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Cold water choice: live, fake shrimp

December 19, 2014
By Capt. GEORGE TUNISON ( , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

One of the best artificials to use during a cold water period is Mr. Shrimp. It's made by at least 15 companies in an incredible array of colors, shapes and sizes.

In Southwest Florida, both fake and real shrimp gets the job done on inshore gamefish, especially in winter.

This past week clients caught snook, reds, trout, ladyfish, big jacks, and snapper on plastic shrimp. Fishing deeper water, canals, and marinas catch numbers weren't great (except for trout), but we were catching a bit of everything.

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Capt, George Tunison

Fake shrimp can be rigged in many configurations only limited by your imagination. Internally weighted, on jig heads, under a cork, even rigged in tandem, everybody loves shrimp.

Fishing deeper flats with the old standard DOA we simply slow crawled the shrimp over the tops of the grass letting it free fall into any potholes. That's a super slow, straight line retrieve.

Every five feet give a subtle tip twitch to pop the shrimp up off the grass. Let it fall back, then continue the slow straight retrieve. Boring, but deadly.

Go online to YouTube to see how to easily make a DOA weedless by using a piece of wire formed into an efficient weed guard.

Moving to an eight foot channel and later into the Cape's deeper canals we inserted glass rattles into the DOA (Bass Pro Shops-Cabela's) and rigged them on quarter-ounce jig heads to free fall to the bottom. Repeating, the straight line, ultra-slow retrieve with occasional twitches produced fish.

As the week and the waters warmed we moved up onto the flats fishing oyster bars with fakes by simply casting over the bar and slowly retrieving the shrimp on the surface with the current, all the way to the boat. Very natural looking with big strikes.

To become a shrimp fishing pro you must spend some time at your local bait shop observing the real deal in action.

Watch how they swim/glide slowly near the surface in a straight line without any jerky movements. Only when freighted do they use that tail to instantly pop backwards and out of harm's way, which is why I rig my shrimp backwards most times.

The gold standard has always been the DOA, but there are some amazing look-a-likes being produced, such as the newer LIVETARGET Shrimp which is incredibly lifelike above and below the water. Other lifelikes that catch are made by Billy Bay, Creme, and H&H.

The not very lifelike GULP Shrimp is a proven killer in cold water. Some-times due to its weight it's not always a good choice, like in thick grass. On cleaner bottoms it works wonders.

Whichever you choose, on the flats fish it on 10-15 pound braid, coupled to a long fluorocarbon leader of at least 30 inches.

Make that a no-swivel connection joining the two lines with a back to back Uni-knot Always attach the lure with a loop knot.

In winter's clear water learn to shun hardware in favor of line-to-line connections for max stealth.

Pay attention and become a line watcher using plastic shrimp as a slight twitch of the line signals a take. Bass anglers used to fishing plastic worms and rubber flipping jigs easily relate to the line watching task.

Don't be afraid to go to a high-viz yellow braid to make line watching more productive. Long leaders put distance between lines and lures anyway.

Visiting and very proud Ontario angler Roddy Charles took my advice and ended up with a beautiful gator trout weighing just a hair under seven pounds Wednesday afternoon on his first visit to Florida, using the new LIVETARGET Shrimp in sand color.

The waters are cold, wear a life vest!

Capt. George Tunison is a Cape Coral resident fishing guide. Contact him at 239-282-9434 or, or



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