I fished with my brother Captain Pete a couple of weeks ago and a discussion started about fishing gear on a boat, more specifically what terminal tackle to always have on board. It seems we fisher folks are all guilty in one way or another of carrying way too much gear for a day on the water.
The conversation started with my reminiscing about my first year of being a fishing guide. I mentioned that when it came to tackle I had just about everything I owned onboard. It was stashed in every locker, under the seat, and in the console. There was barely enough room for the required safety equipment and anything my guest might bring with them on a charter. I explained that I was worried I’d be missing the one lure that might lead to a better bite.
Now, think about that for minute. Every tackle shop I’ve ever been in has rows upon rows of fishing lures. Each and every one of those lures are also available in multiple color combinations making for a staggering number of choices. The odds of having that one lure onboard would be astronomical.
I explained to Pete that about two years into my guiding career I had slowly, but surely pared down my terminal tackle to a very manageable tackle bag. This simply came from on-the-water experience. I had learned what type of leader and lure worked for the majority of my targeted fish species.
The discussion led to a list of must haves from not one, but two fishing captains.
The leader used between the line and the lure is very important in Florida saltwater fishing. For the majority of days you’ll need 15-pound to 30-pound test fluorocarbon. The light line will improve the bite from finicky fish and the heavy line will handle the bigger stuff that wants to drag you into the mangrove roots.
Jig heads are a must. For the uninitiated, these are basically hooks with a lead head that looks somewhat like a boxing glove. There are thousands of them! I carry an assortment in a small tackle tray from 1/8 ounce to 1/2 ounce with what I consider being the essential colors, in order of preference… yellow, red, gold, brown and white. A jig head is useful for fishing live shrimp and an array of soft plastic lures.
Soft plastics can look like shrimp, worms, minnows or small baitfish. I always have Gulp! Shrimp on standby along with a couple of favorites from D.O.A. Lures and Z-Man Lures. Stick with colors that look natural. Pink, light green and grey for the shrimp along with silver and white for the baitfish.
Casting plugs come in an array of colors and designs. They are mostly made of plastic and have a couple of attached treble hooks. There are twitch, diving and walking varieties. The twitch is nothing more than an imitation of a small bait fish that can be retrieved with a jerking action to make it look like it’s trying to flee from a predator. The diving lure is the same thing, but with a plastic lip that causes it to dive when retrieved or jerked. The walker is a topwater lure that won’t sink and can be “walked” across the top of the water. This is a fun summer lure when the water is warm. Stick to the same colors as the soft plastic lures.
Last, but certainly not least is the popping cork. They are essential for fishing our local waters, simple to use and great for locating fish on an open body of water. A live minnow, shrimp or artificial can be attached via a leader under the cork for whatever depth is required. Once casted away from the boat or shoreline you simply jerk the rod to make a popping sound. I call it, “ringing the dinner bell.”
Remember. Keep it simple and instead of constantly changing lures, work on your technique with a few choices. The more you practice the more fish you’ll catch.
Captain Rob Modys is a lifetime Florida outdoorsman and retired spin & fly fishing guide. He is past president and board chairman of the Florida Outdoor Writers Association and serves on the board of the Florida Guides Association.