March 31, 2022
In salt water, everything eats shrimp and the inshore fisheries around Florida are no exception. There are many ways to rig shrimp for bait. The best methods will depend on the kinds of water you’re fishing, the tactics you’re using and the fish you’re targeting. Here’s a look at three common options ideal for seatrout, redfish, snook, snappers and more.
LIVE SHRIMP ON A JIG
This is a classic rig to use while anchored up and fishing baits down current, keeping the shrimp facing into the tide. It’s perfect when fishing back to structure like a dock or bridge piling, and it’s a common method for fishing baits under popping corks. Casting is not the greatest when rigged this way, as the shrimp tends to spin if cast any harder than an underhand lob. But, this hookup method keeps the shrimp very lively, able to react to predators.
Starting with a light but sturdy jighead, run the hook straight up under the chin and out the top of the carapace (head) in front of the dark spot. I prefer to keep the hook vertical in all my shrimp rigging, keeping everything as streamlined and natural as possible. Avoid that dark spot with the hook—that is their stomach, heart and cluster of organs, and the shrimp will die immediately if the hook penetrates this area. I like to then snap off the rostrum (point on top of head.)
“TAIL” HOOKED SHRIMP
Need to cast to reach the fish? Here’s a good method for rigging a shrimp on either a hook or jighead. There are six segments to the abdomen of the shrimp. Find the second to the last segment, and run your hook up from the bottom through the top. Be sure to keep it center, where the hook point pokes out of the ridge of the back. This helps keep your shrimp from spinning on the cast and in the water. This rig works great when sight fishing, as the weight of the head helps when casting. I also prefer this method when free-lining a shrimp as it allows them to swim with just a hook in them. Perfect for scenarios like drifting a bait into a docklight for snook.
Here’s a technique for ultimate concealment of the hook in situations where a hook can foul in grass and debris. This rigging technique excels when sightfishing for species such as redfish, that are often found in the grass.
You’ll want an inline J-hook for this rig, as it is easier to hook. First, take a pair of scissors or your fingers and pinch off the tail of the shrimp at the last joint. This will give you a point of entry for your hook. This is just like rigging a weedless worm when bass fishing.
Thread in your hook until you reach the bend, then poke the point out of the bottom side of the shrimp. Now invert the hook so that the point is facing up, toward the shrimp, and bury the point into the abdomen. This gives you a completely weedless, castable live shrimp that will not only swim in the water but give off a bit of scent. Deadly on species like redfish and bonefish. (See the final rig at the top of the article.) If you’re needing a little more weight, add a splitshot or two right at the hook eye or about 10 inches up the leader.
Bonus: Bucktail with a Bite
Break out that favorite bucktail jig, snip off the tail of the shrimp and thread it on just like a soft plastic. Perfect for bouncing deep holes in the early spring when fish are lethargic and need that little extra smell and realistic look to bite. FS
Florida Sportsman Magazine April 2022
Bucktail Jig Basics By Sid Dobrin
Tribute to the versatile, affordable, downright indestructible lures.
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The Incredible Shrinking Big Game Reel By Rick Ryals
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In-Sight: Sight Fishing the Florida Salt By Gary Oster
A quick guide to understanding the fundamental performance characteristics of fishing rods.
Improve Your Dock Skipping By David A. Brown
How to get those baits back into the shadows— and get those big fish back to your net!
Grilled Fish Steaks, Mediterranean Style by Tommy Thompson
It’s simple, but it requires attention, whether you’re grilling over gas, charcoal or wood.
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