If you’re looking to take your tarpon fishing game to the next, then you need to upgrade your gear with effective and reliable rig setups, and you’ve come to the right place to learn about that!
In today’s article, we’re sharing with you 6 options for the best rig for tarpon. Not only will these rigs help you catch the notoriously stubborn tarpon, but they’re pretty simple to put together and use, even for beginners. Let’s dive right in!
1. Fish Finder Rig
Author Note: The fish finder rig should be your go-to rig when you’re trying to reach the bottom with your bait. It’s mainly preferred by anglers when attempting to attract fish in tough conditions in areas with little to no structure or cover going on.
To help you understand how a fish finder rig moves bait down deep, here’s a brief breakdown of how it works:
- First of all, the fish finder rig resists the current thanks to the presence of a heavy sinker (a weight) at the front of the rig. This configuration keeps your setup close to the bottom fighting the current.
- Also, the sinker moves slowly and bumps sand, creating poofs that make it look like there’s a wounded fish in front of your setup.
- Meanwhile, the bait located at the other tip of your leader will be bobbing up and down, also imitating a wounded fish bouncing off of the bottom. This movement results from the reaction of the bait against the sinker fighting the current.
- Finally, the sinker is attached to your rod’s primary line via a sinker slide. This way, when a fish claims the bait, it’s directly connected to the fishing rod through the line.
How to set up a fish finder rig
What you’ll need
The following is suitable for trophy size fish that are 40 inches or bigger, including tarpon, striped bass, and red drum. You can either buy the following components separately or buy the above kit.
- Size 6 pyramid Sinker (or some kind of weight such as a bot or spark plug)
- Red plastic bead
- Leader line (steel, 36 inches, 80 pounds)
- Sinker slide, size 6
- Circle hook (8/0)
- First, cut about 18 inches of your leader line.
- Using a Palomar knot, tie one end of the leader line piece to the hook.
- Tie the swivel onto the other end of the line using a Palomar knot as well.
- After that, use your mainline to pass the lead line through the pyramid sinker and the bead.
- Finally, use a Polamer knot once again to fasten your mainline to the other end of the swivel. This step can be a bit challenging because you have to pull through the whole leader line with the hook to complete the knot.
2. Float (Bobber) Rig
The float rig, also known as a bobber rig, is highly effective for anglers planning to use live bait in elevated portions of the water column. Tarpons often ascend in the water column to feed, so incorporating a float rig into your fishing technique can help you make a catch.
How to set up a float rig
What you’ll need
- Extra line (as a rule of thumb, always carry the additional line that’s leftover after the reel is filled up)
- Stop knot (alternatively, a rubber band)
- First, feed the line through the guides and allow a generous amount of spare line once it passes through the rod. An arm’s length should be enough.
- Next, you need to add the stop knot so that the bait doesn’t sink to the bottom. This will also help you better control your fishing depth by sliding the knot up and down the mainline.
Generally, you should place the stop knot about 2 or 3 arm’s lengths from your swivel and up the line.
- Then, add your head and float.
- After that, attach the weight followed by one more bead.
- Finish this setup by tying the swivel to your line.
- Now, cut a piece of the spare line around the length from your hand to your shoulder.
- Finally, tie one end of this piece to your swivel and the opposite end to your hook.
3. Drop Shot Rig
The drop-shot rig is popular among anglers fishing for tarpon in deep water, but you can also use it in shallow water. The most important thing to keep in mind is that you add a heavy enough weight to make sure that the bait drops to the bottom.
The idea behind the drop shot rig is to keep the bait suspended near the bottom at the level of the fish, then possibly move the bait up and away from the bottom’s gunk.
Author Note: Here, you’ll need to drop the weight vertically and shake the bait lightly to pique the fish’s interest. As such, we recommend using a light line along with spinning gear.
How to set up a drop shot rig
- First, tie a Palomar knot and make sure the tag end is long. Depending on how high you want your bait off the bottom, double-line about 12 to 30 inches and feed the loop’s end through the hook’s eye.
- Next, create a loose overhand knot and have your hook hang from the underside of the formed loop.
- Hold the overhand knot between your thumb and forefinger then pass the loop’s end over your hook.
- Slide the loop so that it’s above the eye of the hook.
- Pull the tag end along with the standing line to tighten the knot over the hook’s eye.
- After that, pass the tag end through the eye of the hook from above once again.
- Add the weight to the end of your line at your preferred distance from the trim tag and hook.
- Finally, put the bait onto the hook.
4. Jighead Rig
The jighead rig is often used by anglers to fish in deep water, but it can also be suitable when fishing shallower water. They’re meant to produce a vertical motion.
Additionally, jigheads rigs are quite versatile since you can use them in both freshwater and saltwater. They’re also a good match for rigging live bait and soft plastics.
A typical jighead rig consists of:
- A lead sinker
- A hook incorporated into the sinker
- A soft bait covering the sinker to attract fish.
Tips on how to properly orient lure on a jighead rig
- The tail of the bait has to point down while the hook points up. This allows paddle tail lures to swim correctly. However, if you’re using a straight tail bait, you can simply attach them with the belly pointing down.
- The body must be straight and not crooked. Again, this allows the lure to swim correctly through the water. It also exposes the hook more to effectively pin the fish.
- It must be centered, otherwise, the bait won’t swim properly. The odd swimming angle lowers the chances of fish taking it.
5. Weightless Rig
The weightless rig is a fantastic option to use when larger live baits are involved because it allows them to swim more freely through the water. It gives you good odds of catching tarpon when they’re going higher up the water column.
Author Note: The weightless rig consists of a hook and your preferred length of the line. There’s nothing else to it, so you won’t need to add bobbers, weights, swivels, or any other components.
Although most anglers reserve using this rig to a time when they’re tackling shallow water, many of them also use it over deep water to free line live lure. The weightless rig is often coupled with soft plastics to catch bass as well as live baits to catch tarpon in addition to various other species of fish.
6. Split Shot Rig
Last but not least, the split shot rig is another option among the best rigs for tarpon. The best condition to use this rig is when you’re looking to add some weight. It’s also ideal to use when you’re trying to catch suspended tarpon.
How to set up a split shot rig
What you’ll need
- Leader line (monofilament, 6 pounds)
- 2 sinkers, split shot type
- A fly-round hook (size 8 or 10)
- Swivel (1 snap)
- A spin reel
- First, cut about 48 inches of the leader line. Make sure you cut a little extra to make up for the knots.
- Then, tie one end of the line piece to your hook using a Uni knot or a Palomar knot.
- Next, use the pliers to pinch together the split shot sinkers on your line. They should be spaced about 1 inch from each other, around 1 or 2 feet from the hook.
- Tie the swivel onto the mainline. Then, fasten the leader and the hook to the swivel.
- Finally, add the bait.
There you have it, 6 options for the best rig for tarpon that are sure to step up your fishing game.
While you can find most of these rigs available in ready-made versions for sale, keep in mind that you can also DIY pretty much all of them. This won’t just save you some cash, but it’ll also develop your angler’s skills.