I've covered a lot of information about Tarpon fishing in Jacksonville waters the past months. This week, I'll go over some of the finer details about rigging. As we all know, Tarpon are known for their ability to get off the line. What a lot of anglers don't know is that your rigging can affect your chances of keeping a Tarpon buttoned. Or vise versa alternately.
One of the biggest mistakes anglers make, myself included, is fishing without a shock leader. A good shock leader is as important if not more important than the use of circle hooks. I'll tie a Bimini Twist loop at the end of my main braided line and from there, Ill attach an Albright Knot to the loop of the Bimini. Bimini loops do two thing. 1) They offer the strongest anchoring point that exists in the knot world, and 2), They offer additional shock absorption. As for the shock leader, I use a 40 to 50 foot section of 60 pound Diamond Mono. You can use Fluorocarbon Leader if you wish, however, in my honest opinion, it's not totally necessary. If you think you're going to be fishing in or around heavy structure, Fluorocarbon can be worth the extra expense.
Not all circle hooks are the same! Especially when Tarpon fishing. Avoid Octopus hooks, Mustad hooks, or hybrid circle hooks. The best hook I've found is the standard Owner circle hook. They have an elbow or catch area just before the turn of the hook point and barb. That notch is what makes that hook the best in my opinion. Once they lock in, they don't pull. Mustad circle hooks as well as any brand of Octopus hook, have a round sweeping edge with no notch to lock the hook into place. That is the ultimate failing of those hooks. As the fish swims and changes angles to the boat, the hook pivots and rolls in the jaw. That's a massive problem when fighting Tarpon. The more the hook is able to pivot and move, the more likely you are to pull it. The other problem with these hooks comes into play when only the tip of the hook makes penetration. The wide sweeping angle of the hook simply can't handle tremendous pressure on the cutting end. I used to bring up broken hooks all the time. It can still happen with Owner Hooks, however it's extremely rare.
NEVER use a Carolina/Fish Finder rig when bottom fishing for Tarpon. Instead, use a Dropper Rig. The reason has to do with that weight being flung around during jumps. Tarpon tend to head shake violently when they jump. A weight as small as 2oz can be flung with enough force to actually break 50+ pound line. Their power is immense. Instead, when tying the dropper loop section to your sliding clip or 3 way swivel (depending which dropper rig you prefer), use a lighter leader material than the leader running to your hook. I deploy a 30 pound leader to my weight, and a 60 pound leader to my hook. My main line braid is 65 pounds. This way, when the fish goes to the air and starts flinging that head, my weight leader will always snap before the hook leader or main line. This leaves me with a straight connection to the tarpon with no threat of a heavy lead that could potentially cause a problem during the course of the fight.
I pick up big rolls of 60 pound Diamond Mono. You can get 1000 foot spools from Strike Zone tent sales for very cheap. As long as you keep the line out of the sun and in the ac, that line will last a long time. Mono will only dry rot from lengthy time in the heat or UV. Avoid setting it near windows where UV can dry it out.
I strongly suggest you learn how to tie a Bimini Twist for attaching your Top shot connections. There are plenty of tutorials on YouTube that do a great job of illustrating the tying process as well as explaining how they work. The added shock absorption for those critical moments when the fish jump is huge and can make the difference between landing or losing that trophy Tarpon of a lifetime. You can't make a single rod handling mistake running straight braid to a standard leader. There isn't enough give to keep the main line or leader from reaching their breaking points during jumps. If you get two consecutive jumps back to back, it's over. A proper shock leader is extremely important. When that sometimes difficult Tarpon strike finally happens, being properly rigged will definitely increase your chances of bringing a Silver king to the rail.
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