Every tarpon season I’m asked what tarpon leader set-up do I prefer for natural and artificial lure presentations. Well of course, there are a few variables that factor into my leader preferences based on water clarity, available light, and in some cases bait size. Because I’m sight fishing tarpon moving up and down the beach; my leader set-ups tend to be much lighter than most tarpon guides in the region (West Central Florida).
Live Bait Leaders
The standard tarpon leader for live bait presentations on my skiff usually is a 50″ to 60″length of 50 pound fluorocarbon leader attached to a 6/0 circle hook of the 2X variety. This set-up works great for presenting medium to large sized crabs, threadfins, and larger pinfish. I favor this choice under low light conditions in the morning with a little breeze or turbid water clarity, moreover. Around mid-day under bright skies (high sun) or clear water conditions, I’ll lighten up the fluorocarbon leader to 40 pound test but keep the length and hook size the same as my standard for the above live bait presentations. The only time I consider adjusting the length of the fluorocarbon leader (shorten to 40″) or choose a smaller hook size (4/0, 5/0)… is when I’m presenting a smaller live crab or pilchard. This lighter modification to the tarpon leader is to allow the bait to behave or swim more naturally and not be weighted down by the terminal material so that I can fool pressured mid-season tarpon!
Artificial Lure Leaders
When it comes to tossing “fakes” in front of tarpon swimming down the beach, my leader set-up is quite different. By in large, I’m swinging suspending/sinking plugs or 5″ to 7″ soft baits well out in front of rolling tarpon in low light scenarios. The leader set-up that works best for me without encumbering the lure in a negative way in regard to action or sink rate; is a 36″section of 30 pound fluorocarbon leader with 8″to 12″ of 50 pound fluorocarbon bite tippet. This tarpon leader doesn’t sink as fast or pull the lure down head first but still provides enough abrasion resistance to have a chance to land a tarpon on the beach. In bright light scenarios, I’ll lighten the bite tippet section (6″to 10″) up to 40 pound fluorocarbon to provide more bite opportunities!
I always first tie a Bimini Twist in my braided main line which is generally of the 40 pound test size. Then I connect the fluorocarbon to the braid with a 13 turn “No Name” knot and leave a long tag end (1/2″length). Now for attaching the hook… I prefer the “Palomar” knot with a long tag end (1/2″length) once again. These longer tags on the knots allow for a small degree of slippage and do not keep the tarpon from eating the bait. For my connector knot on artificial presentations, I like a “Uni-Knot” with long tag once again because it can withstand a lot of pressure and endure a long battle.
*Here’s a little tip for cinching up multi-turn knots with heavier tarpon leader material so that they seat properly! Just prior to tightening up the knot add a little Chapstick directly to knot instead of saliva… it really makes the knot slide into a seated position much easier!
Main Line (Braid)- Ohero Adrenaline #40 or #50
Fluorocarbon- Ohero Fluorocarbon Leader
Hooks- Trident Circle Hooks 2X in 4/0 thru 6/0 sizes
Info provided by Capt. C.A. Richardson, Flats Class TV
Capt. C.A. Richardson
Flats Class TV