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What’s your go-to lure for that big tourney catch?

By GEORGE TUNISON - | Nov 24, 2020

If you could only use one lure type on your next Southwest Florida big money flats tournament, what would it be? Would you choose a top-water plug, MirrOlure-type twitch bait or a soft plastic jig? A spoon?

For someone that carries a small tackle store’s worth of lures and flies on each outing, picking one would be a tough decision.

How about a Rapala/Rebel floating minnow-type lure? For saltwater? Yes! It’s probably the most underrated inshore saltwater lure there is and yet, can do it all. A floating minnow lure can be cranked slowly or quickly along bottom or burned in short stop-and-go spurts. It’s deadly as a topwater especially when slow reeled as a surface wake bait over shallow oyster bars. Try a slow wounded baitfish dive and rise retrieve or a slow underwater twitch stop and go. In 4 feet of water or less this is an extremely versatile lure and catches big fish in fresh and saltwater.

For many years I’ve used the old school, two treble hooks sized, floating Rebel plastic bass lure to catch a boatload of snook and reds along local mangrove shorelines. Big sea trout also love these lures at dawn. Just change out the freshwater hooks and split rings with similar sized but stronger saltwater grade gear. Always fish these lures with a strong loop knot or tie to a split ring for best action. Tying the leader tightly to the nose wire kills the delicate action of these classic baits.

When tying a loop knot, only use one that has the cut off or tag end on the finished knot, facing down, pointing at the lure. If your knot’s tag end faces you on the retrieve, learn another knot. If the tag faces you or sticks out at a 90 degree angle, it’s just a weed catcher and will ruin your presentation.

A popular easy to tie loop knot is the Canoe Man. It forms a strong loop and the tag end always faces down. Not recommended for leaders testing under 20 pounds. (See YouTube)

Another obvious choice for your one lure, tournament tackle box would be the soft plastic family of paddle-tail minnows or hair jigs. Jigs are unquestionably one of the world’s most versatile lures and a bag of assorted sized soft plastic paddle tails and a handful of assorted weight jig heads can catch anything that swims in SW Florida.

This past very windy Friday, we caught snook and reds in creeks on DOA CAL Series plastic paddle tails and 1/4 ounce jig heads pitch-casted into mangrove openings. With some practice these lures can also be skip-casted far back under the tree branches and docks where fish hide. The cautious edge caster always passes these fish by. When fishing a creek, underhand pitch cast these up to the shoreline roots then slowly hop them down into deep water. Be a line watcher as these jigs are most often inhaled on the drop with only a slight line twitch to tip you off.

To increase the action of a DOA shad or paddle tail, mount the lure on your jig head as straight as possible then hold the lure between your thumb and index finger where the hook curve exits the body. Squeeze there then using your other hand gently pull back and downward on the tail ripping the plastic behind the hook curve about a 1/4 inch.

Finally, with shallow water now cooling, many anglers might take a suspending twitch bait to the tournament. It’s hard to beat a MirrOdine slowly fished by a patient angler that can mimic the last few minutes of a darting dying baitfish’s life.  Deadly on snook, redfish and trout in the 3-foot zone.

Happy Thanksgiving quiz! First correct email gets a virus free inshore lure/fly package mailed to them.

What tail material was used on the earliest Heddon Batwings?

Capt. George Tunison is a Cape Coral resident fishing guide. Contact him at 239-282-9434 or captgeorget3@aol.com.