How to catch saltwater fish with jigs

How to catch saltwater fish with jigs

This article will teach anglers how to catch saltwater fish with jigs. Jigs are a very simple yet incredible effective artificial lure.

how to catch saltwater fish with jigs

Saltwater fishing with jigs is productive and fairly easy to do. There is evidence to suggest that jigs were the first artificial lures used to catch fish. A jig is simply a hook with a shaped, weighted head at the front. It then has some type of body made of plastic or hair. The weight at the eye of the hook gives the lure an erratic jigging motion. Thus the name “jig”. The body of the jig can resemble crustaceans such as crabs and shrimp along with bait fish. While normally fished on the bottom, jigs can also be used throughout the entire water column.

how to catch saltwater fish using jigs

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

Jig fishing rods and reels

There really is no one best outfit for jig fishing. The conditions and applications vary too much. A 6 1/2 foot to 7 foot spinning outfit is a great choice for fishing with fairly light jigs in relatively shallow water. Anglers can spool this up with 10 pound monofilament or braided line. This rig is light enough to be cast all day yet has enough beef to handle a decent fish.

Anglers can click this link to shop Amazon for a Penn Battle 3000 combo

“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. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.”

Spanish mackerel and false albacore fishing tips

I have been a fishing guide in Sarasota, Florida since 1991. Anglers who are interested in purchasing the equipment that I use and write about in my articles can do so HERE on the PRODUCTS page.


Light conventional tackle is used quite often when vertically jigging. Often times heavy jigs will be required in strong current. Light conventional outfits give anglers the power they need to work the jig and fight a decent flounder or striped bass. These same outfits work very well for trolling. A 7′ medium heavy rod spooled up with 20 pound braided line is a great combo.

Anglers can click on this link to shop Amazon for a Penn Squall conventional outfit

fishing report for Sarasota, Florida

Jig types

There are primarily two different types of jigs; buck tail jigs and soft plastic jigs. Soft plastic jigs are by far the most popular these days. They are economical and versatile. Jig head weights can be matched with plastic body shapes, colors, and sizes to mimic just about any forage that fish feed on. Buck tail jigs are still very effective on a variety of fish species and many anglers still prefer them. However, they are not as durable as soft plastic baits and are more expensive to use in the long run.

Lake Murray striped bass

Soft plastic bodies come in many different shapes, sizes, and colors. However, there really are only two different styles. Grub bodies with a flat tail are meant to mimic shrimp and other crustaceans. Shad tail and curly tail jigs mimic bait fish. It really is that simple! Anglers should purchase grub bodies in sizes and colors that resemble the locally available forage.

Buck tail jigs actually do a very good job of imitating both crustaceans and bait fish. White is by far the most popular color, though pink and chartreuse are sought by anglers in some areas. A 1/2 ounce white buck tail jig has caught a lot of fish over the years and remains an extremely effective bait to this day. Anglers can even add a soft plastic trailer to the buck tail jig, such as a curly tail worm. This is very effective on striped bass.

The jig and grub is a very versatile fishing lure

One great thing about the jig and grub combo is how quickly and easily baits can be changed. Anglers can switch from a grub body that imitates a shrimp to one that mimics a bait fish in just a few seconds. Jig heads are available in a myriad of sizes, shapes, and colors. The same is true for the soft plastic grub bodies. Anglers can put together combinations that are effective in their area. I personally prefer the Bass Assassin line of baits. They have fantastic action and come in many different colors. The 4 inch Sea Shad on a 1/4 ounce jig head is my favorite combination.

saltwater fishing with jigs

Anglers can certainly get confused by the vast selection of jig heads and tails that are available. Local tackle shops are usually a good source of information as to productive lures in that area. Anglers starting out will do well with jig heads in one quarter ounce, 1/2 ounce and 1 ounce heads along with 3 inch to 4 inch shad tail grubs. Pearl, chartreuse, hot pink, root beer, and olive are good all-around colors.

Jig head weights, shapes, and sizes

In most fishing applications, anglers work jigs on or very close to the bottom. As the jig is bounced up and down, the weight it had will often kick up a puff of sand as it lands. This looks very realistic to game fish as it mimics a fleeing shrimp or crab.the weight of the jig required will vary depending on fishing conditions. Water depth and current speed are the two primary factors to consider. Ideally, anglers will use just enough weight to reach the bottom.

inshore saltwater fishing

Jig heads come in a variety of shapes as well. Round or oblong heads are the most popular shapes. These have the eye of the hook 90 degrees to the shank. This results in a more horizontal presentation. Triangular shaped heads cut through the water and are a better choice for anglers choosing to troll with jigs. Jigs that are designed to be fished shallow have a tapered head with the eye at the front. This allows it to go through weeds more easily.

One quarter ounce jig heads are very popular in Florida where I run my Sarasota fishing charters. Most of the water I fish is 10 feet deep or less and currents are not very strong. however, anglers fishing in areas where water is deeper and currents are stronger will need to use heavier jigs. Jigs of several ounces will be required at times, especially when fishing inlets and passes on a swift tide.

How to catch saltwater fish with jigs, jig Fishing Techniques

fishing for flounder with jigs

Vertically jigging

Jigs are very versatile lures that can be fished in a variety of ways. One of the easiest and most productive methods is to fish a jig vertically while drifting. Anglers motor the boat upwind and up current of the area to be fished. Then, the jig is lowered straight down to the bottom. Once it hits the bottom, the line is reeled taught and then the jig is jerked sharply up off the bottom and then allowed to fall on a slack line. This motion is continued as the boat drifts along. This is a fantastic way to cover a lot of water and keep the lure in the productive strike zone the entire time.

This is a proven method to catch a variety of fish species. Anglers fishing in the Northeast will catch flounder, fluke, striped bass, bluefish, and other species. Vertically jigging will produce fish in the southern states as well, including speckled trout, pompano, bluefish, Spanish mackerel, and more. Anglers fishing offshore will use special jigs that are quite heavy. They get down to the bottom in deep water and are jerked sharply, imitating a wounded bait fish. These are called “flutter jigs” and are extremely effective on a variety of species. Heavy buck tail and soft plastic jigs can be used as well.

Chesapeake Bay Bridge striped bass

In some circumstances, anglers will combine live or cut bait with a jig. This combination can be extremely effective! Flounder and fluke in particular are prone to take a white buck tail jig with a squid strip trailer. The same goes for a soft plastic jig tipped with a piece of shrimp in the south. The extra scent of the bait along with the action of the jig can prove irresistible. This can be particularly effective when the water is stained.

Casting jigs

Jigs can be cast out and retrieved back in as well. This is a very common Lee used method by anglers when drifting the flats. The term flats means a broad area of fairly uniform depth, usually between five and 15 feet deep. The jig is cast out and allowed to settle. It is then retrieved back to the boat using a series of hops. With the rod tip at 10 o’clock, the angler jerks the rod tip up sharply to about 12 o’clock. The jig is then allowed to fall on a tight line. This is important as it will allow anglers to feel the strike, which most often occurs on the fall.

Spotted sea trout fishing

As with all artificial lure fishing, anglers will do best to vary the retrieve until a productive pattern emerges. Some days the fish will want the jig crawled along the bottom while on other days they will want a faster more erratic retrieve. The same premise applies to jig body sizes and colors. Anglers should experiment until they achieve success. Generally speaking, light colors work best in clear water, dark colors work best in stained water, and bright colors work best in muddy water.

In the southeastern part of the United States along the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coast, this is the most popular technique when using artificial lures. The jig and grub combo is a very effective bait for redfish and speckled trout. These are the most plentiful and sought after fish species, along with flounder, that are found on the open flats. Casting lures while drifting in a boat allows anglers to cover a lot of water. It is also a productive method for anglers fishing from shore and wading.

Bikini fishing


Vary the retrieve when fishing with jigs

There will be times when fish will respond to a much faster retrieve. This is particularly true when fish are seen feeding on the surface. Often times when this occurs, a fast, steady retrieve works best. If that does not produce, add in some hard jerks and pauses. When fish are feeding high in the water column, this will generally produces strike. Bluefish, striped bass, Spanish mackerel, jack crevalle, and ladyfish are species that are commonly found feeding on the surface

saltwater fishing with artificial lures

Jigs are also very effective when cast towards shoreline cover. Jetties, docks, oyster bars, and shoreline timber will all hold fish. This type of fishing is very much like freshwater fishing for largemouth bass. The angler casts the lure toward some likely fish holding structure, allows it to sink a few seconds, then retrieves it back in an erratic manner. Since many saltwater fish species relate to cover and structure, this type of fishing will produce a wide variety of fish.

Trolling with jigs

Trolling is another extremely effective technique that anglers can use with jigs. This can be done as simply as putting a few lines out behind the boat and slowly driving around at just above idle speed. It is important when trolling with jigs to keep the speed down. Unlike spoons and plugs, jigs will tend to twist and roll if trolled too quickly. Serious anglers often times use special trolling weights and even wire line to get the jigs down to the preferred depth.

how to catch saltwater fish with jigs

Umbrella rigs are quite popular with anglers who like trolling with jigs. These are clever devices that allow anglers to use multiple baits at one time. The theory is that it resembles a small school of bait fish that are swimming by. Whatever the intent, umbrella rigs work. Striped bass in particular fall prey to these ingenious devices.

Fishing for pompano with jigs

Pompano and jig fishing go together. They feed primarily on crustaceans right on the bottom. Many anglers enjoy fishing for pompano. They are found along the Gulf of Mexico coast and up the Atlantic coast to North Carolina. They fight very hard for their size and are fantastic eating!

jig fishing for pompano

Pompano average a couple of pounds. However, they put up a terrific fight for their size. These smaller cousins to the permit use their broad sides and forked tails to pull very hard. Pompano feed on the bottom, normally on crustaceans such as shrimp and crabs. They range from Texas along the US coast as far north as Cape Hatteras in North Carolina. Pompano are prized as table fare by anglers. Jigs, live shrimp and sand fleas are the top baits. Jigs that bounce along the bottom do an excellent job of mimicking this forage.

One look at a pompano will clue anglers as to their feeding habits. The mouth is small and “inferior”, meaning it is behind the nose. It feeds by using that hard nose to root in the bottom in search of crabs and shrimp. It then vacuums up the prey. Pompano will be found over sandy bottoms, grassy bottoms and around rocky structure. All of these areas hold the forage that they feed on. They will be found where the food is.

Pompano fishing tackle

As in most inshore saltwater applications, the same rod and reel used to target speckled trout, Spanish mackerel, and other species will work fine when targeting pompano. As these fish do not grow too large, a light spinning outfit is perfect. A 6 1/2 foot medium action rod with a 2500-3000 series reel and 10 pound monofilament or 20 pound braided line is perfect.

Sarasota fishing charters

Jig fishing for pompano

The top artificial lure by far is the jig. A jig is a hook with a piece of lead molded near the eye. The hook is then dressed with either natural or synthetic hair or a plastic grub body of some sort. Anglers fishing for pompano work the jig right on the bottom. Each time it hits the bottom it kicks up a tiny puff of sand. This mimics a fleeing crab or shrimp and is a very effective presentation.

Pompano have fairly small mouths. Anglers drifting the flats and inlets and passes will catch pompano on the larger jigs meant for speckled trout and other species. Therefore, anglers fishing for pompano specifically generally scale down the size of the lure.

Florida pompano fishing

There are several types of jigs on the market specifically designed for pompano. There are two types, the ball head jig and the banana jig. Ball head jigs are basically smaller versions of a buck tail jig. It will have a round head with a smaller hook, around a size #4. The dressing will normally be synthetic and will be trimmed close, just beyond the bend of the hook. These jig sink very quickly and are great choice when fishing passes and inlets. They can also be cast out by anglers fishing for pompano on the flats.

Banana jigs are odd looking little lures. As the name implies, they are long and slender with a bend in them, looking a bit like a banana. Some also have a little fly attached to add some flash. They have a very erratic action when falling. Anglers can work them either vertically or casting out by jerking the rod tip up and letting the jig falls sharply to the bottom.

Sarasota pompano

Pompano locations and seasons

Pompano are found along the beaches, in passes and inlets, and on the flats. Generally speaking, the flats closest to the open waters of the Gulf and Atlantic are best. Inlets on the East Coast and passes on the West Coast are also prime spots for anglers fishing for pompano. Many fish are caught by anglers surf fishing as well.

Pompano are found in Florida all year long. The cooler months are best, but the occasional fish can be caught at any time. As it warms up, the fish will move north along the east coast. Summer is the best time to catch them off of the Carolina beaches. Pompano are landed along the Gulf Coast with the exception of really cold weather in the northern portion of the Florida panhandle area.

Passes and inlets

Inlets are veritable fish highways that pompano and other species use to travel from the open waters of the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean into the back bays. The current is always stronger in these areas due to the natural constricting of the land masses. The result is a natural spot for fish to congregate and feed, especially when structure is present.

Sarasota pompano fishing

Inlets and passes are virtually the same thing. In the Gulf of Mexico, they are called “passes”. And Atlantic Ocean, they are called “inlets”. While they are similar in most cases, they are actually fished a bit differently. This is mainly due to the fact that on the East Coast tides are stronger and boat traffic can be significantly heavier.

Pompano fishing in passes

The best technique to use when fishing for pompano and passes is to drift using a vertical presentation. Jigs work really well in this application and can be tipped with a small piece of shrimp to increase the chances of success. The jig is simply lower to the bottom and twitched sharply using short 1 foot movements. The jig stays in the strikes on the entire time and as the boat drifts a lot of water can be covered in a short amount of time. Once a school is located, anglers will re-drift that area until the bite slows.

pompano fishing in Florida

Pompano will often times get up into very shallow water on the sandbars in the passes. As the drifting boat will spook them in this skinny water, it is best to make long casts and work the lure back to the boat. Jigs are effective in this situation as well, though anglers can certainly catch fish using live shrimp or sand fleas.


Inlets on the Atlantic Ocean side can be a bit tricky. Tides are often times quite swift, resulting in a potentially dangerous boating situation. It also requires a lot of weight to get down to the bottom. Finally, boat traffic, especially on weekends, can be quite heavy. Often times, the best way to fish for Pompano in inlets is from the jetty. Anglers can cast out live bait or jigs and thoroughly work the rocks.

Often times, the best spots in the inlets are little eddies or edges where the rocks transition to sand. These are prime spots for pompano to hold in and feet. The Eddie on the backside of the jetty on the Atlantic Ocean side is a prime spot for anglers fishing for pompano and the inlets.

Surf fishing for pompano

One of the great things about fishing for pompano is that anglers do not need a boat to catch them. All things considered, more Pompano are probably landed by anglers surf fishing than they are by anglers in boats. The entire coastline from South Texas around the tip of Florida and up to Cape Hatteras can produce pompano at one time or another.

pompano fishing

Using jigs for pompano in the surf

While most anglers target pompano in the surf using natural bait, they can certainly be caught on artificial lures as well. This is particularly true when the tide is high in the seas are flat. Pompano will cruise the first trough, quite close to shore, in search of sand fleas and other forage. Anglers casting jigs and working at through this area will catch fish under these conditions.

How to catch saltwater fish with jig, fishing for pompano on the flats

Pompano are also caught on the flats in the inshore bays. Often times, there are an incidental catch for anglers fishing for speckled trout, Spanish mackerel, and other species. They are a most welcome intrusion! Pompano generally swim around in small bunches, so once one is landed anglers can be fairly certain that others are nearby.

Flats close to the inlets and passes are generally the most productive ones for anglers fishing for pompano. They tend to be a bit deeper and have good current flow. The best flats are generally those that have a nice mix of grass and sand. Pompano will often times hold in the transition area where it changes from grass to sand.

Drifting is the best technique to use when targeting pompano on the flats. As with the passes, it allows anglers to cover a large amount of water fairly quickly. The best approach is to set up a drift where the wind and tide will move the boat in the same direction. This will result in a nice efficient drift.

Jigs produce on the flats

Both jigs and live bait work well in this situation. Generally speaking, anglers will cast jigs out in front of the drifting boat and work it back in. As with fishing in the passes, the jig will work best when presented right on the bottom. The lure is worked back using short, sharp twitches of the rod tip and then allowing the jig to fall to the bottom.

Live shrimp can also work well when drifting the flats. It will also catch a variety of other species as well. Free lining the shrimp works well on flats with water deeper than 6 feet. Anglers simply hook the shrimp through the horn and allow it to drift out behind the boat. A small split shot may be required when it is breezy or the current is strong. In shallower water, shrimp can be fished under a popping cork to keep it up out of the grass.

Pompano are excellent table fare

One of the best aspects of fishing for pompano is the opportunity for a fresh dinner. Some of the best chefs in the world consider Pompano to be the best eating fish of all species that swim! Pompano have a very fine, moist, buttery flavor. However, they really do not freeze all that well and angler should only keep enough for a fresh meal or two. There are several different ways to prepare them. Anglers can see current Florida fishing regulations on the FWC site.

Pompano are excellent when sautéed in a pan. A 50-50 mixture of butter and olive oil is heated in a pan. Pompano is covered in a tire breadcrumbs on both sides then placed into the hot skillet. The fishes allowed to cook for two minutes on each side and then is finished off in a 400° oven for five minutes or so depending on the thickness of the fillets.

Marinades work very well with Pompano as they absorb the flavor. However, it is best not to use one that is too strong that will mass the delicate flavor of the pompano. An easy marinade is one that is 1/4 cup light soy sauce, three-quarter cup olive oil, with some honey, ginger, and parsley mixed in. The fillets are allowed to set for 1 to 2 hours they can be baked, broiled, or grilled.

In conclusion, this article on how to catch saltwater fish with jigs will add another tool for anglers to use to be successful!

Best 6 Saltwater fishing lures

Best 6 Saltwater Fishing Lures, Tips and Techniques to Succeed Anywhere

Many anglers go saltwater fishing with artificial lures instead of live or cut bait. This is a list of the best 6 saltwater fishing lures. Artificial lures have been used by anglers to catch fish for a very long time. Lures are designed to mimic the forage that fish feed on. In saltwater, that is primarily bait fish and crustaceans such as crabs and shrimp.

snook fishing tackle and lures

The best 6 saltwater fishing lures are:

  • the jig and grub combo

  • buck tail jigs

  • Gulp! baits

  • shallow diving plugs

  • spoons

  • topwater plugs

These six lure types are very versatile and will cover every situation than a saltwater angler will encounter. They will also catch every species that will take a lure.

Anglers are often surprised to find that lures commonly out fish live bait. While live bait is effective when fish are hungry, lures have other advantages. They will trigger reaction strikes from fish that are perhaps not feeding but can’t resist the chance for an easy meal. Artificial lures also allow anglers to cover a lot more water than those fishing with live bait. Finally, there is a convenience factor of not having to purchase, catch, and keep bait alive.

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

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.

Best 6 Saltwater Fishing Lures

There are many artificial lures on the market that will catch fish. These are Capt Jim’s top 6 saltwater fishing lures that he uses on his Sarasota fishing charters.

Saltwater fishing with artificial lures

1)  Saltwater fishing with the jig and grub combo

The jig and grub combination is arguably the most popular saltwater fishing lure. It is #1 on Capt Jim’s list of the top 6 saltwater fishing lures. It is economical, versatile, and will produce anywhere on the planet. This lure basically consists of a hook with a lead head molded into it near the eye. This weight at the front causes the lure to hop and fall in a jigging fashion. That is how the lure got its name. Jig heads come in many different sizes, shapes, and colors. However, they all work the same.

inshore saltwater fishing

The jig head is chosen based on the conditions the angler is facing. Depth of the water, speed of the current, and size of the forage are the primary considerations. Anglers fishing in water shallower than 10 feet deep will find a quarter ounce jig to be a good all-around size. Anglers fishing in deeper water and in current will need to bump up the jig head size accordingly.

Some type of soft plastic grub body is added to the jig head. These tails come in a myriad of styles, sizes, and colors. The goal is for the grub body to match the forage. The most popular tail shapes are shrimp tails, shad tails, and curly tails. All three designs are effective, however the latter two have more built in action. A 1/4 ounce jig head with a 4 inch shad tail body is a great all round saltwater fishing lure. However, it is not uncommon for anglers seeking large fish such as striped bass to go much larger.

Jigs are economical and versatile

Versatility is one of the key components to the popularity of the jig and grub combo. They can be retrieved in a variety of ways throughout the entire water column. A jig with a shrimp tail can be bounced off the bottom, imitating a shrimp or crab. Jigs with a bait style tail can be retrieve steadily through the water. They can be cast to fish that are breaking on the surface and worked quickly. Trolling with these lures can be quite productive.

bluefish fishing

The most common and productive retrieve for most anglers is the “jig and fall”retrieve. The lure is cast out and allowed to sink several seconds. The rod tip is then jerked sharply upwards, causing the lure to shoot up through the water column. With the rod tip held high, the retrieve is paused, allowing the lure to flutter helplessly through the water. Most strikes occur on the fall as the jig resembles a helpless or wounded bait fish.

Anglers can click this link to read a comprehensive article on saltwater fishing with jigs.

“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. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. ”

The jig and grub combo is a fantastic lure for anglers targeting breaking fish. These are fish that are actively feeding on the surface such as bluefish, striped bass, and Spanish mackerel. As long as the grub remotely resembles the size of the forage, they will usually draw a strike. The jig and grub is also very effective when trolled. Striped bass in particular fall prey to a shad tail jig trolled along a channel edge. Anglers can scroll down to read more about fishing with jigs.

Capt Jim’s preferred saltwater soft plastic artificial lure is the Bass Assassin 4″ Sea Shad.  It comes in a huge variety of colors and has an excellent swimming action in the water. His favorite colors are Glow/chartreuse, New Penny, and Red/gold shiner, but ever angler wil have her or her personal favorite baits.

bass assassin

Anglers can click on this link to shop Amazon for Bass Assassin baits

2)  Bucktail jigs

Bucktail jigs are extremely productive for anglers fishing saltwater. In fact, they are one of the first saltwater fishing lures. White is a most popular color. They are very effective and are fished in the same manner as the jig and grub combo. As with the jig and grub, sizes determined by the water being fished and the available forage. Anglers can combine the two and add a soft plastic tail to add even more action. This is deadly on striped bass. There are a couple of factors that put them slightly behind the jig and grub.

saltwater fishing with artificial lures

Bucktail jigs are a bit more expensive and less versatile than the jig and grub combo. Anglers catching toothy species such as mackerel and bluefish can spend a lot of money quickly as these fish will tear up a buck tail jig. Plastic grub tails are inexpensive and easily replaced. Also, bucktail jigs are less versatile. While it is very easy to change the color or shape of a plastic tailed lure, this is not the case with bucktail. However, bucktail and synthetic hair jigs have great action and the water and you catch a lot of fish. They are #2 on the list of top 6 saltwater fishing lures.

Capt Jim’s preferred saltwater buck tail jig is manufactured by Spro. These are high quality lures that are as durable as a buck tail jig can be.

bucktail jig

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

3)  Gulp! Baits

While they may seem to just be another soft plastic bait, that is not the case. The Gulp line of baits are extremely productive. They have a built-in scent that makes fishing them almost like using live bait. In Florida, the 3 inch Gulp Shrimp is a deadly bait on the shallow grass flats. Anglers all over the country use them with success. As with all lures, the key is to match the color and size of the bait to the available forage.

Florida saltwater fishing in winter

Anglers fishing shallow water can fish the Gulp Shrimp under a cork. This is an extremely productive technique for speckled trout and redfish on the grass flats between 2 feet deep and 6 feet deep. The cork makes a pop or rattle which attracts game fish. When fish come to investigate, they see the shrimp below the cork and eat it. Most anglers fish the Gulp Shrimp on a jig head, just as they would with any soft plastic bait. This certainly is the best approach in deeper water.

Sarasota fishing report

The 5″ Gulp Jerk Shad is a very versatile bait. It is effective on the deep flats and tends to catch larger trout and other species. It is also very productive for anglers fishing shallow for snook, reds, and jacks. It also works great when fishing docks. They can be worked shallow on a swimbait hook or deeper on a jig head. Gulp! baits are #3 on the list of top 6 saltwater fishing lures.

gulp shrimp

Anglers can click on this link to shop Amazon for Gulp Shrimp

Anglers can click on this link to shop Amazon for Gulp Jerk Shad

4)  Shallow diving plugs are effective saltwater fishing lures

These lures are extremely effective for anglers saltwater fishing. They imitate bait fish. Plugs vibrate and wobble, mimicking a wounded or injured bait. This triggers the natural instinct and fish to attack. Rapala X-Raps and Yo-Zuri Crystal Minnows are examples of popular shallow diving plugs. Some anglers refer to these as twitch baits or jerk baits due to their action and the water. They are #4 on the list of top 6 saltwater fishing lures.

Sarasota Spanish mackerel fishing

Shallow diving plugs can be cast or trolled effectively. Anglers working shoreline cover or casting open flats catch a variety of species. The best retrieve is generally an erratic one. The lure will float on the surface at rest, then dive down when retrieved. Several cranks of the reel handle followed by a twitch and a pause is a very effective retrieve. At other times a steady retrieve, either slow or quite fast, will produce. Once again, it is important to match the size and color of the lure to the bait fish that are prevalent in the area. Local tackle shops will have a good selection of baits that work well in their local waters.

Sarasota trolling techniques

These plugs really come into their own when fish are working on the surface. Spanish mackerel, bluefish, stripers, false albacore, and other species will devour them.  Plugs come in many sizes and colors, making it easy to “match the hatch”.

Capt Jim’s favorite plug is the Rapala X-Rap Extreme Action Slashbait. He prefers the 08 size when fish are feeding on smaller bait and the 10 size when larger forage is present. White and olive are his top colors.

Anglers can click on this link to shop Amazon for Rapala X-Raps

5)  Spoons are effective saltwater fishing lures

Spoons are a very simple looking artificial lure, yet one of the most productive. A spoon is basically a curved piece of metal with a hook in it. Spoons resemble a wounded bait fish. Metallic finishes such as silver, copper, brass, and gold are popular. Spoons can also be painted or have reflective material on them. Casting and trolling both produce a lot a fish. They are #5 on the list of top 6 saltwater fishing lures.

Saltwater fishing with artificial lures

Spoons cast a long way. They are relatively heavy and aerodynamic. 1/2 ounce to 3/4 ounce spoons are very popular as they mimic small shiny fish such as sardines. The spoon is cast out, allowed to sink, then worked back using either a steady or erratic retrieve. As with all lure fishing, it is best to experiment with retrieves until a productive pattern emerges.

Click this link to read Capt Jim’s article on the best 7 saltwater fishing spoons

Anglers fishing very shallow water do well with a weedless spoon. The Johnson Silver Minnow is an example of this. It is an established lure that has been around for decades, starting out in freshwater for anglers targeting largemouth bass. The weedless spoon is a staple of flats anglers in the south targeting redfish on shallow grass flats. It has a single hook that rides up, resulting in less snags on the bottom.

Capt Jim’s favorite casting spoons are the Johnson Sprite and Johnson Silver Minnow. The Sprite is an open water spoon with a treble hook while the Silver Minnow is weedless.

sprite spoon

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

Swivels required when fishing with spoons

Anglers using spoons will need to use some type of swivel. Spoon will spin in the water, causing line twist. There are two options when choosing a swivel. Anglers can tie a barrel swivel onto the end of the running line, then use a short section of leader between the spoon and the other end of the swivel. Another option is the snap swivel right at the lure. This allows for easy changing of the spoon. Either method will work fine in eliminate line twist.

Spoons can also be used for vertical jigging. The Hopkins Jigging Spoon is an example of this lure. This is an extremely effective technique when fish are schooled up in deep water over structure such as a wreck or a channel edge. Just about any game fish can be caught on these lures.

Trolling spoons

There is a special type of spoon designed specifically for trolling. These are long and slender and have a very tight wobble, allowing anglers to troll at speeds approaching 10 knots. They are extremely productive for striped bass, Spanish mackerel, king mackerel, false albacore, bluefish, and other species.

trolling for mackerel

Trolling spoons generally need some type of device to get them down in the water column. The three methods used most often are downriggers, trolling weights, and planers. All three methods work and have their advantages and disadvantages.

Trolling sinkers are the easiest method to get a spoon down in the water column. The specially designed sinker is tied to the running line and then a leader is used between the sinker and the spoon. Leader lengths vary, but are generally fairly long, around 20 feet. As the angler reels the fish in, they must stop when the sinker hits the rod tip and the fishes in hand lined in the rest of the way.

clark spoon

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

Trolling with planers

Planers are a clever device that will take the spoon down to a specific depth. A #1 planer will go down 5 to 7 feet, a #2 planer down to 12 to 15 feet, and a #3 planer will go down to 25 feet. The larger the planer, the more stout the tackle is required as the planer puts quite a strain on the rod. When a fish hits, the planer “trips”allowing the angler to fight the fish without the drag. As with the sinker, the fish must be hand lined in the last 20 feet or so.

fishing report for Sarasota


Anglers can click this link to Amazon to shop for planers

Downriggers are expensive, complicated devices that will take the lure down to the desired depth. However, fast trolling speeds will result in the ball swinging up, reducing the depth. Downriggers are expensive and complicated and are generally only used by fairly serious anglers.

6)  Saltwater fishing with artificial lures; topwater plugs

Topwater plugs are lures that float on the surface and stay there when being retrieved. Most are made of plastic though a few are manufactured out of balsa wood. There are several different styles; poppers, prop baits, and walk-the-dog baits. Top water plugs can be very effective at times and will draw some explosive strikes. Many anglers prefer using top water plugs just for the sheer fun of it. they are # 6 on the list of top 6 saltwater fishing lures.

guide to inshore saltwater fishing

Poppers have been around a long time and are very effective. They also have the most built in action. They have a concave face which results in a loud “pop” when the lure is twitched sharply. Many fish find this action irresistible. Surf casters targeting striped bass and bluefish on the East Coast beaches will use very large versions of these. They are effective and saltwater all over the world.

Anglers can click this link to read a comprehensive article on the best 6 topwater plugs for saltwater fishing

Prop baits have propellers on them, either for, after, or both. They put out a lot of commotion when twitched sharply. Prop eight seem to work best when fished along shorelines and other structure. They have been catching largemouth bass in freshwater for many years.

saltwater fishing with artificial lures

Walk-the-dog baits are cylindrical with a tapered nose. They do not have a lot of built in action. The angler must impart the action in order to draw strike. The retrieve is a bit more difficult to master than other top water baits. The rod tip is held low and twitched gently as the reel handle is turned. This results in the lure moving a few inches and darting side-to-side. This action is deadly, particularly over shallow flats.

Capt Jim’s favorite topwater plug is the Rapala Skitter Prop. It puts out a lot of commotion and noise and is very easy to fish. Chrome is a good all round color.

skitter prop


Anglers can click on this link to shop Amazon for Rapala Skitter Prop plugs

Jig fishing tips and techniques

This article shares jig fishing tips and techniques. Jigs are a simple but very effective lure that will catch just about every freshwater and saltwater species.

Sarasota anglers

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 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 buck tail 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.

Jig and grub fishing techniques

The jig and grub is very versatile. With this system, anglers purchase the jig head in the plastic body 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.

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 popular 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.

Sarasota jig 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.

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.

Fishing with hair jigs

Hair jigs are also very popular. Buck tail jigs were the original types used and were made from dear 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. Synthetic care 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.

saltwater fishing with artificial lures

Jig fishing catch just about every species on the planet. A jig can be used to mimic just about any type of forged 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.

Vertically fishing with jigs is effective

Vertical presentations catch 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 excellent presentation. I do this often on my fishing charters in the passes. Clients do not even have to be able to cast to catch fish.

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.

fishing Sarasota Florida

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 for success

Most fish caught on jigs are done so by anglers casting jigs. This is the most effective technique when fishing water ten feet deep or less. 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.

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

guide to inshore fishing

The jig and grub combo is by far the most popular lure along the southeast coastal United States. Anglers from Virginia 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.

Speckled trout are arguable the most popular inshore Gulf species. The jig and grub is well suited to target trout. Most specks are found over submerged grass beds in 4′ to 10′ of water. Jigs cast and retrieved over these grass flats produce trout, reds, and other species. I find them especially productive I cooler water.

Live bait fishing with jigs

Jigs can also e 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 freshwater anglers for a long time. A marabou jig with a small minnow hooked through the lips is a terrific combination. The lure bait combo is deadly when slowly bounced along bottom structure. It can be cast out or vertically fished.

Trolling with jigs is a productive technique

Anglers jig fishing also do well when trolling. I grew up in fishing the Chesapeake Bay. Anglers trolling white buck tail jigs for striped bass 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.

Freshwater anglers recognize the value of trolling jigs as well. Crappie fisherman have mastered this technique. A small jig trolled over submerged structure is deadly on these largest members of the panfish family. Anglers use long, specially designed rods to present multiple baits out in a spread.

Sarasota chumming techniques

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 jigs are very effective fishing lures

Scented soft plastic baits have become very popular, and with good reason. These baits produce for ladies 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. Freshwater anglers experience similar results. They do cost a little bit more money, but on days when the bite is tough, they can make all of the difference.

My favorite freshwater jig is the Blakemore Road Runner. This unique little bait not only is a jig, but also has a spinner blade offset on the head. The extra flash can be deadly in the dark, tannin stained Florida water. It is a great bait when cast out but is a deadly trolling lure, especially for crappie and walleye.

top freshwater species

In conclusion, this article on the best 6 saltwater fishing lures will help anglers become more versatile and more importantly, catch more fish!