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I have a skiff parked in Islamorada at the moment and have enjoyed putting a few tarpon in the air this year - all on fly. I'll be traveling down there with a friend who is a very accomplished spin fisherman, but has no fly experience. I have only picked up a spinning rod a few times in my life - so I am flying blind here.

In the typical scenario you'd find in back (clear to somewhat stained water), is it possible to fish lures the same way you would fish flies?

If a string of tarpon would break stride to snack on a #2 Toad, is there a comparable lure or soft bait that might also do the trick?

And I guess - as an alternative - can you toss live bait at these fish with any chance of success?

Not looking for any secrets here, just sorting out if I would be better off giving him a crash course in fly fishing or stick to spin fishing for him. I have seen many tarpon spook as soon as a #8 line hits the water, so I am having a hard time picturing anything on a spinning rod landing with enough grace to fool one!
 

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Apply a similar intersect methodology you do with your fly but have him chunk live bait and it will get him in the money from what I have seen. They are much more likely to eat bait than a fly.

You mileage might vary.
 

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A well placed shrimp/crab/pilchard/jerkbait/plug/swim bait will get the job done. As with tarpon fishing you will still have refusals and you will spook some,but make a good casts and he will hook up. I do this all the time for friends that don’t fly fish and it works well. I fish the same area you are in up to Biscayne Bay and over to flamingo. Catch plenty especially in the back using artificials on spin.
 

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Sightfishing with spinning gear can be effective depending on the situation. Tarpon will eat jerk baits like hogy lures up in the water column.


In deeper water with rolling fish the DOA baitbuster in the trolling model is a standard. I’ve seen the spooltek 4” catch tarpon too.
 

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CA Richardson has a quick video for spin fishing for tarpon, including recd' gear and lures on either his instagram page or youtube.
 

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I like DOA shrimp fished really slow. I change out the hooks as the standard hooks are pretty bad
 

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I would put a freelined dollar crab well out in front of them, or toss a big pink Hogy unweighted and almost dead stick it. It works for local poons, but I know they get a lot more pressure in the Keys.
 

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Sightfishing with spinning gear can be effective depending on the situation. Tarpon will eat jerk baits like hogy lures up in the water column.


In deeper water with rolling fish the DOA baitbuster in the trolling model is a standard. I’ve seen the spooltek 4” catch tarpon too.
So the question is why are these guys throwing 12" and 14" offerings with good success and the fly guys are throwing smaller and smaller flies ? Should we be changing our way of thinking ?
 

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So the question is why are these guys throwing 12" and 14" offerings with good success and the fly guys are throwing smaller and smaller flies ? Should we be changing our way of thinking ?
Yep, its not fair! lol I think it has to do with the line weight of the flyline landing on the water or the thick flyline throwing a shadow.

As for the OP ?, a storm paddle tail drives them crazy!
 

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Now if someone had said that tarpon fly fishermen are simply strange, weird and not normal you wouldn't need to go far to come up with convincing evidence !
 

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I think that if you're regularly catching them on flies you've basically already won the game on hard mode and it should be even easier on spinning gear. I've heard of them being caught on literally every type of live bait. I've heard of them being caught on almost any artificial that you can think of too, from topwaters to jerk shads and mirrodines and fake crabs and all kinds of stuff. If they're in the mood to eat and you put the bait in the water column they're in there's a pretty good chance you're going to hook up IF they're eating. With that said I have had more refusals from tarpon than probably anything else, they're hard headed as hell sometimes. You don't get big by being dumb I guess.
 

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First tarpon I ever caught was on a white paddletail, and have caught quite a few since then on the same. If they’re hungry they’ll eat, if they’re not I’m not sure it matters what’s in front of them.
 

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One of the coolest things to do in the keys is free line live mullet at the bridge you can surf the mullet in the shadow line and watch Tarpon eat it for a spin fishing that’s pure entertainment and can be fun for fly guys too it’s just different.
 

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