The term inshore fishing is most commonly used to describe fishing in the shallow saltwater flats and bays most notably located in the Gulf Coast and South East United States. The shallow water can be anywhere from 2'-20' and traditionally targets fish such as Spotted Sea Trout, Redfish, Flounder, Cobia, Tarpon and many more.
Tackle considerations for this style of fishing can vary based on several factors, most importantly the size of fish you are targeting. Most inshore anglers simplify their arsenal to two setups: one light and one heavier as determined by the size of fish they hope to catch. Additionally, anglers should consider their conditions as another factor in choosing the correct tackle. Let's start by breaking down the two setups, light and heavy.
Light Inshore Tackle
The light inshore rod and reel selection is best suited for small fish such as Trout, Flounder, Pompano, Spanish Mackeral and smaller Redfish. Light inshore rods are commonly 6 1/2 - 7 feet long in a medium light or medium power with a fast action tip rated for line sizes of 6-12 lb test. This size and action of rod is rather light which is ideal for making long whip casts with small lures and bait.
In many cases, inshore saltwater fishing requires long, precise casts as the fish can be quite spooky in the clear water. Those casts are best performed with the light, fast action spinning rod.
The spinning reel for such a rod will likely hold approximately 140-200 yds of line and be built with corrosion resistant components and possess a smooth drag for fighting the active inshore fish. The most common gear ratio used by inshore fishermen is in the 6:1 range offering a quick retrieve in the shallow water conditions.
Line selection is often dictated by the water clarity, but we recommend backing the reel with a high quality braided line in the 10-15lb test range and then using a 20' fluorocarbon or monofilament leader of 6-10lbs. The braided line will cast flawlessly and affords the angler an easy and affordable way to change line sizes.
Heavy Inshore Tackle
The heavy inshore rod and reel selection is best suited for larger fish such as Cobia, Tarpon, large Redfish, Tripletail and Shark. Heavy inshore rods are generally 7 - 7 1/2 feet in length and medium to medium heavy power, yet still possess a rather fast tip rated for line sizes of 12-20lb test.
The rod power needs to be heavier due to the larger size fish that may be an anglers next opponent.
The heavier power of the rod can be offset by a rather fast tip action that still affords anglers the ability to cast lures great distances to the spooky inshore fish. Lures generally range from 1/2 - 1 1/2oz requiring a rod with the ability to handle such lure weights. Matching rod to lure is often quite easy as many of the newer models of rods have this lure rating labeled on them.
The reel for this combination should possess the same corrosion resistant qualities of the lighter reel selection, however this reel should be much larger in size with a line capacity of 200 - 300yds. The retrieve should maintain the high speed 6:1 rating.
We recommend backing this reel with 15-20lb braided line and a 20' fluorocarbon leader in the 20-25lb line size.
Some of the more popular techniques for inshore fishing are topwater plugs or soft plastics, small jig heads with artificials and live bait fishing.
Inshore Topwater Plugs
Topwater plugs are best used with the following tackle:
- Rod: Spinning 7 - 7 1/2' medium to medium-heavy
- Reel: Spinning - 3000-4000 or 30-40 size
- Line: Braid 15-20lb with a 20-30lb fluorocarbon leader
- Lures: Zoom Fluke, Heddon Super Spook or Booyah Prank Lipped Popper
Summary: This type of presentation requires long precise casts to spooky fish. Fish in the ultra clear, shallow water conditions will often show themselves as they break the water's surface to feed on small baitfish. When this occurs the casts must be quick and precise in order to catch one of the breaking fish.
Inshore Light Jig Heads
Small jig heads tipped with Berkley Gulp Peeler Crab are a favorite among inshore saltwater anglers. It's best to use the following tackle:
- Rod: Spinning 6' - 6 1/2' fast tip, medium-heavy action with a strong back bone for driving the hook home
- Reel: Spinning 3000-4000 or 30-40 size reel
- Line: Braid 8-10lb test with a 20lb test fluorocarbon leader
- Lures: Light jig head 1/8-1/4oz in a red color with a Berkley Gulp Peeler Crab
Summary: This technique is excellent for all species of inshore fish. It can be a great way to get kids started with artificial lures and often catches fish even while just sitting on the bottom, although best results come from a constant slow retrieve with slight twitches of the rod tip.
Inshore Live Bait
Live bait fishing is a great inshore technique typically employing pinfish, greenbacks or white bait using a 2/0 circle hook. It's best to use the following tackle for this technique:
- Rod: Spinning 7' medium-heavy
- Reel: Spinning 3000-4000 or 30-40 size reel
- Line: Braid 15lb test with a 20lb fluorocarbon leader
- Lures: 2/0 circle hook with a small split shot two inches from the hook places under a 3-4" styrofoam bobber
Summary: Using live bait for inshore saltwater fishing can be extremely effective. It's best to use a small circle hook and add a small split shot within a few inches of the hook. The weight will prevent the live bait from swimming to the water's surface.