Pro Talk: Catching Big Tarpon On Key West Flats With Aaron Snell

15 MINUTES WITH: Aaron Snell

 

Here’s what we learned…

 

Location: Key West, FLMike Tarpon HDR 800px

Tides: These fish are targeted in 2-3’ of water. The strong tides on three days either side of the moon are ideal.

Time Of Year: You can catch tarpon pretty much any time of the year in the Keys, but the premier fishing months for larger tarpon are March through June. Capt. Aaron is a big fan of the full moon, which means stronger tides and easier night fishing. There is another run again in late September, but Aaron mentioned that the tarpon tend to be a little smaller, typically in the 60lb class, although as he put it, any tarpon is good sized.

Approach: Capt. Aaron will tell you to “lead” the fish on the flats. By that he means to cast up in front of the tarpon and bring the Hogy into the fish’s field of view, never behind the fish as this is an unnatural presentation. Very rarely I suppose would you find a baitfish zeroing in on a big predator. Aaron described the ideal scenario as if, from the tarpon’s perspective, it stumbled across the bait.

A tarpon is cruising in your sights, you’re ready, your cast lands ten feet ahead of the fish, which is swimming towards your Hogy. Now what? Keeping in mind that the action of your Hogy is derived more from short rod twitches than from your retrieve, bring your bait into the path of the tarpon. If you need to pause to buy a little time, do so.

The tarpon eats it! Stay cool and set that hook. But in doing so, make sure you take a short turn on your reel in the same moment as you will eliminate any slack in the line, which will help drive the hook into the fish. (Sharp strong hooks are a must.) As with any self-respecting tarpon, you can expect it to take off. Big jumps and long runs are the norm. Each time the tarpon jumps, bow to the fish, meaning you should lean forward while keeping the rod tip low and toward the water. This will help cushion the jump and maintain a proper angle to the fish. If the fish lands facing you, reel immediately to gain the slack line that will occur. Tarpon are experts at shaking hooks; they’re so strong that each head shake generates tremendous amounts of force.

HO10Bone

 

 

 

Bait Selection: The Hogy® 10inch Original

Why this bait? The Hogy® 10inch Original is an excellent imitator of juvenile ballyhoo, hound fish or perhaps the palalalo worm. I’m not 100% sure what they think it is, but the eat them like candy. The 10” Original is also easy to cast on a tarpon appropriate outfit.

Colors: Bone, Bally Smoke, Black and Bubble Gum

Rigging Selection:  Top two hooks for tarpon are the 10/0 Unweighted Swimbait Hook and the 6/0 Soft Circle Hook.

Retrieve:  By imparting short rod twitches, your Hogy will quiver and with each undulation, will offer a natural presentation of a wounded baitfish to the tarpon.

Wading for Tarpon

Outfit

Rod:  8’ Aubut Tarpon rod Reel:  Shimano Stella 8000.

Line: 80lb power pro braid for my main line. For leader, 80lb Fluorocarbon is perfect for big flats tarpon