Bait Selection for Tarpon Fishing
Tarpon are by far one of the most technical to fish for. Their movement and feeding patterns change dramatically throughout the day. For this reason it is imperative to be properly prepared with different bait choices as the tide and fish movement dictate what the Tarpon desire to eat.
Fresh & healthy Threadfin shad are the choice bait for site fishing on the beach and in the open bay. Every morning starts with cast netting a new healthy load for a day of fishing. Large Greenbacks (pilchard) are also another good option when fishing this scenario. It’s imperative for success to have at least 75 to 100 solid healthy Threadfin or Greenbacks for a full day of Tarpon fishing. That’s because at some point during the day they will become the fish’s choice bait.
Silver dollar size crabs are also another important part of the puzzle. Crabs are used a smaller percentage of the time, but when the tide is falling or we have low light conditions there are moments when they are the only thing Tarpon eat. The 3 main types of crabs are pass, calico and small blue. Nothing beats a medium size pass crab but the other two work great to. A good captain always keeps a few hundred live ones in his pens at his boat dock.
Dead bait, yes that’s right, dead fishing bait for Tarpon can at times be the most effective way to Tarpon fish. At times throughout the day it may be the only way to productively fish for them. It takes a lot of dead bait to be really effective. Generally Tarpon are chummed to the boat with chunks of, or whole dead threadfins, greenbacks or menhaden. Then chunks or whole baits with hooks are dropped down to the frenzied Tarpon. This can be a very exciting way to fish, especially when one boat has 3 or 4 one-hundred pound Tarpon hooked on at the same time. It’s for this reason a good captain comes prepared with 100 to 200 pounds of dead bait iced down ready to go every day. Again, when they want it you must have it.
Each and every morning the boat must be loaded down with live healthy threadfins, strong swimming crabs and enough dead bait to last for hours of chumming. It’s the key to having a successful day, every day, under all circumstances. I call it “The Big Three”, have them all and you are ready for whatever the fish and mother-nature throws your way.