Tarpon Fishing Secrets From One Of The Best Tarpon Experts In The World

By: Joe Simonds on May 30, 2019
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how to catch tarpon

Have you caught tarpon fever?

We recently launched our Tarpon Mastery course, and while we were doing research for it we came across this amazing presentation from Capt. Jay Mastry on Bill Miller’s YouTube channel.

Jay is one of the best tarpon anglers on Florida’s Gulf Coast.

He’s won the Suncoast Tarpon Roundup several times, and holds the record for most tarpon released during the tournament.

He’s also the owner of Mastry’s Bar in downtown St. Pete.

Captain Bill Miller, who’s YouTube channel the seminar is on, is a world-record holder himself, as well as a former host of “Hooked On Fishing.”

This seminar is packed full of excellent tarpon tips and fun fishing stories, but at 40 minutes long, I know most of you don’t have time to watch the whole thing…

So we’ve outlined the best tips from the seminar below.

Enjoy!

Equipment & Rigging

best rod and reel for tarpon

Tarpon fishing has evolved a lot these past few decades.

When Capt. Jay started tarpon fishing about 50 years ago, everybody used heavy conventional reels.

These days, the majority of people use spinning reels.

Here’s what he recommends:

  • 8 foot spinning rod
  • A reel than can hold at least 250-300 yards of line
  • 50-80 lb braided line
  • 60-80 lb leader
  • 7/0 Owner Mutu Circle Hook

An interesting note is that Capt. Jay doesn’t connect his hook and leader with knots.

He uses a sleeve and crimps it on there.

Note: if you’d rather use knots, check out this article on the best knots.

When, Where & How To Find Tarpon

best places to catch tarpon

A common misconception is that tarpon can only be caught during the summer.

Here’s where Capt. Jay finds tarpon year-round:

Spring

This is the pre-spawn time for tarpon and they can be caught in the bays around points and bridges.

Summer

Summer is when tarpon spawn and you can find them cruising the beaches near the passes, or stacked up in the passes.

Tip: when you’re looking for tarpon along the beach, hug the beach as close as you safely can and look offshore.

This will help you find them because you’re only looking in one direction (you know they’re not going to be right on the beach), and you’ll see them rolling and milling.

Fall

This is post-spawn time for tarpon and they’ve left the beaches to go back into the bays.

Like in the spring, you can find them around points and bridges.

Typically, you won’t find big schools of them like in the summer, but you’ll find two or three at a time.

Winter

In the winter, tarpon can be found around docks and residential canals.

How To Fight & Land Tarpon [VIDEO]

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What a catch!

P.S. This is Peter Miller, who teaches Tarpon Mastery!

Approaching Tarpon

approaching schools of tarpon

This is one of the most important things to remember when tarpon fishing:

Once you’ve located a school of rolling tarpon off the beach, don’t chase them from behind.

That will spook them.

Instead, swing way wide of them and anchor up up to 100 yards ahead of where they’re headed.

Sometimes they zig and zag, which can make predicting where they’re heading tough, but they typically stay in the same depth, and often times they’ll run a particular crab trap line, so keep that in mind when you’re going ahead of them.

When you’re anchored up, be very quiet so you don’t spook them.

Their lateral line allows them to sense vibration and pressure in the water, so Capt. Jay will go so far as to turn off the bait well and depth finder to not cause them any alarm.

Two Types Of Tarpon Schools

school of tarpon

Another thing to keep in mind is that there are two types of tarpon schools.

The ones that are on a mission and moving down the beach quickly, what Capt. Jay calls, “greyhounding,” those are the schools that typically aren’t interested in eating.

You want to find the tarpon schools that are moving slowly, or not moving at all and just milling and rolling over each other.

Those are the happy tarpon that aren’t spooked and will be more likely to take your bait.

Tarpon Casting Tips

how to catch tarpon

Once you’ve found a school, motored up ahead of them, and anchored, it’s time to cast out your baits.

But be sure to not cast out your bait too early or too late.

If you cast too early, your dead bait could get eaten by crabs and pinfish, or your live bait could have moved out of the tarpons’ path.

Tarpon are smart fish, and if you cast too late right on top of them, well, they know that food doesn’t just drop from the sky, so they’ll be extra wary of your bait.

With tarpon (and any other fish, really) your bait needs to look natural.

If you’re drifting through a pass with a pass crab, be sure that the crab is drifting along naturally.

If the boat is pulling the crab and it’s flapping on top of the water, you’ll have no chance at catching a tarpon.

Baits

best bait for tarpon

Tarpon will eat a variety of baits including:

  • Pass crabs (especially during the outgoing tide)
  • Greenbacks
  • Threadfins
  • Shad

Sometimes they’ll eat live bait, and other times they’ll prefer dead bait, so Capt. Jay typically deploys out a mix of both.

He’ll also cut shad (his favorite dead bait) or greenbacks into chunks and chum up tarpon.

This works especially well when he’s fishing edges late in the summer or early fall.

Here are some of his best tips when it comes to live bait:

  1. Nothing beats fresh dead shad when you’re bottom fishing.
  2. Live baits need to be lively, so don’t be afraid to change baits often.
  3. When you’re hooking them, be sure to leave lots of hook exposed. Tarpon have bony mouths, and it can be hard to hook into them.
  4. If you’re fishing both live and dead baits, you can use a cork to keep track of where the live baits are so they’re not getting tangled with your dead baits.

Etiquette

tarpon fishing etiquette

Finally, Capt. Jay talks about etiquette.

If you’re cruising the beach and you find a boat fishing a school of tarpon, don’t jump right in there and fish the same school.

If there are no other schools around, go ahead of where the tarpon are heading, well out of the way of the other boat, and wait for the fish to come to you.

Also, when you’re leaving, don’t storm right through the school.

Swing wide and don’t spook them so the next guy can have his shot.

And one final note on etiquette: don’t be the guy looking for boats and not fish.

Try to find your own schools.

Best Tarpon Tips [VIDEO]

Below is the full video from Capt. Jay Mastry.

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Conclusion

Pretty awesome tips from Capt. Jay Mastry right?

Are you ready to go out and get some tarpon?!

If you want to hook into a silver king this summer, but still want some extra help on catching them, join our Tarpon Mastery course.

We brought on Capt. Peter Miller of Unchartered Waters and Bass 2 Billfish to show us step by step how the pros catch huge tarpon all year long.

Get Tarpon Mastery here.

Attention Tarpon Anglers

  • Want to catch massive tarpon all year long?
  • Want to learn how to get them to bite even when they have “lockjaw”?
  • Want to be able to find tarpon fast?
  • Want to know the best baits to use so you never go home skunked?

Then you need to see Tarpon Mastery.

Check it out by clicking here.

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Mortality rate bait fishing Tarpon is unacceptably high especially during “tournaments”!