Ask any fisherman or woman in Florida and chances are that they’ll all agree that Florida is the kayak fishing capital of the world. Of course other state’s fishermen may disagree, but it’s hard to argue that Florida isn’t up there with the best of them. The only argument you’ll find amongst fellow Florida kayak fisherman is where the hottest region to fish is, which species is the most fun to catch or what baits/lures work best. So let’s take this opportunity to focus on Tampa Bay kayak fishing and what some of the best baits/lures to use to catch the wide variety of fish that you’ll find swimming inshore.
Species to Target in Tampa Bay
One of my most favorite things about kayak fishing inshore saltwater within the state of Florida is that you never know what you’re going to hook up with! Whether you’re fishing topwater, suspending lures, bouncing the bottom or live bait, there is a variety of fish species that you could end up with. Key to targeting certain species is to figure out where they are at certain times of the day and year. Redfish, Snook, Tarpon, Flounder and Spotted Seatrout are all popular game fish that can be found in the Tampa bay area. Throw in a mix of Spanish Mackerel, Jack Crevelle, Ladyfish, catfish, sharks and much more, and it’s sure to be a great time catching! So with all these fish swimming around, what are some effective baits or lures to use?
I personally am addicted to the topwater game. There’s nothing like having that Redfish, Snook or trout blow up on a topwater lure from a kayak. But which ones work the best? I typically throw a 4” Mirrolure Top Dog, a Bomber Badonk-a-donk, or a Heddon Zara Spook. All these are the same type of lure. Use a walk-the-dog style retrieve and you’re sure to entice the big explosion we all get addicted to! Just remember to make that thing click-clack sound while retrieving and don’t set the hook until you feel the weight of that fish. It’s not uncommon for the fish to take several swipes at it before it’s successful in eating your lure. Be patient.
Color also plays an important role when it comes to getting that bite, but with topwater, it’s a whole different game. You’ll notice that topwater baits come in a never ending variety of colors, but remember, these lures are floating on top of the water, the fish are only seeing the bottom half of that lure. So with that being said, take a close look at the bottom of that lure. I tend to throw darker colors in the early mornings and evenings and lighter colors throughout the day.
Other Lures and Tackle
So the topwater bite isn’t happening, then what? Well lucky for us, just like color options, there are an endless supply of different lures, baits and attractants. Spoons work great for locating fish. Bounce them over oyster bars, along grass lines and through creek mouths. Another great little bait is the Mirrolure Mirrodine suspending twitchbait. A good friend of mine turned me onto this bait and now I almost always keep one tied on. Work it as a steady retrieve to mimic fleeing bait fish or twitch it with a slow retrieve and it resembles an injured fish that is sure to trigger a predator fish’s natural instinct.
Then there’s the popping cork. This simple method of fishing has proven to catch all species time and time again. Rig it with live or dead bait or soft plastics on a jighead or circle hook and you’ll find yourself catching in no time. Its loud popping sound paired with bait proves irresistible to fish. Very effective over grass flats, along Mangroves or oyster bars, the popping cork is simple enough for the first time fisher man or woman, but effective enough to be in any seasoned fisherman’s tackle box.
Don’t stress too much on what to use, or when, just get out and experiment! You never know what’s going to work. Just fish and have fun! But for the most effective way to catch fish in the Tampa Bay area is to hire a local guide. They do all the research and take the guesswork out of choosing lure type, color, size, retrieval method and so on.