We spent 15 minutes on the phone with Capt. Ross Gallagher, sales director at Hogy Lure Company, to discuss night jigging techniques for Florida inlet and bridge Tarpon with various Hogy soft baits. Here's what we learned...
Tides: In the summer, big night time out-going tides feature massive numbers of shrimp and crabs flushing out of bays into the open water, fueling a feeding frenzy along coastal inlets and around bridges. Incoming tides can be very good as well, but I often do better during the top half of the incoming tide.
Approach: Stealth and silence are important for successful night tarpon fishing. The use of a high thrust trolling motor or pedal kayak will allow you to quietly approach and target spooky tarpon. Boats with outboards but no electric trolling motor should set up drifts with the engine off.
Rigging Selection: The Barbarian Jig Head Series is the only jig I’ll use for tarpon fishing. It offers superior penetration and holding power. The unique sickle bend in the hook shank easily holds onto a leaping tarpon. I find most passes and bridges in the 12′ – 25′ depths are best fished with a 10/0 Barbarian 1oz Jig Head. When tidal current peaks, you may need to fish up to 2oz for a short period until the tide begins to slack.
Bait Selection: HDUV 9inch Jiggin' Eel and 8" Paddle Tail Swim Baits. After months of testing and catching, I can honestly say there is an increased number of bites/hookups while using the new HDUV baits.
Why This Bait: The larger profile and extra durable rubber is ideal for hard hitting tarpon. The over sized heads on the soft baits push more water, stimulating the tarpon’s lateral line.
Colors: Black/Purple Flake is my first choice when targeting fish at night, this dark color offers the highest contrast at night and usually is all that is needed. When fish are not responding to black, I’ll switch over to the Chartreuse/Tinker Mac or Bone/Silver Flake colors. Some nights the fish are very color selective, other nights it’s just the profile, size and action that are triggering the bite.
Retrieve: Baits can be worked three different ways. I’ll alternate the retrieve and speed depending on the fish’s behavior and position around structure.
Mid Water: Often the most effective for tarpon, working jigs in the middle water column keeps the bait right in the strike zone. I’ll let the bait drop between a 5 to 8 count, (approx 6′ – 10′ deep) then begin making alternating double or single sharp, short jigging motions with the rod. The rod only needs to move about 10″ to make the lure dart. Long, swinging motions move the jig too slowly to trigger a reaction bite.
Top Water: If fish are crashing bait on the surface, a simple cast and reel retrieve just below the surface is adequate. Simply cast the bait up current, let it sink for 2 seconds and begin a slow, steady reel in.
Bottom: The 2nd most effective way to get bit at night, swinging jigs with the current as they tumble across the bottom into structure accounts for a majority of my tarpon and snook. When tides are running the hardest, fish will go deep and tuck into structure. This forces the angler to get down and dirty, fishing the jigs deep into cover where the fish lie in ambush. You will probably snag regularly, but if you’re not bouncing into structure odds are, you’re not going to catch much.
Rod: Sewell Custom Rods of Fort Myers, FL offers the perfect spinning rod for casting large swim baits to tarpon. The 8′ heavy – fast action spinning rod is my only choice for these techniques.
Reel: Sustain FG 10,000 – A light weight, high capacity spinning reel with smooth drag allows the angler to comfortably cast for hours on end.
Line: 50lb Power Pro Slick Braid.
Leader: 6′ 80# Mono Leader.