If you are reading this and you like mixing it up here on the Space Coast between freshwater fishing and inshore stuff, this is for you! I put in a combined 20 hours of kayak fishing using only “freshwater” designed baits. I split time between the Indian River Lagoon in areas north of Sebastian Inlet, launching twice out of Honest John’s Fish Camp and fishing the areas around Mullet Creek; I also launched twice out of Ballard Park in Eau Gallie and fished the Eau Gallie River down close to the dam one day, and another day went south down Elbow Creek fishing past the Highway 1 bridge. Spot dissection reports will come later on these places.

Here is what I used:

Rod/Reel Combo’s – 7 Foot MH Rod with 6:1:1 Baitcaster, 30 lb Braid with 40 lb Mono Leader (Top Water); 7 Foot Medium Fast with 3000 Series Spinning Reel, 10 lb braid with 20 lb Mono Leader (Sub-Surface Combo for 3/4 inch Bait Presentations on 1/8 and 1/4 Oz Twistlock Weedless Hooks); 6 Foot Medium Fast Rod with 2000 Series Spinning Reel, 8 lb Braid and 14 lb Fluorocarbon Leader (2 inch Bait Presentations/Beetle Spins).

Topwater – Whopper Plopper 90 – Bone/White Color; Chug Bug – Bleeding Tennessee Shad (no reason for this color selection, it was what I had in one of my freshwater tackle boxes – color selection in top water is highly over-rated! Carry something white and black for sky conditions); Bitter’s Buzz’n Gator in Watermelon/Red Hi-Lite.

Sub-Surface 3/4 Baits – Gambler EZ Swimmer and Little EZ (White Lightning and Copperfield). I also brought White Zoom Flukes and White Googan Squad Darters for a possible jerk baits presentation but never used them).

Sub-Surface Micro Baits – All of the swimbaits were 2 inch 1/8 oz pre-rigged baits, I went through a ton of them (29 in total) so that’s why I used several different brands. So it is important to find out what the fish are foraging on, to match the hatch. The beauty of kayak angling is the ability to catch them where others can’t, so getting into creeks, tight canals and the ability to have fish take the lure within feet of the kayak is what makes fishing with a lite/micro set up inshore so fun and exciting. If I am fishing for Tarpon and Mosquito fish is the forage in a small backwater creek or canal then I love the Creme Spoiler Shad in the Black Back color. If I am targeting Snook in Brackish water I love the BPS brand in Baby Bass or Blue Gill color as these Snook are eating minnows and baby Mayan Cichlids. These are my favorite brands because they are cheap and effective. Storm has their Wild Eye Shads and Berkley makes their version and they certainly work! But they cost more, in my opinion the Storm baits actually are less durable than the Creme and BPS brands, I averaged about 4 fish per bait in Creme and BPS and 2 to 3 with Storm. Creme swimbaits are roughly 2 for a dollar and Bass Pro Shops run at 6 for 5 dollars. I experimented with my Uncle Rhett’s all-time panfish and small bass classic the Johnson Beetle Spin, but I used the 2 inch swimbaits instead of the “beetle.”

So here are the results:

– Snook – 46 Total. 5 were Slot/Above Slot, most were small juveniles.
– Tarpon – 7 Total. All were juveniles under 5 pounds.
– Mayan Cichlids – 7 total. All of these were caught in Elbow Creek off the Eau Gallie River.
– Speckled Trout – 2 Total. Both in the Indian River Lagoon.
– Lady Fish – 2 Total. Both in the Indian River Lagoon.
– Catfish – 1 Total. I let the 2 inch bait sit at the bottom while I readjusted my paddle and he took it while it layed there.

Breakdown by Bait:
– Whopper Plopper – 5 Snook Total. 1 Slot, 1 Over-Slot, the rest were Under-Slot. All in the IRL, none in the EG River.
– Chug Bug – 1 Trout and 1 Ladyfish Total. All in the IRL, none in the EG River.
– Bitter’s Buzz’n Gator – 1 Juvenile Snook
– Gambler EZ Swimmer and Little EZ – 10 Snook Total. 2 slot, the rest were Under-Slot. 1 Trout.
– Beetle Spin – 4 Snook Total. 1 Slot, the rest were Juveniles, I got broken off and that was my only spin I had so that experiment ended with only an hour or so of fishing it. Also, 3 Mayan Cichlids.
-2 inch Swimbaits – 26 Snook Total – 2 Slot, 1 Over Slot, the rest varied anywhere from tiny juveniles, to fun-sized under slots. 7 Tarpon Total – all of them Juveniles. 4 Mayan Cichlids, and 1 Ladyfish.

Conclusion – None of what I used is much different than standard inshore tackle, just packaged and branded for freshwater Bass and Panfish. The Gambler swimbaits are going to become a staple of my inshore arsenal. They are tough and durable, they rig weedless better than any other brand of paddletail I have used and their segmented body gives an incredile wobble action on a slow roll retrieve. The 2 inch baits are killer for Juvenile Tarpon but can bring a lot of Snook to the boat with they are blasting minnows and eating baby cichlids in brackish water. They are a highly effective bait in brackish creeks and rivers that might not have the usual suspects of mullet pods and other bait fish they are keyed in on in the Lagoons and Inlets and Beaches. You may have to sift through a bunch of small ones to get that big one, but when you do hold on tight, it will be the fight of your life on lite tackle and be ready for a sleighride that might end with your face in the mangroves. But as a kayak or paddle angler the lite tackle approach can be action packed and a whole lot of fun!

For someone that is looking to try something new, a bass angler that wants to spend a day on a river looking for Snook and Tarpon or a beginner looking for something to get started with I hope this report helps!

So Why did I do this? Here’s the backstory…

snook vs bass

Snook or Bass?
One is Snook on the Eau Gallie River and one is a Bass on the St. Sebastian River. These two species are very similar in behavior and feeding habits, which is why I tested “freshwater” lures I like for inshore fishing this week.

I’ve recently gotten into a Bass fishing kick, I mentioned it in a report a few weeks ago. My brief history as a kayak angler started in the spring of 2020, it became a hobby turned passionate addiction that started with idle time thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic. After some frustrating days on the water spending more time trying to find bait, cast net it and keep it alive on a kayak, or having to run to get live shrimp and keep alive I decided in the spring of 2021 I was going to commit to artificials only and the results have been staggering in terms of the numbers and quality of fish that I am catching in comparison to trying to use bait on a small paddle craft. Not saying it can’t be done, I’m just saying I sucked at it…Anyway, I dove into the world of inshore fishing tackle and over the course of the next year honed in on what works well for me from a kayak. I caught lots of Speckled Trout, Redfish and Snook, and caught my first tarpon on artificial in the summer of 21. Over Christmas break of last year I caught my first inshore slam from a kayak on artificials, a feat that had eluded me for months and once I popped that seal, it happened more often than not for the next few months. Confidence and conviction in what you’re doing are vitally important to having success as an angler. It’s hard to have success without conviction, but success is needed to create conviction. It’s the anglers version of the chicken and the egg I guess. I started kayak bass fishing in April and that became the centerpiece of my fishing drive, My tackle inventory doubled, I was running out of room in my shed to store it all, it made me take stock of what I had, what I needed to get rid of.

I had an epiphany and I came to the conclusion that most of what is advertised in the fishing industry is designed to catch anglers, as much as it is the fish. I also came to the conclusion that fishing for Snook and Trout in the back country, against the mangroves was not all that different in many respects than bass fishing in Central Florida. What really got my brain rolling was when I sent a picture of a Snook’s bucket mouth to a buddy of mine and asked him to identify the fish, he sad Largemouth Bass. Snook and Largemouth may as well be first cousins, they eat the same way, behave mostly the same way – they are naturally lazy predator fish that like to lurk in the shadows and ambush weak pray. Big baits can certainly entice the biggest of these species, but elephants also eat peanuts, especially if the peanut is thrown in front of their face and they don’t have to work for it.