Fishing in southern waters can be a blast but for snowbirds departing from cooler ports the question of what lures to bring along can raise a little angst.
If you plan to fish with a guide, of course, you’ll be covered since bait, lures and tackle are provided. For less formal fishing around the resort, marina or local beach, however, a two-piece, 7-foot spinning rod spooled with 30-pound test braid and a very basic tackle box should keep you in the game.
With lures and terminal gear, the goal should be to carry just enough to fill a 14- x 9-inch Plano Fishing Stowaway Box. Start with a couple of small tins. These work from boat or beach and catch nearly every predator that swims. They cast a mile, can be jigged vertically or ripped just beneath the surface. Virtually indestructible, the AVA 007 and 27 – with bare hooks instead of tube tails – are good choices as is a 2-ounce Hopkin’s Shorty. Carry at least two of each.
Bucktails are another all-purpose selection. Use these to probe the bottom for summer flounder, grouper and snapper, or to work areas with strong currents such as bridge abutments and inlets where snook and jacks abound. Two or three each in sizes one-half- and one ounce should do the job. White is a universal color that catches fish under just about any conditions. To tip your bucktails, use fresh-caught fish strips or pack a jar of Fat Cow trailers in white or red. If you favor Berkley Gulp! grab it after arriving at your destination to avoid juices possibly leaking in transit – and give the remainder away before heading home. The shrimp pattern seems to be a southern favorite. Either Gulp! or live shrimp can also be fished using a ¼- to ½-ounce plain jighead.
A solid set of soft-plastic swimbaits is also a good idea. Storm Wildeye Shad and Tsunami in the 4-inch size are easy to use and bring consistent results. Simply chuck them as far out as possible and retrieve at slow, medium or fast speeds until you find a winner. Panther Martin’s Big Fin is another great choice. It has a thin profile – and it’s weedless. Use the 1-ounce size in shallow water and the 2-ounce size in deeper water or fast currents. White and chartreuse patterns work well as does all black – an absolutely evil pattern for night fishing around bridges and other snook structure.
A few additional fishing tips before heading off on that dream winter vacation:
● Southern waters teem with toothy critters including barracuda, jacks and various shark species so bring wire leaders to limit cut-offs. A 10-inch length of size #2 wire leader (~20-lb. test) will defeat the dentures of most inshore predators while not spooking discerning species like grouper and snapper.
● Shallow waters are often crystal-clear and fish feeding in them can be exceptionally wary. Use fluorocarbon leaders when targeting bonefish, permit, redfish, sea trout or other small-toothed, flats and tidal creek favorites. Fluorocarbon leaders virtually vanish in the water and greatly increase hook-up ratios.
● Choose polarized sunglasses that wrap around the sides of your face for optimal glare reduction. When looking for fish in shallow water, watch for dark shadows moving across the bottom instead of trying to spot actual fish. A high sun makes spotting shadows easier so there’s less need for a daybreak start.
● Find time to fish the bridges (where allowed). The waters around them sport tarpon and snook. Novice anglers favor popular hot spots during the day – sharpies return after dark when bigger fish come out to play.