How To Catch Backwater Tarpon Using This Improvised Lure Trick [VIDEO]


Juvenile Tarpon can be a ton of fun to catch.

The great news for us Floridians is that these baby tarpon are very common in the backwater canals, creeks, and ditches along the Central and Southern Florida coastlines.

Summertime into fall can be a prime time to target these fish, especially after a good rain storm and some fresh water starts flowing and water levels rise into these areas.

Tarpon are known for putting on quite an aerial display while fighting, but are also known for being picky eaters and tough to land, especially the smaller ones.

how to catch baby tarpon

One of my top lure choices for these small Tarpon is a 4-inch White Pearl Gulp Swimmin’ Mullet rigged on a 1/8oz red jig head.

how to catch juvenile tarpon
The Berkley Gulp Swimmin’ Mullet

These Juvenile Tarpon are typically feeding on very small baitfish and/or shrimp, so you want to keep your lure presentation as small as possible.

Glass minnows are a staple bait that they like to feed on and are only an inch or two long.

Fly fishing is a popular choice when targeting these smaller Tarpon in the backwaters due to the very small flies that can be used to catch them.

If you don’t have any small soft plastics in your tackle bag, no need to worry! You can very easily alter some of your soft plastic lures to make them smaller and help trigger a strike from these picky eaters.

You can very easily alter some of your soft plastic lures to make them smaller and help trigger a strike from these picky eaters.

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how to catch juvenile tarpon

First, here is a little backstory of how and why I started improvising some baits to use:

I was fishing on foot one day while filming a video for our Salt Strong Insider Club Members, and I had ran out of my go-to lure, which was the Gulp Swimmin’ Mullet. 

I had some in other colors but they weren’t striking as much as they were when I was using the white pearl color.

Now I knew they wanted a small lure, and I knew they responded more to a white lure, so I put two and two together and did some experimenting…

I had some swimbait style soft plastics so I figured why not cut it in half and use the end of it to give a smaller presentation? 

I cut one down and rigged it on the same 1/8 oz red jig head I was using with the Gulp Swimmin’ Mullet, and I started getting strikes almost immediately.

how to catch baby tarpon

It was just as effective, if not more, than using a standard full-sized soft plastic.

Granted the lure wasn’t exactly pretty to look at, but the fish didn’t seem to mind at all.

They wanted something small, and that size and white color was a close match to a small baitfish.

how to catch juvenile tarpon

In the following video, I will be showing you exactly how I rig up these smaller “improvised” lures to effectively catch Juvenile Tarpon.


How To Catch Baby Backwater Tarpon [VIDEO]

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Who would have thought that cutting lures in half could catch so many juvenile tarpon?

I guess it goes to show it always pays to test, to try and “match the hatch,” and to never be afraid to get creative when the fish aren’t striking the way you think they should be.

Had I not taken a chance and cut the lure in half, it would have been just an average day.

What’s your best trick for catching these baby backwater tarpon?

Let me know in the comments.

Fish On!

Related Post: How To Catch A Tarpon From A Paddleboard Like A Pro (see it here now)

Want to catch more consistent inshore fish year-round?

Then check out this fishing club that actually guarantees you catch more fish or it’s FREE!

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Guy Mendoza
1 year ago

Hey Tony… alway enjoy your tips !
I’ve been in the same dilemma with the “micro poons” and through improve I whittled it down to a “Rebel Pop-R” outfitted with 1/0 inlines. Cripes a Mighty they went nuts clobbering that little topwater. Wanted to share with the members. Btw… i fish the culverts and small ponds off of US 41 in big cypress.

Michael McDowell
5 years ago

Great information Tony. Will be trying it tomorrow. Snook have stopped feeding (perhaps red tide effects) but lots of smaller Tarpon rolling around driving me nutz trying to get them to bite.

5 years ago

nice quick video very informative

Gary Friedman
5 years ago

Hey Tony, Great video. Wife and I like to fish for these juvenille Tarpon in Puerto Rico. But like you said, I rarely carry very small baits like those……Instead, I like to turn to a 4/6 wt. fly rod. I carry small flies that seem to fit the bill.

Robert jureit. Retired pro photographer
6 years ago

Advice on your video, if u r going to have the sun at your back, please try to use some kind of fill light, facing you.its hard to see your face and any lure u r showing us.. thanks

Craig Simpson
6 years ago

Tarpon in SC are very seasonal, but the juvies do winter in the lagoons they can get into. Will give the little mullet a go. If you’re losing tails I’ve had luck with the mirodine minis. Take the front hook off and replace the back one with a bigger single hook for better hook ups. Also the gotcha pattern flies with a big dumbbell for eyes are effective and can be thrown with a medium light spinning rod if the wind is at your back ????????

Craig Simpson
6 years ago
Reply to  Craig Simpson

Shout out to Josh at Southern Drawl Outfitters for the mirodine mini recommendation… that was his suggestion to me the other day; and it worked ????????

Robert Orlando
6 years ago

Great video and great advice tony…
Im fishing on the west coast by Boca Grande, and the Myakka River. The small tarpon came streaming out of the creeks after the hurricane last week.

I often get them on VERY small shad – the 3″ white boss shad works… when they are eating –

As you said they can be fussy. I have also found the DOA shrimp -(light tannin color) works terrific… however when you use the shrimp you have to cast the shrimp and let it fall to the bottom without retrieving.. then I literally twitch the shrimp along the bottom as if it is walking ( the way shrimp naturally behave) ..The twitch-walk retreive on the bottom is painstakingly slow… But it usually yields great results . The tarpon will suck them down.

Walmart has a new shrimp which looks great and has an almost clear body but with a very light tannin color, and they sell them in several sizes.

As you said, sometimes the little tarpon want very little bait and so the walmart super-small shrimp works great.

There are times you can get medium tarpon (80 lb) ones to take the shrimp plugs with this twitch retrieve

I will try your Gulf mullet plugs as well since i have not used them before.

And if need be – cut a white bass assassin and use the tail end on a red jig head

Dean Carter
6 years ago

Good stuff Tony! No tarpon in my neck o’ the woods. Looks like fun!

Scott Thomas
6 years ago

Went there the other day and had a ball with doing exactly what you recommended with the soft baits. Landed 15 or so, and these were the first tarpon I had ever caught. FUN,FUN,FUN!!!

6 years ago

or just throw a fly at them on a #1……. poon is pleasure and its more pleasure to catch them on a fly!!!


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