We know that newcomers to the sport of inshore fishing here in Florida, especially those trying to move away from baits, can find an extremely wide range of lures and people who have their own favorites. I will start by saying this, nobody is wrong. Everyone has fine tuned their own methods utilizing their lures of choice. The biggest factor is learning how to work the specific lure in whatever situation you may be in. That said, I do happen to know through experience there are 3 lures that will get the job done, are easy to learn, and will never disappoint. This goes for all year round, these three will cover all areas of the inshore water column and even handle fish in various water temps – from lethargic winter fish to those crazy frenzies in mid summer.
This is a dangerous subject, as again there is a different reason for color for every fisherman that exists. I can tell you one rule that seems to work any and everywhere: Baitfish all have one thing in common – white bellies. I can never seem to go wrong with a white belly. Dark water, clear water, cold water, hot water, heck even over the water (have had a few strikes before the lure has even landed before). The only other personal consideration I give further from that simple point, is go natural. I just do it this way, unless the lure happens to be all white, if I choose a white bellied lure – the upper half is consistent with a natural baitfish color. This is usually a shade of reflective silver/gray and a dark green/black top (dorsal), and I do like the red chin on these lures as well. That’s my 2 cents on color choice.
Top of the Water Column – Topwater Lure
Yes, if you are into the fun stuff – a topwater is a must have in your tackle box. Specifically, the Heddon Super Spook Jr. in Bone color never seems to disappoint. The hardest part of this lure for someone who has never worked it is learning to “walk the dog” with it. This is a style of surface twitching that causes the lure to zig zag across the top of the water – no species can seem to resist this. Every morning starts off with this lure, it even works in the dark. Aside from “walking the dog” there are some situational changes to the action you may want to make, and this is experimentation that only you can do. Some days a steady twitch with no stops all the way back to yourself is called for, while other days doing the “twitch, twitch, pause” may excite the strike. Start off with learning the “walk the dog” motion (check YouTube), and then play with variations. You WILL find what works for your water in any given scenario.
Middle of the Water Column – Suspending Twitch
If I had to fish with just one lure for the rest of my life the MirrOlure MirrOdine Mini 14MR Suspending Twitchbait would be it. They say elephants eat peanuts, and this lure is proof of concept. This small lure has landed me a ton of fish, it’s almost unfair. Everything from Tarpon to dink Trout will inhale this thing. This is a twitch bait, if you learn to walk the dog as mentioned above, it is almost the same concept as far as the wrist action, except lower in the water. However, with this lure I pretty much do the twitch, twitch, pause action at all times. I will warn, buy a handful of these, they do get inhaled – and in places like Biscayne Bay, the Barracuda can’t leave them alone.
Bottom of the Water Column – Soft Paddletail
A soft plastic paddletail with a belly weighted hook seems to do the trick for fishing the bottom specifically, bouncing off the bottom, or even working it as a regular swim bait lure. I pictured above a Z-Man Paddlerz in the Bad Shad color – but I have never used it! So, how can I possibly be recommending this? I’ll explain. A few years back in Tampa, Florida there was a company called 42 Tackle. They developed a paddletail called the Flats Hammer. It swam great and also had a pocket in the bottom for squeezing in some Pro-Cure gel (always used shrimp). When I found that they were not producing those lures anymore, I bought every bag in the two colors I liked. I still have a supply and have never wavered away from them. I will say my favorite color was pearl, which Z-Man also offers, and for color I used a color like the Bad Shad above. Red’s really seemed to like it, even landed Flounder on it. Looking at the Z-Man colors for these I would probably add the Redbone as another color option. I fished this 3 ways:
- The staple was to simply drag the lure at an extremely slow retrieve across the bottom. This method produced more action than any other for myself. Also worked great for casting to sighted fish.
- Secondly was the bottom bounce. Basically as the name suggests, let it hit the bottom, yank up on the rod, reel the bit of slack, and let it flutter back down – repeat during the whole retrieve.
- Lastly, cast it and work it just like the suspending twitch bait, except with no pauses, but perhaps a bit slower – a mid speed.
Honorable Soft Plastic Mentions
Berkley Gulp Shrimp
I hope this helps if you are looking to take to the Florida flats, inshore, and backcountry with artificial baits. I have fished from the bottom of the Keys, on both coasts, and all the way up here in the panhandle with these. This is literally all that is in my box anymore. Everything else is collecting dust. Give ’em a try, they won’t disappoint.