Live Bait Tips For Tarpon Fishing

By Elinor Tran

Crabs, pinfish, mullet and shrimp are all good live bait options for Key West tarpon fishing. The fundamental technique is to anchor the boat and drop lines of bait in areas where you know tarps are present. To get the line as deep as possible, weight your bait.

Weights vary according to the speed of the current. A heavy weight may cause the hook to pull out. To prevent this, use light copper wire to secure the weight to the line. It will drop off easily and not cause any hazards while fighting the fish.

Tarpon are strong and have rough, hard mouths, abrasive scales and sharp gill plates. The sizes of hooks depend on brand and size of the bait. Usually, a 6/0-11/0 circle hook does the job.

Live baits should be rigged in the most natural way as possible. For example, a crab should be hooked in the corner of its shell. Mullet and pinfish are hooked through their mouths, either horizontally or vertically.

If you're using shrimp, a good tip is to tail or head hook it on a hook-up jig to stop it spinning in the current. In the past and even today, guides only take about 12 mullet for bait on a fishing charter because pinfish and crabs work so well.

Tarps are difficult to catch so give yourself plenty of options. Some days, they'll only eat tiny pinfish, and on other days they'll only eat crabs. The success of tarp catching depends largely on the current speed. If it's running fast, mullet is a good choice because it won't spin so much.

Seasoned key west tarpon fishing guides use many sizes and types of bait because there are so many factors to consider when going for these fish. But, there's one thing you should always do - that is to have a bait at the bottom with 1 or 2 others at varying depths.

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