September 01, 2022
By Brenton Roberts
Snook, a fish found in more than half of the State’s inshore waters and targeted for their voracious strikes, leaping acrobatics and great table fare. These fish are also apt to eat artificial offerings of many varieties, making it a blast for light tackle enthusiasts. They aren’t terribly picky, but some lures just work better than others. Fill a tackle box with these baits below and you’re on your way to catching snook just about anywhere they live.
1. Topwater Plug
Let’s start from the top, topwater that is. Plugs, like the Yo-Zuri Hydro Pencil, have become a fan favorite for snook. A nice big profile resembling that of a mullet, paired with a nice "walk-the-dog" action is hard to beat for snook. Seawalls, docks and mangrove pinch points are a few good spots to toss a topwater, where fish can easily ambush their prey. Dawn and dusk are prime time for topwater, but let the fish dictate the bite. You’d be surprised how many mid-day bites you’ll get on these style lures.
2. Rigged Swimbait
Rigged swimbaits, like the Storm WildEye Swim Shad, offer a large profile (6” and 9” available) imitating prey like mullet, ladyfish, and croaker, that snook tend to feed on. This bigger profile, paired with the weight (these tend to be an ounce or more) make these lures killer for fishing deep areas with fast-moving current, such as spillways, bridges and inlets. The preferred way to fish these baits is to cast up-current and allow your bait to sink to the lower third of the water column and “slow roll” it back with a steady reel and your rod tip down. When you feel the tail “thumping,” you know it’s doing its job.
3. Soft Plastic Shrimp
Snook love to hang deep in the mangrove roots and shadows of structure like docks. Chances are, if you can get a lure to them, they’re going to eat. That’s where the soft-plastic shrimp comes in. Lures like the D.O.A. Shrimp can be skipped into these hard-to-reach spots. Quick twitch of the rod tip and let it fall, just like a shrimp does in the water. Hang on because chances are the bite will come on the fall.
I was told by Mark Nichols, Creator of D.O.A. Lures, “If you feel like you’re fishing it slow, fish it slower. Shrimp aren’t speed demons!” This leaves your lure in the strike zone longer and can often trigger a bite from a lethargic fish.
4. Suspending Twitch Bait
Suspending twitch baits, like the MirrOlure MirrOdine, imitate small baitfish like pilchards and finger mullet. A quick twitch of the rod tip causes a quick “flash” of the lure’s iridescent sides, like that of a baitfish. These style baits work great when snook are corralling schools of bait around flats and shorelines. Work the edges of the bait school, you want your lure to look like the odd man out, potentially wounded and an easy target. Twitch, twitch, pause, let the lure suspend and repeat.
5. Lipped Plug
Large, lipped plugs, like that Bomber Long A, have been a staple in a snook fisherman’s tackle box for decades. It used to be one of my great grandfather’s favorite lures! Again, these bigger baits are a perfect match when mullet and ladyfish are around. Shadow lines found along bridges are one of my favorite spots to throw big plugs, casting cross-current and reeling the bait right down the line. Don’t hesitate to troll these through your local canals either, an old-school tactic that still catches a TON of snook.
6. Weedless Jerkbait
The weedless jerkbait, like the Zoom Super Fluke, is one of those lures that catches just about anything that swims, snook included. The erratic action from a quick twitch of the rod tip resembles that of a dying bait that gamefish can’t resist. The weedless dynamic works great for when fish are out on the grass flats or hanging deep in the mangroves. Speaking of mangroves, this lure, like the shrimp, is one of the easiest lures to skip. The lightweight aspect makes it a great option when sight fishing, as well, due to it being able to land soft and not spook the fish.
7. Flair Hawk Jig
Another staple when it comes to bridge and inlet fishing for snook, especially at night, is the flair hawk jig. These synthetic hair jigs come in various weights from half to 3-ounce, giving you options to combat current and where you want to fish them in the water column. First Light Jigs makes a great representation of the flair hawk. Much like the large swimbaits, you want to cast up-current and fish these close to the bottom most of the time. If you’re not hanging them on bottom, you’re not fishing them right. A slow, steady retrieve is best. Hang on, because the bites can about rip the rod out of your arm if you’re not ready.
8. Soft Plastic Paddle Tail
Much like the jerkbait, a 3-inch soft plastic paddletail, like the D.O.A. CAL, catches all inshore gamefish, as it matches just about every small baitfish profile out there. Rig it on a ¼-ounce jighead and go skip it around some docks. Rig it on a weedless hook and swim it through grass with ease. A steady reel works great, as the tail kicks, creating vibration for the fish to key in on. Slow it down and hop it off the bottom on those days where fish are lethargic.
9. Lipless Crankbait
Often thought of in the bass world and overlooked in the salt nowadays, a lipless crankbait, like the Rapala Rippin’ Rap, can be deadly on snook. They work great when small baits are around in the spring and early summer. You can not only “match the hatch” down to a 2-inch profile, but they still have enough weight that you can cast them well on a standard spinning outfit. The hard vibrations given off coupled by the rattles in these lures make it easy for the fish to pick out amongst the chaos of a large bait school, as well. Don’t hesitate to fish them at night either, especially when snook are being weary on the bridge shadow lines.
10. Bucktail Jig
Arguably the best fishing lure ever created, bucktail jigs, like those made by Hookup Lures, have notched the belts of many snook anglers over the years. Swim them across current, bounce them off the bottom in potholes and deep moats, tip it with a bit of shrimp and drag it on the bottom slow. There’s not really a bad way to fish them. Weights vary, but the standard ¼-ounce does just about everything you need inshore. Colors vary, from all-white, chartreuse, pink, brown and everything in between. I like a dark profile in darker water and a lighter color when water cleans up a bit, but if there’s ever any doubt, you can never go wrong with all white.
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