When anglers running along the front beach spot a school of tarpon, they race in a wide arc around the fish and cut the engine about 200 yards in front of the school to get ready to cast when the school approaches. And be sure to cut off the baitwell pumps and sonars to keep from spooking the skittish fish.
If the tarpon have been in a biting mood, it’s possible to toss a live menhaden, mullet or alewife in front of the school and watch one of the fish inhale the bait. However, some anglers go an extra step to hopefully add to the enticement by chumming with chunks of baitfish that will leave a slick behind the boat. Live baits under corks or balloon rigs can be floated along the chum line.
When it comes to equipment, it’s going to take a rod and reel that can handle the pressure. You’ll need a 7- to 8-foot medium heavy spinning rod and reel that can hold at least 300 yards of 20- to 25-pound test line. A 6- to 8-foot section of 100-pound monofilament or fluorocarbon leader will serve as a shock leader when the tarpon leaps for the sky and crashes back down into the waves. Most tarpon anglers will use large circle hooks ranging from 10/0 to 16/0, and they’ll let the circle hook do what it’s designed, hooking the fish in the corner of the mouth.
When the tarpon feels that hook, it heads skyward, and as all tarpon anglers know, it’s time to point the rod straight at the fish and bow to the king.