By Capt. Ross Gallagher
With tarpon season just getting into full swing, we thought it would be a great time to share some new products and techniques that will increase your Tarpon hookup to landing ratio. While there is no guaranteed way to land every fish hooked (any captain worth their salt can agree) the following techniques have helped me bump my landing ratio well above 60 percent.
There are two popular way to target tarpon with Hogy Lures Soft Baits. The most common is an top water approach using our 7inch or 10inch Original Series Soft Baits rigged on Unweighted Swim Bait Hooks. These are an excellent option when targeting fish on the flats and when they are surface feeding in deep channels. These baits present the greatest hookup challenge for anglers new to fishing soft baits. A tarpon’s strike is often lightning fast and quite violent. This is the crucial moment for the angler to focus, retrieve line slack while simultaneously setting setting the hook.
Daytime Top Water Tarpon
Mid 2013 we released a new series of Premium Swim Bait Hooks, called the Barbarian Tournament Grade Hooks. These top shelf VMC hooks feature an elongated point and unique “sickle” bend that offers faster and deeper penetration for solid hookup with bony-mouthed species, like tarpon. Once putting these hooks into my tarpon arsenal, I saw my landing ratio climb to nearly 50%. If you’ve ever had trouble staying connected to giant tarpon on Hogy Lures, this hook will improve your landing ratio.
Nighttime Top Water Tarpon
Night fishing is a very effective and exciting way to target tarpon. During hot summer days, the nights offer a reprieve for the scorching Florida sun. Most of my tarpon fishing is done at night, focusing on fish staged around bridges, passes and deep water channels. These type of structures are very common from Key West to Northern Florida and most will hold tarpon at some point during the year.
I prefer to use the Hogy Soft Circle Hook when targeting top water tarpon at night. When using Hogy Soft Baits at night, you often feel or hear a tarpon hit your bait before you see it. In this scenario, the Soft Circle Hook shines. After a strike on a circle hook, you need to quickly reel in the line slack. Once you’re tight to the tarpon, they will often make a very strong, fast initial run. During this run, the circle hook will slide into the jaw corner or center upper jaw “in the button” for a very secure hook set. You do not need to repeatedly jerk the rod to set the hook after this! Doing so will cause the hook to shake loose, losing your fish. Simply maintain steady line pressure and a healthy bend in your rod. Of course, you still need to “bow” to the tarpon when then leap, by pointing your rod straight out directly at the fish. After the jump, quickly pickup any slack and begin reeling in the fish again. I recommend using the 6/0 Size Soft Circle Hook for both the 7inch Original and 10inch Original Series Soft Baits.
Deep Water Tarpon Jigs
Just because you can’t see tarpon feeding or rolling on the surface does not mean they won’t eat a well presented Hogy Soft Bait. For several years, top Florida Keys Fishing Guides utilized the Hogy 10inch Jigging Series rigged on a black and red buck tail jig as a secret bait for finicky tarpon holding along deep water bridges, like the Bahia Honda Bridge. Well, the secret has been out for two years now and the same technique used to catch finicky bridge tarpon in the Florida Keys has proven very effective for bridge tarpon along the entire state. The Hogy Barbarian Series Jig Heads offer the same tarpon landing features as the swim bait hooks, but in a weighted package ideal for jigging the mid and lower water column. I’ve had many successful nights tarpon fishing around bridges when we did not see or hear a single fish splash on top. These jigs generally work best when the tide and current are pumping. During these times of peak current, tarpon will often hold mid water column along small current breaks and eddies given off as the water breaks along the bridge pilings.
The Hogy 2oz Bahia Honda Tarpon Jig improves on the classic “secret” jig utilized by Florida Keys Captain’s. As with all soft baits and rigging, we recommend tying the bait to the leader via an offshore loop knot.