John's Journal...


Tarpon with Spike-It

Click to enlargeEDITOR'S NOTE: Captain Dave Sutton of Homestead, Florida, a fishing guide in the Everglades National Park, Biscayne Bay National Park and the Upper Florida Keys, takes anglers to permit, tarpon, redfish, snook, speckled trout, dolphin, wahoo, grouper and snapper. Sutton, who has fished these waters for 16 years and has guided for the last 6 years, has discovered that using the new Spike-It products for these saltwater fish pays off for him.

We do a lot of tarpon fishing in my section of Florida during the summer months and primarily use two-different strategies for catching them. If you're going to fish for the really-big migrating tarpon, you know that you'll see numbers of fish. But getting those fish to take a bait will be really difficult. Or, you can fish for smaller tarpon and get more bites and more hook-ups. Because our area homes big tarpon, I have numbers of fly-fishermen who come to fish with me that want to go after those 100-pound plus tarpon. So, I have a specific point where I go to try and catch these big tarpon. An incoming tide seems to push the tarpon right up against the shoreline. So, we have specific ambush points along the shoreline where we sit and wait for the tarpon to come by and try to feed them flies.

Click to enlargeOn this particular day, we got up well before daylight and went out to the point to wait for the tarpon. At about 6:30 a.m. or so, we have enough light to see the fish coming. My fly-fisherman had eight or nine really-good chances to catch those tarpons. He put his fly in the right place, he gave it the right action, and he did everything he was supposed to do as a fly-fisherman to get those tarpon to eat the bait. But, they just wouldn't bite. Finally one tarpon took his fly, and he jumped the fish three times before the tarpon spit the fly out. He was so frustrated that he finally turned to me and asked, "Is there anything else you have on-board that we could use to catch these tarpon?" Because this particular angler had insisted on fly fishing, I hadn't put any live bait in the boat, which normally would be what I would use for tarpon fishing. I answered, "About the only thing I've had any luck with are these plastic baits made by Spike-It." My fisherman looked and said in an almost-disgusted voice, "You mean use a plastic jerkbait?" I said, "Well, yeah. Fishing for tarpon with jerkbaits is a well-kept secret down here. If you want to try one, I've got some on-board and a spinning rod. However, if you catch a fish on one of these jerkbaits, I'd appreciate it if you wouldn't tell anybody what you used to catch the fish."

Since the angler agreed, I rigged up a black Spike-It soft-plastic jerkbait for him. Because the sun hadn't gotten high in the sky yet, I wanted a very-dark profile for the fish to see, and I chose the black Spike-It jerkbait for my client to fish. I put the jerkbait on a super-strong 5X worm hook, which I bought from Bass Pro Shop. Ahead of the jerkbait, I placed a 1/4-ounce bullet slip sinker so that my angler could Click to enlargecast the bait further than he would have been able to cast a 1/8-ounce sinker. That 1/4-ounce sinker also would let him control the depth at which he swam the bait, and it allowed him to let the bait dive faster than a 1/8-ounce sinker would.

I told my customer, "When you see the lead fish in the next school of tarpon that comes through, cast the Spike-It jerkbait right in front of its nose and start jerking the bait back toward the boat a little faster than the tarpon is swimming. Whatever action you're giving the bait when that tarpon turns and comes after it, don't stop the action. Continue to twitch the bait as the tarpon comes for it, because if you stop twitching the bait, the tarpon may turn and not take it." So, the next school of tarpon that came through, my client began to cast and retrieve the jerk bait, but the tarpon didn't pay any attention to it. Therefore I told my fisherman, "The second school of tarpon that comes through, drag that bait across the tarpon's nose." So, when the second school of tarpon got within casting distance, my fisherman made a perfect cast and drug that Spike-It jerkbait right over the tarpon's nose. The big, 110-pound tarpon sucked that jerkbait along with three gallons of water right into its mouth. I started shouting, "Sweep right! Sweep right!" to get him to sweep the hook into the fish's jaw. "Reel down! Reel down! Reel down! The fish has it!" I yelled. My angler set the hook hard three-different times as that big tarpon started dancing across the top of the water on its tail. We were using 60 pound-test fluorocarbon leader with 15-pound-test Power Pro main line. I like that 60-pound-test fluorocarbon leader because the tarpon's mouth is so abrasive.

Click to enlargeOnce the tarpon finished his aerobatics, the fight became a tug of war and raged for 58 minutes. When we finally got the fish to the boat and measured and weighed the tarpon, I got into the water with the fish and spent 30 minutes supporting the fish and walking it around to help it recover. I kept the tarpon in shallow water until it fully recovered. I felt if I released that tarpon in deep water, sharks might get him. However, after the tarpon had regained its strength, I released it, and we watched that big silver king swim away.

For more information on how you can fish with Captain Dave Sutton, contact him at or go to To learn more about Spike-It's top-quality lures, paints and other fishing products and the Color-C-Lector, go to

Check back each day this week for more about CAPTAIN DAVE SUTTON ON SALTWATER FISHING WITH SPIKE-IT

Day 1: Dolphin on Spike-It Soft Plastics
Day 2: Jerkbaits for Jack Crevalle
Day 3: Redfish and Snook on Spike-It Products
Day 4: Spike-It for Speckled Trout
Day 5: Tarpon with Spike-It



Entry 303, Day 5