Tarpon tackle differs for various applications. For general use a spinning rod in the 8 to 9 ft class loaded with 50 or 65 pound braided line is sufficient 75 percent of the time. 50 pound line should be thought of as the bare minimum for migrating Tarpon that average 70 to 130 pounds and get larger than 200 pounds. 65 pound braid seems to be a great balance for spinning rods because of its cast-ability, but strong enough to pressure the largest fish.
When Tarpon fishing Tampa Bay, longer spinning rods in the 10 to 12 foot range are also very useful for cork fishing crabs and live bait. While harder to cast they get greater distance and great presentation when cork fishing. Many times it is the most productive way to fish when sight fishing on the beach for Tarpon. 65 pound test works great, especially when using weighted corks. With unweighted corks 50 pound may be better, especially with lighter crabs.
These longer rods are best used out of 6 ft or taller Tarpon tower boats.
When dead baiting for Tarpon, by chumming them in close to the boat, conventional tackle loaded with 100 pound braid is the most effective set-up. It can be done with lighter spinning tackle as well, but the heavier tackle become much more effective when doing multiple hookups such as 2, 3 and sometimes 4 Tarpon on at one time. This way you don’t have to pull anchor off your chum-line, and you don’t have to worry as much about neighboring boat tangling your fish.
In general we stick with 60 to 100 pound fluorocarbon leaders. 60 pound is the best all around when using lighter spinning tackle. 100 pound test is very effective for Tarpon when dead baiting on the bottom. Tarpon have great eye-sight, so if the water is very clear, lighter line is better, 50 pound is a bare minimum and a large number of the fish will fray through leader that light.
Circle hooks are generally the favorite hook of choice, 5/0 to 8/0 is the best. 5/0 for the smaller crabs and clear water while 6/0 and 7/0 are best for the larger live baits. Larger hooks can be used when dead baiting on the bottom because the Tarpon can’t see the hook quite as well. Smaller snout hooks can be used on the smaller crabs for better presentation, but you will get a few more pull offs.
Never under estimate the strength of a Tarpon; if fishing with tackle any lighter than what we just covered you’re doing the Tarpon and the other fisherman around you an injustice. Remember, keep your drags tight and pull him out of the school as quick as possible