Best bait for tarpon fishing that will improve your catch

By Tom Keer

Feb 23, 2018

Big fish eat little fish, and tarpon love bait of all kinds.  When they arrive in the Spring be ready with an assortment of shrimp, mullet, and crabs.

Pretty soon, tarpon will migrate back inshore to channels, bays, flats, and all the passes made famous by big schools of the Silver King!  For those of us who have missed catching this tremendous fish species we should get ready to target them.  There are a lot of different ways to jump a 'poon, and here are 4 of the best bait for tarpon  to reel them in this spring season.

Best Live Bait for Tarpon

Some of tarpon fishing bait are shrimp, pinfish, mullet and crabs. Stake out above areas that hold tarpon and drift your live bait down to the fish.  Hook crabs in the corner of the shell and baitfish through the mouth.  The best  bait for tarpon doesn't spin in current, so pinch off the heads of shrimp. Rig properly and catch more fish.

Shock Leaders are a Must

Tarpon suck in the best fishing bait. Since they have bony mouths and sharp gill plates be sure to rig with a shock leader of about six feet of 50-80-pound mono or fluorocarbon. You'll break off fewer tarpon on their long runs and jumps.

Drop it to the Bottom

Mullet, that is. Mullet might be the best bait for tarpon. Tarpon love mullet any way you serve it to them and by that, I mean dead or alive.  If you're not great a throwing a cast net to catch live mullet then drop a mullet head or chunk to the bottom.  Then wait.  Then wait some more. Patience is the key when fishing with mullet heads or chunks.  If tarpon is in the area they'll find it.

A Bait might not be a Bait

Sometimes tarpon fishing bait isn't a fish. It's a fly. When the fish are on the flats or laid up in the backcountry a well-presented streamer may entice them to eat.  Skinny water is the key, and sight fishing is ideal.  It's tough to access deeper water with a fly.

Tarpon fishing season is just around the corner. And in the meantime, you can work on your boat and tackle.  When the Silver King arrives, you'll be waiting. Check for places to target tarpon fishing across the country with our interactive places to fish and boat map.

Tom Keer
Tom Keer
Tom Keer is an award-winning writer who lives on Cape Cod, Massachusetts.  He is a columnist for the Upland Almanac, a Contributing Writer for Covey Rise magazine, a Contributing Editor for both Fly Rod and Reel and Fly Fish America, and a blogger for the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation’s Take Me Fishing program.  Keer writes regularly for over a dozen outdoor magazines on topics related to fishing, hunting, boating, and other outdoor pursuits.  When they are not fishing, Keer and his family hunt upland birds over their three English setters.  His first book, a Fly Fishers Guide to the New England Coast was released in January 2011.  Visit him at or at