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Florida Fishing: Go Long And Weedless In Summer

Florida Fishing: Go Long And Weedless In Summer Florida Fishing: Go Long And Weedless In Summer
By Fred Everson

As water temperatures continue to rise in early summer the fishing in West Central Florida gets hot.

Unfortunately, the warmer the water gets, algae and other plant life begins to bloom to such an extent that any exposed hook is apt to pick up such debris. This is not appetizing to most game fish, no matter how tempting the live bait might be. Add a little weed to most lures and it will absolutely kill the action of the bait. It's been said that redfish don't mind a little salad on a bait, but I sure don't have any confidence in that scenario.

When it becomes difficult to fish any exposed hook because of weeds, my solution is to fish soft plastic baits rigged on a worm hook, Texas style. I have been fishing RipTide's Jerk Baits for several years now, and if catch and release snook fishing in the summer months is your thing, this bait is a real winner. I have caught most of my big snook on the 6-inch pearl-colored bait, and recently I hooked the biggest snook I have seen in years on the same bait in the greenback color. When there are lots of redfish present, I throw the new penny color. Redfish seem to prefer dark-colored baits.

Jerk Baits Priced Right

Besides not picking up weeds, the nice thing about fishing jerk baits is the price. Less than $4 will buy a package of 10 baits, which often last through three or four days of fishing. I rig them on 4/0 Tru-Turn Brute offset worm hooks, and I prefer the bronze freshwater style to the saltwater hook because the shanks are longer. I want the point of the hook as close to the tail of the bait as I can get it. With big snook it probably doesn't matter a whole bunch -- when a big snook opens his mouth on a jerk bait it usually gets sucked all the way in. But the average snook on Tampa Bay is somewhere between 20 inches and 24 inches, and with these fish, and with redfish, I think the longer hook shank puts more fish on the line.

I usually fish this bait without any weight, but there are times when I like to get it deeper, or cast it farther. Unweighted, my 8-1/2-foot rod throws a 6-inch plastic bait about 40 yards on 10-pound test line. That's far enough for a wade cast, but when fishing from a boat I like even more distance. When casting from a boat, I insert a 2-inch finish nail into the bait before rigging the hook. It adds distance to the cast, and doesn't affect the action of the lure.

If I am fishing a drop off where the bait has to get down more than three feet, I fish a traditional Texas rig with a pegged bullet weight. That will take the bait right to the bottom. Not only do these baits shed weeds pretty well, they also are unlikely to hang up on oysters or mangrove roots because the point of the hook rides in a groove molded into the plastic body.

Another bait in the RipTide family that I fish a lot is the 4-inch Salt Rat. This bait is more aerodynamic than a jerk bait, so it casts better when the wind is up. Salt Rats are easier to rig, and you can fish them very slowly. A short twitch of the rod tip will make the bait dart sharply. If I am getting short strikes on jerk baits from redfish or trout, I will usually switch to a salt rat. And they shed weeds as well as the jerk bait.

Fishing soft plastic baits in weed choked water is productive. My two biggest snook have come on 6-inch jerk baits in 10 inches of water where there was so much algae and weed it would have been impossible to fish anything else -- a simple example of fishing the right bait, at the right time in the right place.

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