15 Minutes with: Capt. Ross gallagher
Location: Central and South Florida Inlets and Passes
Tides: Either side of the tide is usually good. Depending on your specific location, the outgoing or incoming may be more productive. Either way, fish that are staged around inlets and passes almost always feed on a moving tide.
Approach: While trying to generalize techniques for fishing inlets and passes, there are a few key components that fish will prefer everywhere. Locating breaks and eddies in current is important; snook will stage in the areas to conserve energy during a running tide and also ambush prey. Obvious places to start are around bridge pilings, fender systems, and fishing jetties. These large structures create pockets of “soft” water (breaks in the current). Snook often hold in this soft water waiting for baits to be swept by. Less obvious places to look may have to be detected by dragging a heavy jig across the bottom. These submerged structures may be large rocks, broken concrete or limestone ledges. These areas can be just as productive, if not more so, than the bridges. Count on getting hung up from time to time, however.
Rigging Selection: Hogy® 10/0 Barbarian Jig Series. Jig weight will vary depending on force of the current. Generally, ½ to 3-ounce is appropriate for most conditions.
Bait Selection: Barbarian Swimming Jigs & Paddle Tails
Why this bait? For many years, large heavy bucktail jigs have been popular for targeting inlet snook. While they are effective, they don’t produce any vibration in the water. The oversized paddle tail on the Hogy Thumper Series feels very similar to retrieving a spinner bait with a Colorado blade. Every thump of the tail is transmitted to your rod tip, letting you know the bait is bouncing, thumping and swimming correctly. I firmly believe that the sensitive lateral line of a snook can feel this bait pulsating as it drifts down current toward them.
Colors: To my surprise, variations of chartreuse like the Tinker Mac color have been very effective for night fishing. Generally speaking, when fishing during the day, or around lights at night, Bone is top choice. The Silver Thumper is a great mullet or greenback imitator. If fishing unlit areas at night, Black offers the most contrast underwater.
Retrieve: The best way to fish swim baits in heavy current is to stem the tide. For this technique to really be effective, you’ll often need to fish very tight to structure. This can and will result in some snags, but it will also result is some quality fish!
Stemming The Tide: Is actually pretty simple to do. It requires you to cast up current of your intended target. The goal is to have your bait presented at the proper depth as it drifts next to your target (bridge piling, rubble, dock, etc.) The real technical aspect is precisely judging where you should cast and how long to let the bait sink to fish in the strike zone.
It will probably take some time to feel how your bait will present in the current. Adjustments in jig head weight are a good way to slow down or speed up the sink rate of your jig. Often, you’ll need to swap out jig head sizes while fishing the same area, increasing weight as tide picks up, then dropping weight as it slows down. As a rule of thumb, I try to find the lightest jig head that can barely maintain contact with the bottom. Too heavy, you’ll have constant snags, too light, you’re probably not fishing within the “strike zone.”
Once you’ve got your weight and casting down, simply bounce the jig across the bottom while reeling it. I try to go just fast enough to feel the tail thumping. With the oversize paddle on the Hogy Thumper, it’s not hard to feel, even on a heavy rod.
Rod: 8′ Fast Action XH Spinning Rod (See Rod Review Below)
Reel: Shimano SustainFG 1000
Line: 50lb Power Pro Slick
Leader: You’ll need to use lighter leader during the day, at night you can get away with using very heavy leaders.
Daytime: 40lb -80lb Mono or Fluorocarbon.
Nighttime: 80lb – 125lb Mono or Fluorocarbon. Due to the nature of fishing in inlets heavy leaders are necessary to land fish in and around heavy structure.
Leader Knots: Spider Hitch or Bimini Twist in main line. Use an albright special or no name knot to tie line to leader. A loop knot is used for tying leader to your jig head.
Finding The Perfect Heavy Action Spinning Rod for Large Soft Baits
For five years I’ve been tossing heavy soft baits for everything that swims. I prefer to use spinning tackle when doing this, but I always struggled to find a rod that was comfortable to fish hours on end with repeated casting. Sure there are plenty of great meat sticks out there that certainly get the job done, but try to actively retrieve that rod 250 – 300 times per day. It’ll wear you out quickly!
Recently, I’ve met a very talented, local rod builder, Matt Sewell of Cape Coral. With an impeccable eye for detail, light weight components and unbelievable rod blanks, Matt makes some of the most performance driven and eye catching rods out there. With a wide array of rod styles, Matt probably has already created the rod of your dreams.
Unfortunately, neither of us had found the perfect rod for extensive casting of soft baits and jigs. I discussed my needs as an angler who primarily uses artificial lures, a rod with unique speed, length and action requirements. Over a few weeks, we found the right blank and Matt applied his rod science to create an extremely impressive, super lightweight spinning rod capable of casting baits from 1 to 4 ounces with ease.
I paired it with a Sustain 10k FG with 50lb Power Pro Super Slick, possibly creating one of the most comfortable and functional combo for tossing my favorite soft baits and jigs.
The rod easily handled hooking and landing snook in the upper and over-slot range in heavy current. I load tested the drag for this rod and was comfortable using 11-13lbs drag at a maximum setting without any issues. This range is perfect for snook and tarpon as drag settings much higher than that are going to result in a lot of pulled hooks.