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Fishing gear, rigs for tarpon and snook

May 12, 2017
By GEORGE TUNISON ( , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

Dedicated early morning and dead of night beach stalkers will encounter some seriously big snook in the surf zones this spring and summer.

For beach walking, pack lightly with bucktail jigs, twitch baits and a large top-water or two, some bug spray, small light, water, release tools, then hit the beach.

Fish-ing near one of the local passes will improve your odds, as will using a long rod with braid allowing you to make long casts and cover water efficiently.

Cast parallel to the beach not distance casting into the Gulf. The action is close to the beach in the surf zone.

Rigging your gear for tarpon fishing isn't complicated, especially for bottom fishing.

A good starting point would be to spool up with good quality 30 to 40- pound test fresh mono like Berkeley Triline, add a 60 to 80-pound leader as long as your rod, 9/0 in-line circle hook, bait up and then toss it out and let it sit on the bottom.

An easy to come by natural bait in our area is a catfish and can be fished live or dead.

For bottom still fishing, first catch a cat on a hot dog chunk or shrimp and cut the body from behind the dorsal to the tail. (Small mud cats seem to work better than sail cats)

Take this 5-inch slug of meat and put your hook through one end, going through just enough tough skin to keep the chunk on the hook, keeping the hook fully exposed.

Bury the hook in the meat and the fish won't feel it? True, but trying to get a good hookset will be almost impossible.

Hook size is a very controversial subject and opinions will vary greatly.

Years ago I bought a video from Capt. Bouncer Smith which became my tarpon bible as it covered every form of tarpon angling and rigging you would ever encounter.

Smith, a legendary Florida multi-species guide with thousands of released tarpon to his credit, rigs his basic tarpon set-up as follows: Tie your main line to your leader. Your end of your main line should always be doubled by using a Bimini Twist or other line doubling knot (Spider Hitch), then attach the leader to the doubled main line using a "no-name knot." (Yes that's the name of the knot.) Check out

Leaders are typically 10-12 feet. Add the hook.

Sometime he uses a short piece of single strand wire tied to the leader's end because the tiny raspy teeth of the tarpon "grip" the mono leader while thin wire slides effortlessly allowing for no loss of power on the hookset.

In this case, add your single strand wire to your leader with an Albright knot.

When using live baits such as ladyfish or mullet for tarpon fishing, learn to bridle your bait with a rigging needle. (Bass Pro Shops, YouTube)

This offshore technique puts a rubber band or wire trace through the baitfish's nostrils allowing the bait to swim freely, live much longer and, more importantly, because the hook is attached to the rubber band or wire outside the fish's body, it's fully exposed for a surer hook-up when that big bite comes.

Fly rods and tarpon are a great match. Many folks can't seem to get their heads wrapped around the idea that a 200-pound tarpon will greedily chase and eat a 3-inch long bunch of feathers tied to a hook.

At night on the Caloosahatchee I've seen huge tarpon key in on tiny glass minnows and shun any other offering at times almost bumping the boat while chasing these tiny baits completely blinded by their tarpon tunnel vision.

A typical rod for large tarpon will usually be a 12 weight (wt.) and a 10 wt. works great for smaller fish, say in the 25-50 pound class. This is a general overview and your rod choices will vary with experience.

Capt. George Tunison is a Cape Coral resident fishing guide. Contact him at 239-440-1621 or



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