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Get going for triple-digit strikes

June 26, 2015
By Capt. GEORGE TUNISON ( , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

What's better than standing on the deck of your boat casting a lure into the silent semi-darkness awaiting a strike from a big snook? Think bigger.

Casting a big topwater plug across the flat for a 10-pound school redfish? That's always great fun.

Mus-cling a grouper out from his home base is always a test no doubt, but still doesn't really get me going.

Article Photos

Capt.George Tunison

Let's talk stand-up casting to armor plated, high jumping, ultra-strong prehistoric fish in the 100- to 200-pound class. At any one time these incredible fish will inhale everything from crappie jigs intended for bait collection duties to topwater snook plugs.

Often hard for new tarpon anglers to understand is why these giants have a fondness for mini-snacks as in tiny flies. Why would a fish of this size stop to eat a minnow-sized fly? It's a scavenger as well as a predator and will eat anything alive or dead, big or small that appeals to it.

To get a good shot at catching a triple digit tarpon on a lure (or anything) requires prep.

I fish an eight-foot medium-heavy Star spinning rod featuring a large capacity reel loaded with 30-pound PowerPro braid, doubling the end with a Spider Hitch. Attach this to a 60-pound fluorocarbon leader with a No-Name knot.

If you chose not to create a doubled line to attach your fluoro leader and would prefer a simpler tie then first double about 10 inches of braid (not to create a "doubled line"). Then using a back-to-back Uni-knot tie the leader and line together. Always wet all knots and carefully draw this knot down tight. Clip away excess braid and mono.

Doubling the braid helps account for the difference in line diameter between the ultra-thin braid and the large diameter 60-pound leader material. Without doubling the thin braid could cut through the fluorocarbon leader under heavy pressure from a large fish.

Attach all lures with a loop knot and stay away from snaps, swivels, and other hardware. Tarpon have huge eyes so keep the odds in your favor by making clean, hardware free, connections.

When I'm fishing in the Keys at Bahia Honda and seven-mile, a nine-inch Slugo worm in white hanging on a bullet headed one-ounce Owner jig is my go-to lure. Casts far and can be fished from top to bottom even in ripping currents.

For night surface and near-surface strikes that will almost snatch you off the deck tie on a Bomber Long A and hang on. Around the Caloosahatchee Bridges a tarpon tackle selection would be varied, but also would include the above baits.

Good choices are jigs in half- to one-ounce sizes. I like white with chrome Mylar strips for flash, especially at night. Bombers, Rapalas, and other large stick baits can be retrieved in a variety of ways.

Large surface plugs provide incredible excitement on calm water nights. Talk about a HUGE surface strike burned into your memory for a lifetime!

Tip: Mid-Point Bridge - fish surface and subsurface plugs around the bridge pilings and the flat next to the bridge (on the Cape Coral side) Fish the flat on the west side of the bridge on an outgoing tide at the 50 mph sign.

Large soft plastic swim baits always worth trying are DOA's Swimming Mullet and Baitbuster series. Storm makes a good variety.

MirrOlures in surface and sub-surface lures work great but with one drawback, small size and small treble hooks. Both are a deadly combination at times in the throat of a giant tarpon especially trying to remove them at night.

All my lures get trebles replaced with new Owner single hooks and Owner heavy duty split rings.

Bring all proper release equipment and always wear safety glasses and vests when night fishing and running.

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



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