The first thing people ask when getting on board is, "what kind of bait are we using."
I always reply, "plastic or feathers."
I carry no cast nets, hate them and find no need for them. I use artificials or flies 98 percent of the time and catch more than my share of fish. I'm a plug fisherman at heart and I get a real kick out of fooling wise old fish into believing that a lifeless hunk of plastic or feathers looks just too good to pass up.
Capt. George Tunison
During tarpon season I will admit to giving live ladyfish a balloon ride under a bridge or even fishing a hunk of something dead on the bottom, but all in all my boat is stocked with boxes upon boxes of lures.
There is one class of lures that really hold my attention and presently are catching the heck out of fish. I started using twitch baits years ago in the Delaware Bay fishing for weakfish, which is the northern cousin of our spotted seatrout.
These are big and beautiful trout that 95 percent of us traditionally used one-ounce white bucktails with a white plastic trailer as the lure of choice. There was one group of guys catching big fish on the stupidest lure I had ever seen. It was a MirrOlure. A lifeless hunk of plastic that had zero action. Throw it out it sank like a rock, no wobble, no lip to make it shake, nothing. Finally, an old timer showed me how to twitch a MirrOlure and make it come alive and I've been a huge fan ever since.
Awhile back MirrOlure added their MirrOdine 17MR and the larger 27MR lure to their already huge selection and they were an instant classic. Not to rest on their success, the new smaller 14 MR was recently introduced and like its bigger brothers will be an instant classic as well.
Also, don't pass up their MirrOminnow and Catch Sr. and Jr. Heck, basically any MirrOlure is deadly if you learn how to twitch it properly.
Another fantastic twitch bait I'm using with great success is the Sebile Stick Shad. These come in 3.5- and 4.5-inch sizes and the mullet color is outstanding. Snook and reds are eating them up. The downside is the price. Expect to pay $14-$16 each. Hey, you only live once and these are hot lures.
Rapala has so many great lures in their catalog it's ridiculous. Two twitch baits are available - the Glidin Rap and the Twitchin Rap. Both are hot, but the newest one I like technically is not a twitcher, but I use it with a twitching retrieve. It's called the X-Rap Shallow Shad. It's a killer in gold flavor.
Always use a fluorocarbon leader and always use a loop knot for these baits. These lures are to be fished rather slowly with subtle rod tip movements. Don't hurry these lures. Slow down and make them dart and flash like an injured or dying baitfish and hang on.
Capt. Rob Modys of SoulMate Charters reports that bait is still thick along the beaches and a couple of throws of the cast net should do the trick. The live shrimp being sold at bait shops is plentiful and much larger than the tiny stuff we usually see in the summer.
The nearshore Gulf waters are covered in schooling fish. Spanish mackerel, bluefish, ladyfish and jacks can be caught from the passes out to the reefs. Once on the reefs, drop some live or cut baits to the bottom and you'll find grouper, snapper, flounder and quite a few nice trout.
Lots of sharks are still around. Rig up a fairly heavy rod with a bit of steel leader, a 5/0 circle hook and a chunk of ladyfish for bait and it shouldn't take long to wrestle with a silky, blacktip, bull or hammerhead.
Capt. George Tunison is a Cape Coral resident fishing guide. Contact him at 239-282-9434 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or Flying Fins Sportfishing.