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How to fish for Tarpon using the DOA bait busters

Disclaimer: I am by no means a tarpon expert. I am just writing about my experience and what works for me.

 

If you guys follow me on Instagram or Facebook you know last week I had an couple days of awesome tarpon fishing with Capt Cameron down in the Boca Grande area.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

baitbuster

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.

 

bait-buster-rig

 

 

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.

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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.

http://myfwc.com/fishing/saltwater/recreational/tarpon/

 

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Tampa Bay Snapper and Pompano fishing August 2014

Today the winds were down to less than 5 mph.  With slick calm conditions today, my friend Lee and I decided to fish the Tampa Bay bridges for some pompano. Usually this time of year we could catch one here and there. Pompano, if you don’t knot it, makes for pretty good table fair.

 

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Armed with the typical pompano jig it was slim pickings for what seemed like hours. This year the bridge fishing for pompano has been quite slow Lee tells me. He did add that the Mangrove snapper bite has been outstanding however.

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Sadly, this little guy called a burr fish was the only fish worthy of a photo for the first couple hours.

We kept running from bridge to bridge to no avail. It was so calm out there we were expecting to see black drum tailing on the piling but instead we saw juvenile tarpon rolling.

These guys can be quite picky so we paid them no attention and continue our pompano hunt. Of course this lead us to hooking two of them which made for an exciting event on 10lb test gear.

Speaking of gear here was my set up today:

Dan James Custom Rod with HMX blank and Microwave guides
New 10lb test braid by Mustad
Daiwa 2500 Ballistic with mag sealed
Ohero Fluorocarbon

 

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We manage to land one of the juvi tarpon and got some nice photos. He guy was under 20lbs and in the legal limits to take out of water for a photo.

Those of you that do not know, if you catch a tarpon you “CAN NOT” take them out of the water if they are over 40″. A Large tarpon are very tough to control and will end up hurting themselves beyond recovery.

http://myfwc.com/fishing/saltwater/recreational/tarpon/

“People will be allowed to temporarily possess a tarpon for photography, measurement of length and girth and scientific sampling, with the stipulation that tarpon more than 40 inches must remain in the water.”

Once the tide started to turn we decided to give up the pompano hunt and go after the more reliable mangrove snapper.

carolina-rig

Our basic rig a Carolina rig consisting of, #1 hook, 30lb leader and a 1oz lead to get to the bottom of the swift current.

We would cast it out near the piling then let it sit at the bottom. Keeping the line tight so you can detect movement, the key is not not set the hook when you feel the nibble. Let them eat and when you feel it move deliberately then set the hook. Reel very quickly or the big ones will break you off in the pilings.  Mangrove snappers are very strong for their size,  you need to get them away from the structure as soon as you can.

You can use an anchor to hang out at the pilings you are fishing but we were lucky enough to have a Rhodan GPS trolling motor which allows us to anchor using the gps while we fished. This was a back saver not having to pull anchor and redeploy when we were looking for a more concentrated group of fish.

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Using medium shrimp it did not take much to pull them out of the bridges pilings. We had our limit of 5 per person in about an hour of fishing.

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The biggest fish was probably 13″ but I hear they get much bigger this time of year even inshore. Now it is time to go clean some fish and eat some fresh snapper dinner.

Mangrove snapper rules for the gulf coast:

 

Gray/Mangrove Snapper 10″ 5 per harvester per day Included within 10 per harvester per day snapper aggregate bag limit

 

http://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/profiles/fish/saltwater/snapper/gray-snapper/

http://myfwc.com/fishing/saltwater/recreational/snappers/

Biggest Snook in a long long time 40 Plus inches.

Last week I woke up at 2am to make the drive over to the east coast to do some snook fishing. It took almost 4 hours so that puts me at about 6am.

The place is to fish with Ryan and Colter, some new friends that I recently me through Instagram. They had been on some big snook and said today it was a good chance to get one.

The first couple hours was spent casting a fly at tailing giant snook to no avail. These big girls were coming in with tide and was not very hungry.

We were frustrated but moved on get some bait on the beach. Bait was not an problem. One throw of the net even 1/3rd open we had plenty.

Offshore we go, where chumming up the water brought in immediately lots of bonito. I manage to get my first bonito on fly. The 2nd one however was bitten in half by the sharks that joined the party. We got some great video how the ravenous the sharks were but soon got bored and decided to head in for a rest.

After a couple hours of staying out of the heat and a bite to eat we were ready for round two.

We manage to get some big mullet for bait this time around. This did the trick. We had 4 hits but only manage to land one fish but it was a damn good one.

This giant snook is largest snook since 2007! Thanks Ryan and Colter , will have have to come back with a bigger fly rod to get those bull sharks on fly!

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A portable Fly line management system the Stripper Clip by Peter Hayes

A good stripping basket (like the Strip and Feed Research) will obviously be the ultimate boat fly line control device but what about when you are away from the boat. When you are traveling or trying to get into small cramp places a waist one will work but that is not always practical either.

Some one tagged me a post today about a fly line control mechanism that from the video seem to work pretty well. it’s worn on a belt and clips/control the fly line as you strip it in. When you cast it out it flows out effortlessly.

The video is a 2013 so I figure this would be available but to my surprise it is not.

Their Facebook page state they are still not available as of this writing August 2014 due to tooling issues.

I guess until it becomes available(if ever) we will always wonder if this really works as well as the demo video.