6 Tips for Tarpon Fishing

There are dozens of great ways to rig your tackle to target tarpon. I’d like to cover a dependable system that works for my Tarpon Fishing in Southwest Florida. These tips are by no means, the only way to fish for tarpon, but they are a great place to start if you are new to the sport or find yourself needing to upgrade your tackle, knots or techniques. WATCH THE VIDEO ABOVE FOR STEP BY STEP INSTRUCTIONS.


While many inshore species can be  forgiving with the quality of tackle used to target them, tarpon will quickly demonstrate the dependability of your gear. If you are new to tarpon fishing, I suggest keeping your tackle on the heavier side. It will allow you to land the fish faster for a healthier release. Fighting large tarpon on undersized tackle may be sporting, but the opportunities for shark attacks and death from exhaustion increase with every minute of fight.


If you plan of casting to pods of tarpon with live baits or lures, you will want to invest in a high quality spinning reel. I’ve had great success using Shimano Saragosa and Sustains in the 8000 & 10000 sizes. Which ever brand you use, it’s important for that reel to hold at least 250 yards of 50lb braided line. Tarpon can take impressive runs when first hooked, having plenty of line allows you to pull anchor and begin chasing the fish.

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When selecting your tarpon rod there a few important points to remember. Choose a heavy action rod from 7′ – 8′. I’ve had great success using two Tarpon Specific Rods from Sewell Custom Rods in Fort Myers, FL. Make sure the blank has a very strong backbone – you can gauge the backbone by lifting on the rod while someone holds the rod tip. It should have a moderate give in the first 1/3 of the rod then taper into a stout backbone section. With out a strong backbone, the rod will lack the necessary power to quickly land large tarpon. Most anglers prefer a rod that has a slightly soft tip for casting tarpon baits and lures. You should expect 4inches – 6inches of flex that help launch small crabs, threadfin or soft baits like the Hogy 10inch Original Series.

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Braided line is no longer a “new thing” and it’s recommended that you spool up your reels with with it when casting for tarpon. I normally use 50lb Power Pro Slick Braided Line. I choose this middle weight line because I target fish along bridges and along the beaches. It’s holds up well when I need to tighten up the drag and steer a fish away from structure, yet it still has the casting distance needed for spooky fish on the beaches. Most pro’s choose a high quality braided line in 30lb – 80lb test. Choose lighter line if you fish open water areas like the flats and beaches, heavier lines are best suited for close quarter fishing near heavy structure like bridges or jetties.

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Tarpon have very abrasive mouths and quickly wear through light leaders. I normally use leaders in 60lb – 125lb. Use lighter leaders during the day and heavier ones at night. Make sure it’s a high quality leader material, this is one of the most important links between you and the fish.

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It’s common practice to use circle hooks when fishing for tarpon. They not only offer the best hookup ratios, they also inflict the least amount of damage to the fish. Depending on the bait or lure you are using, choose a stout circle hook from 4/0 – 10/. Most Captains use a 6/0 size hook when targeting tarpon with small crabs and threadfin. I also use a 6/0 circle hook when using Large Hogy Soft Baits for tarpon.

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Live baits are the most common way to target tarpon, but they are not your only option! Large Hogy Soft Baits are a dependable option when targeting tarpon. They can easily be rigged to suite a variety of scenarios. While they are most commonly seen on the flats, these large soft baits work great in deep water channels, inlets and passes. Use unweighted circle hooks when fish are feeding near the surface. When fish are suspended or holding bottom in deep water, Large 9inch Eel and 8inch Paddle Tail Swim Baits are an effective option to jig for tarpon.

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Screen-Shot-2014-05-23-at-1.02.38-PM 6 Tips for Tarpon: Best Fishing Leaders, Knots and Lures Blog How-To Product Reviews Tarpon Videos Videos  Gloves:

High quality fishing gloves are mandatory for safely handling large tarpon boat side. While lacking teeth, the inside of the jaw is very abrasive and can easily tear water-softened hand tissue. I always recommend wearing quality gloves, like those from AFTCO. I prefer the finger-less model Short Pump Gloves for safety and comfort. Check out the full review here.

Capt. Ross

An Iowa native, Capt. Ross became a snowbird moved to Southwest Florida in 2005 at the age of 19. After getting his first taste of the salt as a teenager out of Venice, LA. He knew life by the sea was his calling. With years of dedication, hard work and fisherman’s luck, Capt Ross. has become a full-time angler, guide, and outdoor content creator.

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    • For main line I recommend using braided line (power pro, suffix, spider wire, etc)

      Leader should be mono or fluorocarbon material from 60lb – 100lb.

    • over here in the cape the “Cape Coral Tarpon Hunters” tend to be a little particular just which brand leader gets used[& which does NOT get used]–don’t know which as I’m only a guest fisherman and don’t keep up with that……if you are in the neighborhood I suggest you visit them on a monthly meeting night(2nd-3rd wed??? of month??) and talk to some of the guys–NICE bunch of people! One ol’ boy is working on his 800th + fish so I’m guessing he’s/they’re more than passingly familiar with the subject?
      AWESOME what info you can get out of a room full of people knowledgeable on a given subject!

      • David,

        Thanks for the suggestion. I just hosted a seminar for the club in August. Great group of anglers.

    • Winter months can be tough for shore bound tarpon fishing. Your best bet is to hit bridges in The Lower Keys for a much better chance at hooking a Silver King from shore!

  • Why tie the spider hitch knot? Why not just double up on the braid and then tie the worm knot?

    Good video. Thank you.

    • Good question. The spider hitch serves as shock absorption, protecting your leader from breaking during a violent jump or run. I also don’t think the knot would hold without a connect loop, the knot applies even pressure to each side of the loop. I’m pretty sure the worm knot would unravel without it.

          • I mostly fish the passes and bridges. I don’t have a trolling motor or push pole. Can I still successfully fish the sandbars and beaches by just anchoring up and hoping the pods make it close to the boat?

            also i see some people use corks. when is a good time to use corks?

          • Anchoring along coastal sand bars can be a great technique. You’ll need some patience while waiting for schools to roll through. It’s best to sit just uptide where the bar begins. Maybe 20′ onto the bar, this gives you a short distance to spot fish as they pop up from the deep water and begin cruising across the bar.

            Corks are pretty common for presenting crabs and threadfin herring. They are generally set to 4′ – 7′ deep to suspend a bait near the depth the tarpon are swimming at, crabs and threads will often go to the bottom, below the strike zone.

  • Hello,
    What do you recommend for baby tarpon (av. 3-4 till 10-12 lbs) fishing in canals, mangroves, which size of line, and mono, or braid? I will use a 8ft 20-80 grams spinning rod with 4000 reel.
    Thank You

    • For baby tarpon, 12-20lb braid is fine. Use 25lb Fluorocarbon leader to prevent break offs from chafe and you should be fine. The lighter braid will increase your casting distance allowing you to reach distant rollers.

  • Hey Captain,
    Wanted your opinion on my tarpon setup. I am in the lowcountry of South Carolina try to target the tarpon on the beaches and the individuals in the inlet. For beach tarpon I have a Shimano Baitrunner 12000 with 40 pound spider wire. I believe that is roughly 250 – 300 yards on the reel. Tied with albright knot to 50 pound flourocarbon, then non-slip mono loop knot to a 6 circle hook. My leader is similar to yours about 2-3 feet. Was thinking of using this setup for a live mullet. The other setup I have is on a shimano terramar rod with Penn Conflict 5000 or 6000. I believe that is roughly 200 yards. Same braid # and same knot to leader with the hogie white 10 inch but no weight, tied with the same loop knot. Primarily wanted your insight on my knots/setup. Thanks

    • Hey, I am looking to start up kayak fisihing for tarpon. I have never tarpon fished but am really interested in it. Maybe you could help me out or even meet up and fish one time ? I am in the LowCountry as well, Charleston to be exact. My number is (843) 817-0525 if you care to text me.

  • Good stuff Captain. Really hard to beat a 7-10″ hogy soft bait when fishing for tarpon. Can’t think of a better lure that has produced as many tarpon for me in Tampa. Love working them just below surface so all you see is a dorsal when a big tarpon grabs it.

    :Tight Lines

  • The picture of you and your friend catching the tarpon looks like you were having a blast. I usually just stick to smaller lake fish. It would be fun to be able to catch a fish that size. What is the biggest fish you have ever caught?

    • Jennifer – We always manage to have a great time when we are out fishing. That’s what it’s all about. The largest tarpon we’ve encountered over here was over 200lbs. Most fish average 90 – 150, but some true monsters move through during the season.

  • Hey Capt. ,
    I’ve seen some about 50-90 lb tarpon in my freshwater lake, was wondering what I would have to do to catch one, as in like the bait.

    • Anthony,

      You’ll probably do best starting off using smaller soft plastic jigs and try to fish around low light periods. These fish will probably be feeding around sunrise and sunset. The most common forage in these small ponds is usually small minnows, which the tarpon will try to chase down. Choose a small root beer, black or bone colored 4″ Jerk Shad, like the 4inch Skinny and rig with a lightly weighted swimbait hook. Use 30lb fluorocarbon to start and work the open water areas you see the fish rolling.

  • Thanks for the information here I am going down to Antigua to fish for them and I have no idea how yet ! I will be talking to captain nick for sure he is the guy down there.

  • Hello two questions:

    1. How long do you make your leader? I am going to be fishing from shore in Miami Beach area at night – I’ve got 100 lb test Mono to put in front of my yellow “Suflix 832 advanced superline” braided fiber 80 lb test – not sure how long I should make the leader …

    2. Hi tide or low tide etc when is best time to fish for tarpon? The guys who know what they doing always prefer one side of the bridge or the other depending on tide etc. – what are the considerations when onshore bridge/near bridge shore casting?


    • Hi Tom,

      I usually like to use a leader that’s the length from the rod tip to reel, this is usually about 5′ – 6′ long. This is the ideal length for adult tarpon. You can shorten it down to 48″ if you’re having trouble casting.

      Fish feed on both sides of the tide, it really depends on the available forage and location. Some areas fish best on an outgoing, while others on the incoming. Generally speaking, more bait will flush through inlets on the outgoing tide, while incoming tides offer cleaner water.

      Hope this helps. Tight lines!

  • Can you reel the worm knot inside the rod tip before casting or does the entire leader need to be outside of the rod tip?

    • Hi Mike, the worm knot works best while outside the rod tip. With heavier leader, the knot diameter is close to the diameter of the guide. I’ll normally keep the leader length from rod tip to the bottom guide.