Flats Hunter 101: Tarpon Tackle
Tarpon Tackle & Flies
Your reel is the most crucial element when fishing for tarpon. You must have an excellent quality reel with a whisper smooth, tough drag mechanism that can accommodate a 200-yard run by a monster poon. A large arbor reel is undoubtedly an invaluable asset when fighting a large tarpon and should seriously be considered when purchasing an outfit.
A tarpon rod’s most important attribute is the power required to lift and maneuver trophy fish. If you’re going after monster poon over 150 pounds you’ll need a twelve weight rod. For all other tarpon, a 10 or 11 weight will be more than sufficient. A 10 or 11 weight rod also has the added advantage of being lighter and easier to cast all day long.
It is also important that your rod has large eye guides that can withstand the incredible strain exerted on them when fighting a large fish. Large guides are also useful in clearing knots in your line when the fish makes a sudden run.
Line & Leaders:
Your reel must be lined with a minimum of 250 yards of thirty pound backing matched to a quick change leader of no less than six feet in length. Quick change leaders or an effective combination of a four-foot butt-section of thirty to fifty pound test with a loop in the forward end to facilitate quickly changing strategies. The class tippet should be made of twenty pound test looped to a foot long section of 100 pound fluorocarbon. The knots and Leaders section provides more detailed diagrams of the proper leader setup for tarpon and other gamefish.
There is nothing more breathtaking than observing a giant 100 pound tarpon swim up to your fly and suck it in his cavernous bucket-shaped mouth. It is mind-boggling that such an enormous creature will go after a three-inch fly.
There is no one “miracle” tarpon fly that exists, but there are numerous patterns that will certainly do the job. In the clear water of the Florida Keys, a simple fly with a few feathers and a short palmered hackle works wonders.
For some unknown reason, killer tarpon flies are black or black with a hint of color. Any grizzly feathered creation such as a Cockroach also works extremely well. When you are fishing for giants you should use files with a 3/0 hook with razor sharp points. The “must have” tarpon flies you should keep on you at all times are the Cockroach, Red and White, and the Stu Apte tarpon fly.
Tarpon are infamous for their bucket mouths that are hardened like a rock and require only the sharpest of points if you are to get a hookset that will hold. Make sure that before your next tarpon trip you take the time to check and sharpen all your hooks. It’s better to find out your hook is dull before you leave the dock than when you lose a fish on his first jump.
Casting to Tarpon