Spring Snapper Fishing in TampaThere are times when fish eat with reckless abandon.  The tide, the weather and the bait all come together in a perfect storm of fish feeding activity. Any bait cast out results in a hooked fish. For Tampa Fishing Guides who fish on a regular basis, it's a known fact that this is not the norm, but a beautiful exception. The other extreme exists as well...when all of an experienced anglers efforts result in very few fish.  Most days however, are somewhere in between...and this is where a good angler with good technique experiences greater success. 

Bait presentation, or how a fish sees a given bait in the water, is a critical piece in the puzzle of getting a fish to eat. There are several factors which affect how a bait looks.  In order for a bait to swim freely, it must not be weighted in a manner that causes it to swim unnaturally.  Hook size, line/leader used and weighting all affect this.  Using a small whitebait with a number 2/0 or 3/0 hook may drag the bait downward, making it appear unnatural....where using a 1/0 would not. A moderately interested snook may quickly decide not to eat this bait. Certainly using any kind of weight in this situation would only make matters worse.  Even the pound test and length of the leader are important.  A small bait on a heavy leader will not be able to swim correctly.  A bait on too short a leader will not work as line shy fish may see the braided line moving just a short distance away. These small details can make a big difference in an angler's level of success.

Understand too that a natural presentation may include baits that are right on the bottom so, in some cases, weighting a bait may help simulate a more "natural" presentation. For example, mangrove snapper, a fish commonly targeted when fishing in the Tampa / Clearwater area, are generally very cautious feeders. As a result, they are typically most cooperative when a bait does one of two things. A dead or cut bait either sits on the bottom for a while, so they can inspect it and make sure it doesn't "move" in an unnatural way or it drifts down to the bottom at the exact rate of speed the same bait would drop if there were no hook in it.  To achieve the first presentation, a weight would be used to hold the bait in a natural position.  In the second case, a very small hook and a long, light leader would be used to most accurately simulate a bait with no hook. In this situation a tactic would be employed that is critically important to catching many species of fish. The technique is similar to what would be called mending in fresh water.

Summer Beach Snook FishingAnglers fishing for trout in fresh water rivers are very familiar with this term.  The key to getting a trout to eat a dry fly is to cast the line forward and at such an angle that the fly will drift for a maximum length of time, through the desired area, without the rest of the line dragging the fly.  The anglers may make small rolling adjustments, rolling the line upriver (or mending the line), to aid in the process of the fly showing no drag.   Any trout that is eyeballing this fly, will immediately drop off the second this fly starts dragging, as that is not how an insect on the surface would behave. 

So, going back to the second presentation discussed above for snapper, when a live, crippled or cut chunk of bait is dropped for a mangrove snapper, line must be removed from the reel in a way that does, in no way, effect the rate of decent of the bait. This bait should fall exactly as this same piece of bait would fall with no hook in it...with no stops or hesitation. When the angler can duplicate the natural decent rate, many more fish will be caught.

When live baiting for species such as snook, the desire is to have the bait swim as if it were unencumbered by a hook.  The first order of business is using the proper tackle as discussed earlier...the right hook, line/leader (lbs. test and length) and weighting. Feeding out line plays a critical role here as well. First, a properly rigged, large whitebait is cast into the area believed to be holding snook. Immediately after casting, all slack from the cast is removed from the line so that the angler has good awareness as to the bait's location. The bail is then opened. Snook will often pursue a bait, toy with it and not eat it, or strike and miss it. In all of these scenarios, the snook will expect the bait to behave in a certain way. The expectation is that the bait will run for it's life, thus the open bail allows the angler to give the the bait the necessary slack when it wants to move. If this is not done, when the bait goes to run it will be "close lined" or stopped unnaturally, and the pursuing snook will likely turn off of the bait, knowing that something is wrong.  So having the ability to manage line in a way that makes the bait behave most realistically will always produce more strikes.

In most cases, when a novice angler is fishing next to an experienced one, the difference in fish count is due to the tackle used and the presentation skills of both anglers. Paying attention to these small details can yield big results.

 

 

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