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Spring time baits for Sarasota Bay

Spring has sprung, here in West Central Florida it's an amazing time of year. Our winter cold snaps have all but disappeared and with days full of sunshine the water temps are climbing steadily. This year in particular it seems winter has wanted to drag on. Generally our spring fishing fires off in the first week or two of March, but with several back to back cold fronts the water temperatures have stayed in the 60's throughout the month of March. Now, April 2nd and I can say with some confidence the cold weather is behind us and we should have amazing fishing the next two months. With the water temps rapidly warming the water comes alive.

In our area bait is key and huge schools of bait come from the deep and infiltrate the grass flats along the west coast. The primary bait in our area is white bait often referred to as "green backs, pilchards, etc" along with a host of other bait fish. With this bait comes a feeding frenzy from inshore gamefish who have been hibernating in the back bays, creeks and canals.

When this happens I reach into the tackle box and look for my best imitations. We've all heard "Match the Hatch" and it's exactly what I do. My favorite swim bait of all time is the Z-Man MinnowZ in the Houdini color. This color seems to work just about everywhere I go, especially fishing grass flats. In areas where there's less grass and more sand or super clear/clean water I will switch to "Opening Night" or something that is less obtrusive in appearance.

Paying attention to what's in the water and what the fish are feeding on is paramount in having a successful day. Throughout the winter we are primarily focused on crustaceans including the shrimp and crab patterns. Working baits slow on the bottom to entice a strike. With the spring time water temperatures and bait plentiful I switch to a swim bait that I can fan cast throughout the flat. Not only is this effective because I can cover a large area, but it's one of the most simple techniques for anglers. You throw the bait as far as you can and adjust your retrieval speed based on water depth. Keep your rod tip high and you can run that bait right under the surface, or slow it down and work the middle of the water column. I generally use a 1/4 oz or 1/8 oz jig head although some thick turtle grass will require a weedless presentation.

As Spring turns to Summer and bait size grows I will switch over to a Scented PaddlerZ. A presentation that mimics larger baits including the finger mullet that big Redfish and Snook love to feed on. The water is heating up and so is the fishing!

Tight Lines,

Capt Josh Bibler

Ellenton, FL


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