Pompano Old School

Before pompano jigs and jigging spoons, there was the shell lure

One of the downsides to innovation is that proven methods sometimes go by the wayside. Some really neat fishing techniques have been lost in the shuffle over the years. One good example is the utilization of seashells as lures for catching Florida pompano. Long before leadhead jigs and wobbling spoons came onto the market, resourceful pompano anglers utilized local materials to make very effective lures.

They basically used two types of shells, the Atlantic bubble and the lettered olive shell, with the Atlantic bubble the most popular because of its resemblance in size and shape to a sandflea. Both are found along either coast of the peninsula around grassy areas and sandbars—I picked up mine off a local sandbar on New Year’s Day. Simply walk along the high tide mark scanning the shells for the right form and shape. You’ll want the shells to be ¾ of an inch to 1 inch in size, or roughly the same size as a sandflea.

Purchase a small lead melting pot or find a friend who has one (a lot of the pompano hardcores make their own sinkers and lures), grab your handful of shells and some number 2 hooks, and you’re ready to make your own pompano lures. Use gloves and pliers to hold the shells while they’re filling with lead, and be sure not to breathe the toxic gases molten lead puts off.

Here are most of the materials to make your own shell lures: the lead melting pot with lead to melt, and top right, longer shank hooks for the lettered olive shells and hooks for the Atlantic bubble shells, at right.

When the lead cools, you can trim up the rough spots with a pair of dikes or a small file. Some fishermen like to paint the lead on their lures with a bright orange or red powdercoat paint to mimic the egg sac of a sandflea.

Once the lures are finished, you can use them by drifting in a boat while jigging over the flats or sandy bottom, or put them on your surf rod when you run out of sandfleas. I recommend trying one shell lure as a teaser lure on the middle dropper loop of the standard three-hook pompano rig for the surf. FS