Disclaimer: I am by no means a tarpon expert. I am just writing about my experience and what works for me.
We had 19 eats one day and the 2nd day we had 16 eats. All the fish were in the 60 to 120lb fish. What makes it even better it was all sight casting on lures.
Most people assume when we fish for big tarpon it’s either on bait or a fly rod. Well at least that is what is shown on most TV shows and magazines anyways. I do not blame you at all for thinking so, I know I did.
Not until about 5 years ago did I even know you had a good chance of catching big tarpon on spinning or heavy casting gear using lures. This was when I found out via the forums(pre facebook) that the DOA bait buster was the lure of choice when it comes to targeting big tarpon. Not just any bait buster but the 5/8oz trolling model with the beefed up hook.
side note: I kind of miss the forums in a way. You actually get to learn stuff. On facebook it just seems people just shows off their catches.
Now I am sure, when they are hungry tarpon is not picky about eating many lures. If you want to land a big tarpon though this lure has all the right ingredient.
At 5/8oz it cast well on large spinning gear. At 4″ it was a perfect size to not attract many trash fish (ladyfish) and big enough for the tarpon to eat.
Since we are fishing 6 to 20′ of water the trolling model sank well and a has very strong hook. Some people slightly mash the barb and sharpen the hook on the trolling model for optimal penetration. They also swim amazingly well with the little tiny wiggly tail.
The color that worked the best that day was silver with a black back.
Now that we got the lure of choice down let us talk about the gear aka the rod/reel/line/leader. The rod I used that day was a heavy Shimano Terez Cameron was using the XXH 8′ Shimano Teramar. The longer the better when it comes to casting to tarpon. Indeed it is heavy but you are not blind casting the entire time you are only casting to rolling fish.
If you have a rod that is at least 7′ Medium heavy to extra heavy you are all set. All you need now is a spinning reel that is a 5000 series or better that can hold 40 to 60 lb braid. You do not want much heavier than 60lb test as it will get too hard to cast the desired distance.
Connect your braid direct to the leader with a uni uni know or something you have confidence in. I like the slim beauty and I double the braid via Bimini twist. I then have 4′ to 6′ of 60lb fluorocarbon leader(best abrasion resistance but not necessary) and tie the bait buster on with a loop knot for the best action.
For the most part for this method of fishing to work we must be fishing 6 to 20’f of water. The passes and bridges are not the best place to try this but it can work at times. the ideal conditions are moving water but not very fast moving.
In the video bellow Cameron and I are fishing in abotut 17′ of water. You see me cast to the roller, I then wait a few seconds (wait time varies depending on depth of water) for the lure to sink then reel in at a slow steady pace. The eat will come 90% of the time during the retrieve not the the fall. In the video the eat happens to be right at the boat and caught me by surprise.
Once the fish eats, and starts to run hold on and get ready for the first jump. If you feel confident enough it is probably a good idea to set the hook a few times so the hook goes into the jaw.
The tarpon’s mouth is very tough and many times the lure gets thrown out at the first or 2nd jump of the fight like you see in the video.
If you are not getting eats try changing the colors. I find the gold body with black back works really nice as well. Next is to change up the leader. If you are using 80lb try going down to 50lb test. Also try slowing down your retrieve. I find the slower the retrieve without bumping bottom the better.
Note: since these tarpon are around bait you will also catch, ladyfish, cathfish and cobia. Don’t be discourage, life and activity is always a good sign.
Hope this helps and happy Tarpon fishing!
One more thing, if your fish is over 40″ it is a law(unless you have a harvest tag) that they stay in the water for the photo.