If you want to catch snook on artificials around Miami, you fish at night, and you fish two scenarios: Bridge/inlet fishing calls for larger, heavier baits able to get down in current; and dock light fishing requires smaller, more subtle presentations.
The past few years have seen some real innovation in lure design, and a lot of it makes sense for snook in Miami waters. Below, we break some of the most intriguing innovations by scenario and brand.
INLETS AND BRIDGES
▪ Spooltek: From the mind of fabled snooker Dave Justice, who pioneered artificial techniques in South Florida for decades, Spooltek swimbaits have what Justice calls “concealed leader technology” in which the hard forebody of the lure contains a spool holding 12 inches of 80-pound stainless steel leader that deploys upon hook-set. This design prevents fish from using lure weight to throw the hook, and allows anglers to downsize their fluorocarbon or mono leader — a nice feature in Miami-Dade County’s clear water. Justice likes to slow roll the baits as close to bottom as possible by casting up and across current, depending on depth and current speed. Spooltek offers six-inch and nine-inch models, and just came out with a big 3.5-ounce, six-inch model for plumbing fast depth, as well as a four-incher that should shine in quiet water, or as a finger-mullet imitation. Available at Captain Harry’s Fishing Supply, 8501 NW 7th Avenue, Miami, 305-374-4661; captharry.com.
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▪ DDX: The word “dynasty” comes to mind when you realize DDX baits are designed and hand-poured by Justice’s son, Dillon. Dillon has developed a line of heavy-duty jig heads ranging from 3/4 ounces to 1.3 ounces, which he pairs with his 5.5-inch DDX soft plastic tails. These tails are thick, offering a meaty profile, and excel at bottom-bouncing, where the thickness of the bait creates an appealing glide down deep. In addition to the inlet at night, consider using these bodies in lighter colors on the beach during the upcoming mullet run. Available at Captain Harry’s Fishing Supply.
▪ Hogy Lure Company: Hogy started off making oversized soft plastic jerkbaits for striped bass in Massachusetts, but in the past few years the company has designed soft plastic bodies that translate to night snook bites. Fort Myers guide Ross Gallagher uses Hogy lures to hunt snook around bay bridges similar to Miami’s. “In clear water, I’ll to use a naked [unskirted] nine-inch HDUV Jiggin' Eel Tail in Black/Purple Flake rigged on a one-ounce or two-ounce 10/0 Barbarian jig head,” Gallagher said. “If the water’s stained, I’ll bulk up my offering and switch over to a Hogy Swimming Jig, which is essentially a skirted version Jiggin’ Eel Tail. This increased profile creates a larger target that’s easier for fish to find in diminished visibility.” Gallagher likes to “swing” the baits with the current, keeping frequent bottom contact. “My goal is to cast far enough up and across current that my jig will be bouncing across the bottom when it nears the desired structure, which could be a piling, rock pile, or back eddy,” Gallagher said. HogyLures.com.
FISHING DOCK LIGHTS
▪ Savage Gear Manic Shrimp and Panic Shrimp: Danish lure designer Mads Grosell propelled Savage Gear to success in Europe before it took aim at the U.S. market, winning accolades at ICAST for the lure’s realism. Two of its shrimp baits that make sense for Miami lights are the Manic Shrimp and the Panic Shrimp. Both soft plastic baits are weighted to descend with a horizontal posture; the Manic Shrimp comes pre-rigged on a weighted worm hook with a flexible tail for added action and legs that flutter rather manically on descent, and the Panic Shrimp has a rigid tail and a hook slot that lets you rig the lure to swim forward, like a happy shrimp, or backward, like a very scared shrimp.
▪ MirrOlure LIL JOHN XL: MirrOlure, whose plugs have caught thousands of snook over the years, has begun to put out some interesting soft plastics. Its 4.25-inch Lil John XL twitchbait, with a body much thicker than a traditional soft jerkbait, is ideal for dock lights — it might be a lost finger mullet, it might be a shrimp, it might be delicious. The tube-shaped body skips under docks exceptionally well, and it has a belly slit for easy Texas rigging on either a weightless or weighted worm hook. Also, the relatively rigid body gives the bait a nice glide between jerks when you pop it around likely haunts. Bass Pro Shops in Miami and Dania Beach. Shopmirrolure.com.
▪ DOA Shrimp on a circle hook: DOA Shrimp are iconic in Florida, but lately anglers have opened up to using the baits with different rigging methods. Try the four-inch model nose hooked on a 6/0 circle hook and let it drift into shadow lines or skip it under docks. The circle hook, with its tendency to find purchase in the fish’s jaw (reducing leader wear) lets you downsize in leader a bit — crucial in intimate dock light environs. Another trick is to tail-hook the bait. Once it hits the water, just let it glide down through the water column. It will actually glide away from you and deeper under the dock because of the fore-weighted body. Available at DOALures.com, Captain Harry’s Fishing Supply, River Marine Supply, and various Bass Pro Shops locations.