Tarpon are prehistoric beasts! If you have never caught one you should add it to your bucket list immediately. Anglers travel across the world every year to satisfy that tarpon itch. It makes sense, few species can compare to the thrilling fight of a triple-digit tarpon.
Luckily, tarpon aren’t the pickiest eaters. They will eat just about anything you put in their face if they're hungry. More often than not, the ending of that phrase is the most important - if they’re hungry. You can do everything perfectly, and still, tarpon will often turn you down.
Because of that fact it is important, you do everything as close to perfection as you can to increase your odds of triggering eats. The following baits will have you well on your way to dominating the tarpon fishing game. Just don’t forget to bow to the king!
Best Live Bait For Tarpon
By far the easiest and most effective way to target tarpon will be to use live bait. They will eat shrimp, crabs, pinfish, mullet, and any other baitfish abundant in the area. If you’re catching live bait, I would go for mullet, easy to find and catch. Just about any size will do, 5-6 inches being the sweet spot.
If you will buy live bait, shrimp and crabs can be lethal. Both fit the same applications and seem to be my go-to. Crabs are great for floating in current and have a hard shell. However, you can move a shrimp more to get it into the right position without it looking unappealing or fake to clever tarpon when sight fishing.
Either of these will catch fish. Don’t be quick to rule out a method if the fish aren’t biting one day, it might not be, it could just be the wrong fish. You can use mullet and some other baitfish dead but won’t be as effective. The best approach may be to have a few of each on board to cover all the bases.
Best Tarpon Lures
There are a bunch of lures that will trigger tarpon to eat. I will share with you the most popular that produce time and time again and I see in everyone's tackle bags nowadays.
DOA makes a few lures popular for bridge fishing big tarpon. The TerrorEyzand Bait Buster will have you wrapping around bridge pilings in no time. I have no tips for that, just hold on and pray.
Next up is the Hogy. This long, slender, very simple bait has made a lot of noise in the tarpon fishing community. For an excellent reason too, tarpon can't resist these simple baits because their shape gives them such a real-looking action. The best colors are black or purple for darker needs, and white or pink for lighter needs.
No lure suggestion is complete without a Gulp bait included. The Gulp Alive Swimming Mullet Jig fitted into a jig head is a beast. Tarpon love them some gulp and this jig has great tail action for bridges.
If you want to try your luck at experiencing one of the craziest topwater explosions, the Bomber Badonk-A-Donk should be your go-to. Tarpon destroy this bait, it is insane how aggressively they strike it sometimes. It won't produce the most bites, but it will produce the most fun bite.
Best Tarpon Fly
The best tarpon fly for micros - any tarpon less than 40#s - is a gurgler. These are most effective in the early mornings while they are schooling up constantly rolling in an area. The little guys will go hard trying to smash a gurgler, often missing, but one will stick eventually. Pro tip - if they are missing a lot, use a smaller fly!
The most used tarpon fly is the tarpon roach. You can easily tie this fly with one material - hackle. You can spice it up with other materials but I choose not too. I like to throw this early in the season before the fish have seen thousands of them, or as a last resort if the fish are refusing everything else.
A newer variation that is gaining ranks quickly is the tarpon toad. Not the easiest to tie, but once you master figure 8 bodies, it’ll be a breeze. I like to keep the roaches in natural colors and the toads in brighter synthetic colors.
If you can figure out the timing of the yearly worm hatch, throwing a worm fly will be like heroin. Just cast and hold on!
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