The bounce matters more than the lure—or the price.
The nearby sandflea-flinging fisherman moved his boat all of three feet when the Indian River Lagoon’s surface erupted in all directions. I could have been killed by flying pompano bouncing off my kayak.
Thick as they were, bites were hard to come by. Forty boats harassed them incessantly over adjacent flats—too many fishermen more interested in skipping them in their boat wakes, rather than quietly catching them.
The two fish in my box weren’t going to cover all the promises I’d made to friends for fresh fillets. Time for something totally different. Time to look at a few pompano jig styles.
The traditional but weird pink-and-white Doc’s Goofy Jig—essentially an ice-fishing lure and a reliable pompano producer—was replaced in favor of something even more offbeat—a plain old chunk of lead pinched onto a small worm hook. I flung the ¼-ounce chartreuse D.O.A. Pinch Weight, designed as a keel for soft-plastic jerkbaits, to the far side of a narrow, deep channel. I snapped the rod sharply upward half a dozen times, hopping the makeshift lure downstream with the incoming tide until a 3-plus-pound pompano put its broad shoulders sideways to my light spinning rod. Three more pomps and a small jack crevalle followed in the next five casts. Too good to abandon, I looked around to make sure no one was observing my bonanza, and released eight more before leaving them biting.
Flats pompano are a welcome but usually peripheral catch for Florida fishermen most of the year—the 2-pounder that ate my buddy’s Zara Spook comes to mind. The thousands of dedicated pompano anglers who chase the semi-annual, weather-driven migrations rely on the aforementioned Goofy Jigs, Silly Willys and any number of heavy leadheads with short, stiff nylon skirts. Fly rodders tie a lighter equivalent. The common denominator in any pompano lure is that it drops like a rock and bounces hard, creating a puff of sand that apparently passes for a crab or other fodder burrowing into the bottom.
They Don’t Have to be Pretty
Looking to breathe a second life into those puffer-mutilated, discarded jerkbaits decorating your boat deck? Slice them to the size of a thumbnail and impale them on a short jighead, and they emulate pretty closely a sandflea—in the natural world, the pompano’s favorite prey.
And if your goal is simply to kick up a little dirt, nothing accelerates to the bottom faster than plain old lead on a thin-wire hook—no fluttering motion or nylon dressing to slow the rate of descent. This lack of flutter also has the advantage of reducing bites from the bluefish, ladyfish and jacks that always seem to tag along with pompano schools. While bare lead works, a little paint goes a long way in catching a pomp’s eye. If you don’t have your own source, those D.O.A. weights come in 1⁄8- and ¼-ounce sizes and five colors; orange and chartreuse seem most effective. Bend them to curl around a small worm hook, or simply squeeze them onto a straight-shank model—no tipping with natural bait required. Use the lighter models for working shallow sandbar edges. I prefer the heavier weights for tossing into the deep, fast tidal channels between grassflats that pompano use as travel corridors. FS
Originally Published Florida Sportsman Dec. 2010
By Jerry McBride