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Out of all the saltwater game fish you can catch off the Florida coast, cobia is often overlooked for sexier tarpon or marlin fishing. But cobia can be a ton of fun to catch and are often easier to target than the other overfished species. So what’re the best cobia lures, and what’s the best way to fish for them? Don’t worry, we’re here to answer those questions and more.
In this article we’ll go over the best cobia lures depending on how you want to fish for them, as well as what tackle your should use when fishing for cobia. We’ll also cover the basics as to where you can find cobia, what they like to eat, and more. Get ready to learn about everything cobia fishing related!
Best Cobia Lures
What Are Cobia and What Do They Eat?
Let’s first quickly go over what cobia are and what they feed on. Cobia are a saltwater fish that grow up to 6 feet long and over 150 lbs. They have a broad flat head and are dark brown in color with a white belly.
They also have two darker horizontal stripes on their sides that become more predominant during their spawning season. Cobia’s pectoral fin is large which gives them a similar profile to a shark, especially when they’re mating and their fin comes out of the water.
Author Note: Cobia feed primarily on crabs, squid, and other small baitfish. They often follow around larger species of fish to feed on any scraps they leave behind. Cobia are curious fish that will frequently swim right up to your boat.
Where Can I Catch Cobia?
Cobia live in predominantly warm climates, migrating south to the Gulf of Mexico in the winter and north to Massachusetts during the summer. Cobia are found off the coast of Florida year-round. They’re usually a solitary fish but tend to school in small groups during spawning season. During this period they can usually be found closer to shore near reefs, seagrass, wrecks, or other underwater structures.
Keep an eye on your local water temperatures. Once the water begins to reach 70 degrees Fahrenheit, you’ll be able to find cobia close to shore. Focus on using more aggressive cobia lures during this time. During the winter and spring when the water is colder, look for cobia around bridge pilings, markers, or buoys. We recommend investing in an inshore kayak or using a boat for the most flexibility. A more reserved approach to your cobia lures will work best in the offseason.
Cobia are very structure related, and in many cases you can sight fish them around bridge and pier pylons. One spot on this man-made structure lures like eel imitations can be dropped on them and in many cases they will strike.
Once hooked you will be in hand to hand combat as you try to keep the cobia away form the pylons, which will cause your line to snap.
Cobia can also be found schooling in flats and other areas, typically in the spring, and if you have a tower to spot them during a clear sunny day you will have a ton of fun casting at the schools.
In many instances when the cobia are in open water or flats, they will be joined up with schools of stingray, so if you see rays, watch for cobia.
What Tackle is Best for Cobia?
Cobia are best caught using heavy spinning tackle or traditional saltwater gear. We like to use a standard large saltwater spinning setup or a large baitcasting reel and rod. Both of these options will give you the strength needed to battle a 70 lb fish that tends to make long runs for cover when hooked. We recommend getting a large-sized saltwater spinning reel spooled with at least 50 lb test braided fishing line.
Pair this with a large saltwater spinning rod and you’ll be set up for success. Otherwise, get a heavy-duty traditional reel and saltwater rod.
Top Tip: We like to use a 60 test monofilament or fluorocarbon leader when fishing for cobia. This prevents them from seeing the braided line and helps with abrasion resistance if they run for cover and hit your line against rocks or reefs.
Cobia Fishing Techniques
There are several different fishing techniques that work well for cobia depending on where you’re fishing for them. We’ll go over each in detail below.
Using Live/Dead Bait as Cobia Lures
If local regulations allow you to use live bait when fishing for cobia, try that first before other methods. There is no substitute for fishing with a predator’s natural food. For cobia, we like to use small crabs, shrimp, or live sardines/mullet. Hook them through the nose so they can still swim (through the side for crabs) and attract the cobia to them.
If fishing from shore or near the surf, use a fish finder rig with either the above live bait or pieces of shrimp for dead bait. Cast your rig out into the deeper part of the surf or near structure where your think cobia would use as cover.
Spinning for Cobia
When spinning for cobia, we like to use cobia lures like rubber plastic eels, topwater plugs, and bucktail jigs. We like the extra-large saltwater rubber eels like the Savage Gear Sand Eel as well as smaller sizes that you would use for largemouth bass or a Texas Rig.
Cobia are aggressive eaters and will go after life-like artificial lures that are rigged properly. When casting your cobia lures out when sight fishing, aim to land your lure directly in front of where they are swimming. Retrieve your lure like a wounded baitfish; give the lure quick jerks while reeling it in.
Cobia Jigging Lures
Cobia will also go after similar types of jigs you may be familiar with from jigging for snook. They love lures like bucktail jigs like the SPRO Prime ½ oz Bucktail, plastic shrimp tails, and nylon flare jigs. Bucktail jigs can be especially effective when fishing for cobia in heavy cover, such as seagrass or near docks and bridges. These jigs are also a great choice if you’re targeting speckled trout too.
Eel imitations on a jig head also works great for cobia, in particular when fishing around the heavy structure we mentioned earlier. In some cases you don’t need to do much with eel lures, simply drop it down to the fish, in more open water situations pull and pause techniques and fast retrieves can work great.
Author Note: Flip your jig close to where the cobia are hiding, and let it sink 15 to 20 feet. Then flip the jig up in 3-foot bursts, retrieving line a bit at a time each burst. Since cobia are aggressive biters, you can let your line go slack when letting the jig settle back down. You’ll know when a cobia strikes it.
Cobia can be a finicky fish to fish for depending on what the water temperature is and if the bite is on or off. Here are a few more additional tips when fishing for cobia.
- Besides the baits we listed above, cobia also enjoy eating juvenile blue crab, pinfish, and baby eels. These options may be harder to get a hold of but are all proven favorites for cobia.
- As we mentioned early, cobia enjoy following other large animals to feed off their scraps. This means that you can often sight fish for cobia if you see large rays or sharks swimming near the surface. If you spot a larger animal swimming in the water, be on the lookout for cobia!
- If you don’t see any cobia in a spot for more than 30 minutes, its time to move on and try somewhere else. This is when using a drone to spot fish can be super useful. Look for small schools of 3 to 8 cobia swimming together.
- If you’re fishing for large cobia, use your fish finder to identify them. Their large bodies will make definitive pingbacks on your fish finder over reefs and other underwater structures.
- If you see cobia success, keep them. Cobia tastes great and can be prepared in a variety of different ways! Just be sure to follow the local regulations on size and limits.
Even with tips and tricks, you will find that there are times the cobia will simply refuse a bait, but that’s fishing for you.
There are many different options for cobia lures that work well depending on the time of year and how you fish them. Hopefully, after reading this article, you feel more prepared for the next time you decide to go cobia fishing. As with all our articles, if you have your own tips and tricks for catching cobia feel free to share them with our community in the comments below.