Pro Talk: Rattling Up Night Tarpon in the Lower Keys

Posted by Capt. Ross Gallagher on

15 Minutes with: Capt. Ross gallagher

Here’s what we learned…

Location: Florida Key’s bridges at night.

Tides: An outgoing tide is preferred, this will flush shrimp, crabs and bait fish off the flats and into tarpon staged around bridges.

Approach: It’s best to check your tide charts and determine when the largest outgoing tides will occur at night. A tidal change minimum of 1.5′ is a good starting point. When targeting tarpon at night, it’s best to wait at least 2 hours after sunset for the action to start. As with most fish, they become dormant while their eyes adjust the the darkness.

Proper boat positioning is very important for successful fishing. If possible, using a trolling motor, position your boat bow into the current about 30′ ahead of the shadow line below the bridge. This is usually easy to see as a shadow line that follows the length of the bridge.

During this trip, I experimented using the Hogy Eye Rattles paired with a Hogy 7inch Original Series bait. This addition of sound increased allowed the tarpon to find and eat the bait before it was swept out of the strike zone.

Rigging Selection: For the best hookup and landing ratio with tarpon, a Hogy® Soft Circle Hook is recommended. The limited rigging inside of the bait allows plenty of room for an eye rattle to be inserted into the bait and a totally free swimming action from the bait.

Bait Selection: The Hogy® Eye Rattle inserted into The Hogy® 7inch Original

Why this bait? The 7inch Original seems to be the perfect “snack” size for Juvenile Key’s tarpon. Not too big, not too small.

Colors: Most Key’s bridges are unlit, so black is preferred for night fishing. If you are fishing around the full moon, bone is a good choice as it will “glow” in the moonlight.

Retrieve: Begin casting your bait 15′ – 20′ ahead of this line and on a tight line, allow your bait to drift “dead stick” or motionless as it’s swept towards the bridge by the tide. This subtle approach will mimic motionless bait fish in the current. When your bait is within 3′ of the shadow line, begin a straight, steady retrieve. The current will actually gently “swim” the bait for you as your retrieve.

Using circle hooks at night not only increases your hookup and landing ratio, but it actually makes it easier to set the hook on fish. At night tarpon will quickly snap and bait from the surface then dive down. As they do this, it will set the circle hook in the corner of the jaw, offering a perfect hook set.


Rod: Medium-Fast  action 7′ 6″ Sewell Spinning Rod.

Reel:  Shimano SustainFG 5000.

Line: 20lb Power Pro Slick.

Leader: 60lb Mono or fluorocarbon

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