John's Journal... Entry 7
God never created a more awe-inspiring sight than a big tarpon coming out of the water, twisting and squirming in the air and fighting for freedom high above the depths the fish calls home. I've caught tarpon before on Louisiana's Coon Pop lures -- large, lead-headed jigs with long, swimming rubber tails that anglers can cast or troll behind their boat. I've also taken tarpon on live bait and on dead bait. But I've never caught or seen anyone catch a tarpon on a little rubber fish with red eyes.
"Tarpon eat more small baits than they do large baits," Mark Nichols of Palm City, Florida, said this past week when I fished with him near the Atlantic Ocean. "They eat a tremendous amount of small baitfish that swim close to the bottom."
I had used Nichols' DOA Terror-Eyz bait to catch speckled trout in Louisiana last summer. I'd also fished with it the day before we tarpon fished and caught snook in St. Lucie's Bay. But this little root-beer-colored rubber jig with red-colored eyes didn't impress me as a tarpon bait. However, when we pulled into Mud Creek, a big bay below a nuclear plant, and saw tarpon roaming, I decided to try the bait that Nichols had suggested.
After we'd only fished about 45 minutes, the tip of Nichols' rod bowed to kiss the brackish water. His drag began to scream, and I couldn't believe he had a tarpon on it. I have fished for days before and not even had a tarpon bite when I've had them rolling all around me. But now in only 45 minutes using a goofy-looking rubber fish bait, Nichols had a tarpon dancing on its tail in the air.
Once we'd grabbed the tarpon's jaw with a Bogagrip, made some pictures and released the fish, I asked Nichols why the tarpon would eat the Terror-Eyz lure. "Because the bait is small and swims almost motionlessly along the bottom, the lure is easy for the tarpon to see and catch. Also this bait is no problem for the tarpon to eat. The Terror-Eyz was like a little hors d'oeuvre the fish could munch on, regardless of how full it was."
Nichols particularly enjoys taking tarpon by fishing the Terror-Eyz in a current and leaving the bait sitting absolutely still 4 or 5 inches off the bottom.
"If you watch bait swimming in a current, they'll appear to be standing still, even though they are swimming hard against the current," Nichols said. "When tarpon see a baitfish that appears to be motionless in the water, the tarpon knows the baitfish has to be swimming hard to look like it's standing still in the current. So the tarpon can move in quickly and inhale the bait before the baitfish spots it."
Nichols prefers braided, no-stretch line when he fishes for tarpon. Then he can get a faster, harder hookset as soon as the tarpon takes the bait. Too, the Terror Eyz has a wire hook in the jig head.
As Nichols explains, "Wire hooks are much sharper than other types of hooks and can penetrate the jaw of a tarpon much better."
But Nichols also explains that to land a tarpon you must set your drag properly. "I set the drag on my reel to the monofilament equivalent of the diameter of the line I'm using. For instance, the line I'm using today has a 20-pound breaking strength but only the diameter equivalent of 6-pound test monofilament. Therefore, I'll set my drag at 2 to 3 pounds to be less than the breaking strength of the 6-pound test line rather than setting my drag at 5 to 6 pounds like I will if I'm fishing a line with 20-pound breaking strength."
From Nichols, I learned that little baits with no action or little action, non-stretch line and loose drags often would catch tarpon when other tactics wouldn't.
To learn more about Terror Eyz, the lure we fished for tarpon, go to www.doalures.com or call toll-free (877) DOA-LURE (362-5873).