What is the best small spinnerbait for bass fishing?

What is the best small spinnerbait for bass fishing?

Small spinnerbaits are excellent lures for anglers bass fishing. There are times when smaller baits are more productive. There are many spinnerbaits to choose from. However, there is one small spinnerbait that is a notch above the others.

The best small spinnerbait for bass fishing is the Booyah Pond Magic spinnerbait. This lure is made from quality components. It weighs 3/16 of an ounce. The Pond Magic is available in six hand-picked colors which are designed to specifically match the forage most often found in smaller waters. These are the factors that set this lure apart from other small spinnerbaits.

Click this link to shop Amazon for Booyah Pond Magic spinnerbaits

Bass fishing with small spinnerbaits

Bass and other game fish that are found in smaller bodies of water such as ponds, strip pits, and streams react differently than fish in larger lakes. Subtle presentations are often more productive. Also, the forage found in these areas is smaller as well. Bass are feeding on smaller sunfish, minnows, and crayfish as opposed to the larger shad that are available in lakes. As an added bonus, these small spinnerbaits will fool many other species such as smallmouth bass, pike, walleye, striped bass, and more!

largemouth bass fishing in creeks

Small spinnerbaits are most effective when fished in shallow water. This ties in nicely for smaller waters as they are usually fairly shallow. Shoreline cover and submerged vegetation will hold a lot of fish. Downed trees are top spots as well.

Anglers can read more about spinnerbait fishing in this article

Anglers bass fishing with small spinners should start out with a slow, steady retrieve. Again, a more subtle approach is generally more productive on these smaller waters. If a steady retrieve does not work, anglers can experiment with faster or erratic retrieves.

Sarasota freshwater fishing

Match the hatch for best results

As mentioned above, the Booyah Pond Magic spinnerbaits are offered in six color patterns, specifically designed for smaller waters. This is one aspect that sets them apart from other lures. Anglers should analyze the lake to determine what the likely forage is and then choose a color pattern to match that forage.

Shallow, weedy lakes will usually be full of sunfish. “Firebug” and “Grasshopper” are excellent choices in these waters. Ponds and lakes with clear water and more gravel and rocks will have good populations of crayfish. “Craw” and “Red Ant” are better choices in waters such as this as well as streams and small rivers.

best pond fishing lures

Chartreuse and white are excellent all round universal colors. White works well in clear water and on bright, sunny days. Chartreuse is a terrific color that produces in just about all water conditions. The old saying, “if it ain’t chartreuse, it ain’t no use” is an apt one!

More spinnerbait tactics

There are a couple of other retrieves that will produce bass for anglers fishing with small spinnerbaits. At times bass will be very active. This usually occurs at dawn, dusk, and on cloudy days. Buzzing a spinnerbait just under the surface can produce some explosive strikes!

bass fishing tackle and equipment

This technique can also be productive over submerged vegetation. Bass will blow up out of holes to crush the lure. Many will miss it, and that is just part of the excitement. Buzzing the bait through open water, then letting it fall as it reaches fallen timber or a weed line can trigger strikes as well.

Another productive technique is “slow rolling” a spinnerbait. This is basically letting the lure sink down in the water column, then slowly retrieving it back in. If it bounces off a rock or bottom structure occasionally, so much the better. This works best on bright, sunny days after a cold front or when bass are less active.

Best tackle for bass fishing with small spinnerbaits

Anglers fishing in ponds and streams can choose either spinning or light baitcasting tackle. Both are fine for fishing for bass with small spinnerbaits. Spinning tackle is easier to use when casting fairly light lures and is the best choice for anglers with less experience.

A 7 foot medium light spinning rod with matching 30 size reel is an excellent combination for fishing for bass in ponds and small lakes. It works well for casting lighter lures while giving anglers a chance to land a nice fish in heavy cover. Most anglers opt for braided line, though monofilament line can certainly be used. 20 lb braid and 14 lb monofilament line are good choices.

Click this link to shop Amazon for a Cadence spinning combo

Anglers choosing a baitcasting rod and reel will do well with a similar combination. The rod needs to have a fairly limber tip in order to cast small spinnerbaits. A medium rod with a fast action, matching reel, and 20 lb braided line is a great all-round rig.

Click this link to shop Amazon for a lew’s baitcasting combo

Other productive small spinnerbaits

While the Booyah Pond Magic is the best small spinnerbait for anglers bass fishing in small waters, there are other productive small spinnerbaits. Two of the best are the Strike King Mini spinnerbait and the venerable Johnson Beetlespin spinnerbait. Both are very effective lures for largemouth bass, but will certainly catch crappie, pike, and most other freshwater game fish as well.

Strike King Mini Spinnerbait

best small spinnerbait for bass fishing

Click this link to shop Amazon for Strike King Mini spinnerbaits

The Strike King Mini Spinnerbait weighs in at 1/8 of an ounce. It is available in over a dozen color combinations. This is an excellent choice where anglers are fishing for more of a “mixed bag” as opposed to solely targeting largemouth bass.

smallmouth bass fishing for beginners

These lures come with a Tennessee diamond blade. This puts out a lot of flash, especially at slow retrieve speeds. There are color patterns to match every angling situation. They are also very modestly priced.

Johnson Beetlespin

Sarasota crappie fishing

The Johnson Beetlespin is a legendary small to tiny spinnerbait. It is a deadly lure for panfish, and that is where it earned it’s reputation. However, in the larger sizes it is an excellent lure for catching bass in ponds and small rivers. It is best used with light spinning tackle.

Click this link to shop Amazon for Beetlespin spinnerbaits

The Beetlespin looks fairly drab in the package. However, do not let that fool you! These lures are extremely productive. When bass and other fish are being finicky, the Beetle spin can be a great choice. Generally, darker colors such as black and green are best.

Fishing rivers with small spinnerbaits

Rivers are often overlooked by anglers bass fishing. This can be a mistake! Rivers offer anglers several advantages over larger lakes. Rivers are generally less pressured. They offer excellent scenery and solitude. Bass and other fish are much easier to locate, there simply is a lot less water.

Read more about Bass Fishing in Creeks in this article

Small spinnerbaits are perfect for fishing these smaller rivers and streams. Crayfish patterns work well as that is the forage available to the game fish. Spinnerbaits are also fairly weedless and will bounce off of rocks where other lures will hang up.

In conclusion, this article on the best small spinnerbait for bass fishing will add another technique to their arsenal!

 

 

Best Brook Trout Fishing Tackle, a Complete Guide!

Best Brook Trout Fishing Tackle, a Complete Guide!

This article will thoroughly cover the best brook trout fishing tackle. Brook trout are the third most popular trout in North America, behind rainbow trout and brown trout. They are found in cold, clear waters. While originally found in the eastern portion of the United States, brook trout has been successfully stocked and many other parts of North America and the world. In order to be successful, anglers need the correct brook trout fishing tackle.

trout list

The best trout fishing tackle is ultralight spinning tackle and light fly fishing tackle. Brook trout do not grow very large, averaging less than a pound. They are also found in very clear water. For these reasons, anglers keeping their tackle very light and their lines very thin will have more success.

ice fishing for brook trout

Anglers can use both spinning and fly tackle to have success when fishing for brook trout. Both techniques are equally productive and popular throughout North America. Fly fishing tackle can actually be an advantage in some of the tiny streams in the tops of mountains where native brook trout are often found. Conversely, anglers casting a lure was spinning tackle may have an advantage in larger rivers and lakes.

Anglers can read this article on ice fishing for brook trout as well.

Best spinning tackle for brook trout fishing

The best rod and reel combination when spin fishing for brook trout would be an ultralight rod and a matching reel. Equality combination can be purchased for under $100. Unlike many other types of fishing, anglers brook trout fishing will really only need one rod and reel combination to cover the vast majority of Brook trout fishing situations.

best brook trout fishing tackle

In most cases, a slightly longer rod is preferred. A 6 foot to 6 1/2 foot ultralight rod with a fast action will allow anglers to make longer casts while giving them an advantage fighting larger fish.

Anglers can click this link to shop Amazon for a 6′ and 6′ 6″ spinning rods

Shorter rods are often used by anglers went fishing in tight quarters where overhanging trees and shoreline vegetation makes longer rods a bit cumbersome.

Anglers can click this link to shop Amazon for shorter spinning rods

The best fishing reel would be an ultralight open face spinning reel. This would match nicely to a 6 foot ultralight spinning rod. Spinning reels are versatile, effective, easy to use, and are available at a very modest price. Anglers can purchase a quality spinning reel for brook trout fishing for around $50.

Anglers can click this link to shop Amazon Daiwa ultralight reels

Fishing line options

Anglers should keep the line very light and fishing for brook trout. As previously mentioned, they live in very clear water and art usually found quite shallow. Therefore, 4 pound test line is a good all-around choice. Many successful anglers drop it down to to pound line, though this certainly requires care when tying knots and landing a fish. However, anglers will often be rewarded with more takes. Rarely will and anglers need to step it up as high as 6 pound line.

trout fishing tackle

There are three main types of fishing line available to all anglers. These are braided line, monofilament line, and fluorocarbon line. Due to their keen eyesight and wary habits, most anglers opt for monofilament fishing line. It is cost efficient and very effective. Anglers who want to spend a little more money can opt for fluorocarbon line. Fluorocarbon line is even harder to see in the water and has less dredge than monofilament line does. However, a little bit of stress in the line can actually be a good thing, especially when using line as light as to pound test and 4 pound test.

Anglers can click this link to shop Amazon for monofilament fishing line

Terminal tackle and lures for brook trout

brook trout tackle

Anglers spin fishing for brook trout will catch them using both natural and artificial baits. Top live baits include worms, grubs, and minnows. There are quite a few prepared baits that are quite effective on brook trout as well and are easier to store and use. Artificial lures certainly catch plenty of Brook trout, with tiny spinners and spoons being the top baits.

Terminal tackle

Anglers who choose to fish for brook trout with live bait or prepared baits including eggs will only need a very small supply of hooks, floats, and pinch on weights. The best hooks to use when brook trout fishing are small thin wire live bait hooks in sizes #8, #10, and #12. A couple tiny floats and a few bags of very small split shot will complete the tackle required to fish for brook trout with live bait.

Best brook trout fishing lures

Brook trout will certainly take artificial lures. The top two artificial lure types for brook trout fishing are spinners and spoons. These lures are very easy to cast and use on light spinning tackle. Tiny plugs can also be used to catch brook trout. Finally, small jigs are used by some anglers as well.

best trout tackle

Spinners

Spinners are simple yet very effective lures for brook trout and just about every other species in freshwater. They are particularly effective in rivers where the current will cause the blade to rotate. A spinner is basically a shaft with a blade that rotates around, a small body, and a hook that is usually dressed with hair.

There are many different lure manufacturers offer spinners. Capt. Jim’s favorite by far when fishing for brook trout and other species in small streams and rivers is the Worden’s Original Rooster Tail spinner. The thing that differentiates it from other lures in its class is the light weight. The spinners are extremely light which results in less snags when fishing small streams, creeks, and rivers.

brook trout fishing

Rooster tail spinners are available in a wide variety of colors and several sizes. In most brook trout fishing situations, a brightly colored body with a gold blade works best. In very clear water, a white body with a silver blade can be more effective. 1/16 ounce is a good size in small creeks while 1/8 ounce is an excellent all round size for larger streams or where larger brook trout are available.

rooster tail

Anglers can click this link to shop Amazon for Rooster Tail spinners

Spoons

Tiny spoons are also very effective lures for anglers fishing for brook trout. A spoon is basically a curved piece of metal with a hook in it. The shape and size of the spoon will determine the action that it has. There are many spoons that are productive for brook trout fishing, however Capt. Jim’s favorite is the Acme Phoebe spoon.

Once again, the aspect of this spoon that is different from others is the fact that it is so light. This makes it easier to fish in very shallow streams without hanging up. The 1/8 ounce size in a gold finish is by far the most popular brook trout fishing spoon.

phoebe spoon

Anglers can click this link to shop Amazon for a gold Phoebe spoon

 

A close second would be the Acme Kastmaster spoon. It is best used on larger streams that have deep holes. It is also a better lure for anglers fishing in ponds and lakes for brook trout. It is an excellent trolling lure as well.

kastmaster

Anglers can click this link to shop Amazon for a Kastmaster spoon

Plugs

Small plugs can be extremely effective brook trout fishing lures and will usually attract larger specimens. Most anglers that are fishing for trout with plugs are targeting larger fish. This means that they will get less bites, but are often rewarded with a trophy fish. Capt. Jim’s favorite brook trout fishing plug is the Rapala Ultralight Floating Minnow.

This bait floats on the surface than dives down a foot or two upon retrieve. It has a very erratic action that entices trout to strike it. One downside is that it does come with treble hooks, which can result in more harm to the fish when being released. Silver with the black back and gold with a black back are the two best color patterns. This is also an excellent lure that anglers can use when trolling in lakes.

Rapala Ultralight floating minnow

Anglers can click this link to shop Amazon for Rapala Ultralight minnow plugs

Jigs

Tiny hair or plastic tail jigs can be effective brook trout fishing lures as well. They very realistically imitate crayfish and larger they as a are bounced along the bottom. Tiny jigs are also used by anglers ice fishing with great success. The one downside to fishing with jigs in streams and rivers is that anglers will hang up often and lose a fair amount of baits.

Fly fishing tackle for brook trout

Many anglers choose to pursue brook trout with fly fishing tackle. Fly fishing for brook trout is fun, while being challenging and rewarding at the same time. Entire books have been written on fly fishing for trout, and even fly fishing for brook trout. Therefore, fly fishing tackle and gear for brook trout will be covered briefly.

As with spin fishing, the best approach is to go light on the tackle. A 3wt outfit is a good all-around rod and reel combination. However, anglers can certainly go lighter if needed. This is particularly true when fishing for brook trout and tiny, high mountain streams. Those fish are not very large and the foliage can make using a longer heavier rod challenging.

Anglers can click this link to shop Amazon for an entry level 3wt fly fishing outfit

With fly fishing, the rod and line are much more important than the reel. In most cases, anglers will not use the fishing reel to land the fish, it basically just stores the line. Both lines and rods come in weight designations. This makes it very easy to make sure that the proper line is used with a matching rod. In the vast majority of fly fishing situations, a floating line is the best choice.

Fly line is thick and easy to see. Therefore, a leader is used between the end of the fly line and the fly. Anglers should go as light as possible with the leader size. This will result in more takes as brook trout are less apt to see the line. A 9 foot long 8x leader is a good all-around choice. 8X results in a tippet strength of about 2 lb test. However when brook trout are being especially fussy, anglers will often have to bump up the leader length to 12 feet long.

Fly selection can be both simple and extremely complicated. As mentioned above, and tire books have been written on the subject. Some flies float on the surface of the water while others sink. These are called dry flies and wet flies respectively. The best approach for any novice angler when fly fishing for brook trout is to visit a local fly shop. They will have the best selection of flies that are effective in that area along with current conditions.

In conclusion, this article on the best brook trout fishing tackle will help anglers understand the best equipment that is needed when pursuing these gorgeous and hard fighting little game fish!

Best Lake Trout Fishing Tackle and Gear

Best Lake Trout Fishing Tackle and Gear

This article will highlight the best lake trout fishing tackle and gear. Lake trout are found in the northern parts of north America. They prefer cold and clear water and are usually found in large bodies of water. Anglers ice fishing catch plenty of lake trout as well. Lake trout grow quite large, the world record is just over 100 pounds! In order to be successful, anglers need the correct lake trout fishing tackle.

lake trout fishing tips

Anglers need a variety of tackle to cover the situations that lake trout will be found and caught. Lake trout are caught on a variety of techniques and they vary greatly in size, depending on the fishery. Most lake trout are caught by anglers trolling. Vertical jigging is second in popularity. Lake trout can be caught in shallow water by anglers casting, though this is a distant third when it comes to lake trout fishing.

Angler can read more about ice fishing for lake trout in this article by Capt Jim.

ice fishing for lake trout

In this article, lake trout tackle and gear will be covered by the three primary techniques; trolling, jigging, and casting. Some of the lures and tackle overlap, but it is different enough to be covered in separate sections.

Lake trout trolling tackle and gear

lake trout fishing tackle

Trolling accounts for more lake trout than any other technique. There are a couple of reasons for that. Lake trout are often caught in very deep water. Trolling is the only effective way to present a lure that deep. Also, lake trout are a bit nomadic and anglers need to cover a lot of water to find them. Trolling is the best way to do that.

Trolling rods for deep water lake trout fishing

Trolling rods are generally fairly long with a medium or soft action. Unlike casting rods, which are “fast”, meaning they are stiff through much of their length, trolling rods are usually limber. This allows for more “cushion” when a big lake trout hits or makes a run close to the boat. Long, soft rods are more forgiving. These are the best chouce for trolling in deep water using sinkers and downriggers. The St Croix Eyecon series are excellent lake trout trolling rods.

best lake trout fishing tackle and gear

Anglers can click on this link to shop Amazon for St. Croix Eyecon rods

Anglers seeking a less expensive option can choose the Daiwa Accudepth series of fishing rods. These are excellent rods that are usually under $50, that is a great price for quality tackle. Below is a link to a rod that is very versatile. It is 8′ 6” long with a medium action.

Anglers can click on this link to shop Amazon for Daiwa Accudepth rods

Trolling rods for shallow water lake trout fishing

There are times when lake trout can be found in fairly shallow water. This is usually just after the ice clears in spring and again in fall before it freezes over. Lake trout will move shallow to feed. Anglers can troll spoons and plugs on a flat line without the need for weights or a downrigger. This outfit can also be used to troll for walleye and other species as well. The 7′ 6” medium light Daiwa Accudepth rod is perfect for this at a great price.

lake trout fishing tackle

Anglers can click on this link to shop Amazon for a light Accudepth trolling rod

Best reels for lake trout trolling

Conventional reels are the best choice for anglers trolling for lake trout and other species. Casting is not required. Again, the Daiwa Accudepth series of reels is an excellent choice. They have line counters built in so that anglers know exactly how much line is out. The 17 size is perfect for the light trolling rod, while the 27 and 47 sizes are better for heavier rods.

Anglers can click on this link to shop Amazon for Daiwa Accudepth trolling reels

Best line for lake trout fishing

trolling for lake trout

Anglers have two choices when it comes to fishing line for lake trout; braided and monofilament line. Braid is thinner for it’s strength which allows anglers to get their lures down deeper. It is also much more expensive. Many anglers actually prefer the stretch of monofilament, especially when trolling. There really is no “correct” choice, it really is a personal preference.

Anglers can click on this link to shop Amazon for Braided line

Anglers can click on this link to shop Amazon for Monofilament line

Best lake trout trolling lures

The three basic types of lures that anglers use when trolling for lake trout are plugs, spoons, and spinners. All are used to mimic bait fish, which is the primary forage of lake trout. They feed on ciscoes, suckers, perch, and other fish. While there are too many effective lake trout fishing lures to list, a couple of the top producing lures of each type will be listed.

lake trout

Best lake trout plugs

Plugs come in a myriad of different sizes, shapes, and colors. Two of the best plugs for lake trout are the T-60 Flatfish and the Rapala Husky Jerk. These lures can be trolled on a “flat line”, without weight as well as behind a weighted rig. Both lures are available in a wide range of colors. The Flatfish has an excellent wobbling action. Anglers use the shallow diving Husky Jerk behind a downrigger and the deep diving models on a flat line.

flatfish

Anglers can click on this link to shop Amazon for Flatfish lures

husky jerk

Anglers can click on this link to shop Amazon for Rapala Husky Jerk lures

Best spoons for lake trout trolling

tackle for lake trout fishing

Spoons are extremely effective lake trout lures. They put out a ton of flash and wobble and very realistically mimic a wounded bait fish. There are many excellent spoons, with Eppinger Daredevil and Crokodile spoons being two of the top spoons for lake trout fishing.

daredevil

Anglers can click on this link to shop Amazon for Eppinger spoons

Krocodile spoon

Anglers can click on this link to shop Amazon for Krocodile spoons

Best spinners for lake trout fishing

fishing for lake trout

Most freshwater anglers are familiar with spinners. A spinner has a flashing blade that rotates around a shaft and most often a dressed hook. Mepps in the industry leader and offers a wide selection of spinners. In the Great Lakes region, Spin-N-Glo lures are extremely popular.

mepps

Anglers can click on this link to shop Amazon for Mepps Spinners

spin-n-glo

Anglers can click on this link to shop Amazon for Spin-N-Glo lures

Leaders and flashers and dodgers

Anglers will need to run leaders off of swivels and between dodgers (or flashers) and the lures. A dodger is a flat piece of metal that adds flash and action to the lure. It is placed a few feet in front of the lure, with the leader in between. In most cases, 20 lb flourocarbon line will cover most lake trout fishing applications.

Anglers can click this link to shop Amazon for dodgers

Anglers can click this link to shop Amazon for leader material

Other trolling gear

Alberta fishing tips

There are a few other pieces of gear that anglers will need to troll for lake trout, especially in deeper water. These include bottom machines, downriggers, lead core lines, and planers. These devices will get the lure down to the desired depth.

Bottom machines/fish finders

A quality sonar unit is an absolute must for any angler lake trout fishing. It will mark fish and bait along with structure breaks and even temperature changes. Fortunately, these machines are fairly inexpensive, given the quality. Serious anglers may spend several thousand dollars. However, a quality unit can be purchases for a few hundred dollars.

Anglers can click on the link to shop Amazon for sonar units

Downriggers

Downriggers were basically invented by Great Lakes anglers to present their lures at the desired depth. They consist of an arm, a reel, a cable, and a heavy ball. Manual downriggers are great for casual anglers while serious trollers opt for electric downriggers. Cannon is THE name in downriggers and offers a unit for every angler.

Anglers can click on this link to shop Amazon for Cannon downriggers

Lead core lines

Lead core lines are another method used by anglers trolling for lake trout. They are heavy and the depth is controlled by the length and number of segments used. Some anglers find them cumbersome, but they are effective and do not require downriggers or weights.

Anglers can click on this link to shop Amazon for lead core lines

Planers are devices that dive down into the water. They depth is determined by the location of the line ties. The lure follows along behind a leader. Some even “trip” when a fish strikes. Dipsey Divers are the most recognizable and popular examples of these units.

Anglers can click on this link to shop Amazon for Dipsey Divers

Best tackle for vertically jigging for lake trout

tackle for trolling

The second most popular method for fishing for lake trout is vertically jigging. This is a very effective technique when fish are located in a smaller area or for methodically working a piece of structure such as a ledge or reef. Spoons are the top lure, with a buck tail jig being the second choice. Live bait can be used with the same tackle as well.

Best lake trout jigging rod

The rods used for jigging are different than trolling rods. These are shorter with a “fast” action. This means the rod is stout at the butt and most of the way up the rod. The rod tapers quickly (thus the term “fast”) at the tip. This type of rod allows for good action and feel along with the power to handle a big fish. St Croix offers an Eyecon rod specifically designed for vertically jigging.

Anglers can click on this link to shop Amazon for  St. Croix Eyecon jigging rods

Best lake trout jigging reel

Again, conventional, or baitcasting reels are the best choice for vertical jigging. No casting is required, the lure is just lowered down in the water. Baitcasting reeks offer excellent power, fast retrieve ratios, and good drag systems. The Shimano Tekota 30 is an excellent reel for jigging and trolling. The 300 size works well with the Eyecon rod.

Anglers can click on this link to shop Amazon for Shimano Tekota 300 reels

Best lake trout jigging lures

The two best jigging lures for anglers fishing for lake trout are spoons and jigs. A white buck tail jig is an excellent lure for jigging for lake trout. 2 ounces is a good all round size. Anglers can add a soft plastic trailer for action and bulk. A strip of cut bait can be used as well. The same lures used for trolling are fine for vertically jigging as well.

Anglers can click on this link to shop Amazon for Spro buck tail jigs

Anglers can click on this link to shop Amazon for Eppinger spoons

Anglers can click on this link to shop Amazon for Crocodile spoons

Best casting tackle for lake trout

There are certain times of year when lake trout can be caught by anglers casting lures or live baits. Lake trout will move in shallow early and late in the season. Anglers can cast diving plugs, spoons, and jigs as well as live bait. The best rod and reel combination is a medium light spinning rod and matching reel, 3000 is a good size. Most anglers already own a suitable combo, but here in a good Zebco Quantum outfit for around $80.

Anglers can click on this link to shop Amazon for A Zebco Quantum rod and reel

In conclusion, this article on the best lake trout fishing tackle and gear will help anglers get the proper equipment needed to be successful!

 

Best Musky Fishing Tackle, a Guide to Rods, Reels, and Lures

Best Musky Fishing Tackle , a Guide to Rods, Reels, and Lures

This article will thoroughly cover the best musky fishing tackle. Many anglers consider musky, properly called muskellunge, the top freshwater game fish in North America. They certainly are apex predators. The “fish of ten thousand casts” grow large; the world record is 67 pounds! Musky are very challenging, but the effort may be rewarded with the fish of a lifetime! In order to be successful, anglers need the correct musky fishing tackle.

musky fishing tackle

As mentioned above, musky grow quite large. They prefer a substantial meal and feed primarily on smaller fish. These include suckers, perch, bluegill, shad, and small game fish. Therefore, the lures used to catch them are fairly heavy. This requires anglers to use stout tackle when in search of a trophy musky.

The best musky fishing tackle is a heavy baitcasting rod and reel. It is well suited to casting large, heavy lures that musky prefer. Baitcasting reels have excellent drag systems, which aid in fighting a big fish. The reels also handle heavy line better.These are the reasons that a heavy baitcasting rod and reel is the preferred choice of musky anglers.

However, quality spinning tackle will get the job done for anglers that prefer to use it. A 7′ to 7 1/2′ medium heavy spinning rod and 4000 size reel is a good combination. The same outfits will work well for large northern pike, too.

Best Musky rods

best musky fishing tackle

Anglers fishing for musky need to use heavy tackle. Rods should be at least 7 feet long with a heavy, but fast action. A “fast” action rod is beefy at the butt section and most of the way up the rod, but has a limber tip. This helps greatly when casting lures and fighting a large fish. Several manufacturers, including St Croix, which Capt Jim prefers, make quality musky rods at a reasonable price.

Most musky rods are one piece. This makes storing them more difficult, but they are also much stronger. Rods often break at the joints where they go together. One piece rods eliminates that. Below is a link to a St Croix musky baitcasting rod that is available in 7′ and 7′ 6″ lengths. It is an excellent rod for the cost.

Anglers can shop Amazon from this link for St Croix musky baitcasting rods

Spinnerbait fishing

Spinning rods can certainly be used by anglers fishing for musky. Longer rods work a bit better in this application. St Croix offers an excellent musky spinning rod at a reasonable price. It is 8′ long with a medium heavy, fast action.

Anglers can click this link to shop Amazon for St Croix musky spinning rods

Best musky fishing reels

Anglers should purchase the best reel that he or she can afford. This is not the place to skimp and save a few dollars. A quality reel will last for decades with proper care. Quality baitcasting and spinning reels are in the $200 range, plus or minus. Below is a link to a Shimano Calcutta 400B baitcasting reel, which is Capt Jim’s preferred casting reel.

fishing for musky

Anglers can click on this link to shop Amazon for Calcutta baitcasting reels.

Spinning reels should be fairly large when fishing for musky. The Daiwa Black Gold series was designed for saltwater and works great for musky fishing. It has quality components with excellent drag and bail systems. The 4500 is a good match for the St Croix rod above.

Anglers can click on this link to shop Amazon for Daiwa Black gold spinning reels

Best musky fishing line

Anglers fishing in freshwater have several choices when choosing fishing line. Monofilament, flourocarbon, and braided line are all used. When it comes to fishing for musky, almost everyone used braided line. Braided line is much thinner than monofilament line of the same strength.

best river fishing lures

Braided line has several advantages over monofilament line. It casts further, has excellent sensitivity, is very strong, and lasts a long time. The only downsides are initial cost and knots are a bit more difficult to tie. Most musky anglers opt for 40 lb to 60 lb braided line. Capt Jim prefers Power Pro braided line for freshwater fishing.

Anglers can click on this link to shop Amazon for Power Pro line

Best musky fishing lures

While musky can certainly be caught using live bait, most are caught by anglers casting lures. Most of these are larger versions of lures designed for bass and other species. Muskellunge have a mouth full of teeth. For this reason, most anglers use a 12” to 18” steel leader. This also results in quick and easy lure changes.

1) Mepps Musky Killer

musky killer

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The Mepps Musky Killer is aptly named! It is number one on our list of top X musky fishing lures. In terms of musky Lures, it is fairly light, coming in at a little less than an ounce. It is 7 inches long. The Mepps Musky Killer is a legend amongst veteran musky anglers. It will catch fish and just about every situation and in any location. It is large enough to attract trophy musky while being light enough to cast for hours at a time.

This is a very versatile lure. It can be fished on or near the surface or as deep as 10 feet. The Musky Killer can be cast or trolled. It will catch fish in all seasons as well. They come in a wide variety of color patterns to match the local forage. In the waning light of late afternoon, a gold blade with a brown and orange tail is a good all-around combination.

One great thing about the Musky Killer is that it is very easy to use. The blades rotate easily, putting out a lot of flash and vibration. All the angler does is cast out, allow it to sink to the desired depth, then reel it back in using a steady rhythmic retrieve. As with all fishing, angler should vary the speed until a productive pattern emerges.

2) Eppinger Daredevil

daredevil

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The Eppinger Daredevil is another iconic fishing lure. While most anglers associate it with northern pike, is extremely effective on musky as well. Most anglers go with the 1 ounce size, which is about 3 3/4 inches long. Like the Mepps lure above, it is relatively light in terms of a musky lure. This makes it fairly easy to cast for a long period of time. Some may consider it a nuisance, but as an added bonus it will catch plenty of northern pike along the way.

These spoons have a lot of built in action, making them easy to use for most anglers. The lure is cast out and allowed to sink a few seconds, then reeled back in using a steady retrieve, with some twitches and pauses in between. Again, the retrieve should be varied until a bite occurs. It is fairly versatile, and can be used over submerged weed beds, along weed lines, and even deeper around structure breaks such as channel edges and points.

The old school red and white daredevil spoon has caught a lot of fish over the decades. It is still a good choice for musky today. However, some anglers have gone to some of the more modern colors and finishes. Silver is a good choice on sunny days while gold works best on cloudy days and under other low light conditions. It is a versatile and durable bait that should be in every musky anglers tackle box!

3) Booyah Pikee Spinnerbait

pikee

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The Booyah Pikee Spinnerbait is another very productive musky fishing lure. Again, this is a fairly light baits coming in at just over one half an ounce. This makes it a great choice for anglers who prefer to use spinning tackle or don’t have the stamina to cast a heavy lure all day long. Don’t let the size for you, it will catch plenty of trophy musky!

Most anglers choose models with bright colors. It has large blades which put out a lot of flash and vibration. This bait is specifically designed by Booyah for musky fishing, therefore it is a bit more durable than other baits made for bass and pike. It is a fairly easy lure to use with a ton of built in action. Steady retrieve’s work best in a can be worked throughout the entire water column. Spinner baits are also a bit more weedless than spoons and in line spinners, making them an excellent choice and heavier weeds.

4) Musky Double Cowgirl

double cowgirl

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This bait made by Musky Mayhem is another excellent musky lure with a proven track record. It is very durable and built to last and is one of the best spinners for musky. It is number four on the list of top X musky fishing lures. This is an excellent bait for novice anglers as it has a ton of built in action and all that is required to catch fish is a slow steady retrieve.

This is a larger bait, coming in at around 10 inches long and weighing close to 3 ounces. The pair of blades put out a ton of flash and vibration, even at slower speeds. It is an excellent lure to try when the sun is out and the musky are a bit less aggressive. It is excellent when fished over and through submerged weed beds as well is around other cover such as sunken trees and submerged rock piles.

5) Whopper Plopper

whopper plopper

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The Whopper Plopper is a relative newcomer to the fishing game, compared to some of these other old-school baits. However, it is extremely effective. This is a top water lure. It puts out a ton of commotion on the surface due to its concave face along with the action of the tail.

These baits are very effective at pulling fish out of deeper weed beds. It is an excellent choice in the summer time when water temperatures are a bit higher. The commotion of this bait will draw some heart stopping strikes! If there is one drawback to this lure, it is that it is not as durable as some others. However, this will not be an issue when a trophy musky grabs!

6) Suick Thriller

suick thriller

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The Suick Thriller has been around almost a century. It truly is one of the original musky fishing lures and belongs in every serious musky anglers tackle box. It is a proven veteran still catches plenty of fish to this day. The Suick Thriller comes in several different sizes, ranging from 7 inches long to 10 inches long. Unlike some other lures, the Suick Thriller does not have much built in action, the angler must impart it to the lure.

This is basically a jerk bait. It is very effective when ripped through weed beds and is a very durable bait as well. It is perhaps not the best choice for novice anglers, as it does take a bit of practice to master the rhythmic retrieve that is required to catch fish. However, the effort put in to learn how to use this bait will pay off with trophy musky.

7) Reef Hawg

reef hawg

The Reef Hawg is in the family of glide baits. They are not as popular as they used to be, but are still very effective. This lure is made to work deeper than some of the other lures listed above. They can be used for both casting and trolling and are a good choice in cooler months when there is less weed growth and the fish have moved a bit deeper.

8) Lixada swimbait

lixada

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This segmented, multi-jointed lure is a bit of a combination between a crank bait in a swim bait. These segments cause a to swim in a very lifelike manner. The bait sinks slow enough that it can be worked both near the surface and at deeper depths. It is a very durable bait with large, quality treble hooks.

In most instances, a slow steady retrieve a few feet below the surface works best. This is particularly true over submerged weed beds. The flash in action are astounding and this is a proven musky lure. This is a big bait, coming in at a full foot long and almost half a pound. Smaller versions of this lure are available, too.

9) #14 Rapala Shad Rap

shad rap

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This large crank bait is a very productive musky fishing lure that is popular with many anglers. It is a heavy bait and is effective when both cast and trolled. The yellow perch and fire tiger patterns work well. It has a lot of built in action. A slow steady retrieve with some hard jerks and pauses generally works best. Slow trolling with this bait is very effective in the wintertime.

10) Blitz Bite Jointed Minnow

blitx bite

The Blitz Bite Jointed Minnow is another very lifelike swim bait style lure. Anglers can tell from the first glance at it is a quality bait. It is 8 inches long and weighs 3 ounces. Like most of these lures in this family, a slow steady retrieve works best. The lure will swim through the water in a very natural manner. The bait is made from plastic and is fairly durable, all things considered.

11) #14 Rapala Husky Jerk

husky jerk

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Rapala is the name in the industry when it comes to jerk baits. It is no exception when it comes to musky fishing as well. That is why the #14 Husky Jerk finishes off the list of the top 11 musky fishing lures. This is a long and slender bait that is fairly easy to cast and work all day. It comes in a variety of colors, with gold and fire tiger being proven finishes.

The key to the effectiveness of this lure is its ability to suspend in the water column. The angler retrieves the bait for a few feet then twitch is it hard followed by a pause. During this pause, the bait hangs there, seemingly motionless and helpless. This is often times when the fish attacks! It works well when either cast or troll. It also has a rattle and it as well.

Musky fishing tips

While musky are certainly not easy to catch, there are a few tips which will help anglers be more successful. Part of the allure and satisfaction of musky fish and is understanding how difficult and challenging they are to catch. It was easy, anyone could do it! Most anglers consider musky fish in the pinnacle of cold water freshwater fishing.

Most anglers with any experience musky fishing know about the “figure 8” technique. Musky are famous for following a lure all the way to the boat but not eating. At the end of each cast, anglers put their rod tip in the water and with the lure a few feet behind do several figure eights in the water. It is amazing how many musky have been hooked right at the boat using this technique.

Another helpful tip is to concentrate musky fishing on the prime times. For whatever reason, musky do not seem to feed well in the morning. Therefore, there is no need to get up at the crack of dawn and cast for an extra six hours. It is best to concentrate musky fishing in the afternoon hours as the light wanes. Cloudy, drizzly days are good as well.

Many anglers combine musky fishing with some other type of fishing. For example, they might get up at first light and through top water plugs for bass, then switch to jigging the bottom for walleye mid-day. After a good lunch and a nap, they can then hit the water hard for musky. Most anglers simply can’t cast these big heavy lures all day long. Therefore, it is best to maximize the opportunity and concentrate on the prime fishing times.

In conclusion, this article on the best musky fishing tackle will help anglers catch more of these incredible freshwater game fish!

 

 

Best Northern Pike Fishing Tips and Tackle

Best Northern Pike Fishing Tips and Tackle

The topic of this article will be northern pike fishing tips and tackle. Northern Pike are an apex predator and are one of the most popular freshwater species in the northern portions of the United States and Canada. These fish grow quite large, with the record in North America being 46 pounds. However, specimens 270 pounds have been caught in Europe. In order to be successful, anglers need the correct northern pike fishing tackle.

northern pike fishing tackle and tips

The best northern pike fishing tackle is a medium heavy spinning or baitcasting rod and reel. Pike grow large and are often caught in heavy cover. They also prefer larger baits and lures. These combine to require anglers to use stout tackle when fishing for northern pike.

Northern pike are perfectly suited for their environment. The best They are long and torpedo shaped with a color pattern that camouflages perfectly in the weedy areas that they feed. While pike have a varied diet, they feed primarily on smaller fish. These include but are not limited to suckers, sunfish, yellow perch, shad, and more. They will take amphibians such as frogs off of the surface and will even eat small mammals including mice and ducks.

top 10 northern pike fishing lures

Pike are most active in fairly cold water. They are a top species for anglers ice fishing. A comprehensive article on ice fishing for northern pike can be found in this link. Northern pike and be caught by anglers using a variety of techniques. Some anglers prefer to fish with live bait. Many cast artificial lures in search of pike. Trolling with either live bait or artificial lures is a good way to catch a trophy pike as well.

Best fishing rods and reels for northern pike

As in all forms of fishing, anglers must have the proper rod and reel in order to be successful northern pike fishing. The two basic choices are spinning and bait casting tackle. Spin casting, or push button reels, really have no place for this type of fishing, the reels just are not strong enough.

Spinning tackle is certainly a fine choice for anglers chasing northern pike. The rod should be a bit longer and a bit more stout than what is normally used for fishing for bass and other species. Not only are the fish fairly large, but so are the lures used to fool them. A 7 foot to 7 1/2 foot medium action spinning rod with a 4000 series reel is an excellent all around combination.

While spinning tackle is the most often used type of tackle in freshwater fishing, conventional, or bait casting outfits are used by more serious anglers pike fishing. Bait casting reels have a couple of advantages over spinning reels. They provide more power, since the line does not have to turn 90° when it hits spool. The retrieve ratios are usually faster too, which helps on a long day of casting. Finally, the drags are a bit higher in quality. A rod that is 7 feet long with a medium heavy action and a matching reel is a good choice for pike fishing.

Fishing line and leader choices

Anglers have a couple of choices when it comes to fishing line. While monofilament line is a good choice in many fishing applications, most anglers opt for braided line when northern pike fishing. Braided line has no stretch, which allows anglers to horse a heavy pike away from cover. Braided line also cuts through grass much better than monofilament line. In most cases, northern pike are not line shy, so 40 pound test braided line is a good choice.

Anglers will need a leader when northern pike fishing as well. Pike have a mouthful of very sharp teeth. For that reason, many anglers use a 12 inch steel leader. These come with a swivel on one end and a snap swivel on the other, which makes lore changes fast and easy. When fishing very clear water or when pike are fussy, anglers will exchange the steel leader for a fluorocarbon leader. This will almost certainly result in a few and lures lost, however the trade often bites might be worth it.

Northern pike fishing with live bait

Northern Pike can certainly be used by anglers fishing with live bait. The number one bait for pike by far is a live minnow. A 4 inch to 6 inch sucker is the preferred bait in many areas. However, each region has different bait fish that are effective as well as being legal to fish. It is important to check local fishing regulations to determine if treble hooks are allowed and also what types of bait fish are legal to use.

Minnesota walleys and pike fishing

Most anglers fishing with live bait fish for pike simply fish them under a float. Since pike are almost always found in submerged weed beds, the float can be used to suspend the bait just above the top of the weeds. As it struggles against the float to get down into the weeds, it will attract a hungry pike. Depending on local laws, anglers can use a large J hook or a treble hook. There are special harnesses available that consists of a wire leader and multiple hooks as well.

Fishing for northern pike with artificial lures

While northern pike can be caught by anglers fishing with live bait, the vast majority of those targeting pike do so using artificial lures. There are several reasons for this. Lures allow anglers to cover a lot more water than they can when using live bait. Secondly, lures take advantage of the aggressive nature of northern pike. The flash and vibration will often trigger a strike. Finally, lures are just a lot of fun to fish!

pike fishing

The most productive northern pike fishing lures are very similar to those used by largemouth bass anglers. The primary difference is that they are a bit larger and that the hardware, including hooks is a bit more stout. As mentioned above, pike grow quite large, have a lot of teeth, enter hard on artificial lures. The top artificial lures for northern pike fishing will be listed below.

Fishing for pike with spoons

There is little doubt what the top artificial lure for northern pike fishing is; a spoon. Spoons are simple lures which are basically curved pieces of metal with a hook in them. The shape and design of the spoon will determine the action that it has. Wider spoons put out a slow rhythmic wobble while narrow spoons put out a tighter vibration. These are versatile lures that can be both cast and trolled. They are also very effective when vertically jigged both in open water and through the ice.

pike fishing

Spoons are very easy to fish. This makes them an excellent choice for novice anglers to use. Basically, the lure is cast out, allowed to sink a few seconds, then reeled back in. It really is that simple. Anglers can add some short twitches and pauses to increase the flash and vibration.

The Eppinger Daredevil spoon is a legendary northern pike fishing lure. It has been around for decades and has accounted for untold numbers of northern pike. It continues to be effective to this day. Red and white and five of diamonds are two proven color combinations. However, the spoons are offered in a variety of colors and finishes.

The Johnson Silver Minnow is another very effective spoon. It differs from the one above and that it is a weedless spoon. It has a single hook with a weed guard. In the water, it runs with the body side down and the hook writing up. This combination makes it relatively weedless that can be fished in very heavy vegetation. Anglers will often add a soft plastic trailer of some sort to add both bulk and vibration.

Inline spinners are effective lures

Inline spinners have been around for a long time. They are a favorite lure for many freshwater fishing anglers. In-line spinners work well for northern pike, too. They are an especially good choice for anglers chasing northern pike where weeds are not so thick. Fishing in in-line spinner and thick weeds can be frustrating, as it will hang up often. The number one in-line spinner for northern pike fishing is the Mepps Musky Killer Spinner.

Spinnerbaits for pike

Spinnerbaits are very effective on northern pike as well. Like spoons, they are easy to use and are an excellent chance for anglers of all skill levels. A spinner bait has a wireframe with the blades on the top and some type of body on the bottom. The design results in a bait that is fairly weedless and will bounce over and through structure. It can be worked at all depths from the surface all the way to the bottom.

spinnerbait fishing for pike

The number one spinner bait for northern pike by far is the BooYah Pikee Spinnerbait. The main thing that sets this apart from other quality spinner baits is the hardware. Pike are tough on artificial lures. This spinner bait will hold up better than most others for anglers northern pike fishing.

Top plugs for northern pike

A plug is a hard body lure, usually made of plastic, but sometimes carved from wood. Most are designed to mimic bait fish. They come in a wide variety of sizes, shapes, and colors. Some plugs float on the surface. These are called top water plugs. Others float on the surface and then dive down to a determined depth, based on the shape of the lip on the plug.

top pike lures

Noisy top water plugs are very effective when fishing for northern pike, particularly when the water is a bit warm. Pike will rise up out of the grass beds and blast a top water bait. Poppers will have a concave face which puts out a distinctive noise when twitched. Some baits have propellers which put out a lot of commotion on the surface. The Rapala Skitter Prop and Rapala Skitter Pop are both excellent top water lures for northern pike.

Lures that float on the surface and then dive down are often called jerk baits. This is especially true with lures that have a long slender design. The lure is worked fairly aggressively with hard jerks, which is how it gets its name. The erratic vibration along with the flash and action will often trigger strikes from fish that are not feeding. These are extremely effective when worked over the top of submerged weed beds for northern pike.

The two best subsurface fishing plugs for northern pike are the #10 Rapala X-Rap and the Rapala Super Shad Rap. They are available and multiple colors and finishes. Fire tiger is an excellent all round finish as it imitates yellow perch and other sunfish. Gold works well in stained water while silver is an excellent choice in clear water.

Soft plastic swimbaits

Soft plastic swim baits are excellent northern pike fishing lures. They are an excellent choice when the water is cold or and pike are a bit less active. The same applies to days when pike are finicky, such as those days with high pressure in clear sky following a cold front. These lures are a bit more subtle in their presentation. Bass Assassin makes an excellent line of soft plastic baits that can be rigged either on a swim bait hook or on a jig head.

Northern pike fishing tips

Northern Pike are usually not difficult to catch, once they are located. That is one of the reasons that artificial lures are so effective as they allow anglers to cover a lot of water and trigger strikes from the aggressive pike. Many fishing principles as far as holding locations apply to northern pike the same as they do two most other predatory species.

Find weeds, find pike

Northern pike are ambush predators. They lie in wait in cover then dart out to attack unsuspecting prey. Northern pike love weeds, and this is where the vast majority of fish are caught. One look at the body of a Pike will let an angler no both in color and in shape that it was built to feed in weeds.

northern pike

 

Coves that have expansive shallow flats and large patches of weeds are ideal spots that should hold northern pike. Pike are not overly fond of waves or current and will seek out these backwater areas much of the time. Also, these are the spots that panfish, perch, and other forage species will seek out.

Rocks and wood will hold fish

Successful anglers do not overlook rocks when northern pike fishing. This is particularly true on lakes that do not have expansive areas of weed growth. Large boulders in water between 5 feet deep and 10 feet deep are outstanding spots to fish for northern pike. Sloping main lake and tributary creek points with rock and gravel are always worth a few casts. Pike will use these points as roads to get from the deeper water to the shallow grass flats.

Northern Pike, like most game fish, will be found around wood. This includes docks and fallen trees or submerged timber for whatever reason, these areas often tend to attract larger fish. Anglers should thoroughly fish the structure from multiple angles.

Best times to fish for northern pike

Like most of freshwater fishing, the northern pike bite is best early and late in the day and on days with cloud cover. Pike have fixed pupils. This means that they cannot adjust to varying light conditions. They are fixed to see best under lowlight conditions. Periods of extremely bright sunlight, such as the day or two just after a passing front, will usually have pike hunkered down in the weeds and not in the mood to feed.

Conversely, the hours before a front arrives can be magical when northern pike fishing. These conditions will consist of a little bit of when, cloudy skies, and maybe even some light rainfall. Northern Pike will since the dropping barometric pressure and will usually feed heavily at this time. Aggressively fishing with large artificial lures may produce the pike of a lifetime!

In conclusion, this article on northern pike fishing tips and tackle will help anglers understand the tactics and tackle required to catch these terrific game fish!

 

Saltwater Fishing, Tips, Tackle, Techniques, and Species

Saltwater Fishing, Tips, Tackle, Techniques, and Species

Many anglers enjoy the sport of saltwater fishing. The coastline of the United States is quite accessible to anglers and offers a wide variety of fishing opportunities.

This article, “Saltwater Fishing, Tips, Tackle, Techniques, and species thoroughly covers all aspects of inshore saltwater fishing in the United Sates. However, the information is applicable all over the world. Saltwater fishing tackle is explained in great detail. Capt Jim shares the tips and techniques he has learned as a charter boat captain in Florida. A detailed list of saltwater species completes the article.

Sarasota fishing videos

Inshore saltwater fishing tackle

Like every hobby, equipment is required. My advice when it comes to fishing and tackle is similar to starting any other hobby. Anglers should purchase the best equipment that they can reasonably afford. Buying the cheapest equipment possible usually does not result in money saved. What normally happens is that the angler tires of the cheap equipment and spends money on the decent equipment at a later date.

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 can do so HERE on the PRODUCTS page.

 

Inshore saltwater fishing

Inshore saltwater fishing rods and reels

Let’s start with the most important components; the rod and reel. If I had to choose one outfit to fish with in inshore salt waters, it would be a 7 foot spinning rod with a 2500-3000 series reel. This outfit is heavy enough to fish around bridges and docks for bottom fish, while still being light enough to cast quarter ounce artificial lures. Anglers targeting larger species such as striped bass will need to go with heaver tackle.

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Rods come in different actions. I prefer a fast action rod. This means that the rod is stiff at the butt section and through most of the rod. However, it gets limber towards the tip. This type of rod has good backbone for setting the hook and handling a big fish. The lighter tip allows for easy casting, especially with light baits and lures. A rod with a slow action is no fun to fish with, in my opinion.

Many spinning reel manufacturers use a universal sizing system. The larger the number, the larger the real. Most 3000 series reels will be a very similar size between manufacturers. I personally like reels with large handles. Spinning reels are versatile and are the best choice for most anglers fishing and saltwater.

Conventional rods and reels for saltwater fishing

 

fishing report for Sarasota, Florida

Conventional outfits certainly have their place in saltwater fishing. They work well when casting heavier lures such as plugs. Light conventional outfits are also great for bottom fishing and light trolling. However, most anglers, particularly those new to the sport, will find spinning tackle the best tool for most inshore angling applications.

 

There are many different brands to choose from when it comes to rods and reels. Anglers will find that within a certain price range, the quality of the equipment is very similar. At this point it just becomes a matter of personal choice. Several manufacturers have a great reputation and saltwater. Penn, Shimano, and Quantum are just a few. While anglers can spend a lot of money on a rod and reel, a quality outfit can be had for a reasonable cost. Lew’s sells an excellent combo for a reasonable price.

Anglers can click this link to shop Amazon for a lew’s baitcasting combo

A light conventional rod and reel is a versatile rig that every inshore angler that fishes from a boat should have. It can be used to troll planers and larger lures as well as bottom fishing when stout tackle is required.

Anglers can shop for conventional outfits in this link to Amazon

Inshore saltwater fishing; line choices

Now that we have the rod and reel, it’s time to fill the spools. There are two basic line choices when it comes to fishing line; monofilament line and braided line. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. Monofilament is much less expensive. The disadvantages are that it will twist up and it has some stretch. It requires changing more often than monofilament. Knots are also easier to tie.

inshore saltwater fishing

Braided line is much more expensive. However, it will last a very long time. It also has zero stretch and great sensitivity. The downsides to braided line are that knots can be a little bit more difficult to tie and backlashes are extremely difficult to remove. On the 3000 series reels, I prefer 10 pound monofilament line or 20 pound braided line, depending on angler preference.

Inshore fishing in saltwater

The next order of business is the terminal end. I have a simple system that I like to use that is very efficient. A shock leader is required when fishing in saltwater. This is a short leader that is heavier than the main, or running, line. The shock leader will greatly reduce cutoffs and rub offs from fish. Most saltwater fish species will fray the line.

So, a 24 inch to 30 inch piece of fluorocarbon leader is tied to the running end of the line. Fluorocarbon leader is a bit more expensive, but it is worth the cost. It is much less visible in the water than inexpensive monofilament leader is.

striped bass fishing

 

The strength of the shock leader will be determined by water clarity and fish species being targeted. 30 pound test is a great all round choice and is what I use 90% of the time. I will bump it up when fishing for large snook or toothy Spanish mackerel. Conversely, I will drop it down when fishing for speckled trout or mangrove snapper in very clear water. Northern anglers will need to adopt the same strategy of choosing the leader based on species and water clarity.

The leader is attached to the line in one of two ways. A small black swivel can be used, this is the easiest method. However, many anglers prefer to tie the leader directly to the line. I prefer this and use a double uni-knot to do so.

I do prefer to double the end of the running line with the spider hitch before attaching the shock leader. This is especially important with monofilament line on the reel. The double line acts as a bit of a shock absorber, helping when a large fish is boat side. It also helps reduce the weakness that is created when two monofilament lines are tied together. It eliminates the need for a swivel.

Terminal fishing tackle for inshore saltwater fishing

So, now we are ready to go fishing! We have our rod spooled up with the shock leader attached. Now, we just need to tie something with a hook on it at the end of the line, whether it is a hook or artificial lure.

guide to inshore saltwater fishing

The beauty of this little rigging system is the simplicity. An angler may choose to tie on a top water plug first thing in the morning to take advantage of the dawn bite. Then, when that slows he or she can simply remove the plug and tie on a jig, spoon, or hook. This makes changing up the rig quick and easy. After several changes, the shock leader will become too short and it will need to be replaced.

Saltwater fishing hooks

Hooks come in a myriad of sizes and styles. However, saltwater anglers only need a few hook sizes and styles to get started. Several packages of #2, #1, #1/0, and #2/0 live bait hooks will cover most angling situations. Again, anglers targeting larger fish using larger baits will need to increase the hook size.

Many anglers have switched to using circle hooks. Circle hooks usually result in fewer fish being hooked deep. Most fish will be hooked in the corner of the mouth. Anglers using circle hooks can NOT set the hook! The line should just be tightened up and the fish will usually hook itself.

It is also a good idea to have several packages of #1/0 long shank hooks. These work really well when anglers get into a school of fish with teeth, such as bluefish and Spanish mackerel. Some flounder anglers prefer them as well.

Sinkers and weights

Sinker choice is pretty simple. The rule of thumb is to use the least amount of weight required to hold the bottom. Several bags of split shot, (these are very small pinch-on weights), along with sliding egg sinkers and bank sinkers is all that’s required. Sinker weight will depend on the water depth and current in the area that are being fished.

Egg sinkers have a hole running through the middle which allows the sinker to slide on the line. This lets the fish to pick up the bait and move off with it, without feeling the resistance of the weight. Surf anglers use a “fish finder” rig which allows for virtually the same thing. With that device, a pyramid sinker is clipped on, making it easy to change weights with current conditions.

Saltwater fishing with artificial lures

guide to inshore saltwater fishing

Jigs for inshore fishing

There is evidence pointing to the jig as being the first artificial fishing lure. A jig is basically a hook with some type of weight near the eye and a plastic tail or hair dressing. The lure is retrieved using a twitch and pause. This retrieve causes the jig to hop up then fall seductively through the water column. That is how it gets its name. Jigs can imitate both bait fish and crustaceans such as shrimp and crabs.

Jigs come in countless sizes, shapes, and colors. However, there are two basic styles. There is the jig and grub combo and bucktail style jigs. Both have their advantages. Jigs also come in numerous weights and lengths. Heavier jigs allow anglers to fish deeper water. As in all fishing, the jigs should match the available forage.

Fishing with the jig and grub combo

The jig and grub is very versatile. With this system, anglers purchase the jig heads and the plastic bodies separately. This allows for constant changing of colors and lengths as well as styles. This is a very productive system that works well anywhere on the planet.

blue fishing inshore

Here on the Gulf Coast of Florida where I fish, the jig and grub is the most popular artificial lure. One quarter ounce jig heads are the most often used size as the water is fairly shallow. Anglers fishing deeper water or places were current is present will need heavier jig heads. Red, white, and chartreuse are three of the more popular jig head colors. I personally don’t put a lot of emphasis on jig head color.

Soft plastic baits for saltwater fishing

Soft plastic tails are used with the jig. These also come in endless styles and colors. Shad tail, curly tail, paddle tail, and jerk worm styles all produce. While there are many different varieties, they all imitate either a bait fish or a crustacean of some sort. A jig head with a shad tail body is probably the most commonly used combination.

Sarasota speckled trout fishing

Shad tails and curly tail grubs have a great built in action. The tails look very natural when they are moving through the water. Curly tails are more popular in fresh water while shad tails are the choice in salt. Paddle tails and jerk worms require the action to be imparted by the angler.

Hair jigs

Hair jigs are also very popular. Bucktail jigs were the original types used and were made from deer hair. They are still available and are still very effective. Freshwater anglers have used marabou hair on their jigs for decades. It has great action but does not hold up as well as buck tail does in salt water.

inshore fishing in Saltwater

Synthetic hair jigs have become very popular in the last 10 or 15 years. They work well and are more durable than some of the other dressings. A plastic “trailer” can be added to the hair jig to give it even more action.

Jigs catch just about every species on the planet. A jig can be used to mimic just about any type of forage that a fish feeds on. There are also several different techniques that anglers jig fishing use to be productive. Jigs can be cast, vertically fished, and trolled.

Jigging techniques when saltwater fishing

A vertical jig presentation catches a lot of fish. This technique is very easy to master. Vertical jigging is done in deeper water. The jig is simply dropped down to the bottom and then the lure is worked vertically. This action, where it hops up and falls naturally, is an effective presentation. Anglers do not even have to be able to cast to catch fish.

jig fishing for pompano

This is often done from a drifting boat. Drifting allows anglers to cover a lot of water efficiently. No time is wasted as the bait spends the entire time in the strike zone. Most fish are found on or near the bottom. Anglers can also use a trolling motor to work a drop off or other structure.

Freshwater anglers have been employing this technique for decades. Bass, walleye, striped bass, trout, and really any species that holds on deeper structure can be caught using this approach. However, it is not practical in shallow water as the boat will spook the fish.

Casting jigs

Most fish caught on jigs are done so by anglers casting. This is the most effective technique when fishing water ten feet deep or less or when fish are breaking on the surface. The jig is cast out, allowed to sink, and then worked back to the boat. The most productive retrieve is usually one where the jig is worked near the bottom.

Sarasota anglers

However, as with all lure fishing, the retrieve should be varied until a productive pattern emerges. At times, a steady “swimming” retrieve will produce well. When fish are working on the surface, a fast, erratic retrieve will usually work the best.

The jig and grub combo is by far the most popular lure along the southeast coastal United States. Anglers from Maryland to Texas use these baits to fool a variety of species. The low cost and versatility of the jig and grub combo makes them an easy choice.

Fishing jigs with live bait

Jigs can also be used in conjunction with live bait. This is a long proven technique in both fresh and salt water. In Florida where I guide, we often add a piece of shrimp to the lure. We call this “tipping the jig”. It can really make the difference when the water is cold or dirty. The extra scent helps the fish find the bait.

The jig and minnow has been producing fish for anglers for a long time. A buck tail jig with a small minnow hooked through the lips is a terrific combination. It is especially effective when drifting for flounder. The lure bait combo is deadly when slowly bounced along bottom structure. It can be cast out or vertically fished.

Trolling with jigs

Jigs can also be trolled effectively. I grew up in fishing the Chesapeake Bay. Anglers trolling white buck tail jigs for striped bass use them to achieve success. Bluefish and other species will take a trolled jig. The primary issue when trolling jigs is to make sure the lure does not spin, which will cause line twist.

trolling for striped bass

There are many lure manufacturers out there. They are will produce fish when presented properly. My personal favorite line of baits in from Bass Assassin. They make a wide variety of baits and colors that cover every angling application, from pan fish to salt water.

Scented soft plastic baits have become very popular, and with good reason. These baits produce for anglers jig fishing. The Gulp! line of baits is the industry leader, in my opinion. The Gulp! Shrimp has produced many fish for me and my clients over the years. They do cost a little bit more money, but on days when the bite is tough, they can make all of the difference.

Plugs are effective saltwater fishing lures

Sarasota Spanish mackerel fishing

I love fishing, but I really love plug fishing! The reason? Plugs are very productive on a wide variety of species and are a blast to use. Casting is half the fun; making accurate casts under trees or near docks is very satisfying and challenging. Bites range from subtle takes to downright ferocious strikes. Anglers need to take care, however. Anytime a lure with multiple treble hooks in involved, extra caution is required. Plugs come in many colors, shapes, and sizes, but can be broken down into two categories: surface or top water plugs and sub-surface baits.

Saltwater fishing with topwater plugs

Top water plugs come in two basic styles; poppers and walk the dog baits. Poppers are very easy to fish and are quite effective. The Rapala Skitter Pop, Rebel Pop R, and Chug Bug are three popular examples. These are floating baits that have a concave face. The technique is simple; cast it out, let it settle for a moment, then twitch the rod tip sharply causing the face of the plug to dig into the water and make a loud “pop”.

guide to inshore saltwater fishing

The famous Zara Spook is the best-known example of a walk-the-dog bait. The Rapala Skitterwalk is another effective bait. The retrieve is a bit more difficult to master. After being cast out, the rod tip is held down near the water and a rhythmic twitching retrieve causes the lure to dance back and forth on the surface.

A slow retrieve works best with topwater plugs

One common mistake anglers make plug fishing is working top water baits too quickly and aggressively. This is particularly true on a very calm day. Slow, subtle action will generally draw more strikes. Another mistake often made is striking too soon. The sight of a large predator blowing up on the top water plug is very exciting, often resulting in a reflex strike that pulls the lure out of the fishes mouth. Instead, waiting until the weight of the fish is felt and then setting the hook in a smooth, sideways manner will result in more hook-ups. This is much safer as well.

Fishing with sub-surface plugs

fishing with plugs

While a top water strike can be spectacular, more fish are caught on subsurface baits. Most of these lures float on the surface and dive down when retrieved. Primarily, the lip on the lure determines the depth the plug will run. However, line size and retrieval speed are also factors. Lure manufacturers will have the pertinent information on the box. Rapala X-Raps are my personal favorites.

Plugs are available in a wide variety of colors and sizes. Lures should be used that are designed to dive down to the desired depth. Anglers should match the size of the plug to the available forage. Olive is my favorite all-around color, but gold and black and chartreuse work great in stained water, and pearl and silver are very effective in clear water.

Suspending plugs can be deadly. They sink slowly and are worked back with a twitch and pause retrieve. That pause, where the bait just suspends, seemingly helpless, really triggers the strikes. Lipless crank baits, such as the Rattletrap are very easy to use. Just cast it out and reel it back in; they have a great built in action. Chrome with a blue back is the favorite color almost everywhere.

Trolling with plugs is effective when inshore saltwater fishing

best 6 Sarasota fishing lures

Trolling plugs is a great technique to locate fish when scattered about in a large area. This also works well with children and novice anglers; if they can hold rod they can catch a fish. This applies to the inshore bays, passes, and near shore open water. Simply let out half the line, close the bail, and drive the boat around just above idle speed. Sometimes working the rod tip will elicit more strikes.

One trick that served me well on charters when plug fishing is to troll the passes. The traditional method is to drift with the current and cast jigs plugs or spoons. Once the drift is complete the boat idles back up and drift is repeated. As you idle back to the start, why not drag plug behind? Many mornings I catch more Spanish mackerel this way, as they prefer a fast-moving bait.

Fishing with plugs in open water

fishing with plugs

Casting and trolling plugs in the inshore open bays, near shore Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean is an extremely effective technique in the spring through the fall when pelagic species move through. Anglers should look for birds and bait schools on the surface and troll around the edges of the bait, not right through the middle.

Sight casting to breaking fish is terrific sport! Spanish mackerel, bluefish, striped bass, false albacore, and other species will often be seen tearing up schools of helpless bait fish on the surface. Spanish will stay on top longer and not move as much as the albies. False albacore can also be very fussy; you may need to scale down the offering and go lighter on the leader. With all species, ease the boat into position and cast into the fish or troll around the edge of them and be prepared to hear your drag scream!

Inshore saltwater fishing with spoons

fishing report for Sarasota

Spoons are another simple, but effective fishing lure. Spoons are basically a piece of metal bent into the shape of a spoon with a hook in it. They wobble and flash and imitate wounded bait fish. Spoons come in metal finishes such as silver, gold, and copper and there are also painted spoons.

Fishing spoons come in two different varieties; casting spoons and trolling spoons. Both are extremely effective for certain game fish when presented properly. Casting spoons are usually wider and heavier. Trolling spoons are light and slender with a very tight “wiggle”. Both require the use of a swivel, otherwise line twist will become an issue.

Saltwater fishing with casting spoons

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Casting spoons come in a variety of weights, with ½ ounce to 2 ounce spoons being the most popular. They wobble enticingly when retrieved. These lures are very easy to use. The angler simply casts it out and allow it to sink to the desired depth. The spoon is then reeled in using an erratic retrieve. These lures are great when fish are breaking on the surface. A very fast steady retrieve often works in this application.

Spoons are a great “search” bait. They cast a mile and a lot of water can be covered quickly. This helps anglers eliminate unproductive water in short order. Gold weedless spoons are very effective in shallow water. They also cover a lot of area while riding just above the submerged vegetation. Anglers targeting redfish have been using them for decades.

Saltwater fishing with trolling spoons

Trolling spoons are more slender. They are designed to be trolled and are fairly light. Trolling spoons are almost always used in conjunction with some device designed to get down in the water column, sinkers and planers are most commonly used.

Trolling spoons come in various sizes and colors. The lure used should match the size of the available forage. Fish can be surprisingly fussy when it comes to bait size. The same is true when it comes to speed. Mackerel prefer speeds of up to seven knots while other species prefer a slower moving bait.

Saltwater fishing tips

Bottom fishing

Bottom fishing is a very simple, yet effective, angling technique. Many fish live and feed on or near the bottom. Bottom structure holds bait and game fish.

bottom fishing techniques

 

Bottom fishing is an easy and effective technique that any anglers can use successfully. It places natural bait on the bottom in hopes of attracting a fish. Live, fresh dead, and frozen bait can be used. Baits vary by location, depending on the forage available locally. Bottom fishing is effective in just about every fishing location for a wide variety of species.

While bottom fishing is basically dropping a bait to the bottom using a lead weight, there are nuances that will make a difference in terms of success. Leader strength and length, hook sizes, weights, and rigs are all factors that the successful bottom fishing angler will take into account.

Effective bottom fishing rigs

There are several rigs that anglers use when bottom fishing. Sliding sinker rigs and spreader rigs are two of the most popular rigs for bottom fishing. Both have multiple variations and both are effective. Sliding sinker rigs allow fish to pick up a bait off the bottom and move off without feeling any resistance. Spreader rigs suspend multiple baits at various depths just off the bottom.

bottom fishing rigs

Sliding sinker fishing rigs

A sliding sinker rig consists of a leader and a sinker with a hole in it. Egg sinkers work well in this application. Egg sinkers come in many different sizes. They also roll on the bottom and do not hang up easily. Surf anglers use a device called a “fish finder”. This is a small plastic tube with a clip on it. The line passes through the tube and a clip is used to attach the weight. Pyramid sinkers are most often used by surf casters.

surf fishing rigs

With either rig, most anglers use the same approach. The running line is passed through the sinker or fish finder. A swivel is then attached to the end of the line. The swivel stops the sinker from sliding down. The leader is then tied on to the other end of the swivel. Leader lengths vary, but most anglers use 2′ to 3′ of leader. A hook finishes off the rig.

More bottom fishing rigs

inshore fishing for sheepshead

One variation of this is called the “knocker rig”. It is just like the sliding sinker rig above, except the sinker is placed on the leader between the swivel and the hook. This results in the sinker sitting right on the eye of the hook. The knocker rig has two advantages. It keeps the bait right on the bottom where the fish feed. Also, if the hook hangs up, the sinker will often “knock” it free, thus the name. I use this rig a lot when sheepshead and snapper fishing. It is very effective.

Spreader rigs separate the hooks both horizontally and vertically. Wire arms are often used. Snelled hooks are attached to the arms. The hooks then go off to the side and away from the main line. Rigs can be hand-tied without the hardware. When the fish are biting, double headers are common. This rig works well fished vertically from a boat, bridge, or pier. Surf casters employ them as well.

Bottom fishing hooks and weights for inshore saltwater fishing

There are many different styles of hooks that anglers use when bottom fishing. Short shank live bait hooks are the most often used as they are easier to hide in the bait. Some anglers prefer a long shank hook. This is particularly true of flounder fishermen. Circle hooks are popular now as well. Circle hooks more often result in the fish being hooked in the mouth. This reduces the mortality rate among released fish. Circle hooks are mandatory in the Gulf of Mexico.

inshore saltwater fishing

The rule of thumb when choosing a hook is to match it to the size of the bait being used, not the size of the fish being targeted. A small hook in a large bait will usually not result in a hook up. Using a hook too large may hinder a natural presentation. Many large fish have been landed by anglers using small hooks, anglers should resist the urge to use a hook that is too big. Hook strength is also an issue. Fine wire hooks are good for small fish or those with a tender mouth. Larger fish and fish that need to be horsed out of heavy cover require a hook that is stout.

Sinkers for inshore saltwater fishing

Sinkers also come in various styles. Egg, bank, and pyramid sinkers are the most commonly used in salt waters by inshore anglers. Egg sinkers work well with sliding rigs while bank sinkers are best for spreader rigs. Pyramid sinkers are primarily used by surf anglers. The amount of weight used is determined by the depth and current that the anglers is dealing with. The goal is for the weight to be just enough to hold bottom when anchored or bounce along the bottom when drifting.

Top bottom fishing baits

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Bait choice runs the gamut and is generally determined by the local forage available. Just about any fresh fish caught can be cut into strips or chunks and used as bait. Check local laws for current regulations. Squid is a universal frozen bait that produces fish everywhere. Local bait shops will have other frozen baits available and will give anglers the best advice as to the bait of choice.

Shrimp is king in Florida where I fish and really along the entire Gulf Coast and up the east coast to the mid-Atlantic. Shrimp are a terrific bait live as well as fresh dead or frozen. They are the “nightcrawler of saltwater”, just about every inshore species love them. Live shrimp are hooked in the horn while dead ones are threaded on the hook.

Live bait fish can certainly be used by anglers bottom fishing. Flounder fishermen use live minnows with great success. Florida bottom fishermen use live pin fish for grouper and snapper. As with any fish, live or dead, check local regulations before fishing.

Saltwater bottom fishing techniques

Anglers fishing from boats need to make a choice; whether to anchor or drift. Both methods produce and have their advantages and disadvantages. Drifting is generally preferred when anglers are seeking a school of fish in open water. Drifting allows anglers to cover a lot of water, eliminating unproductive areas quickly. Both the spreader rig and slider rig will produce for anglers when drifting.

Flounder fishermen use a sliding sinker rig often. Flounder lie right on the bottom and this is an effective rig. Anglers targeting bottom fish that school up such as croaker, spot, weakfish, whiting, and sheepshead will do well with the spreader rig while drifting.

Note sinker at the eye of the hook, this is the “knocker rig”

bottom fishing

Many bottom species such as grouper in the south and blackfish further north relate to structure. This structure includes ledges, hard bottom, wrecks, and artificial reefs. Anglers targeting these species usually choose to anchor and present their baits. This is especially true on smaller pieces of bottom.

Boat positioning is crucial when bottom fishing

Anchoring properly is critical to success when working a piece of structure. The preferred technique it to anchor so that the boat ends up just a bit up-current and up wind of the structure. Baits presented right on the edge of the structure will hopefully draw the fish out away from their protection. Anchoring is a skill that only time and experience will perfect. GPS trolling motors have helped greatly with this!

Anglers bottom fishing from bridges and piers usually choose a spreader rig. It is effective in this application. Sliding sinker rigs can certainly be used, especially when cast out away from the pier or bridge. Often times the best approach is to fish as close to the pier and bridge pilings as possible. A knocker rig works well when doing this. Sheepshead and other species feed on barnacles attached to the pilings.

Surf fisherman do a lot of bottom fishing. Most fish caught off of the beaches are done so by anglers soaking a piece of bait on the bottom. This is true from Texas to Maine. Cut squid, cut bait fish, shrimp, and crabs are all great baits that produce a wide variety of species.

Saltwater fishing on the flats

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The term “flat” is a broad one. For the purposes of this discussion, it will be defined as follows; “a flat is a large area of similar depth surrounded by deeper water”. Flats are very productive fishing areas. The reason is simple; food. Much of the forage that fish feed on lives in fairly shallow water. For the most part, we are talking about water between 1 foot deep and 10 feet deep.

Grass can only grow in water as deep as the sunlight will penetrate. Water clarity, current, and bottom composition are all factors that determine whether submerge grass will grow. But, where grass beds do exist, bait fish and crustaceans will thrive. This in turn will attract game fish.

Flats do not need to have submerge grass beds to be productive. Sand flats will also have crabs and other crustaceans. Some flats will have hard bottom areas and submerged rocks. These flats will most likely hold bait and game fish at one time of the year or another.

Flats fishing techniques in saltwater

There are quite a few different techniques that will produce for anglers fishing the flats. Anglers can drift the flats, anchor and chum or bottom fish, and troll. All three methods will produce fish when done correctly. Obviously, game fish need to be present as well.

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Drifting is a very effective technique when fishing the flats. This is especially true for large flats. Drifting allows anglers to cover a fairly large amount of area relatively efficiently. This will help locate fish while at the same time eliminating unproductive water.

Live baits and artificial lures are effective when drifting the flats

Anglers drifting the flats can choose to either cast artificial lures or drift with live or cut baits. The choice mostly depends on the area being fished and the species being sought after. Here in Florida where I fish, we cast jigs, spoons, and plugs in front of the drifting boat in search of speckled trout, Spanish mackerel, and other species. This works well further north for species such as bluefish and striped bass.

Drifting the flats with live or cut bait can also be extremely effective. Flounder and other species caught on or near the bottom are particularly prone to a live or cut bait drifted in a natural manner. Squid cut into strips is a very effective bait. In reality, any type of cut bait or live bait will produce when bounced along the bottom.

Inshore drift fishing techniques

Free lining a live bait is a deadly technique when drifting the flats. As the name implies, it involves hooking a live shrimp or bait fish and floating it out behind the boat. The result is that the bait is slowly pulled behind in a very natural manner. If the current is strong or if wind is present, a split shot or two may be required to get the bait down in the water column.

flounder fishing

The best technique when fishing a flat is to approach it upwind and up tide of the area to be fished. In a perfect world, choosing a flat where the wind and tide will move the boat in the same or similar direction is preferred. Anglers then cast lures ahead of the drifting boat while anglers using live or natural bait present their offerings under the boat or just behind it.

Anglers can drift fish or anchor

Once fish are located, anglers can choose to continue the drift or anchor. If continuing to drift is chosen, angler simply keep fishing until the bite slows, then they idle back around and re-drift the area. Anglers choosing to anchor drop the hook, fish the area thoroughly, then move on when the action dies down.

Anglers choosing to anchor a flat will do so in a similar manner. The boat is anchored up current and hopefully upwind of the spot to be fished. Generally, anglers choosing to anchor on a flat have a specific spot in mind. This could be a piece of structure, a ledge, a bridge piling, or an area of hard bottom. Chumming can work well in this application, as it will hopefully draw game fish from all over the flat up behind the boat.

Inshore saltwater fishing in inlets and passes

Inlets and passes are terrific spots to fish! These are basically “fish highways”that game fish use to migrate between the open waters of the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico and the inshore bays. The term “pass” is used on the Gulf Coast of the United States. Pass is just a different word for an inlet, it is essentially the same thing.

Sarasota fishing calendar
Sheepshead

Many inlets and passes have rock jetties running alongside. These jetties offer shore bound anglers a great spot to fish. Inlets and passes will naturally have good current flow as these are areas where the water bottlenecks down. In certain locations, anglers will need to plan their fishing trips around the slack tides. In many inlets and passes, the tides run very swift, making it difficult to fish during times of peak current flow.

Bait fish and crustaceans will seek refuge in the rocks of these jetties. Anglers casting artificial lures and live and cut baits will be successful. Often times, there is a hole on the backside of the jetty in the ocean or Gulf. This hole was created by an eddy in the current flow. This can be a great spot as fish will use the spot to stage.

Drift fishing inlets and passes

Fishing can be good in the inlet or pass itself. Again, anglers must choose the best times to fish. In Florida where I fish, tides are not quite as strong as they are in the North East. We often drift right down the middle of the pass while bouncing jigs in search of pompano and other species. Snook will stage in the passes and inlets in the summer time. Sheepshead and snapper will be caught in the structure itself.

Sarasota chumming techniques

Anglers fishing along the East Coast must be careful when fishing the inlets. Strong tides and high winds can create a very dangerous situation. Also, anglers must take boat traffic into account as well and never impede the flow of boats. Anchoring in a swift current can be quite dangerous as well. No fish is worth sinking the boat or getting hurt!

Chumming is very effective when inshore saltwater fishing

Chumming has been around for as long as humans have been fishing. Anglers use chum to catch a wide variety of species. Fish will respond to chum of all kinds in a variety of applications. These tactics not only work anywhere that anglers fish.

Chumming is basically the act of using food to attract fish to the angler. It can be done from shore, bridges, and piers. However, most associate chumming with boats. Chum can be live, fresh dead, or frozen. All are effective when used properly. Chumming is a deadly technique that should be part of every angler’s arsenal.

Fishing with frozen chum

Frozen chum blocks are very effective. These are basically chunks of ground up oily fish. Oily fish such as menhaden, sardines, mackerel, and mullet make the best frozen chum. The oils that are emitted from the chum block help to attract the fish. Chum blocks often come in a mesh bag. This makes using them very easy. They are simply tied to a cleat at the start of the boat. As the chum thaws, it is dispersed behind the boat. Chum blocks are available at just about every saltwater bait shop.

Fresh dead chum can also be extremely effective. This can be as simple as cutting up a few pieces of shrimp and tossing them in the water. This can work very well in the cooler months for fish species such as sheepshead and snapper. Anglers bottom fishing offshore will often cut up a fish they have caught, using it as chum.

Fishing with live chum

One of the most effective chumming techniques is the use of live bait fish as chum. This is a bit of a specialized method. It does require a lot of bait fish. Anglers catch small bait fish using a cast net. The baits are then put in a large, recirculating live well. Keeping a lot of baits alive and frisky is very important. The live bait is then tossed out behind the boat in hopes of attracting game fish.

The technique when using chum, no matter what kind, is basically the same. The angler is usually stationary, but it can be done from a drifting boat as well. Drifting is primarily done offshore in very deep water where anchoring is not practical. Whether from an anchored boat or a dock, bridge, or pier, the chum is dispersed into the water. The current will take the chum away from the boat or structure and draw in the game fish.

Strategy does come into play when chumming. Tide is the most important factor. Anglers will want to anchor the boat up tide of the area that is to be fished. This is true whether anglers are chumming inshore or offshore. The stronger the current, and the deeper the water, the further up current the angler will need to position the boat.

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Fishing with chum offshore

Chumming has been a mainstay of offshore anglers for decades. Those fishing wrecks, artificial reefs, and areas of hard bottom use chum to excite the resident fish. Chum can be dispersed both on the surface and on the bottom surface. Chum will attract a wide variety of species. Bottom fish such as grouper, snapper, grunts, and other species will respond to chum on the bottom.

Chum deployed on the surface can attract bottom fish as well. This is true if the angler is fishing and water that isn’t that deep or if the current isn’t very strong. Surface chum can also be used to pull fish up off the bottom. It is very cool when a school of fish rises up off the bottom and starts feeding on chum right at the surface!

offshore chumming

Anglers will oftentimes use both methods of chumming. A frozen chum block can be lowered to the bottom while another is tied off the stern. Sometimes the surface chum will attract bait fish, which in turn will attract the game fish. Anglers can use tiny hooks to catch some lively ballyhoo and other bait. Once the fish are in the chum “slick”, it is time to go fishing!

Best rigs for offshore chumming

Every angler has his or her favorite rig for offshore fishing. It is basically a running line, a leader, a hook, and if required, some weight. If fish are seen right at the surface in the chum, free lining bait back to them can be extremely productive. A piece of bait with no weight floating back looks very natural. In fact, the desired effect is to have it looked exactly like the other chum floating back.

Anglers bottom fishing will obviously need to add some weight. I prefer the “knocker rig”where the egg sinker lies right on the eye of the hook. Many anglers prefer to put the sinker on the running line then a swivel and a leader and hook. Both work fine, it’s just a matter of preference. With both bottom fishing and surface fishing, water clarity will be a determining factor in leader size.

Just a quick note; in the Gulf of Mexico, anglers are required to use circle hooks when fishing offshore. Florida fishing regulations have become a bit strict. There are closed seasons on grouper and snapper. The consensus is that circle hooks reduce the mortality rate of released fish.

inshore fishing in saltwater

Chumming is an effective saltwater fishing technique whether drifting or anchoring

Chumming can be effective from a drifting boat as well. This is something that is done more often in very deep water where anchoring is not practical. The chum is just dispersed over the side of the boat as it drifts with the current and wind. As in all forms of chumming, the hope is that it will draw game fish to the angler.

While many anglers think of chumming as in offshore technique, it is used quite often when fishing inshore as well. As a full-time fishing guide in Sarasota, I use every trick that I know to help my clients catch fish. I use chumming as a technique on a regular basis to achieve this goal.

On those days when the water is chilly, chumming with small pieces of shrimp can be the difference between success and failure. Sheepshead and snapper are a bit lethargic in this cold water. A couple shrimp diced up into tiny bits and tossed back into the current will oftentimes stimulate the fish.

Chumming with live bait fish

Chumming with live bait fish is a deadly technique! This is something I do all summer long and into the fall until the water temperature hits around 70°. When bait fish are plentiful, it is a simple matter to cast net up a bunch of pilchards (scaled sardines) or threadies (threadfin herring) to use. Local anglers call this “white bait”or “shiners”.

chumming with live bait

Using live bait is one of the chumming techniques that I use all summer long. I mostly do this on the deep grass flats. These are submerge grass beds in between 6 feet of water and 10 feet of water. This deeper water is cooler than the shallower water is. Anglers seeking action and variety target the deep grass flats in the summer time.

I anchor the boat up current and upwind of the flat that I want to chum. Then, I simply toss out a few handfuls of live bait as chum. If the game fish are around, it won’t take them long to find the chum. Often times fish will be seen “popping”the bait behind the boat. Hooked baits are then tossed out and hookups are soon to follow.

Chumming with live bait produces many different species

Many different species are caught on the flats using this technique. Speckled trout, Spanish mackerel, mangrove snapper, gag grouper, bluefish, sea bass, flounder, ladyfish, catfish, sharks, and other species will all be attracted to the chum. This is a great time of year for novice anglers and children to experience some terrific action!

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Using the proper amount of chum is extremely important. This is something that an angler will only learn by experience. Also, every day is different. This is especially true with live bait chumming. Some days just several baits every five minutes will be plenty. On other days, it will take a lot of chum to keep them behind the boat and excited.

Using the right amount of chum when inshore saltwater fishing

The goal when chumming is to attract the fish, and get them excited, but without filling them up. If too much chum is used, the fish will remain back in the slick, but will become difficult to catch. The best bet is to use chum sparingly in the beginning then step it up if the bite is a bit slow. It is always better to start slow like this than to chum too much in the beginning.

Anglers will sometimes find that fish are hitting the chum bait but will not take a baited hook. This tends to occur more often when the water is very clear. The solution is to go lighter with the leader and use a smaller hook. Also, wherever possible use little or no weight.

Trolling for success inshore

Trolling with light tackle produces very well inshore. I do a lot of drifting on my Sarasota fishing charters, both in the passes and over deep expanses of grass. There are usually other anglers fishing, so courtesy dictates a slow idle back around to make another drift. Since we will just be easing along, why not drag a bait behind?

Siesta Key fishing charters

My go-to lure is a #8 X-Rap in olive or glass ghost (white), it has been very productive as it matches the bait we have in our area. Once the treble hooks get beat up, I remove them and add a single 1/0 hook on the rear. The hook-up ratio remains good and it makes releasing fish MUCH easier. In fact, some plugs now come with a strong single hook for just this reason.

Again, just let out about half the spool and move at idle speed or just above. Many times clients catch more fish doing this than they do when drifting and casting. Spanish mackerel in particular find it difficult to resist a fast moving plug, but bluefish, ladyfish, jacks, trout, and other species will also fall prey to this method. One technique that often pays off is the twitch the rod tip sharply while trolling along. This will often times elicit a violent strike! Fish find the little pause where the plug drops back to be irresistible at times.

Trolling is a great way to locate fish

Trolling is also a good technique to employ when fish are scattered about over a large area. The best approach is to move into the tide or wind and when a fish is hooked the boat is stopped. Anglers can then cast jigs, plugs, or spoons as the boat drifts back over the school. As action drops off, resume trolling again until another bunch of fish is found. One benefit to this is that the same lures that are great trolling baits are also equally effective cast out and retrieved back in; there is no need to have separate trolling and casting outfits.

Trolling has been a staple of anglers fishing the inshore Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean for many years. Pelagic species such as Striped bass, bluefish, king mackerel, Spanish mackerel, false albacore, and cobia migrate along the coastline. These game fish follow behind the huge schools of bait fish. This is their primary forage. A fast moving plug or spoon mimics the prey. This is a very easy technique than any angler can employ to catch a big fish!

Top trolling lures when saltwater fishing

Plugs are a great choice when trolling. The larger the lip on the plug, the deeper it will dive. Fairly stout tackle will be required when trolling a large plug. Conventional tackle in the 30 pound class is perfect for this application. Heavy spinning tackle will work as well. A plug that dives down fifteen feet or so is perfect to target a large king mackerel. I prefer to use a 5′ piece of 80 pound flourocarbon leader instead of wire. Wire will prevent cut-offs but will limit strikes.

Small plugs can also be extremely effective in open water. Often times the bait is very small. A #8 Rapala X-Rap is a prefect match for the smaller forage. White is a very productive color. Surface activity will alert anglers to the presence of game fish. Mackerel, striped bass, and false albacore can be seen terrorizing helpless bait fish on the surface. The best approach is to skirt the edge of the feeding fish. Do not drive the boat right through the action. They will go down and may not resurface.

trolling for bluefish

Spoons also produce a lot of fish. Clark spoons and other manufacturers make special spoons designed for trolling. Spoons can be used when trolling in a couple of different ways. Due to boat speeds, some type of device is needed to get the spoon down in the water column.

Trolling techniques to get lures down deep

The easiest method is to tie a trolling sinker to the end of the line. These are torpedo shaped and come in a variety of weights. A ten foot long leader is tied to the sinker and then a trolling spoon is tied to the tag end. This is really quite simple and deadly on Spanish mackerel, bluefish, false albacore, and more. Fish will have to be hand-lined in once the trolling sinker reaches the rod tip.

trolling with planers

Planers are another device used to get spoons down deeper. They are effective but are a bit more complicated. The planer is tied onto the running line. A twenty foot leader is attached to the planer, followed by the spoon on the tag end. Planers come in several sizes, but #1 and #2 planers are the ones used in shallow water. A #1 planer will dive five to seven feet. A #2 planer will dive down around fifteen feet.

Proper techniques when trolling with planers

The planer must be “set”. This is done by slowly lowering the planer into the water after the spoon is let out. With the ring up, water pressure will pull the planer down. The planer is then let out behind the boat to the desired length. The rod is then placed in a holder. When a fish hits, the planer will “trip”, allowing the angler to fight the fish without the drag of the planer. Plugs can be used with planers, but they must have a small lip. Large lips will trip the planer. Advanced anglers use wire line and umbrella rigs to catch striped bass and bluefish in deeper water. Downriggers are also used by some anglers. These are complex techniques that requires special, expensive equipment.

inshore saltwater fishing

Inshore saltwater fishing, surf fishing

Surf fishing is a very popular form of angling, especially along the eastern seaboard. Gulf Coast anglers practice it as well, though to a lesser degree. Much of the shoreline from Florida to Texas does not have sand beaches. Surf fishing is basically standing on the sand and casting out into the ocean. But, as in all forms of fishing, it is much more complex than that.

Surf fishing is quite condition dependent. If the conditions aren’t good, fishing is usually pretty tough. Persistent anglers can always scratch out a fish or two, but if it all possible, it is best to maximize the conditions when going surf fishing. Wave height, water quality, winds, tides, weeds, and season are just a few of the factors. Many books have been written on the subject of surf fishing. I will try to cover the basics here.

surf fishing

Surf fishing tackle

Surf fishing tackle is similar to spinning tackle with the exception of the rod length. The smallest surf rods usually start at around 10 feet and go up to 14 feet or more. The longer rods are required for both casting distance and to keep the line up out of the breaking waves. Many anglers choose to fish with two different outfits. They will use a 10 foot rod for smaller fish and a heavier 12 to 14 foot rod for larger fish.

Capt Jim wrote a comprehensive post on Surf Fishing Tackle and Techniques, click on the link to read it!

surf fishing

Many anglers prefer surf fishing on the high tide stage. Generally speaking, the two hours before the high tide and after the high tide are the prime times. Couple that with having those times at dusk or dawn, and the chances of success increase. Surf casting can be excellent at night as well, particularly in the warmer months. Serious surf anglers will often use the extremely low tides to scout out the best spots. Cuts and offshore bars can often be seen at this time. Fish will use these cuts to move through the bars and onto the beach.

Surf fishing baits

While many fish are certainly caught by surf anglers using artificial lures, the vast majority of anglers choose to surf fish with natural bait. This bait can be live, fresh dead, or frozen. Of the three, fresh cut bait is the best all round choice. The optimum bait will change with location and season. Local bait shops are a great resource to get information on what’s hitting in the surf and the best bait to use.

striper fishing

Shrimp are very popular bait from the mid-Atlantic south to Florida and around to Texas. Fresh shrimp works best but frozen shrimp are fine. Live shrimp are available in some locations. Shrimp catch just about everything in the water and are great choice for anglers searching a “mixed bag”.

Anglers using will do well with a two hook spreader rig, a pair of #4 or #2 hooks, each baited with a small piece of shrimp. This is a great all round rig and will catch smaller species such as whiting, sheepshead, pompano and more while still given the angler a chance to catch a larger drum or other species.

More surf fishing baits

Squid is another universal bait that will work everywhere. It is relatively inexpensive and available at just about every tackle shop. Anglers can cut the squid into small pieces and use it in the same manner that frozen shrimp is used. Squid can also be cut into strips and used on a fish finder rig. This is the preferred method for flounder and for other larger fish species.

surf fishing for striped bass

Just about any fresh fish can be cut up and used for bait, as long as it is legal to do so. Anglers should check local fishing regulations. However, some fish are better than others. Generally speaking, the oilier the fish the better it will be for bait. Mullet, menhaden, small bluefish, and spot are all popular baits.

Crabs can also be used by surf fisherman as bait. They are particularly effective when fishing for red and black drum. Weakfish find them irresistible as well. Crabs can tend to be a bit more expensive and do not stay on the hook as well as other baits. Sand fleas ( AKA mole crabs ) are a popular bait for pompano and other species.

Surf fishing techniques

Many surf anglers use a two-pronged approach. They will use a lighter 10 foot rod with a two hook spreader rig to catch the smaller species. Once a legal fish is caught, they will cut it into large strips and use that on a longer 12 foot or 13 foot surf rod with a fish finder rig and a heavy sinker. This is a great approach as it allows anglers to experience action on the smaller outfit with smaller fish while still having the chance to catch a very nice fish on the larger outfit.

surf fishing

As mentioned above, artificial lures can certainly be used when surf fishing. Anglers targeting striped bass in the northern part of the country do well with large poppers. These are cast out and worked aggressively on the surface. The loud ‘pop” attracts the striped bass and bluefish to the bait. This works very well when fish are actively feeding on the surface.

Spoons and jigs can be cast out into the surface well. Anglers can wait until they see breaking fish or other activity such as bait fish on the surface, or just blind cast in hopes of a strike. it can get tiresome throwing a heavy lower on a big heavy surf outfit. As in all fishing, bird activity is a great sign that fish are feeding nearby.

Tides for inshore saltwater fishing

Tides are one of the most important aspects of saltwater fishing. They often confuse novice saltwater anglers. Tides are caused by the gravitational pull of the moon. Tides are strongest around the full moon and then strong again on the new moon. Conversely, tides are not as strong on the quarter moons.

Every angler has his or her preferred tide. There is no one answer to the question,”what is the best tide?” Tides don’t determine when to fish, they determine where where to fish. Anglers fishing the flats often prefer a high tide. The same goes for surf anglers. Anglers fishing tidal rivers, inlets, and passes often prefer the outgoing tide.

Tides will position fish when saltwater fishing

The best approach is to look at the tide and imagine how it will affect the fishes movements. Low tides will move fish off of shallow areas and into deeper areas where the they will feel safe. As the tide rises, the fish will move out of these deeper areas and up onto the flats to feed. Falling tides will cost fish to stage at ambush points.

Only experience and time on the water will tell an angler what they need to know to be successful in the water that they are fishing. Logs can be helpful to some anglers. Noting tide stage on successful days will help anglers determine the ideal tides in their area.

Top inshore saltwater fishing species

Speckled trout; aka spotted sea trout

fishing Sarasota Bay
Speckled trout

Speckled trout are one of the most popular inshore game fish. They are arguably the most popular inshore species from along the entire Gulf Coast. Speckled trout are available to anglers from Chesapeake Bay down to Texas.

Most anglers target speckled trout on the flats, though fish are caught in deeper water and off the beach as well. Trout are an aggressive, beautiful fish that hit hard, put up a bit of a tussle, and taste great. That explains why they are so desired by anglers, especially down south.

Speckled trout average around 16 inches. Anything over 20 inches is a nice fish and a speckled trout over 24 inches is a trophy. Anglers seeking numbers of trout will do best to target flats in 4 feet to 8 feet of water. This is where the majority of average sized fish will be found. These fish are generally found in fairly large schools. The larger fish are loners and can often be found in very shallow water.

Both live and artificial baits are effective for speckled trout

Both live bait and artificial lures produce a lot of speckled trout. It really is just a matter of the time of year and angler preference. The number one live bait is the shrimp. Live shrimp are available year-round and produce speckled trout along with just about every other inshore fish species. Shrimp are especially effective in the cooler months when pin fish and other small nuisance fish are less of an issue.

Live shrimp are often fished over the grass flats under a noisy float in southern waters. These floats are called “popping corks”. This is a very effective fishing technique. These floats are placed 3 feet above the hook. A live shrimp is then impaled on the hook. A # 1/0 live bait hook is a good all-around choice when targeting speckled trout.

The rig is cast out and allowed to settle. A sharp twitch of the rod produces a noisy “pop”. This simulates feeding fish and will attract trout and other species to the shrimp. Live bait fish can be used under the cork as well.

Fishing with live shrimp using no weight

Live shrimp can also be “free lined” out behind the boat. This means the shrimp is baited on a hook with no other weight. The shrimp can then be allowed to swim naturally. This works well in deeper water, over six feet deep.

charter fishing Siesta Key

Live bait fish are extremely effective for speckled trout as well. 2 inch to 3 inch pin fish, croakers, and grunts work well either free line or fished under a float. The float will keep the bait from getting down into the grass and suspend the bait at the proper depth in the water column.

Speckled trout respond well to live bait chumming

Chumming with live bait is an extremely effective technique anglers use in the warmer months. This is a staple for captains running fishing charters in Florida. A large cast net is used to procure several hundred scaled sardines or threadfin herring. The boat is then anchored in a likely spot and these live baits are used as chum to attract speckled trout up behind the boat.

Artificial lures fool many speckled trout. The number one artificial lure for anglers targeting speckled trout is the jig and grub combination. It is a simple yet very effective lure. This combo consists of a jig head and a soft plastic body. It is a very versatile lure as the tail sizes, shapes, and colors can be easily changed.

The jig/grub combo is the top trout fishing lure

The jig head is a hook with a piece of lead molded and near the eye. This lead adds casting weight and also is what imparts action to the jig. Jig heads come in many different sizes, weights, and colors. One quarter ounce jig heads are the best all round choice for fishing water between 4 feet deep and 10 feet deep. Red, white, and chartreuse are the best colors. Jigs have one single hook which helps when releasing fish.

Anglers can read Capt Jim’s article on the best speckled trout fishing lures to view his recommendations and shop.

Plugs are also extremely effective lures for speckled trout. They tend to catch larger fish. Plugs are meant to imitate bait fish. Anglers should choose a plug that imitates the forage that the speckled trout are feeding on. Plugs that stay up on the surface are called “topwater” plugs. They produce explosive strikes and are very effective when worked in shallow water.

Sarasota fishing calendar

Diving plugs are effective when saltwater fishing the inshore waters for trout

Shallow diving plugs float on the surface but dive down several feet when retrieved. These plugs work well in water deeper than two feet. Suspending plugs slowly sink and suspend in the water column. They are deadly on speckled trout. Plugs do have a couple of drawbacks. They are expensive and sport a dangerous pair of treble hooks.

Most anglers targeting speckled trout choose to drift. Most flats cover a fairly large area. Drifting is the most efficient way to locate fish. Anglers using both live bait and artificial lures cast out ahead of the drifting boat and work the baits back. Once a productive area is found, anglers can anchor and cover the area thoroughly or re-drift the area.

Big trout are often found in shallow water

Larger speckled trout are often found in shallow water. These fish tend to be “loners” and not in schools. Potholes (small depressions in shallow flats) will hold some trophy speckled trout! The edges of oyster bars and mangrove shorelines will also produce.

These fish can be finicky in shallow water and they spook easily. Anglers need to be patient and stealthy. Long casts are required. Artificial lures work well as it can be difficult to use live bait in the shallow grass. Topwater plugs and soft plastic baits on 1/16 ounce jig heads work well.

guide to inshore fishing

Fishing for saltwater trout at night

Night fishing can be an extremely effective technique for speckled trout. Lighted docks and bridges attract shrimp and small bait fish. This in turn attracts the trout. Outgoing tides are generally preferred. Live and artificial shrimp work well free lined in the current.

Speckled trout are fantastic eating and prized wherever they are caught. Here in Florida, we have a slot limit on them, with one large fish over 20” being legal to keep. I personally strongly encourage anglers to release all large trout. These are breeder females and are crucial to the success of the species. With the angling pressure that trout receive in the more populated areas, it is very important to release these big girls unharmed to breed.

Striped bass

Striped bass are the most popular inshore saltwater game fish in the Northeast. They range from Maine down to South Carolina. They have also been transplanted successfully in many large freshwater lakes. There is also a population of striped bass in San Francisco Bay. Striped bass are often found in schools. They grow quite large with the world record being a touch over 80 pounds. Stripers can be caught using every inshore fishing technique.

Striped bass fishing

Striped bass spawn in the brackish tributary rivers. Chesapeake Bay is responsible for about 80% of the striped bass spawning activity. The Hudson River in New York is second in that regard. Juvenile striped bass spend the first couple years in the freshwater and brackish rivers before migrating out to the open water. Striped bass can live up to 30 years old.

Striped bass can be caught using a wide variety of angling techniques. They are caught drift fishing, trolling, sight fishing, chumming, and surf fishing.

Drift fishing for striped bass

Drifting over productive areas with either live bait or artificial lures produces many striped bass for anglers. Channel edges, depth changes, areas of hard bottom composition, artificial reefs, bridges, creek and river mouths, and inlets are all prime spots.

Anglers choosing to drift with natural bait will have success use in both live and cut bait. A free lined pogy or menhaden is a deadly bait for a trophy striped bass. Small live eels are used as well, especially in Chesapeake Bay around the bridges. Cut bait such as strips or chunks of fresh fish and squid will also produce. Anglers choosing to drift while using artificial lures will do well with jigs and heavy vertical jigging spoons.

inshore fishing for stripers

Some anglers choose to anchor and chum a spot, rather than drifting it. This can be an extremely productive technique. The boat is anchored up on a drop off, piece of hard bottom, or other likely spot. Menhaden oil or other chum is dispersed with the tide from the stern. Several rods are rigged and hooked up with chunks of fresh baits such as pogy or menhaden. Any oily fish will work; bluefish and mackerel are fine baits. It is important to use circle hooks in this application to reduce the number of fish that are gut hooked. Many states require this by law.

Surface action when striped bass fishing

There is nothing more exciting than casting to schools of “breaking” striped bass! Stripers will herd schools of bait fish up in the water column and trap them against the surface. Once they do this, the feeding frenzy is on. Fish can be seen splashing and feeding on the surface from quite a distance away on a call morning. Often times, bluefish and even false albacore are mixed in with the stripers.

Artificial lures are great fun in this situation. Anglers casting surface poppers, shallow diving plugs, spoons, and jigs will all experience fast action as long as the lure resembles the bait fish in size and color. Some days it does not matter, the stripers will hit just about anything in the water that is moving. This action normally occurs in the fall in the inshore bays and in the Atlantic Ocean close to shore.

fishing for striped bass

Trolling for striped bass is very effective inshore

Trolling produces many striped bass, and normally the largest specimens. However, trolling can be cumbersome with all the gear that is required, but it is the most efficient way to get a lure down deep or many of the largest striped bass live and feed. Experienced anglers use wire line and specially designed to reels to get their umbrella rigs and other trolling gear down deep. Many of the charter boats in Chesapeake Bay are using this fishing method.

Anglers using lighter tackle can have success troll and as well. Anglers can use 20 pound conventional tackle and trolling sinkers or planers to get their lures down to the fish. Plugs with large lips will dive down without any other gear. For the most part, this type of trolling is best done in water 20 feet deep or shallower.

Inlets are great spots for inshore striped bass fishing

Inlets are excellent spots to target striped bass. This is especially true for anglers without a boat, as most inlets have jetties which allow anglers access. The best time to fish inlets is generally on the turn of the tide, when the current flow is reduced. It is difficult to fish when the current is running hard through the inlet.

inshore saltwater fishing

Anglers fishing the inlets can choose to use both natural and artificial baits. Those casting poppers and other plugs along with spoons and jigs do quite well when working parallel to the rocks. They will also make opportunistic cast whenever breaking fish pop up. Anglers bottom fishing need to constantly adjust the weight in order to minimize snags. Often times, the best spot to bottom fish is on the backside of the jetty where there is a sandy bottom and a current eddy.

Striped bass are targeted by surf anglers as well. These fish are prized by surf casters from the main beaches down to Cape Cod and as far south as Hatteras in North Carolina. Experienced surf fisherman usually have several rigs ready to go. They will often bottom fish with a large piece of bait on a fish finder rig, letting it set in the holder. While waiting for a bite, anglers can cast poppers and other artificial lures and are also ready if a “blitz” should happen to occur.

Red drum, aka redfish

Redfish are one of the most popular inshore species, right up there with speckled trout and striped bass. Redfish inhabit the entire Southeast part of the United States, from Texas around to Florida and up as far as the mid Atlantic. They are an extremely popular game fish in all these areas.

Sarasota fishing charters

Redfish are known by several different names depending on the geography. Red drum, channel bass, and puppy drum are several of the more popular ones. Here in Florida we simply call them redfish, or “reds” for short. They are found on the shallow grass flats where they school up. Redfish are often caught under docks and near other structure as well.

Fishing in shallow water presents some challenges. Fish are quite spooky when there’s barely enough water to cover their backs! This means that anglers must be stealthy when approaching them. Many shallow draft skiffs are specially designed to be extra quiet on the flats. Wading is also a great way to sneak up on skittish redfish.

Tides are important when fishing for red drum

Tides are critical when targeting redfish. Most anglers prefer a low, incoming tide. This tends to congregate the schools of redfish on the edges of bars and flats. They will also stage in what we call “potholes”. These are slight depressions in the shallow grass flats. The difference can be minimal, but enough to hold fish. A 3 foot depression on a flat that has 10 inches of water can hold an entire school of fish.

As the tide rises, reds will move up onto the flats and scatter out. They are feeding but are also scattered out. This can make them difficult to locate. On the highest stage, or flood tide, the fish will move way up under the mangroves. So, while it is easier to get the boat up on the flats on the higher stages of the tide, the fish are also much more difficult to locate.

fishing for redfish

Both lures and live baits are effective for redfish

Anglers targeting redfish in shallow water can be effective with both artificial lures and live bait. Artificial lures are generally best when prospecting for fish. The reason is simple; lures allow anglers to cover a lot of water much more quickly than they can do with live bait. Live bait can work very well once fish are located in a certain area.

One of the most effective lures for locating redfish on a flat is the weedless spoon. The venerable Johnson Silver Minnow in the half ounce, gold color has fooled many redfish over the years. It is a simple bait that can be cast a long way, is extremely weedless, and has a great fish attracting action. It has a large single hook which rides up in a weed guard covering the tip. There are many other manufacturers who produce quality weedless spoons as well. Local tackle shops will have a good selection of the most productive baits. A small black swivel is required when using spoons to help eliminate line twist.

Fishing for redfish with soft plastic baits

Soft plastic baits can also be very effective when searching for redfish. They don’t cover quite as much water as spoons do as the bait is moved a bit more slowly. Soft plastic baits are more effective when the angler has a general idea of where the fish may be. Bass assassin makes a terrific line of soft plastic baits in a myriad of sizes and colors. A 4” to 5” bait is about the right size with both paddle tales and jerk worms style baits being effective.

Anglers have a choice in how they rig their soft plastic baits. The most simple technique is to rig the bait on a 1/16 ounce or 1/8 ounce jig head. The hook will ride up in the bait will generally be snag free, though it will pick up grass on the head. Jig heads designed to fish in shallow water have a slightly different shape. The head curves up so that it skims over the grass. Jig heads can also be purchased with a weed guard, further reducing the chance of hanging up in the grass.

Sarasota fishing calendar

Other options when inshore saltwater fishing with soft plastic lures

Another option is a swim bait hook. These can be used to rigged the bait either Texas rigged while some have a weed guard. Both result in a fairly weedless presentation. These hooks also have a weight in the middle of the hook, resulting in the bait having a natural horizontal look.

Plugs can also be effective for redfish on the flats. If the water is very shallow, a foot or two deep, anglers will have to use top water plugs. Redfish have an inferior mouth, that means it is behind the nose pointing down. However, they will take a bait on the surface. Rapala Skitterwalk and Heddon Zara Spook baits are both very effective lures. Anglers working slightly deeper water or mangrove shorelines can score with a shallow diving plugs such as the Rapala X-Rap slashbait.

Live bait produces redfish

There are situations where live bait can be more effective when fishing the shallow flats. As mentioned earlier, redfish will stage up in potholes and in channels on the lower tide stages. A large live shrimp fished in these holes can be deadly. Many anglers remove the tail and insert the hook in that area. This results in the shrimps natural juices dispersing into the pothole. A # 1/0 live bait hook and a light split shot is all that is required. A float can be used to add casting weight and indicate bites.

It can be a bit overwhelming searching for reds on the shallow flats. There are just so many places that the fish can be! Many anglers believe that finding schools of mullet on the flats is a key to success. The thought is that the mullet stir up the bottom while swimming along, dislodging crabs and other forage from the weeds. This is a natural chum line that will attract redfish. Birds, bait fish, and other game fish are also signs of a lively redfish flat. Otherwise, it is just a matter of patience and experience.

fishing for bull redfish

Many redfish are caught by anglers fishing docks and other structure. Docks provide both cover and forage for redfish. I have found in my experience that the most productive redfish docks are in between four and 8 feet of water.

Dock fishing for red drum

Anglers who prefer casting artificial lures can use the trolling motor and slowly work a line of docks. A quarter ounce jig with a soft plastic body work well for this type of fishing. One days when the bite is tough, switching to a scented baits such as the Gulp shrimp can make the difference.

It is tough to beat a live bait when fishing docks for redfish and other species. It gives anglers the opportunity to thoroughly work a good dock. A large live shrimp is a great year-round bait. They are easily acquired at local bait shops. A #1/0 live bait hook in a split shot or two is a simple and effective rig. An added bonus to this technique is that many other species will be caught as well. Snook, mangrove snapper, flounder, black drum, and other species will intercept a shrimp meant for a red.

fishing report for Sarasota, Florida

Live bait fish can also be used effectively when targeting redfish under docks. The same live bait chumming method is deadly on redfish and snook when implemented around the dock. A 3 inch pin fish or grunt can also be deadly and will usually catch larger fish. The downside to using live bait fish is that anglers in most instances will have to catch their own.

Seasonal redfish patterns

Redfish in the south follow a seasonal pattern. In the winter most reds are caught in canals, creeks, and under docks in the backwater areas. In spring they scatter out onto the flats. Most fish will be in very small pods. By late summer they are schooled up into larger numbers on the flats before moving out into the Gulf. In the fall, reds can be anywhere, flats, Gulf, Atlantic Ocean, and backwater spots.

Large schools of big redfish are often encountered in the open waters of the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico. These schools are easy to spot. In clear water, the water will actually turn red. Fish are also seen milling and busting baits on the surface. These fish are tackle-busters. Anglers need to gear up for these fish!

Sarasota redfish

Redfish are caught by surf anglers as well. These fish can be very large. Runs of “channel bass” as they are known in the mid-Atlantic, are legendary. Crab fished on the bottom is the top bait. Clams, shrimp, and cut bait will also produce redfish.

Spanish mackerel

Spanish mackerel are a terrific, and in my opinion, underrated game fish. They are widely distributed along the East Coast of the United States as well as the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean. They are very fast fish, feed aggressively, and are excellent table fare when eaten fresh.

fishing charter Siesta Key

Spanish mackerel are a pelagic species. This means that they spend most of their time in the middle of the water column. They do not relate to bottom structure, other than the fact that that same structure attracts bait. Spanish mackerel also make a seasonal migration up the coastlines in the spring, then back down in the fall. They spend their winters in the tropical moderate climates.

Here in Sarasota, Florida where I guide, our prime times for Spanish mackerel are spring and fall. However, if we experience a very moderate winter or a cooler than average summer they can be caught all year long. Spanish mackerel are a fish that pleases every angler, whether they fish from shore, in the bays, or out in the inshore Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean.

Spanish mackerel fishing techniques

Mackerel can be taken using a variety of baits and techniques. I personally enjoy catching them using artificial lures and fly fishing. Mackerel hit so hard and make such long runs that it is really quite exciting to catch them while casting artificial lures on light tackle.

The most productive artificial lures are spoons, jigs, and plugs. Live shrimp and bait fish catch plenty of fish as well. Anglers can fish from the surf, jetty, or pier. They can also fish bays, passes and inlets, in the Gulf of Mexico or Atlantic Ocean from a boat.

The lead head jig plastic grub combination produces a lot of fish in Florida and beyond. These lures are very versatile, cast well, are cost-effective, most importantly catch a lot of fish! Spanish mackerel most often respond to a fast retrieve. Therefore, jigs with a Shad tail body work best when targeting them. The Shad tail grub has a terrific motion when retrieved through the water either slowly or more quickly. Anglers cast the lure out, allow it to sink, then retrieve it back in at a fairly brisk pace with sharp hops.

Spoons and plugs are productive baits for Spanish mackerel fishing

Silver spoons are another very effective lure when targeting Spanish mackerel. Their main advantage is that they cast a long way. A 1/2 ounce silver spoon is a very good all-around size when targeting Spanish mackerel. The lure can be cast out and retrieved back steadily or by using an erratic motion. It is important to use either a snap swivel at the lure or a swivel between the leader and the running line to prevent line twist.

fishing for Sanish mackerel

Plugs are another very effective lure for catching Spanish mackerel. However, they do have a couple disadvantages. They are bit more costly, which can be an issue when the toothy Spanish mackerel start cutting lures off with their teeth. Also, dealing with trouble hooks and a thrashing Spanish mackerel can be dangerous. Careful anglers will find them worth the trouble, especially when trolling.Anglers can see Capt Jim’s top Spanish mackerel fishing lures in this article.

Spanish mackerel habits

Spanish mackerel prefer clear water. They mostly feed by sight. Anglers should therefore target Spanish mackerel in clear water using light colored lures. Lighter colors tend to be more effective in light clear water. White, silver, and olive have all been productive patterns for clients on my fishing charters.

Live bait certainly accounts for many Spanish mackerel landed by anglers. Live shrimp are the most effective and widely used live bait for anglers targeting Spanish mackerel. Just about every bait shop along the Gulf Coast and eastern seaboard up to the mid Atlantic carry live shrimp.

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Inshore saltwater fishing for Spanish mackerel

Shrimp are very easy to use. Anglers simply hook the shrimp under the horn just above the brain and cast it out into the water. Anglers fishing from the surf or jetties as well as piers may need to add a sinker for casting weight. A hook with a long shank will help reduce cutoffs from mackerel. A #1/0 is a good all-around hook size.

Whenever possible, the best approach is just allow the shrimp to be hooked on with little or no weight. This is called free lining and it works very well. Sometimes a small split shot will be required. This is the best approach when fishing with live shrimp from a drifting boat or when anchored over and artificial reefs.

Live bait fish are extremely effective for anglers targeting Spanish mackerel. However, catching in using them is a bit more involved. Most anglers using live bait fish will catch them themselves. A cast net, the ability to throw it, in a large bait well with a good recirculating pump are required.

Spanish mackerel respond to chumming

Chumming is one of the most productive fishing methods in saltwater. It is a very effective technique as mackerel respond well to chum. Anglers can chum with frozen blocks or with live bait fish. It works very well over structure such as artificial reefs.

Anglers will need a leader of some sort when targeting Spanish mackerel. While some choose to use a wire leader, I stick with a heavier fluorocarbon leader. I feel that the risk of getting cut off versus the extra number of bites is worth using the fluorocarbon leader.

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Anglers can attach the leader to the running line by using a small number 10 black swivel. It is important to not use a shiny swivel as this will attract mackerel, resulting in them severing the line at the swivel.

The leader may also be attached to the running line using a leader to leader not such as the Double Uni-knot. Finally, the hook or lure is attached to the terminal end.

Spanish mackerel fishing techniques

As mentioned above, there are multiple techniques which will produce Spanish mackerel. Casting, drifting, trolling, and fly fishing will all put Spanish mackerel in the boat. As with all fishing, current conditions will dictate the best place to fish in the technique to employ.

Drifting open water while either casting artificial lures or flies or free lining a live bait out behind the boat is simple and very effective. On the West Coast of Florida and along the entire Gulf Coast this method works well both on the deeper grass flats and 4 foot to 10 feet of water as well as the open Gulf of Mexico. Anglers will do well to keep their eyes peeled for signs of fish such as birds working and fish feeding on the surface.

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Drift fishing passes and inlets is effective

Drifting can work very well in the passes and inlets also. Anglers simply set up a drift allowing the boat to cover a productive area. Both lures and live bait work well. Anglers on the East Coast will have to choose times when the title flow is moderate. It is just too difficult to fish this way when the tide is very swift.

Anglers without a boat most certainly catch their share of Spanish mackerel. Piers, jetties, bridges, and beaches can all be productive areas, especially in the spring and fall. The keys to fishing these areas are clear water and the abundance of bait fish. Anglers encountering these conditions when the water temperature is in the low to mid 70s have an excellent chance of successfully targeting Spanish mackerel.

Shore fishing for Spanish mackerel

The same methods that work while fishing from a boat are productive for shore bound anglers. Lures can be cast out and retrieved while live bait can be allowed to naturally attract mackerel. It is important to try to make the presentation as natural as possible and use as little weight as is required. As with boat fishing, keeping a sharp eye out for signs of activity will lead to a productive outing.

Sarasota Spanish mackerel fishing

Trolling is an incredibly productive technique for Spanish mackerel. It is also quite simple. Anglers tie on a lure such as a spoon or plug, and let it out behind the boat a good distance. Then, the boat is simply driven around a bit above idle speed. When a Spanish mackerel takes the lure, there is little doubt. This is a very easy and relaxing way to fish and is productive both inshore, in the passes and inlets as well as out in the inshore Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean.

Spoons and plugs are the two best lures to employ when trolling. The jig will tend to roll and spin at those higher speeds while the plug and spoon will track naturally with a great wobbling action. Once a productive area is located, anglers can troll back and forth through that area maximizing the action.

Bluefish

Bluefish are the sole member of the family “Pomatomidae”. They are a pelagic species, meaning they spend their time in the middle of the water column. They are widely distributed throughout the world. Anglers from Maine south and around to Texas target them from boats, jetties and piers, and the surf. Pound for pound, bluefish are one of the strongest fighting game fish in the sea.

best 6 Sarasota fishing lures

Most of the bluefish that we see in Florida are smaller than their northern brethren. Here in Sarasota, Florida where I guide, bluefish average 2 pounds and a 5 pound blue is a nice fish. However, though they are smaller, they are just as much fun. This is due mostly to the fact that we fish for them with very light tackle. Bluefish grow much larger in the northeast. The world record is almost 32 pounds!

Bluefish are caught in the inshore bays, passes and inlets, along the beaches, and offshore in open water. They prefer clean, clear water. Bluefish school up in large numbers and are very aggressive. Often times bluefish will be seen feeding voraciously on the surface. This is a great opportunity as just about any lure or bait cast into the mix will draw strike.

Bluefish will feed on the surface

No matter what the bait fish being pursued, there are few angling circumstances that can compete with breaking fish when it comes to pure excitement! The sight of a school of game fish terrorizing hapless bait fish on the surface is exhilarating. Also, anglers know that just about any bait or lower tossed into the mix will draw a strike.

While many anglers target Spanish mackerel, false albacore, and other species, bluefish can be often found in these feeding frenzies. This is one instance whether anglers can bump up the leader to steel and not see a marked decrease in strikes. These fish are usually so fired up and aggressive that they will hit a spoon, plug, or jig with reckless abandon.

inshore fishing Sarasota Bay

Bluefish will be caught when fishing for other saltwater species

Many bluefish are landed by anglers seeking other species. A very popular technique in Florida is to drift the grass flats while casting a lower or live bait in search of fish. Anglers will encounter schools of Florida bluefish while doing this. When one fish is caught, expect more to follow. Bluefish will sometimes be seen feeding on the surface, but quite often there will be no indication of their presence until one is hooked.

Bluefish are very aggressive and a fast-moving lure will get their attention. Jigs, spoons, and plugs are the most popular artificial lures. If I was targeting bluefish or was fishing in an area where I knew they could be present, I would choose a jig and grub as my preferred lure.

Jigs are a productive lure for bluefish

Jigs are my preference when fishing for bluefish for several reasons. Most importantly, they are effective and catch fish. But there are other reasons as well. Bluefish have very sharp teeth and cutoffs will occur.

In clear waters, a fluorocarbon leader will produce many more strikes than a steel leader will. For this reason, lures and hooks will be cut off by bluefish. Jigs are relatively inexpensive. They also have one large single hook, making handling and releasing bluefish easier.

inshore saltwater fishing

Fishing for blues with spoons and plugs

Spoons are another effective lure when targeting bluefish. A 1/2 ounce spoon is very aerodynamic and will cast a long way on light spinning tackle. Silver is the preferred color in clear water. Most casting spoons come with a treble hook which can be easily replaced with a single hook if desired. A snap swivel at the lure or a swivel between the leader and running line will reduce line twist.

Plugs are very productive when chasing bluefish. It is very exciting to see bluefish blowup on a top water plug! However, there are a couple drawbacks to casting plugs. Plugs are expensive with the average cost being around $10. Several anglers casting into a school of bluefish can lose a fair amount of money quickly! Also, most plugs come equipped with treble hooks. These can be dangerous when trying to unhook an angry bluefish.

Fishing for bluefish using live and cut bait

While casting artificial lures and flies is great fun, many bluefish are caught using live and cut bait as well. Live shrimp and live bait fish are the top live baits. Mullet, squid, mackerel, porgy, and sardines are the top cut baits. In reality, any fish that is legal to keep can be cut up and used effectively as bait.

Sarasota fishing

Anglers choosing to surf fish almost always opt for cut bait. It really just is a practical decision that is also effective. The East Coast beaches tend to have higher waves and rougher surf. Cut bait stays on the hook better during a long cast and with the stronger current and wave action. Bait can be cut into long narrow strips or into chunks. Pier anglers often times use cut bait as well. The best rig when using cut bait to surf fish for bluefish is the fish finder rig.

Anglers can certainly use live bait when surf fishing as well. This is particularly true on the Gulf Coast where the wave and tide action is generally more gentle. When using live bait, the best approach is to use the least amount of weight possible. Anglers will find bluefish on the West Coast quite close to shore, often in the first trough.

Drift fishing for bluefish

Anglers drifting over the flats and in the passes and inlets will catch bluefish on live bait. One technique that works really well is to free line the bait. This means that the shrimp is hooked on to the hook with no weight being added to the line. The shrimp or bait fish then swims naturally in the water. Since bluefish are often high in the water column, this is a very effective technique. To reduce cutoffs, a long shank hook is preferred.

Passes and inlets are virtual fish highways that game fish and bait fish use to migrate between the inshore bays and the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean. These are natural spots to find bluefish. Currents can be strong in these areas, so artificial lures are usually a better choice. Anglers can cast to rocks and rip rap or bounce a jig vertically along as they drift. Once again, keeping an eye out for surface activity will increase the chances of success.

jig fishing for bluefish

Bluefish are good eating when prepared correctly

In my opinion, bluefish get a bad rap when it comes to eating quality. I find the smaller bluefish and the 2 to 3 pound range to be delicious! However they do require a bit more care. I bleed any bluefish that I plan to keep. I do this by cutting the gills and putting the fish in the bait well. This will result in the fish pumping all the blood out of its body, making the flesh not quite as dark. Then, I get the fish on ice as quickly as possible.

Bluefish are oily and do not freeze well. Keep only what you need for a meal that evening. There is an area of darker meat on the backside of the fillet. On larger fish, this area can be cut out for cooking. On smaller fillets, it is best to cook it and work around the dark strip if desired. This darker meat is perfectly safe to eat, some people just find it a bit unappealing.

Flounder and fluke

Flounder and fluke are without doubt one of the favorite species of inshore saltwater anglers. They fight hard and are fun to catch, but their popularity rises from their value on a dinner plate. They are fantastic eating!

The term “flounder” is a bit confusing. Down south, we have southern Gulf flounder. Up north, anglers have fluke and winter flounder. The fluke is more like a southern flounder, having a very large mouth. Both are voracious predators. The winter flounder has a very small mouth. For the purposes of this discussion, we will term both fluke and southern flounder as “flounder”.

Flounder and fluke habits

Flounder are a unique fish. They begin their lives like most fish. At some point, they start swimming on their side and the eye migrates so that both are on the same side. The fish then spends the rest of its life swimming on its side and “looking up”.

Flounder are perfectly designed to live and feed in inshore saltwater bays. They bury themselves in the sand, completely camouflaged. They lie there in wait, ambushing prey as the tide brings bait past. Flounder will relate to structure of some sort when available. Bridges with good current flow are prime spots, as are docks and inlets. Flounder are also taken in the surf and in the open Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean.

Sarasota bottom fishing

Flounder fishing techniques

Fuke and flounder are predators and target live bait fish and crustaceans. Live minnows are a top flounder bait. They can be purchased at some bait shops. Many flounder anglers use a minnow trap to catch their own bait. Shrimp are a great bait in southern waters. Strips of squid and other cut bait work quite well and are a good choice when fishing in areas with a lot of crabs.

Artificial lures catch plenty of flounder as well. The most effective flounder lure is without a doubt ta jig. Jigs can be fishing right on the bottom, where the flounder feed. Both buck tail and plastic grub jigs produce fish. Many anglers combine both the jig and bait by adding a minnow, strip of squid, or piece of shrimp to the jig. This approach works very well!

Drift fishing works very well for flounder

Many anglers choose to drift fish when targeting flounder. This is an effective technique when fish are scattered out over a large area. A sliding sinker rig will keep the bait right on the bottom. Spreader rigs work well, too. Often times the bite will feel like a snag. This is due to the flounder being buried in the sand. But, don’t be surprised when the “snag” comes alive!

Anglers targeting structure usually anchor, though a piece of structure can be drifted as well. Flounder will often position themselves in the sand just off the edge of the structure. Also, flounder will usually be on the up-current side of the structure. This applies to bridges as well.

Flounder and fluke fishing

Bridges are great flounder fishing spots

Bridges are flounder magnets. Often times, bridges are constructed in a spot where the bay narrows down. This means that current flow is usually stronger under bridges. This makes them excellent ambush spots for flounder and other inshore species.

The channel edge under the bridge can be the best spot. Fish like edges and depth changes. That, in conjunction with the structure of the bridge makes this a prime fishing spot. Anglers can anchor or drift, depending on current and laws. Some bridges prohibit anchoring underneath them.

Pompano

Pompano are found along the entire Gulf of Mexico coast and up the Atlantic coast to the mid-Atlantic. Most pompano are caught by anglers surf fishing. Pompano may be encountered at any time of the year, with spring and fall being the prime times.

Pompano look very similar to juvenile permit. They also tend to live in the same environments. Permit have longer fins with a bit of black on the tips. If anglers have any doubt, it is best to err on the side of caution and release the fish.

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Many pompano are caught by anglers fishing with jigs

Jigs produce most of the pompano landed by anglers fishing the inshore bays. A close look at a pompano will reveal a small, inferior mouth. The term inferior mouth refers to the fact that the opening of the mouth is on the underside of the head. This will indicate the method by which a pompano feeds. It swims with its head down and tail up forage on the bottom for crustaceans such as shrimp and crabs.

This explains why jigs are so productive when targeting pompano. A jig that is bounced off the bottom kicks up a tiny puff of sand. This very closely mimics the action of a fleeing crab or shrimp. Jigs produce on the beaches, in the passes and inlets, and in the bays. Bright colors such as red, chartreuse, and white are the most productive patterns, but as with all fishing, keep changing it up until a favorite emerges.

Small jigs work best for pompano fishing in inshore waters

Many anglers land pompano while casting 3 inch to 4 inch jigs while drifting over the deep grass flats. The same Bass Assassin Sea Shad baits that work so well for trout, bluefish, ladyfish, and other species will also fool pompano. The same jig and fall retrieve is productive. The deeper flats, those between 8 feet and 10 feet deep, produce more pompano. However, they can be encountered over sandbars in as little as 2 feet of water.

While the larger jigs will catch the occasional pompano, when specifically targeting pompano, smaller jigs are often used. Not surprisingly, these are called “pompano jigs”. As noted earlier, pompano have a quite small mouth, so a smaller bite-size jig works well. These jigs are very plain looking. There simply a round jig head with a little bit of dressing, usually synthetic care. Combinations of white, yellow, chartreuse, and red have proven to be effective colors.

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Pompano fishing with bananna jigs

There is another type of lure specifically designed to for pompano. They are called “banana jigs”. They are long and slender, and shaped like a banana, thus the name. When jerked up sharply, they fall in a very erratic manner. Pompano find this action irresistible. Some also have a little fly near the hook. Often times pompano will be hooked under the chin with the second little teaser hook.

Anglers drifting the deep grass flats simply cast the jig out ahead of the drifting boat, allow it to sink, and work it back in using short hops. The same technique works for those fishing for pompano off the beaches. When the bite is tough or when the water is a bit off-color, tipping the jig with a small piece of shrimp can really make a difference.

Many pompano are caught using live bait as well. Live shrimp are the most popular bait. They are readily available at every Florida bait shop. While live shrimp or fresh dead shrimp are best, pompano will certainly take a frozen shrimp as well.

Sand fleas are a top bait when pompano fishing

There is another bait that’s very effective when targeting pompano, though using it can be a bit more involved. These are called mole crabs, better known as sand fleas. Very few shops keep these, though some do have frozen sand fleas available. Live sand fleas are much preferred to frozen baits. Dedicated surf anglers use a special rake which they use in the surf line to catch the sand fleas. Obtaining sand fleas requires more effort, but many anglers swear by them.

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One great thing about pompano is that anglers without a boat catch more than their fair share. Surf fishing for pompano is very popular throughout the state. Pompano Beach is even named after this special fish! Surf fishing tactics very a bit on each coast, so I will go into the difference and techniques.

Surf fishing for pompano

The surf along the Gulf Coast is generally a bit more gentle than that of the Atlantic Ocean. Starting from the beach and moving out to sea, beaches will have several troughs and bars. Many times the pompano will be in the first trough 10 to 15 feet from shore. This means that long casts are not required.

The best approach for targeting pompano on the Gulf beaches is to use fairly light spinning tackle, in the 10 pound class. Anglers can then choose to use a quarter ounce jig and cast and retrieve, or to fish with live bait. As stated above, putting a piece of fresh shrimp on a jig head can be the best of both worlds. As an added benefit, other species such as whiting, sheepshead, flounder, ladyfish, and more will take a shrimp-tipped jig.

pompano fishing

Small hooks and baits work best when surf fishing for pompano

Anglers choosing to fish with live bait will do well by keeping it simple. A small #4 hook and a split shot or two will get the job done. By using as little weight as possible, anglers will achieve a very natural presentation. It is best if the shrimp is slowly moving along the bottom with the current.

The surf on the Atlantic Ocean tends to be a bit rougher. Also, tide differences are more extreme. Lastly, anglers are often have to cast into a stiff breeze. For these reasons, angler surf fishing for pompano on the East Coast use the more traditional style.

Atlantic coast surf fishing

Surf rods are spinning rods that are 10 to 13 feet or even longer. They have large spinning reels with high-capacity spools. These long rods allow anglers to make a very long cast and keep the line up out of the crashing waves. After the cast rods are placed into sand spikes. These are simply pieces of PCV tubing that hold the rod upright.

There are several rigs that can be used for this type of surf fishing. The most common when targeting pompano is the “high low” rig. This is simply two different hooks where one is close to the bottom and the other about a foot or so above. A heavy pyramid style weight is at the very bottom. It is not uncommon to catch two fish at once with this rig.

Ocean surf fishing techniques

The other commonly used rig off of the surf is the fish finder rig. This is a device that has a clip to hold on the pyramid sinker with a hollow tube allowing the line to run freely through it. The biggest advantage of this rig is that fish can pick up the bait and move off with it without feeling the weight of the sinker. However, because the bait lies on the bottom it tends to attract more sharks and other undesirable species.

The fishing technique with both rigs is basically the same and quite simple. The hooks are baited up, and the rig is cast out as far as possible. Once the bait settles, the rod is placed in the sand spike with the line taught. Once the rod tip indicates that a fish is biting the rod is removed from the spike in the hook is set.

Sheepshead

Sheepshead are a member of the Porgy family. They feed primarily on crustaceans and are rarely taken using artificial lures. Live shrimp and fiddler crabs are the top baits. Sheepshead fishing is best in February and March in the south, later in the season up north. Fish are schooled up thick around structure as this is when they spawn. Sheepshead are very good eating, but are difficult to clean.

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Sheepshead will almost always relate to some type of structure. Docks, bridges, seawalls, piers, rocky ledges, and oyster bar are all structures which will attract sheepshead. They are caught on ledges and artificial reefs in the inshore Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean as well.

Most sheepshead are caught on or near the bottom. The basic rig consists of a 24 inch to 30 inch piece of fluorocarbon leader. 30 pound test is a good all-around strength. Some weight will be required to get the bait down to the bottom. In fairly shallow water with little current, a split shot or two will be plenty. In deeper water or with current present, a 1/2 to 1 ounce sliding egg sinker should be fine. Tie on a #1 or #1/0 live bait hook.

Bottom fishing rigs for sheepshead

There are a couple different ways to use this sliding egg sinker. Both allow the sheepshead to move off with the bait without feeling any resistance. The first method is to slide the egg sinker on the running line. A #10 black swivel is tied between the running line and the leader. The swivel stops the sinker from sliding down while still allowing the line to slide freely through the sinker.

The second method is called a “knocker rig”and is the technique that I usually employ on my fishing charters. With the leader attached, the end of the leader slides through the sinker and then the hook is tied on. The sinker will lie right against the eye of the hook. This rig results in the bait being right on the bottom. It tends to hang up less. The sinker being on the hook does not discourage bites.

Shrimp are by far the number one bait for anglers sheepshead fishing. Shrimp are available at nearly every bait and tackle shop. Live shrimp are generally preferred, however fresh dead and frozen shrimp catch plenty of sheepshead as well. Some serious sheepshead anglers prefer fiddler crabs. These are fine baits, however anglers will usually have to catch their own. The same goes for oyster crabs. Sand fleas will also produce sheepshead. A few bait shops keep these in stock.

Best technique for hooking sheepshead

Sheepshead are notorious for being expert bait-stealers. Often times anglers will only feel a slight “tap” or two and then the bait is gone. One mistake many novice sheepshead anglers make is to try to set the hook when they feel a bite. This will usually result in the fish getting away with the bait unscathed.

Sarasota sheepshead fishing

This is the best technique to use when sheepshead fishing regarding hooking these sneaky fish. Cast the bait out and let it settle. Tighten up the line and then keep it as still as possible. The first indication of a sheepshead being interested is a subtle “tap”. It is very important to not move the rod tip at all! The angler needs to wait until a steady pull is felt. Often times, there will be multiple “taps” before this happens.

Once a steady pull or a little weight is felt on the line, the line should be reeled up quickly than the rod tip slowly raised. Reeling quickly will remove any slack and get the hook started into the sheepshead mouth. That mouth is full of hard teeth and often times the hook will not penetrate. Reeling quickly and slowly lifting the rod tip offers the best chance for success. But one thing is for certain when sheepshead fishing, more fish will be missed that will be hooked!

Jack crevalle

Jack crevalle are very powerful, using their broad bodies and large forked tails to put up a terrific fight. They are generally found in fairly large schools, and this adds to the aggressiveness. Competition forms within the group to see who can catch and devour the prey. This makes them a fantastic game fish!

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Jack crevalle are perfectly suited to anglers who prefer casting lures and flies. While they can certainly be caught on live bait, and many are, they are so aggressive that using lures is a natural choice. Just about any artificial lure will catch jacks. Jigs, spoons, plugs, and flies are all effective. Jacks prefer warmer water but are caught up to the mid Atlantic.

Inshore saltwater fishing for jacks

Here in Florida, jacks do have a seasonal migration pattern. They are generally found in creeks and residential canals in the cooler months. Jacks are a subtropical species and cannot tolerate water temperatures in the mid-50s for very long. The water in these residential canals in creeks can be up to 10° warmer than the exposed open flats. This results in jacks being congregated in a small area, making them much easier to locate.

As it warms up jacks will move out of the creeks and canals and onto the nearby flats. The warming water temperatures will have them in a mood to feed. Often times they will give away their location by feeding aggressively on the surface. Anglers can scan the water surface for feeding fish along with bird activity. At this point it is just a matter of getting a bait in front of them. Any lure that even mildly resembles the forage will draw a strike.


Jacks will seek out cooler water in the summer time. This can be deeper flats and 10 feet of water, deeper canals, the passes, in the inshore Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean. Summer is the one time when live bait can be more effective for jacks. The water temperature being warm has them a little less aggressive. Chumming with live bait fish will fire them up and get them in a mood to feed.

Jack crevalle fishing strategies

One technique that we use here in Sarasota quite often is drifting the deep grass flats. We simply drift over the submerge grass with the wind and tide while casting out lures in search of game fish. Jacks will often times be found in such locations, even when surface activity is not present. As with jack fishing everywhere, they usually school up and are quite aggressive.

The jig and grub combo is a great all round saltwater bait. It is a great choice when targeting jack crevelle, and really any other inshore species. A quarter ounce jig head with a 3 inch shad tail trailer is a good all-around combo. Color doesn’t matter that much, though when possible it is best to match the clarity of the water. Light-colored baits work best in clear water while darker colored baits work better and water that is stained.

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Anglers casting plugs enjoy some terrific light tackle action on jack crevelle. They will draw some ferocious strikes! Top water plugs are fun and exciting, however shallow diving plugs are generally more productive. Anglers can blind cast likely looking spots such as mangrove shorelines, seawalls, docks, and other structure. Casting plugs into breaking fish is obviously great fun. Two drawbacks to using plugs are the initial cost and having to deal with a pair of treble hooks. Some manufacturers are now offering plugs with a pair of single hooks.

Tackle used when jack crevalle fishing

Spoons are very effective lures for jack crevelle as well. They cast the mile, can be worked back aggressively, and closely mimic most bait fish that are in the water. They are reasonably priced and anglers can easily replace the trouble hook with a single J hook.

Fly anglers will do well with any bait fish imitations. In all white or chartreuse over white clouds or minnow on a number one hook is a great all round choice. One of the few times that jacks can be fussy is when they are feeding on tiny glass minnows. This is a circumstance where the fly fisherman can shine, as it is easier to match the hatch with a small fly than it is with a heavy artificial lure.

The tackle an angler uses when targeting jack crevelle depends on the size of the jacks that may be encountered. After all, the world record is 66 pounds! In Sarasota where I fish, most jacks are in the to to 5 pound range with the occasional fish reaching 10 pounds. For this fishing, the same light to medium spinning tackle that is used for snook and redfish and other species works fine. A 30 pound to 40 pound piece of fluorocarbon leader is used between the running line and the lure.

inshore saltwater fishing

Jack crevalle fishing can require stout tackle

Anglers who fish on the East Coast of Florida may need to beef the tackle up a bit. The inlets and residential canals there as well as the open bays hold some very large jack crevelle. Light conventional tackle may be a better choice, especially when fishing around docks, bridges, and other structure.

The same decision holds true for fly anglers. While an eight weight outfit is perfect for the Sarasota area, anglers on the East Coast or in the Caribbean might be better off with a 10 weight outfit. With either selection an intermediate sink tip line is the best all round choice. An 8 foot to 10 foot paper leader with a 30 pound bite tippet finishes off the rig.

Jack crevalle are targets of opportunity

As a fishing guide in Sarasota, I’m on the water around 200 days a year. Rarely do I actually target jacks. In most instances they are a happy interruption to our snook fishing attempts. I treat them as a target of opportunity, never turning down a chance when I see a school of jacks foraging on the surface.

The one time I do target jacks is in the creeks and rivers in the wintertime. Starting around late October depending on the year, jacks will begin their migration up into the creeks, rivers, and canals. For whatever reason, they tend to do less feeding on the surface in these areas. Blind casting with plugs such as the #8 Rapala X-Rap will allow anglers to cover a lot of water quickly and find the jacks of their in the area. In most instances, finding jacks is equal to catching them.

Sarasota jack crevelle

Fly fishing for jacks

This is a great opportunity for novice anglers to catch a large fish on fly. Short easy casts are the norm in jacks are generally not fussy about presentation. A 5 pound Jack puts up a terrific fight on a seven weight or eight weight fly rod.

It disappoints me to hear jack crevelle called trash fish or an undesirable species. Pound for pound, very few game fish strike as violently or pull as hard as do jacks. There is no need to disparage them just because they aren’t as desirable table fare

as some other species. Instead, appreciate them for what they are, one of the hardest fighting fish in the sea!

Snook

Snook are the premier inshore game fish in Florida. They are very similar inhabits to largemouth bass. However, they can grow to 50 pounds! Snook can be caught all year long using a variety of techniques and baits. They do have a limited range and are generally found in the southern half of Florida and in south Texas.

Snook have a very distinct seasonal migration. They spawn out onto the beaches and in the inshore Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean from May through September. Many snook will stay in the passes and inlets as well. They find the deep water, good current flow, and abundant structure quite attractive.

Sarasota fishing forecast

Late spring and early summer are great times to catch a trophy snook in the passes and inlets. They are bunched up and in relatively large schools in a pretty small area. While artificial lures will produce, live bait works best in this situation. Live shrimp, pin fish, grunts, croakers, and large scaled sardines are the top baits. Most anglers anchor and cast the baits out near docks and rocky shorelines.

Fishing for snook on the beaches

Snook are sight fished off of the beaches. This is great sport, especially on a fly rod. Snook can be seen cruising right in the surf line just inches from shore. They are bit spooky, in a quiet presentation is required. This is part of what makes fly fishing so effective. Small white buck tail jigs, small plugs, and small white flies are the top baits. Anglers can go fairly light on the tackle as there is usually very little structure for the fish to break off on.

After the spawn as fall arrives and water temperatures begin to cool, snook will move out of the passes and off the beaches. They will spread out into the inshore waters to feed. Fall is an excellent time to target snook. Flats and structure inshore will hold good numbers of snook.

Snook fishing with artificial lures

Anglers who enjoy bass fishing and casting lures will find snook fishing appealing. Top water and shallow diving plugs, soft plastic baits, and weedless spoons are the top lures. Mangrove shorelines, docks, and oyster bars are prime spots. Anglers can cover a lot of water and a lot of likely looking spots using artificial lures. It can also produce some very exciting strikes! See Capt Jim’s snook fishing tackle and lure recommendations.

Sarasota snook fishing

One deadly technique this time of year is to chum using live bait. This is a bit of a specialized technique. It requires a large bait well, good pump, and a large cast net and the ability to throw it. Once the angler has several hundred to inch to 3 inch baits in the well, the boat is anchored up in a likely spot. A few of the live baits are tossed out unhooked to attract snook up behind the boat. Once they are attracted and excited, they are usually fairly easy to catch using hooked live baits. This is a great opportunity for an angler who is less skilled and experienced to catch snook.

Tactics for winter snook fishing

Every winter is different here in Florida. If the winter is mild, snook will remain on the flats all year long. However, a severe cold snapper or two will push them up into residential canals and creeks. Snook are a tropical species and cannot tolerate water temperature below 58° for very long. These canals and creeks are warmer and offer snook a refuge from the exposed open bays.

Miles of residential canals along with creeks and rivers provide sanctuary for snook in the winter. Casting or trolling artificial lures allows anglers to cover a lot of water quickly. Shallow diving plugs work very well. A 5 inch or 6 inch soft plastic swim bait on a light jig is another effective bait. Large live shrimp can be deadly once a productive area is located.

Sarasota fishing charters

Snook habits

As it starts to warm up and spring, snook will move out of their winter hunts and spread back out onto the flats and inshore waters. This fishing is a lot like the fall fishing. Both artificial lures and live baits will be effective. There is one difference however, normally the large scaled sardines have not arrived yet. Once they do, live bait chumming again becomes a very effective technique.

While snook do not have teeth, they do have very sharp gill plates. For this reason anglers use a shock leader. A shock leader is a 24 inch to 30 inch piece of leader tied onto the end of the running line. Most anglers prefer a line to line knot such as the double Uni knot when attaching the leader. This eliminates the use of a swivel which can detract from the action of the lure.

Snook fishing at night

Snook are also nocturnal. This obviously means that they feed at night. Many snook have been caught from lighted docks and bridges at night. These lights attract shrimp and other bait fish, which in turn attracts the snook. Outgoing tides are preferred. The basic technique is to anchor a cast away from the light on either the dock or the bridge fender, cast the bait up current, and let it work back naturally towards the light with the tide.

The best live baits for snook are shrimp and live bait fish. Live shrimp can be purchased at all local area bait shops. The larger hand picked shrimp are preferred when fishing docks and other structure. When they are not available, normal-size shrimp works fine. Small to medium-size shrimp are actually preferred when fishing at night as they match the size of the shrimp that are naturally in the water.

False albacore

False albacore fishing is incredible! It is one of my favorite forms of angling where I fish in Sarasota, Florida, right up there with casting plugs for big snook. Part of what makes it so exciting is that there is much more involved than just fishing. It is a bit like hunting and fishing combined. Patience is required as we tried to figure out the movements of the false albacore, waiting for a good opportunity.

False albacore are a pelagic species. That means they spend most of their time in the middle to upper part of the water column. They range from Texas to New England. Bottom structure and other cover is really not a factor, other than bait tends to congregate in those areas. False albacore basically tear around the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean and devour helpless bait fish.

Sarasota fly fishing charters

But, it’s not as easy as just seeing where they are, driving over, and casting into them. Will actually, sometimes it is! But most of the time it is not. Most of the time the fish are quite fussy. There are days where they pop up here, pop up there, never stay in one place long enough to get a good shot. That is just part of the game. Most days though, staying patient will result in at least a few good opportunities.

There are several factors that add to making the fish finicky. Generally speaking, fishing for false albacore is best when the water is clear. Obviously, that means they can see well. Therefore, longer casts and lighter leaders are required. Also, often times the false albacore are feeding on glass minnows. Glass minnows are very small, sometimes only and inch long. A a 6 inch bait tossed into the middle of that 1 inch bait will not look natural and usually will not draw strike.

False albacore fishing tackle

Tackle for false albacore fishing is pretty basic, though it needs to be an excellent working condition. False albacore make long, fast runs and will test the drag system on the reel. They are basically small tuna fish and are fast and powerful. The guides on the rod need to be free of nicks and abrasions. Finally, all knots need to be well tied.

The best all round outfit for false albacore fishing is a 7 foot spinning rod in a medium heavy action. A stiffer butt section is required to subdue a nice false albacore. But, the tip needs to be limber enough to cast a light lure a fair distance. A 3000 series spinning reel spooled up with 10 pound monofilament line or 20 pound braided line completes the outfit.

I like to double 4 feet or so of my running line when using monofilament. I do so using a spider hitch, but a Bimini Twist is fine as well. Then, I attach a 30 inch section of 20 pound fluorocarbon leader to the double line using a Double Uni Knot. Going as light as 20 pound leader will increase strikes. However, Spanish mackerel can be a nuisance. They will cut right through that 20 pound leader quickly. If Spanish mackerel are present, and you can get away with it, bump the leader up to 30 or even 40 pound test.

A strong onshore breeze will shut down the false albacore fishing. Rough, choppy, dirty water is not to the liking of the fish. Several days of land-based wind will have the water settled down. That is just part of the game when false albacore fishing, and really fishing in general. Seasons vary, but spring and fall are generally the best times to fish.

Artificial lures and flies work best for false albacore fishing

I rarely use live bait when false albacore fishing. Artificial lures are very productive and to me just more enjoyable to fish. My number one bait is a #8 Rapala X-Rap slashbait. White and olive are my two favorite colors. These lures are just the right size and have a great action. They float on the surface and dive down a couple feet when retrieved.

Bass Assassin Sea Shad jigs are my second choice for false albacore fishing. Lighter colors work best. Jigs are particularly effective when the fish are a little deeper in the water column. There will be days when the albacore are up and down. Anglers cast the jig to the last known location of the fish and are allowed to sink before being retrieved back in.

Sarasota fishing charters

Small spoons work well when saltwater fishing

Small Silver spoons are another productive lure for false albacore. Spoons come in all shapes and sizes and can be easily tailored to match the available forage. Spoons cast a mile and can be worked either near the surface or down deeper. They are great all round lure for both false albacore and Spanish mackerel.

With all artificial lures the technique is basically the same. I like to run on plane as slowly as the boat will stay up and search for signs of fish. Any bait fish dimpling on the surface or birds working will get my attention. I will then stop and patiently scan the area to see if fish are coming up. If nothing materializes, I move on.

Fishing strategies for false albacore

Sometimes, if I see a big flock of birds sitting there, I will give it more time. This can be an indication of a big school of bait beneath them. Birds will often times sit on the surface like that waiting for the false albacore and mackerel to drive the bait fish to the surface.

Once fish are found, the boat is stopped and I try to determine a pattern in their movements. Here in Sarasota, the fish mostly seem to be moving north to south. If the fish are staying on the surface and not moving the boat can be eased into casting position. I then shut the motor off and allow the boat to drift into casting range.

inshore false albacore fishing

The best retrieve for false albacore fishing is usually a very fast and erratic one. The plug and spoon both have this type of action built-in. A fast retrieve with short jerks of the rod tip should produces strike.

A fast retrieve works best when false albacore fishing

The best retrieve with the jig and grub combo is usually to allow the jig to sink a few seconds then reel it back in as fast as humanly possible. But, fishing is not the same every day. If you get into the fish and these retrieves don’t produce, switch up the retrieves and then even maybe the baits until a productive pattern is found.

Ideally, fish will surface and stay up and in one spot. But, that does not happen all the time. More often than not the fish pop up quickly for a few seconds and are moving fast. If the speed and direction can be determined, the boat can be placed in a position to intercept them. If this sounds hit or miss, well that’s because it is! There are times where you just can’t get on them. But that’s part of the challenge and part of what makes it fun.

Trolling produces false albacore

While I prefer casting lures to breaking false albacore, trolling can be an effective way to locate them. If the fish are up and down and hard to get on, trolling can be an effective way to hook one. Those Rapala X-Raps do a fine job when trolling.

inshare saltwater fishing

Spoons may be trolled as well, though anglers will need to use a swivel between the leader and the running line. Jigs tend to roll over and are not as effective when trolling.

While I primarily fish for false albacore with artificial lures, live bait will certainly catch them. One extremely effective technique is to chum with live bait or frozen chum. This is a great technique for children and other inexperienced anglers. It gives them a good chance to catch a big fish without having great casting skills.

Once the boat is anchored a couple handfuls of live chum is tossed out or a bag of frozen chum is tied to the stern. If the mackerel and false albacore are around, it won’t be long before they find the chum. Then, it is just a matter of hooking a bait on and tossing it out behind the boat. A hookup should quickly ensue. No weight is used on the line, just a #1/0 hook.

Fly fishing for false albacore

Fly fishing for false albacore is fantastic sport! Other than tarpon, it is the hardest fighting fish that Sarasota offers to visiting fly anglers. The technique is basically the same, as I try to put the boat 30 or 40 feet away from a school of breaking fish. The fly is cast out and the angler strips back as quickly as possible. The strikes are ferocious!

A 9wt fly outfit is best, though if the albacore are run an unusually large, a 10wt will be a better choice. Floating lines are fine as the fish are almost always taken on the surface. A 10 foot tapered leader with a 20 pound bite tippet and a #4 bait fish pattern fly completes the rig. Glass minnows, Crystal Minnows, Clouser Minnows, and D.T. Specials are the top producing flies.

False albacore fishing

False albacore release techniques

False albacore are generally considered not very good to eat. After catching one of these gallant game fish, angler should hoisted up for a quick photo than get it back in the water as soon as possible.

The procedure for releasing a false albacore is a bit different than other species. They need water moving through their mouth and over their gills. Therefore, when a fish is being released, the angler throws it headfirst into the water as quickly as possible. This will get the water moving over it skills and it should respond and swim away.

Anglers targeting false albacore do have opportunities for other species. There are days when many Spanish mackerel are seen, but not as many false albacore. The same artificial lures mentioned above will catch a lot of Spanish mackerel. The only real difference is the need to bump the leader up to 40 pound test. Northern anglers may encounter bluefish and striped bass.

Cobia

Cobia are a species that are caught along both the Atlantic coast up to Chesapeake Bay and along the entire Gulf of Mexico coast. They are found inshore in the bays, along the beaches, and offshore. Cobia grow very large, over 150 pounds. They are generally found alone or in very small pods.

Cobia Sarasota Bay

Cobia often times relate to structure. Anglers targeting cobia will run the navigation markers in search of fish. They will hover near the surface on the down current side of the marker. Most of the time, they are easy to catch once spotted. Small baitfish, shrimp, eels, and artificial lures will produce cobia.

Artificial reefs hold cobia, as do natural ledges. Often times the fish will come up right behind the boat. Anglers also slowly cruise the beach in search of cobia milling right on the surface. Anglers catch cobia in the inshore waters as well. They are normally an accidental catch. Even a small cobia will put of a great fight on tackle designed for smaller fish!

King mackerel

king mackerel fishing

King mackerel are ordinarily found offshore in deeper water. However, they do come in close to the beach at times.Trolling is a very productive technique. Anglers troll with lures such as plugs and spoons as well as with live bait fish. Reefs, ledges, and bait schools are all prime spots for inshore fishing for king mackerel.

Bottom fish

Bottom fish are highly sought after by inshore saltwater anglers. In an effort to not be repetitive, I am going to include them all in one section. For the most part, locations and techniques are quite similar. These species include snapper, grouper, tautog (blackfish), grunts, croaker, spot, perch, black sea bass, whiting, and winter flounder,

Most bottom fish are caught on some type of “natural” bait, whether it is live, freshly dead, or frozen. Top northern baits include bloodworms, squid, crabs, clams, minnows, and cut fish. Southern anglers use shrimp, small bait fish, squid, and cut bait. Spreader rigs and sliding sinker rigs are equally effective.

Most bottom fish relate to structure. This is especially true for grouper, snapper, and blackfish. They are often found very tight to the cover. Other species such as perch and spot will school up in open water. Drifting is often the best way to locate these fish. Snagging is usually not much of an issue in open water with sandy bottom.

Grouper

best Sarasota fishing charter

Grouper are a highly desired bottom fish in southern waters. They taste great and are almost always caught close to structure using natural bait. There are many species of grouper throughout the Gulf and southern Atlantic Ocean. Gag grouper pic posted.

Snapper

Sarasota fishing calendar

Snapper are another family of very desirable and tasty fish. They school up in large numbers and relate to structure of some sort. They are plentiful in the shallow inshore southern waters. Most snapper are caught on bait. This is a mangrove snapper.

Black sea bass

bottom fishing

Black sea bass are a very popular bottom fish along the entire east coast and into the Gulf of Mexico. They relate to structure and school up in large numbers. They are a staple of head boats from the Carolinas to New England. Sea bass are great eating!

Black drum

fishing for black drum

Black drum range from Texas to the mid Atlantic. They are very popular throughout the Gulf states and are targeted in shallow water. They grow large and put up a good fight. Most anglers consider the smaller specimens to be much better to eat.

Key West grunt

Sarasota bottom fishing

Grunts are a staple of charter and head boats along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts up to Virginia. They are easy to catch and taste great. They school up over ledges and structure.

Tautog (blackfish)

inshore saltwater fishing

Tautog (blackfish) are a very popular bottom fish that are targeted around structure in the New England area. They prefer small crabs and other crustaceans. Tautog are famous for being very light biters. They are terrific table fare.

Inshore Saltwater fishing Conclusion

First of all, thank you for taking the time to read this post. I hope you found it informative and worth the time and cost. I tried to include as much of the basic information that I thought would be useful, without it being overwhelming.

Any angler who would like some clarification or has a question on something that I did not cover, especially if it is Florida related, can e-mail me at captklopfer@comcast.net

I will try my best to help you out, if I can.

Also, the same goes for anglers visiting the Sarasota, Florida area who might like to give our inshore fishing a try! Sarasota offers anglers quite a few fishing options all year long. Sarasota is also a destination that has something for the entire family. World class beaches, shopping, and restaurants will keep all of the members of the family busy and happy.

In conclusion, this article on Saltwater Fishing, Tips, Tackle, Techniques, and Species will help anglers catch more fish!

 

 

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. In order to be successful, anglers need the best smallmouth bass fishing tackle.

smallmouth bass fishing tackle and lures

The best smallmouth bass fishing tackle is a light spinning rod and reel along with a good selection of lures would include spinners, spoons, plugs, and jigs. This selection of tackle and lures will cover most smallmouth bass fishing situations. Smallmouth bass are similar in size and habits throughout most of the country.

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.

“Fishing Lido Key is a participant in the Amazon Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon”

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 plastic baits, 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

While anglers have many choices when it comes to fishing, more choose to go fishing for crappie, bluegill, and panfish than all other species combined. There are good reasons for this.

Many anglers enjoy 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. Panfish 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

Grubs

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

Beetlespin

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.

Roostertail

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.

Jigs

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

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

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
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.

crappie

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 are common throughout the midewest and are an under appreciated little game fish.

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 bite 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 Powerbait tube 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!

Best 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 in this link.

The best walleye fishing tackle consists of a light trolling rod and matching reel with a line counter. This is the outfit that the majority of anglers will use when fishing for walleye. Plugs, spoons, and live bait can be trolled successfully for walleye. This is a versatile and effective walleye fishing combination.

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.

Sinkers


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

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.

Jigs

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

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.