Tarpon fishing is an exciting and challenging sport that requires the right bait to catch the best tarpon. When it comes to targeting the silver king, using the right bait is crucial.
Anglers have a variety of options when it comes to bait, including live bait, dead bait, and artificial lures. However, choosing the best bait for tarpon can be daunting, especially for beginners.
The best bait for tarpon depends on several factors, including the time of year, water conditions, and location. Tarpon fishing is popular in areas such as the Florida Keys, Tampa Bay, Charlotte Harbor, and Crystal River in Florida.
The best time to target tarpon is during the peak season, typically from late spring to early fall. During this time, tarpon migrate to the shallow waters of Florida’s Gulf Coast and Atlantic Coast to spawn.
Read on to learn more about the best bait for Tarpon fishing and some tips and techniques to catch more of the Silver King.
Best Bait for Tarpon
Live bait is the preferred method for catching tarpon. The best live bait for tarpon fishing are threadfin herring, crab, mullet, pinfish, and large shrimp. These baitfish species are commonly found in South Florida, the Florida Keys, and the Gulf of Mexico.
Threadfin herring is a popular baitfish used to catch tarpon, especially in Florida. Tarpon are known for their acrobatic jumps and powerful runs, making them a challenging and exciting game fish to catch.
How to Rig Threadfin Herring
To rig a threadfin herring for tarpon fishing, you will need the following materials:
- Threadfin herring bait
- 7/0 or 8/0 circle hook
- 60 to 80-pound fluorocarbon leader
- 4 to 5-ounce egg sinker
Here are the steps to rig a threadfin herring for tarpon fishing:
- Start by attaching the swivel to the end of the fluorocarbon leader.
- Slide the egg sinker onto the fluorocarbon leader.
- Tie the circle hook onto the end of the fluorocarbon leader using a Palomar knot or Improved Clinch knot.
- Take the threadfin herring bait and insert the hook through its nostrils.
- Push the hook through the bait’s body below its dorsal fin and out the other side.
- Gently pull the hook until it is snug against the bait’s body.
- Slide the egg sinker down to the swivel.
- Use pliers to crimp the egg sinker onto the fluorocarbon leader.
Using crab as fishing bait is common among anglers, especially those who fish for saltwater species such as tarpon, redfish, snapper, and grouper. Crabs can be effective bait because they are a natural food source for many fish, and their scent can attract fish from a distance.
To use crab as fishing bait, you can use live crabs or cut them into pieces. Live crabs can be hooked through the shell or leg joints and cast into the water. Cut crab can be used as chunks or strips and attached to a hook with fishing line or a rubber band.
It’s important to note that using crab as fishing bait may not be legal in all areas, so check local fishing regulations before using it.
How to Rig Crab
Rigging crab for tarpon fishing can be done in a few different ways depending on your preference and the fishing conditions. Here’s one common method:
- Start with a live or fresh dead crab. Remove the back shell (carapace) by pulling it off or cutting it away with scissors or a knife. Be careful not to damage the crab’s body or legs.
- Insert a hook through the crab’s body, just behind the eyes. Use a strong hook that is appropriate for the size of the crab and the size of the tarpon you are targeting.
- Attach a weight to the line above the hook to help the crab sink and stay near the bottom. Use a heavy weight to keep the crab in the strike zone but not so heavy that it drags on the bottom.
- Cast the rig into the water and wait for a tarpon to take the bait. When a tarpon strikes, give it a moment to fully take the bait before setting the hook with a strong, upward motion.
- Fight the tarpon carefully, using a heavy rod, reel, and strong line. Tarpon are powerful fish that can endure a long and challenging fight, so be patient and persistent.
Using mullet as fishing bait for Tarpon is common among anglers, especially those targeting larger predatory fish species. Mullet is a popular bait because it is oily and has a strong scent that can attract fish from a distance.
It is also a durable bait that can withstand the rigors of being cast and retrieved multiple times. When using mullet as bait, it is important to choose the right size and cut of the fish to match the size and feeding habits of the target fish species.
Mullet should be appropriately stored to prevent spoilage and maintain its effectiveness as bait.
Live bait rig: This simple rig involves hooking the mullet through the lips or nostrils and letting it swim naturally in the water. To rig a mullet for live bait fishing, you’ll need a hook (size depends on the size of the mullet and the target fish), a leader (usually 20-30 lb test), and a swivel.
Tie the hook to the end of the leader, then tie the swivel to the other end. Hook the mullet through the lips or nostrils, and attach the swivel to your main line.
Cut bait rig: This rig involves cutting the mullet into chunks or strips and using it as bait. To rig a mullet for cut bait fishing, you’ll need a hook (size depends on the size of the mullet and the target fish), a leader (usually 20-30 lb test), and a weight (if fishing in deeper water).
Cut the mullet into chunks or strips, then thread the hook through the flesh several times. Attach the weight to the end of the leader if needed, and tie the leader to your main line.
Carolina rig: This versatile rig can be used with live or cut mullet. To rig a mullet for Carolina rig fishing, you’ll need a hook (size depends on the size of the mullet and the target fish), a leader (usually 20-30 lb test), a swivel, a bead, and an egg sinker.
Tie the hook to the end of the leader, then tie the swivel to the other end. Thread the bead and egg sinker onto your main line, then tie the main line to the swivel. Hook the mullet through the lips or nostrils, and attach the swivel to your main line.
Always check your local fishing regulations before using mullet as bait, as it may be illegal in some areas.
Using pinfish as bait to catch tarpon is a common and effective technique among anglers. Tarpon are known to be attracted to pinfish because they are a natural prey item for them.
How to Rig Pinfish
To rig a pinfish, you will need the following:
- Hook: Use a 1/0 or 2/0 circle hook, depending on the size of the pinfish.
- Leader: Use a 20-30 lb fluorocarbon leader.
- Weight: Use a split shot weight or a small egg sinker to keep the bait at the desired depth.
- Pinfish: Use a live pinfish as bait.
Here are the steps to rig a pinfish:
- Tie the hook to the leader using a Palomar knot or a uni knot
- Slide the weight onto the leader above the hook.
- Pinch the split shot weight onto the leader or tie the egg sinker onto the leader using a swivel.
- Insert the hook into the pinfish’s mouth and out through the nostril, ensuring not to damage the fish’s eyes or gills.
- Slide the hook down the leader until it meets the weight.
- If using a circle hook, leave the hook point exposed. If using a J-hook, bury the hook point in the bait’s body.
- Cast the rig and let it sink to the desired depth.
When fishing for tarpon with pinfish as bait, it’s important to use the right gear and technique. Tarpon are strong and fast, so you will need a heavy-duty rod and reel with a strong line.
You should also be prepared to set the hook quickly and fight the fish skillfully and patiently. With the right setup and technique, using pinfish as bait can be a great way to catch tarpon.
Using large shrimp as bait to catch tarpon is a popular fishing technique. Tarpon are known for their love of shrimp, and using larger shrimp can often entice larger tarpon to take the bait.
When using shrimp as bait, it’s important to rig the shrimp properly to ensure that it stays on the hook and doesn’t get washed away by the current.
One common rig for using shrimp as bait for tarpon is the Carolina rig, which involves a sliding sinker, a swivel, a leader, and a hook. The shrimp is threaded onto the hook and cast out into the water, hopefully attracting a hungry tarpon’s attention.
How to Rig Shrimp
To rig shrimp for tarpon fishing, you will need the following materials:
- Live or dead shrimp
- 1/0 or 2/0 circle hook
- Fluorocarbon leader (30-40 lb test)
- Split shot weights
Here are the steps to rig shrimp for tarpon fishing:
- Tie the swivel to the end of the fluorocarbon leader.
- Tie the circle hook to the other end of the leader using a knot such as the improved clinch knot.
- Thread a split shot weight onto the leader about 12-18 inches above the hook.
- Pinch off the tail and legs of the shrimp and thread the hook through the tail end, coming out just behind the head.
- Using a live shrimp, you can hook it through the horn on top of the head to keep it alive longer.
- Adjust the split shot weight to get the shrimp to sink to the desired depth.
- Cast your rig out and wait for a tarpon to take the bait.
Tarpon are opportunistic feeders, so using live bait native to the area can increase your chances of success. When using live bait, it is essential to match the hook size to the size of the baitfish.
Circle hooks are recommended as they are less likely to cause injury to the tarpon, which has a bony mouth. The hook should be placed through the lip or anal fin of the baitfish to allow for natural movement in the water.
The bait should be free-lined or placed under a large float for a natural presentation.
Artificial lures can also be effective when targeting tarpon. Soft plastics, swimbaits, and topwater lures are all excellent options. When using artificial lures, it is vital to match the lure to the water conditions and the size of the tarpon.
Natural colors that mimic baitfish are recommended. When using artificial lures, accurate casts are crucial. Tarpon are known for their acrobatic jumps and strong currents, so having the right gear and making precise casts can increase your chances of success.
A fast-action rod with a strong main line and sharp hooks is recommended. The best time to target tarpon with artificial lures is during the early mornings or late afternoons when the water temperature is cooler.
During peak season, tarpon can be found in shallow water near river mouths, passes, and bridges. In deeper waters, tarpon can be found in areas with strong currents.
Using the right bait or lure is one of the most important things when targeting tarpon. Live bait is the best way to catch tarpon, but artificial lures can also be effective. Matching the bait or lure to the water conditions and the size of the tarpon is key.
Fishing Guide: Best Surf Fishing Bait
Factors to Consider When Choosing Bait for Tarpon
Water temperature is a crucial factor to consider when choosing bait for tarpon fishing. Tarpon prefer warm water and are most active when the water temperature is between 75°F and 85°F.
In colder water, tarpon become less active and may not be as likely to bite. Live bait such as threadfin herring and large shrimp can be effective in warmer water.
Water clarity is another important factor when choosing bait for tarpon fishing. In clear water, it’s best to use natural-colored baits such as live mullet or soft plastics.
Brighter colors, such as chartreuse and pink, can be more effective in dirty water. Live crabs and pass crabs can be good choices in brackish water.
Time of Day
The time of day can also affect the effectiveness of different baits. Early mornings and late afternoons are often the best times to target tarpon. During these times, it’s best to use live bait such as pilchards, mullet, and sardines.
In the middle of the day, when the sun is high, artificial lures such as soft baits and topwater plugs can be effective. When choosing bait for tarpon fishing, it’s important to use the right bait for the right conditions.
Live bait is often the best choice, but dead bait can also be effective. Circle hooks are recommended for catch-and-release fishing, as they are less likely to cause injury to the tarpon.
It’s also important to use the right hook size for the bait.
During peak season, typically in late spring and early summer, dozens of tarpon can be caught in a single day. Choosing the right bait is one of the most important factors in tarpon fishing.
By considering water temperature, clarity, and time of day, anglers can increase their chances of catching the best tarpon.
Bait Presentation Techniques For Tarpon
One of the best ways to present live bait to tarpon is by free-lining it. This technique involves attaching a hook directly to the end of the main line without any additional weights or floats. The bait is cast out and allowed to drift naturally with the current.
This technique works best in shallow water or areas with strong currents where the baitfish can move freely and naturally.
It’s important to use the right bait when free-lining for tarpon. Large shrimp, live crabs, and baitfish like mullet or threadfin herring are all great options.
Hook size should be appropriate for the size of the baitfish, and circle hooks are recommended to prevent deep hooking the tarpon.
Another effective technique for targeting tarpon is bottom fishing. This involves using a weight to keep the bait near the bottom of the water column. This technique works best in deeper waters or areas with strong currents where the baitfish may struggle to swim against the current.
Dead bait or cut bait can be used for bottom fishing. Pass crabs, mullet, and other baitfish can be cut into chunks and rigged onto the hook. It’s crucial to use strong hooks and a heavy enough weight to keep the bait in place.
Trolling is a popular technique for targeting tarpon in open water or along the coast. This involves slowly moving the boat while dragging one or more baits behind it.
The baits can be live or artificial lures, and the boat’s speed should be adjusted based on water conditions and the type of bait being used.
When trolling for tarpon, it’s important to use the right gear. Tarpon fishing rods should be strong enough to handle the fight of a large fish, and the main line should be heavy enough to prevent breakage. Soft plastics in natural colors can be effective when tarpon are feeding on smaller baitfish.
Regardless of the technique used, it’s important to present the bait naturally and enticingly. Accurate casts and proper bait placement are key to catching tarpon.
During peak season, dozens of tarpon can be seen rolling on the surface, making it a great time to target them. Early mornings and late afternoons are often the best times to fish; they become even more opportunistic feeders during the tarpon spawn.
Conclusion – Best Bait for Tarpon
When it comes to tarpon fishing, choosing the right bait is crucial. Live baits such as live crabs, pass crabs, threadfin herring, and large shrimp are some of the best bait for tarpon fishing. Dead bait such as mullet and ladyfish are also effective, especially when targeting larger fish.
Artificial lures, such as soft plastics and naturally colored lures, can be effective in clear water, but live bait is often the best choice. Circle hooks are recommended to avoid gut hooking the tarpon, which can harm the fish.
Tarpon are among the most exciting fish to catch, known for their acrobatic jumps and strong currents. Whether using live bait or artificial lures, accurate casts and sharp hooks are key to landing the silver king.
Thank you for reading, and if you have any questions or comments, please leave them below. We love hearing from our readers. Until next time Happy Fishing!
Cory is a content writer-editor and founder of Tackle Box Talk. Favorite Quote: "Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime."