We spent 15 minutes on the phone with Capt. Chris Britton to discuss the best lures for targeting tarpon in open, deep water. Here's what we learned...
Location: Southeast Florida
Tides: Both will produce fish. Since these fish are in open water the tide just has to be moving.
Approach: Targeting fish in open water in the ocean can be challenging. You always have to keep your eye on the weather. Here in South Florida we try to fish before a front moves through. When fishing in an 18ft Dolphin the conditions can degrade drastically and making these fish difficult to target in February, March, and April. These fish are resident fish and move to the wrecks and deep holes that are found within a mile offshore when the water gets cooler. I prefer to fish mornings or evenings with daylight savings time giving me an extra hour of sunlight and weekdays. Best places to find these fish are in deep inlets, wrecks, and deep holes with depths ranging from 10ft to 40ft .
Rigging Selection: When targeting tarpon on the surface, a large unweighted soft bait with a single hook is a preferred method to hook tarpon consistently. The Hogy 6/0 Soft Circle Hooks is the best set up to allow the 7-inch or 10-inch Original to have maximum action that triggers strikes. The action of an unrestricted Hogy® Original is incredible and tarpon can’t resist it. When the tarpon aren’t rolling and heading to the bottom a 10/0, 1oz or 2oz Barbarian jighead is preferred. The Hogy Barbarian Jig Heads paired with a Black or Bone 7-inch and 9-inch HDUV Jiggin' Eel work great for jigging the mid to lower water column.
Why this bait? The action and profile of Hogy’s Original Series accurately imitates ballyhoo, needlefish, ladyfish and small eels that are a favorite for daytime tarpon that are in open water. The Hogys Jiggin’ HDUV profile imitates small eels and other bait fish that tarpon key in on when feeding in open water in the mid to lower water column.
Colors: Bone has been the color I produce the most Tarpon on during the day. I usually have multiple colors and sizes when fishing tarpon in open water and along the beach. These fish can turn off and on to a certain color and you want to be able to give different color selections when fish turn off of a color. I have bubblegum, black, and tinker mac in my arsenal.
Retrieve: Positioning your boat is key and a MinnKota I pilot can increase your odds of being in the strike zone consistently. When approaching open water tarpon you want to be behind them and out to side about 130 degrees. These fish rarely spook so you could be close to where they are rolling. If the fish are staying near the surface cast up current with a weightless 10/0 swimbait hook or 6/0 Soft Circle hook and a 7-inch or 10-inch Original and let the current naturally bring the bait to them. When working this bait you will need to twitch the bait once then pause, then twitch twice, then pause. This method can be changed determining on what the tarpon are looking for. When fish are rolling and heading for the bottom I will use 1oz or 2oz Barbarian jighead with a 7-inch or 9-inch Jiggin’ HDUV. When presenting this bait in the strike zone you will need to know the bottom depth and fish holding location. I cast up current and let the bait sink for about 5-8 seconds. Then I slowly bring the slack line in and give the jig a quick twitch and reel a couple cranks and another twitch, then two twitches. This technique may also change determining what the tarpon want.
Rod: 8’ heavy and extra heavy fast action MHX custom wrapped rods by Treasure Coast Rod and Reel
Reel: Okuma Raw II 55 and Okuma II Raw 65
Line: 50lb Power Pro Slick
Leader: 60lb /80lb SI Flouro Leader depending on water clarity
Connection: Tie line to line via a spider hitch to worm knot. Use an offshore loop knot to tie your leader to the hook.