Fishing with Joe

Use What You Know, by Joe Sheaffer

I moved to southwest Florida 3 years ago.  An avid bass fisherman from Northern Virginia eager to start my inshore fishing adventure.  Like many, I was caught up in the plethora of salt water lures.  Needless to say, it was a struggle-a trout here, a snook there, and a redfish might as well have been a unicorn!  Looking back to my roots as a bass angler, I was very productive using a jig.  The jig and paddle tail became a major part of my inshore lure selection.  This is a close cousin to the jig and trailer setups that I used to catch bass.  Making a commitment to use that lure, my results and confidence catching these inshore species have been amazing.  Fishing here my first year, I only caught 8 redfish and those were by accident.  The last 2 years I have caught hundreds of redfish, snook and trout; all sizes and most with a jig and paddle tail.  Using this simple, versatile lure can be very effective.  A slow, steady swimming retrieve on the flats, adjacent to mangroves and even in the surf, can be so productive.  Jigging or popping in potholes, along or near structure, and around blowouts (ripping tidal out flows) in the surf have been rewarded with many awesome bites.  Using a lighter jig, it can be jerked in and around schooling fish for explosive strikes.

Jigs come in many different styles, sizes, shapes and colors.  It seems that everyone has their own ideas about jigs and paddle tails.  I’m not an expert and don’t have all the answers, but these are the things I look for when choosing a jig.  Usually I will use a red or unpainted jig, with a medium size stout hook (1/0, 2/0).  The eye needs to be towards the front of the lead and needs to have good bait keepers to hold the paddle tail tight.  Typically, using an 1/8 oz – 3/8 oz jig, changing the weight according to water depth, current flow, or to create a certain action.  When swimming the jig, I usually use a 3/16 oz or 1/4 oz, having the eye towards the front allows for a slow steady action that is extremely effective.  Jigging or popping the jig usually calls for 1/4 – 3/8 oz jig.  Obviously, if fishing water depths of 10 feet or more, a heavier jig would likely be more effective.  Shallow water (1’-2’) presentation or jerking the jig around schooling fish, an 1/8 oz jig can be very productive.

When it comes to choosing a paddle tail, a 3-4” body with a larger size paddle works best.  Keep things simple with colors; natural greens (pumpkin and watermelon) on the flats and back country.  When fishing the surf, I prefer minnow or shad colors (whites, silvers and blues).

If you are struggling to consistently get bites inshore and surf fishing try this effective and versatile lure in your arsenal, you may be surprised with your results!