Inshore Saltwater Fishing
What Tackle for Inshore Fishing?
The term inshore fishing is most commonly used to describe the fishing that takes place in the shallow saltwater flats and bays most notably located in the Gulf Coast and South East United States. The shallow water can be anywhere from 2'-20' and traditionally targets fish such as: Spotted Sea Trout, Redfish, Flounder, Cobia, Tarpon and many more. Tackle considerations for this unique style of fishing can vary greatly based on several factors most important of which is the size of fish you are targeting. Most inshore anglers simplify their arsenal to two setups: one light and one heavier as determined by the size of fish they hope to catch. Additionally, anglers should consider their conditions as another factor in choosing the correct tackle. Let's first start by breaking down the two setups, light and heavy.
Light Inshore Tackle
The light inshore rod and reel selection is best suited for small fish such as: Trout, Flounder, Pompano, Spanish Mackeral and smaller Redfish. Tackle considerations for these fish can generally be covered by the following gear. Light inshore rods are commonly 6 1/2 - 7 feet long in a medium light or medium power with a fast action tip rated for line sizes of 6-12 lb test. This size and action of rod is rather light which is ideal for making long whip casts with small lures and bait. In many cases, inshore saltwater fishing requires long, precise casts as the fish can be quite spooky in the clear water - those casts are best performed with the light, fast action spinning rod. The complimentary spinning reel for such a rod will likely hold approximately 140-200 yds of line and is commonly sized as a 1500-2500 or 20 by reel manufacturers. The reel should be comprised of corrosion resistant components and possess a smooth drag for fighting the active inshore fish. The most common gear ratio used by inshore fishermen is in the 6:1 range offering a quick retrieve in the shallow water conditions. Line selection is often dictated by the water clarity, but we recommend backing the reel with a high quality braided line in the 10-15lb test range and then using a 20' fluorocarbon or monofilament leader of 6-10lbs. The braided line will cast flawlessly and affords the angler an easy and affordable way to change line sizes.
Heavy Inshore Tackle
The heavy inshore rod and reel selection is best suited for larger fish such as: Cobia, Tarpon, large Redfish, Tripletail and Shark. Tackle considerations for these fish can generally be covered by the following heavy tackle gear. Heavy inshore rods are generally 7 - 7 1/2 feet in length and medium to medium heavy power, yet still possess a rather fast tip rated for line sizes of 12-20lb test. The rod power needs to be heavier due to the larger size fish that may be an anglers next opponent. The heavier power of the rod can be offset by a rather fast tip action that still affords anglers the ability to cast lures great distances to the spooky inshore fish. Lures generally range from 1/2-1 1/2oz requiring a rod with the ability to handle such lure weights - determining this often quite easy as many of the newer models of rods have this lure rating labeled on them. The reel for this combination should possess the same corrosion resistant qualities of the lighter reel selection, however this reel should be much larger in size with a line capacity of 200 - 300yds. These reels are traditionally sized with the 3000-4000 or 30-40 designations by the manufacturers. The retrieve should maintain the high speed 6:1 rating. We recommend backing this reel with 15-20lb braided line and a 20' fluorocarbon leader in the 20-25lb line size.
Anglers often prefer to determine their tackle choices on the presentations they plan to use. Some of the more popular techniques for inshore fishing are topwater plugs of soft plastics, small jig heads with artificials and live bait fishing.
Inshore Topwater Plugs
Topwater plugs are best utilized with the following tackle:
- Rod: Spinning 7 - 7 1/2' medium to medium-heavy
- Reel: Spinning - 3000-4000 or 30-40 size - try the Quantum Catalyst 30
- Line: Braid 15-20lb with a 20-30lb fluorocarbon leader
- Lures: Zoom Fluke, Heddon Super Spook or River 2 Sea Bubble Pop
This type of presentation requires long precise casts to spooky fish. Often fish in the ultra clear, shallow water conditions will show themselves as they break the water's surface to feed upon small baitfish. When this occurs the casts must be quick and precise in order to possibly catch one of the breaking fish.
Inshore Light Jig Heads
Small jig heads tipped with Berkley Gulp shrimp or crab are a favorite among inshore saltwater anglers. It's best to use the following tackle:
- Rod: Spinning 6 - 6 1/2' fast tip, medium-heavy action with a strong back bone for driving the hook home
- Reel: Spinning 2000-3000 or 20-30 size reel
- Line: Braid 8-10lb test with a 20lb test fluorocarbon leader
- Lures: Light jig head 1/8-1/4oz in a red color with a Berkley Gulp shrimp
This technique is excellent for all species of inshore fish. It can be a great way to get kids started with artificial lures and often catches fish even while just sitting on the bottom, although best results come from a constant slow retrieve with slight twitches of the rod tip.
Inshore Live Bait
Live bait fishing is a great inshore technique typically employing pinfish, greenbacks or white bait using a 2/0 circle hook. It's best to use the following tackle for this technique:
- Rod: Spinning 7' medium-heavy
- Reel: Spinning 2000-3000 or 20-30 size reel
- Line: Braid 15lb test with a 20lb fluorocarbon leader
- Lures: 2/0 circle hook with a small split shot two inches from the hook places under a 3-4" styrofoam bobber
Using live bait for inshore saltwater fishing can be extremely effective. It's best to use a small circle hook and add a small split shot within a few inches of the hook. The weight will restrain the live bait from swimming to the water's surface.