Tips To Catching Big Barracuda
Watching Capt. Tom Rowland bust the lip off of a brand new, 5-inch shallow-water jerkbait with a pair of Van Staal pliers is a horrible thing to witness.
But that’s exactly what the veteran Florida Keys fishing guide does to make the jerkbait mimic a fleeing baitfish when fished fast and erratically in waist-deep water. This is prime habitat for the torpedo-like barracuda that are waiting for a chance to smoke that lure.
“Not only do you eliminate any chance of the lure diving beneath the surface by busting the lip off it, but you also reduce any resistance it would normally have against the water, which allows you to fish it faster across the top,” says Rowland, co-host of Saltwater Experience on NBC Sports Network, and winner of dozens of south Florida tournaments.
Rowland looks for what he simply calls “white holes” on the otherwise dark bottom as he scans acres of shallow water covering the Florida flats in front of him. “I assume they lay around those white holes because the transition from light to dark substrate creates a natural place to lay and wait and ambush prey,” he said.
“If you see a white hole on the bottom, you better launch a long cast just past the hole and blaze the jerkbait right over it across the surface,” Rowland said. “The key is to keep the rod tip high, and speed dance the lure across the top as though you’re nearly racing to keep it away from the fish. Don’t worry, fast is never too fast. If they want it, they’ll get it.”
Big Barracuda Tackle and Techniques
Rowland relies on a 7-foot medium-heavy rod to launch the busted-lip jerkbait that is tied to a steel leader connected by a barrel swivel to 30-pound fluorocarbon leader. The 30-pound fluoro is then tied to 20-pound braid that is spooled on a Size 40 Quantum Cabo reel.
The shallow-diving lip isn’t the only thing Rowland removes. He also removes the front treble hook from the jerkbait’s belly. “By taking the front hook off it, you further reduce the drag and make it less susceptible to picking up weeds that float on the surface. You also make it safer for everybody on the boat once that fish is landed,” says Rowland, who is a health and fitness freak when he’s not fishing.
Watching Tom tear up a perfectly good $9 lure is a tough thing, but his barbaric treatment of top-water lures is great strategy to coax a big barracuda into biting and delivers inarguable results.