From tidal backwaters along the Panhandle to the tropical shallows of the Florida Keys and nearly every venue in between, shrimp are under constant attack and must always be on alert. What makes shrimp so pressured is the fact they can tolerate a variety of habitats and salinities, which makes them susceptible to predation from an assortment of marine inhabitants.
While live shrimp ignite hot bites as they flicker in an attempt to elude aggressors, soft plastic shrimp are more realistic than ever and now look, feel, taste and move like natural shrimp. What’s common among soft plastic shrimp from manufacturers like D.O.A., VuDu, LIVETARGET, GULP!, Z-Man, Saltwater Assassin and more is that they all feature a flexible body and legs, alluring eyes and natural color patterns, with some even impregnated with natural stimulants, shrimp scents and strike enticing pheromones.
Depending on the depth of water, wind conditions and target species, there are a host or rigging techniques that can be applied to fishing artificial shrimp. Unlike finfish that never stop moving and always swim forward, shrimp can skip in nearly any direction, making them ideal offerings to be customized to accommodate the prevalent conditions and make your presentation as natural and as appealing as possible.
4″ VuDu Shrimp
Hook: Gamakatsu #58413 Offset Shank Worm EWG 3/0
Pre-rigged shrimp are often outfitted with hooks that ride upward, yet there are scenarios where a weedless presentation is more desirable. After removing the stock hardware you’ll want to thread a wide gap worm hook through the head and up through the carapace of the shrimp. The body material of this shrimp is much more durable than its competitors, which can make it more difficult to rig, yet it ensures the hook stays in place and prevents premature tear-offs once rigged to perfection. The 4″ VuDu shrimp has a hook slot that perfectly hides the point, but be sure to bury the tip to ensure the hook stays in place and guarantees its weedless characteristics. When fishing a weedless and weightless shrimp you’ll want to crawl it across the bottom as slowly as you can possibly turn the handle.
LIVETARGET 3″ Shrimp
Hook: Hookup Lures 1/8 oz. Jighead
While a finesse presentation with minimal weight to achieve a slow sink rate is effective when conditions permit, at times anglers must combat swift currents and deeper water with the addition of a lead jighead. To mimic the natural tendency of live shrimp to evade predation by flickering backwards, anglers often rig a jighead through the tail. The Hookup Lures 1/8 oz. jighead features a 3/0 Mustad Ultra Point wide gap nickel hook and is a perfect match to the LIVETARGET 3” shrimp. When threading the hook through the plastic it’s critical the hook is perfectly centered in the bait. Anglers using this approach with natural shrimp often pinch off the tail to disperse scent, but for fake shrimp it’s ok to leave the bait as is. After making a cast, let your weighted shrimp fall to the bottom before giving the rod a short snap to get the bait to pop towards the surface before falling back to the bottom.
3.5″ D.O.A. Shrimp
Hook: Gamakatsu #74413 1/8 oz. Weighted Superline EWG 3/0
The 3.5″ D.O.A. shrimp is ideally balanced out of the package with a 1/4 oz. weight, but as conditions and depths change anglers need to be able to make minor adjustments in rigging. While a weedless presentation is ideal for extreme shallow water and heavy grass, tail hooking weedless rigging not only provides a snag-free design, but it also enhances castability with a weighted worm hook. With the 1/8 oz. weight integrated in the hook you’ll want to remove the stock belly weight that’s standard with all D.O.A. shrimp. A good trick we’ve found is to save our old shrimp that are rigged with stock components. When the heads get torn up from catching a few fish, we reuse the baits by rigging them through the tail.
Gulp! 4″ Shrimp
Hook: VMC #7387BN Tournament Circle 2/0
J-hooks are an excellent choice when sight fishing the flats, but there are times when circle-hooks are a better option. Whether fishing for tarpon destined for release or soaking impregnated shrimp in a pothole, circle-hooks can lead to increased hook-up ratios. When casting a circle-hook rigged shrimp to cruising tarpon, be sure to lead the fish and let your bait sink upon its initial splash. Many times it will be picked up on the fall. When sight fishing potholes, make a cast past your mark and hold your rod tip high to wake the shrimp across the surface. As you reach the pothole, drop the shrimp and get ready for the strike.