a few years ago and the most productive technique for most of the anglers was casting a 1/4 ounce jig and grub combination into the first trough right near the shore. Bluefish and spotted sea trout were plentiful!

In most situations, anglers casting jigs will find fish in this location, the first deep trough off of the beach. Game fish will run parallel to the shore in search of food. A jig cast out and bounced along the bottom can be an extremely productive way to catch a variety of species. Jigs between 1/4 ounce and 1 ounce work best. A white buck tail jig is extremely effective. Many anglers have gone to the jig and grub combination, as it makes changing the tail quick and easy.


Spoons are another very effective surf fishing lure. A spoon is basically a curved piece of metal with a hook in it. While they come in a variety of colors, most anglers casting off the beach use silver as it imitates locally available forage fish the best. Spoons also come in a variety of sizes to match the local bait fish.

One of the advantages of using spoons is that they can be cast a long way. This can be very important when fish are seen breaking just outside of the first bar. This is too far for anglers casting a small jig on a light spinning rod. That 10 foot outfit will cast a three or 4 ounce spoon far enough to get in on the action. Spoons can also be used to blind cast in area. They are very effective search baits is a lot of water can be covered in a fairly short amount of time.


Plugs are basically chunks of plastic or wood that resemble wounded bait fish. Surf fishing anglers are especially fond of using surface plugs such as pencil poppers. This type of fishing is great fun as anglers can see the strike. Striped bass and bluefish are often caught by anglers surf fishing with top water plugs in the Northeast.

Subsurface plugs generally float on the surface and then dive down a few feet when retrieved. They are more often times more effective than top water plugs, though the strike is not quite as exciting. Plugs come in a wide variety of sizes, shapes, colors, and styles. Once again, local bait shops are by far the best resource to pick up the best plug for the area being fished.

Top surf fishing species

There are a wide variety of species that anglers can catch when surf fishing in the United States. It would be impossible to cover them all, the Capt. Jim will list the top species as well as the range that they inhabit and a tip or two to catch them.

Striped bass

Striped bass are arguably the most popular species targeted by anglers surf fishing. They are found from the Outer Banks in North Carolina up to Maine. The season with which they can be caught will vary depending on the geographic location. Striped bass stocks seem to fluctuate quite a bit. This results in fish management constantly changing the regulations in order to protect the species. Anglers need to stay abreast of these laws when fishing for striped bass.

Stripers can be caught by anglers using both natural bait and artificial lures. Striped bass are an apex predator that grow very large, with some specimens pushing 100 pounds. Fresh cut baits such as pogies, menhaden, and mackerel work well. Any freshly caught fish, especially oily ones, will catch striped bass. Blood worms, sandworms, crabs, and even live eels are top natural baits.

Striped bass will take just about any artificial lure as well. A white buck tail jig with a strip of squid is an excellent choice as it combines both and artificial lure with the scent and smell of bait. Jig heads with larger swim baits are productive as well. Silver spoons and plugs are excellent lures to cast, especially when fish are seen feeding on the surface.


Bluefish are another popular species caught by anglers surf fishing. Larger bluefish are caught in the Northeast and down to the Carolinas, while in Florida and along the Gulf Coast bluefish average a couple pounds. They are a very hard fighting and aggressive fish and are an excellent species to catch from the beach.

Bluefish are a schooling fish that are voracious in their feeding habits. In fact, they are one of the few if not the only species that will regurgitate its food so that they can keep feeding even when they are full. Many of the “blitzes” that surf fishing anglers talk about involve bluefish. They do have very sharp teeth and anglers will often times opt for a wire leader when bluefish are plentiful. However, this will often times reduce the number of bites, so anglers will have to make the decision as to which is more important.

Bluefish will hit just about any live or cut bait as well as flashy, erratic, fast-moving artificial lures. Silver spoons are excellent lures to use when targeting bluefish. Most anglers choose not to use plugs for them, as the treble hooks can be tough along with the chance of the bluefish biting off an expensive plug. A swim bait on a jig head works quite well, too. Just about any piece of fresh cut bait will produce bluefish when fished on the bottom.

Fluke and flounder

There may not be any other species that are prized more than fluke and flounder are by anglers surf fishing. While they put up a decent fight, these fish are prized for their snow white fillets. Known as fluke in the Northeast and flounder south of New Jersey, they are basically the same fish and habits.

Flounder and fluke are bottom dwelling species that bury themselves in the sand and ambush prey as it goes by. That is the reason one side of the fish is white, the other side is camouflaged and both eyes are on the same side of the head. Obviously, the best presentation is one on or near the bottom. While some flounder and fluke are caught by anglers bouncing jigs, particularly with a live or frozen minnow or strip of cut bait, most fish are caught by anglers bottom fishing. Top baits include minnows either live or frozen, squid, and strips of cut bait.

Spanish mackerel

saltwater fly fishing

Spanish mackerel are an aggressive, schooling fish that are found from the mid-Atlantic states south. They are beautiful, fast, and put up a terrific fight. They are often times found feeding on the surface and will attack any fast moving lure or fly. Spanish mackerel are good eating when prepared fresh that day or the next, but they do not freeze well. They also make terrific cut bait for striped bass, sharks, bluefish, and other species.

Spotted sea trout

Spotted sea trout, also known as speckled trout, become a prime surf fishing target from the mouth of Chesapeake Bay south. These are a schooling fish that are very beautiful and put up a decent little battle. They are outstanding on a dinner plate! Most are caught by anglers casting a jig head with a grub body on it fairly close to shore. However, they will certainly take a fresh bait fished on the bottom, especially shrimp.

Red drum

Red drum, also known as redfish or reds are an extremely popular game fish that are found from Virginia south along Florida and along the entire Gulf Coast to Texas. Redfish vary greatly in size from small rat reds to the giant bulls of over 50 pounds. Smaller redfish in the 20 inch to 25 inch range are generally considered the best to eat. In many states, fish over 27 inches must be released.

Artificial lures catch many redfish for anglers on the shallow flats and bays, and they will catch a few fish in the surf. However, the majority of red drum and landed by anglers surf fish and are done so using natural bait. A chunk of fresh mullet is tough to beat. Half a blue crab or a large shrimp will work as well. Redfish do tend to school and when the bite is on the action can be hot.


Whiting are a top prize of angler surf fishing, both for their spirited tussle given their size and their fantastic eating! Also known as surf mullet, whiting are a schooling fish and once located the action can be fast and furious. They are best targeted by anglers fishing with medium-size surf rods, fairly small hooks, and pieces of shrimp. A few may be taken by anglers using artificial lures, but the majority will be taken on bait. They are widely distributed along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts.

whiting in the surf


Surf fishing for sharks, especially large ones, is a bit of a specialized pursuit. Anglers will often times use very heavy tackle and even sometimes use kayaks and row offshore in order to get the bait out a ways from the beach. However, smaller sharks can be great fun for anglers fishing with normal surf fishing tackle. If sharks are around, a strip or chunk of fresh bait on the bottom will catch them. Some species are good to eat, but anglers need to check local regulations and be very careful when handling sharks.

top 25 Florida species


Pompano are a highly desirable species caught in the surf from Chesapeake Bay south. The average a couple pounds and put up a terrific fight for their size. There may not be a better eating fish in the sea! Pompano can be caught by anglers surf fishing by using small jigs, often times tipped with a piece of shrimp. Most pompano are caught by anglers using a high low rig with either pieces of shrimp or sand fleas.

Bottom fish

There are a variety of bottom fish that anglers can catch when surf fishing. These include croaker, spot, white perch, scup, sheepshead, and more. Most of these fish are caught by anglers using small pieces of cut bait or shrimp on smaller hooks. While not huge, they can be fun to catch, especially when a fish fry is the result.

In conclusion, this article on surf fishing tackle and techniques will help anglers catch more fish off of the beach!

Top 13 Freshwater Fishing Plugs

Top 13 Freshwater Fishing Plugs

This article will list the top 13 freshwater fishing plugs. Plugs are hard bodied artificial fishing lures. For the most part, they imitate crayfish and bait fish. Back in the day, they were carved from wood. Most today are made from plastic. They are available in models that fish from the surface down to twenty feet or more.

top 13 frehwater fishing plugs

Capt Jim Klopfer is a fishing guide in Sarasota, Florida. He has fished extensively all over the United States. There are quite a few different types of fishing plugs. In this article, he will list his personal favorite lure in each “family” of baits.

The top 13 freshwater fishing plugs are the Heddon Zara Spook, Rapala Skitter Prop, Rebel Pop R, Arbogast Hula Popper, Rapala X-Rap Slashbait, Yozuri Crystal Minnow, Strike King KVD Squarebill crankbait, Rapala Original Floating Minnow, Bill Lewis Rat-L-Trap, Rapala Shad Rap, Bomber Fat Free Shad, Rebel Crawfish, and the Flatfish.

  • Heddon Zara Spook
  • Rapala Skitter Prop
  • Rebel Pop R
  • Arbogast Hula Popper
  • Rapala X-Rap Slashbait
  • Yozuri Crystal Minnow
  • Strike King KVD Squarebill
  • Rapala Original Floating Minnow
  • Bill Lewis Rat-L-Trap
  • Rapala Shad Rap
  • Bomber Fat Free Shad
  • Rebel Crawfish
  • Flatfish

Plug colors, sizes, and characteristics

In order to not be repetitive, colors and sizes will be covered here. While there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to color and size, there are some guidelines to follow. Wherever possible, it is advised to closely mimic the locally available forage in both size and color. This applies to shad, bluegill, perch, crayfish, and other forage species.

Click on the title link to read Capt Jim’s E-book Fishing for Crappie, Bluegill, and Panfish

Generally speaking, light colors work best in clear water and on sunny days. Conversely, darker colors produce better in stained water and on overcast days. In muddy water, bright colors work well. Chrome and chartreuse are good all round finishes that are hard to beat. Color is less of a factor when using topwater plugs.

best freshwater fishing topwater plugs

Plugs are also very versatile, while topwater plugs are excluded, all other plugs can be either cast out or trolled. Trolling with diving plugs is a very efficient way to locate fish. It is also easy to do and productive. Some plugs can even be fished vertically, and that includes through the ice!

Capt Jim’s list of favorite plugs includes baits that are versatile and will catch a variety of species. Many are legendary baits with decades long reputations. There are many fine “specialty” plugs designed for a certain species or application, but those will not be on the list. Many are targeted to anglers fishing for largemouth bass.

Top 13 freshwater fishing plugs

The first 4 baits on Capt Jim’s list of top 13 freshwater fishing plugs are topwater baits. These float on the surface the entire time, drawing strikes from fish below. While they all work on the surface, there are three different types of topwater plugs. These are walk the dog baits, propeller baits, and poppers.

1)  Heddon Zara Spook

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The Heddon Zara Spook was the original “walk the dog” style bait. It is an extremely effective lure that catches fish to this day. It is available in several sizes and many different finishes. Chrome is a good all round finish.

2)  Rapala Skitter Prop

The Rapala Skitter Prop is number two on Capt Jim’s list. It puts out a lot of commotion while sitting relatively still. Gold is his favorite color. This is an excellent choice when it is breezy or there is a bit of chop on the water.

3)  Rebel Pop R

The Rebel Pop R is the next bait on the list. It is a “popper” and is a very easy bait for novice anglers to use. It comes with buck tail dressing on the tail. Capt Jim likes the silver finish with the blue back.

4)  Arbogast Hula Popper

The Arbogast Hula Popper has been around a long time. It is an excellent popper that works well in ponds and smaller waters. The rubber tail prodecues a lot of action. Frog is a good color pattern.

Jerk baits

The next three lures on Capt Jim’s list of the top 13 freshwater fishing plugs are jerk baits. These are long and slender. They float on the surface and dive down upon retrieve. The lip determines the depth that they will dive. Models are available that work a few feed below the surface down to twenty feet or more.

top 13 freshwater fishing plugs

These lures are called “jerk baits” due to the manner in which they are retrieved. The lure is cast out and then the rod tip is sharply jerked. The bait will lurch forward while flashing, then stop and hang motionless when given a little slack. This action simulates a wounded bait fish and drives fish crazy!

5)  Rapala X-Rap Extreme Action Slashbait

The Rapala X-Rap Extreme Action Slashbait is Capt Jim’s favorite jerk bait. It is a very versatile and catches just about every freshwater species. It is available in a lot of sizes, running depths, and many different color patterns.

6)  Yozuri Crystal Minnow

The Yozuri Crystal Minnow is another excellent jerk bait. It is available in many sizes and has an excellent, high quality finish. Most anglers opt for a lighter color which highlights the flash of the bait.

7)  Rapala Original Floating Minnow

The Rapala Original Floating Minnow is an old-school jerk bait that still has many fans. It is a bit less expensive and still catches a ton of fish. Silver with the black back is the most popular finish.


The next five lures on Capt Jim’s list of the top 13 freshwater fishing plugs are crank baits. These are cast out and “cranked” back in, thus the name. They come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors. The plastic lip determines the depth that they run. Lipless crankbaits do not have a lip. They are simply reeled back in while putting out a bunch of flash and vibration.

8)  Bill Lewis Rat-L-Trap

The Bill Lewis Rat-L-Trap is the most recognized and productive lipless crankbait, and for good reason. It has been catching fish for decades. It is a very easy lure to use. It is cast out and reeled back in using a steady pace. It works when trolled as well. The ½ ounce bait in chrome with a blue back is Capt Jim’s favorite.

9)  Strike King KVD Squarebill crankbait

The Strike King KVD Square Bill line of crankbaits are veery effective lures. The 1.5 size in the Sexy Shad is an excellent choice when fish are feeding an 2” to 3” shad. The baits come in larger sizes as well. It has a very unique side to side wobble and bounces off structure well. They cover a large portion of the water column.

10)  Rapala Shad Rap

The Rapala Shad Rap is an excellent deep water crankbait. It gets down deep quickly and is easy to work back to the boat. The Shad Rap is an excellent trolling lure as well. It comes in a wide variety of colors and several; sizes.

11)  Bomber Fat Free Shad

The Bomber Fat Free Shad is an excellent deep water crankbait. It gets down quickly and can then be slowed down to work the bottom. Bark colors mimic crayfish while lighter colors mimic shad that school in deep water.

12)  Rebel Wee Craw

The Rebel Wee Craw is a terrific crankbait when used in rivers and rocky lakes. It is a legend among river smallmouth and walleye anglers. They work best when bounced off the rocks on the bottom.

13)  Flatfish

The Flatfish has been around for a very long time. Some anglers have forgotten about them, but that is a mistake! The Flatfish has a great action and works well when both trolled and cast. It produces big trout in fast moving rivers.

Best rods and reels for plug fishing

Anglers can use both spinning tackle and bait casting gear effectively when fishing with plugs in freshwater. The determining factors will really be the size of the lure and angler preference. Spinning tackle is the best option when casting smaller plugs, it is just better suited for lighter lures.

Anglers can read a comprehensive article on freshwater tackle in this link.

Bait casting gear is perfect for casting heavier plugs, and especially when using top water baits. Due to the nature and which they are retrieved, there is often times slack in the line when using a top water plug. Bait casting reels handle taking up the slack much better than do spinning reels, which are prone to getting loops in ordinary fishing. Bait casting and conventional outfits are preferred when trolling with plugs.

Anglers freshwater fishing with plugs often find that a softer action rod works better than the normal fast action rod’s preferred and other types of fishing. A more parabolic bend usually results in a better hook set. That extra cushion comes in handy when a fish is shaking its head violently. This is also safer as it eliminates the plug being thrown back at the angler.

Best lines for fishing with plugs

While braided line has become very popular, many anglers casting plugs opt for monofilament or fluorocarbon lines. The stretch and the line is preferred, very much for the same reasons as using a softer action rod. However, many anglers do fine with braided lines, especially when fishing around heavy cover such as fallen timber and docks.

In conclusion, this article on the best 13 freshwater fishing plugs will help anglers catch more fish using these extremely effective lures!