April 01, 2021
Shrimp: small in size, but a giant player in estuaries throughout Florida. Everything eats shrimp, and they've proven time and time again to be one of the best baits inshore. Lure manufacturers have been making soft-plastic shrimp imitations for decades, in different shapes, sizes and colors. Some of them come rigged on a jighead, some on a weedless hook, some un-rigged. There are many different ways these can be fished. Here are some tactics for common scenarios that will help you catch more fish.
In the Rough
Redfish love to get up in seagrass flats, burying their heads into the thick of it, hunting for shrimp and other crustaceans. This sets the stage for some excellent sight-fishing, but a bait with an exposed hook is practically unfishable in this situation. Using the soft-plastic to your advantage, by burying a weedless hook into the bait, allows you to cast into the thicket and present your lure without fouling and blowing your shot. A slow “drag” of the bait across the nose of the fish, as if the shrimp was crawling along the bottom, will buy a bite.
On the Drift
Hard outgoing tides have a flushing effect on estuaries, sweeping shrimp out of the backwater with the tide. Fish know this, and will stage around choke points and areas of heavy current flow, like bridges and inlets, waiting to pick these tasty morsels off the surface, especially at night.
When you find the fish popping the surface, cast a weightless or lightly-weighted shrimp up-current and let the tide do the work, keeping just enough tension on your line to feel a bite. More times than not, a fish will pick it up as it drifts with the current. A small twitch of the rod tip every so often wouldn't hurt, either.
Taking the Slow Ride
You're marking a congregation of seatrout in a depression, the water is cold and the fish are lethargic. What do you throw? A slow-moving shrimp is a tough contestant to beat. Lethargic fish slow their metabolism and don't want to waste any of their energy chasing down a meal, so why not bring the food to them?
This is one of my favorite tactics for seatrout in the wintertime. Staging on the outside of a pothole, dropoff or depression in a flat, I like to make a long cast past the area where the fish are holding. Allowing my lure to sink all the way to bottom, I will then drag the lure very slowly along the bottom, with the occasional twitch of the rod tip. When the lure is dragging the bottom, it will make small puffs of sand on the bottom, like a shrimp on the move. This makes it easier for a fish to find and key in on the bait. FS
First Published Florida Sportsman Magazine October 2017