Complete Tackle List For Inshore and Nearshore Fishing in Georgia Waters
If you’re new to fishing in Georgia and you are overwhelmed by all of the tackle choices out there, this blog post is just for you. As a fishing guide here in Georgia, I have to keep my tackle simple but versatile. I can’t keep every lure known to man in my boat and I have to make sure that whatever I use, it’s simple enough for a novice to catch on quickly. For that reason, my tackle box might not be the treasure trove of cool stuff and super secret baits that some people might think it is. It is really quite basic. Much of my tackle serves more than one purpose.
In this blog I will cover everything that I would want to have in my boat in order to fish the inshore, nearshore, and offshore waters around St. Simons Island and Jekyll Island. I’m referring to tackle and not other gear such as gaffs, nets, rods, or reels. I’ll try to cover that in a different post at a later time. This one is already going to be a long one as I will try to cover a little bit about what each item is for, how to rig it, and when to use it.
With that being said, we’ll start at the most essential piece of tackle a fisherman needs; hooks. Then I will go into some of the other terminal tackle, hard baits, soft plastics, and other essential tackle.
The Essential Hooks for Fishing Coastal Georgia
Kahle Hooks for Live Bait Fishing
For live bait fishing or fishing with dead baits I will typically have an assortment of Kahle hooks, Circle hooks, J hooks, and Aberdeen hooks. Each has its strengths and weaknesses, so I will go through each one individually.
Kahle hooks, which may be referred to as Shiner hooks, are the go-to hook for fishing with live bait for Trout, Redfish, Flounder, Black Drum, Tripletail, and other inshore species. I will usually have either a #1 or a 1/0 tied on in most situations.
You might want to have hooks as small as #4 and as large as 4/0 in your box though. Certain times of year we only have access to small shrimp and during those times you will want to down size your hook accordingly. Also, during times when you are targeting larger fish and using larger baits you will want to go up in hook size in order to not only keep the hook from straightening out, but also to grab a bigger chunk of meat when you hook the fish to avoid pulling hooks.
A prime example of this is when you are Tripletail fishing around channel markers. You have to put some heat on the fish to get him away from the structure so you want the hook to hold its shape and at the same time grab a solid bite of fish face.
In most situations though, I’ll have a “middle of the road” hook, around a #1 or 1/0.
Although circle hooks can be used in place of other types of hooks in most situations, I reserve them mainly for bottom fishing and for big fish that are caught while fishing with the rod left in the rod holder. On my fishing charters, teaching customers to resist the urge to set the hook after a strike makes circle hooks impractical in many instances.
However, when fishing for Sharks, Bull Redfish, Tarpon, Cobia, Amberjack, and other fish that have enough weight and horse power to hook themselves, I go with circle hooks. I also use them exclusively while bottom fishing on offshore wrecks and reefs.
Circle hooks also aid in being able to release fish safely and in most of the cases listed above, you’ll be releasing most, if not all, of the fish.
Circle hooks are designed to find their way into the corner of the fish’s mouth without hooking them in the gut or gills. To set the hook with a circle hook, the best thing to do is to reel down on the fish quickly until the line is tight and the rod is fully bent, or to do a smooth upward sweeping motion in the case of bottom fishing. When fishing for Shark, Tarpon, and Bull Redfish we will leave the rod in the rod holder and let the fish hook themselves most of the time. In some cases we might “reel down” on them to get nice and tight before lifting the rod out of the holder to fight the fish.
Most of the time I keep 3 sizes of circle hooks in the boat; 6/0 Gamakatsu Octopus, 8/0 Gamakatsu Octopus, and 14/0 Mustad 39960D Circle hooks. The 6/0 and 8/0 circle hooks serve many purposes while the 14/0 Mustads are used only for Tarpon.
I’ll use the 6/0 hooks for bottom fishing for Sea Bass, Vermillion Snapper, and other bottom fish. I especially like them for fishing with live baits.
With the 8/0 I will fish for Shark, Cobia, Bull Reds, Amberjack, and a variety of other fish. They are a great hook when you are using chunk baits as they have an extra wide gap which allows you to hook the bait while allowing plenty of the hook to remain exposed.
The 6/0 and 8/0 hooks are interchangeable in many situations, you just have to use your brain to decide which one is best. One thing about the Gamakatsu circle that I use is they have a light gauge wire. Sometimes they will straighten out if you have the drag really tight. Most of the time, though, they hold up just fine. They are so sharp and hook so many fish that it’s worth it to me to lose a fish from time to time due to a broken or straightened hook because you’ll make up for it in increased hook ups.
The 14/0 Mustads are in line circle hooks which means there is no offset. I was turned on to these hooks by Capt. Greg Hildreth and when I first looked at them I was very skeptical. They just look like huge nasty hooks that would kill your average Pogy. Greg explained that he’ll put each hook in a vise and give it a slight offset of about an 1/4 inch. He told me that most of the time if you jump a Tarpon and you still have him on after his first jump, you won’t lose him due to a thrown hook.
I tried it for myself and, well, he was right. When I started using these hooks in place of the 7766D J hooks I started bringing more of the Tarpon that I hooked to the boat than I ever had before. These hooks are awesome for live bait Tarpon fishing. If you use them and someone tries to get the rod out of the rod holder before that Tarpon makes his first jump, break their hands. Just let the rod do the work.
While I don’t use 7766D Mustad Tarpon Hooks (7/0) for Tarpon fishing while anchored anymore, I do use them in other situations. If I am going to pitch live bait to Tarpon, Sharks, Cobia or other large fish, I’ll go with the 7766D hooks. I want to be able to control the hook set if I’m going to be holding the rod. Not only that, but no matter how long you’ve been fishing, if you watch a Tarpon eat the bait and you’re holding the rod when it happens, good luck on resisting the instinctive hook set.
7766Ds are good for many, many situations, and I keep plenty on hand. You never know when they will be the best tool for the job.
One hook that you aren’t likely to find in most saltwater tackle boxes in Georgia is an Aberdeen hook. The only fish I really use them to target is Whiting, although I have used them several times when trying to catch small bait fish in certain instances. I use a 2/0 Eagle Claw Aberdeen. When whiting fishing they are perfect for threading on a small piece of shrimp or squid and the Whiting have no trouble getting the hook in their mouths. The beautiful thing about these hooks is that when you go to remove the hook, the long flexible shank makes your life so much easier. I hardly ever need my pliers when using Aberdeens. These inexpensive hooks are worth having in your box if you ever plan on doing any Whiting fishing.
The Only Two Swivels I Use for Fishing the Golden Isles
Let’s face it. This isn’t a subject that deserves a lot of explanation. Swivels give you a way to connect line and eliminate twisting. I keep two types of swivels in my boat. Snap Swivels and barrel swivels.
I usually have 100 or 125 lb snap swivels and I use them for Shark, Tarpon, Bull Red, and offshore bottom fishing. Most of the time the snap swivel is connected to my mainline and I use the snap side to connect to a loop at the end of my leader.
I use barrel swivels for Whiting rigs, Carolina rigs, and for my adjustable corks. They don’t have to be heavy duty swivels as the fish I target with these rigs aren’t huge and the 20 pound leader is probably going to be the weakest point in the rig anyway.
Simple Sinker Selection for Fishing Georgia’s Coast
In the name of keeping it simple, I will usually only have 2 sizes of sinkers in my boat most of the time. However, during certain seasons I will add some variety to my sinker selection for certain purposes.
The two sinkers I have at all times are 1/2 oz and 3 oz egg sinkers. I use the 1/2 oz egg sinkers when I want to rig up a light Carolina rig for live shrimp, finger mullet, or mud minnows to fish for Trout, Redfish, Flounder, and Sheepshead. I also use them in place of a trolling sinker for my adjustable corks. I like to use Billy Bay Aggravator popping corks and 1/2 oz sinkers are perfect for them. Using an egg sinker and barrel swivel in place of a trolling sinker (AKA trout sinker) greatly reduces the number of tangles I have to deal with, again, making my life easier on the water.
I use the 3 oz sinkers for my Bull Redfish Rigs, some offshore bottoms fishing, and Whiting fishing. It might seem like over kill when you could get away with 1 oz or 2 oz sinkers, but like I said, I like to keep it simple. Very rarely will I find a situation where 3 oz doesn’t keep my baits pinned to the bottom.
Other sinkers I will add to the mix on a seasonal basis are 1/4 oz egg sinkers and 4, 6, 8, and 10 oz bank sinkers.
I use the 1/4 oz egg sinkers to add to Tarpon leaders when I want a bait to stay several feet below the surface but not go all the way to the bottom.
The bank sinkers are used mainly during the first part of the Cobia run when fishing in depths of 70 feet or more with live baits on the bottom. They are also used for bottom fishing for Snapper, Grouper, etc. However, if I can get away with using my 3 oz egg sinkers to bottom fish for Cobia, I rather do that. If you spend a lot of time offshore, you might want to make the bank sinkers a permanent part of your tackle.
It’s also not a bad idea to have a few pyramid or trolling sinkers from 1/2 oz to 2 oz on hand for Sabiki rigs when you plan to catch live bait offshore.
Also, if you plan to use larger adjustable floats you will want to have the correct size sinker for those, which will usually range from 1/2 to 2 oz.
Monofilament and Wire Leader
I usually keep 20, 40, 80, 150, and 250 lb monofilament leader in my boat. During the winter I will take out the 150 and 250 as I don’t expect to run into anything that I would need it for.
I use the 20 lb test for all of my Trout and Redfish leaders. The reason I use this instead of something lighters is, once again, to keep it simple. 20 seems to be strong enough to stand up to some abrasion but light enough to not deter bites. Our water clarity usually isn’t going to be clear enough to warrant anything lighter. Anything heavier is over kill and because I use a 30 pound mainline on my Trout rods, I expect the leader to break before the main line which saves me a lot of re-rigging if someone gets hung.
I use 40 for a lot of different purposes but mostly for Cobia fishing. I have used it for Bull Reds, Tarpon, and several other species. I also use it for casting to Jack Crevalle although a leader isn’t really necessary. Often times I will tie the plug straight to the braid mainline when fishing for Jacks.
I use 80 almost exclusively for bottom fishing offshore and for Bull Red fishing.
The 150 is for live bait Tarpon fishing. This might seem like over kill as well. I used to use 80, and a lot of people still do, but another guide once reminded me that these customers may not ever get another shot at a Tarpon in their lives and it would be foolish to lose one to a busted leader. I couldn’t agree more and after switching from 80 to 150 I didn’t notice any difference in the number of Tarpon I hooked. I did however, notice a difference in how many were brought boat side.
Feel free to use 80 for Tarpon and nix 150 from your tackle, but I am sticking with 150 when I’m anchored up and fishing with live bait. When casting to Tarpon I still use 80 and sometimes even 40 but in those cases I’m able to maneuver the boat immediately to stay on top of the fish.
I use the 250 pound mono for live bait shark fishing. Just make your leader about 5 feet long and use an 8/0 circle hook. Tie a surgeons loop on one end to clip your snap swivel into.
I also keep #4 and #7 tooth proof Kingfish wire. I use #4 for Spanish Mackerel, Kingfish, and Barracuda and the #7 for Sharks.
If I’m pitching to Sharks with live bait or artificials I will use an albright knot to connect my mainline to about 2 feet of 80 pound mono. Then I will albright about 10 inches of #7 wire to the end of the mono and haywire twist a 7/0 Mustad 7766D or my preferred lure to the business end of the wire.
I keep two size beads in my boat and I couldn’t tell you what size they are. I just know what size I want when I see them. One size goes between my stop knot and my cork on adjustable cork rigs and the other is mainly for going between sinkers and swivels.
I trust that you can make the right choice when selecting beads. Just make sure that your stop knot beads have a small enough hole that they don’t pass over your stop knot.
Hogy Eels – Possibly the Most Versatile Bait in my Boat
Hogy makes some great soft plastic baits and I find that their 10 inch and 7 inch eels are one of the most versatile baits you can have. I use them for everything from Tarpon to Amberjack. I catch a lot of Cobia on them every year as well. I not only keep them in my boat, but from May through October, I will hardly ever leave the dock without one tied on.
The main colors I use are black and white and I will usually have the 10 inch tied on for Tarpon or Amberjack and I keep a 7 inch tied on for Jack Crevalle and Cobia.
You might have noticed that I don’t mention speed jigs or butterfly jigs in this post. The reason is that I use Hogy Eels in their place. I make a knocker rig by letting a 3 to 6 oz. egg sinker slide right down to the eye of the hook and then work the eel in the same motion that you would work a speed jig.
They can be rigged weightless with one of Hogy’s weedless hooks, double hooked rigged, on jig heads, or with weighted weedless hooks. I usually keep one rigged with a weighted weedless hook for an all purpose pitch rig. When blind jigging for Cobia, Tarpon or Amberjack I’ll use a 1 oz to 3 oz jig head. Hogy offers a variety of rigging systems and jig heads as well as instructional videos on their website.
DOA Shrimp – Don’t Leave the Dock Without Them
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably at least heard of DOA baits. The most popular is probably the 3 inch shrimp. They can be fished by themselves, Carolina rigged, or under a cork. They are extremely versatile and sometimes work as good, if not better, than live bait for Trout, Redfish, Flounder and other inshore and nearshore species.
I usually keep pre-rigged shrimp in the following colors in my boat;
- Clear / Red Flake
- Near Clear / Gold Flake
Everyone has their favorite colors, these are just mine.
DOA Bait Busters and Swimming Mullet
These baits are great for Tarpon and Cobia although just about any fish that preys on larger bait fish will likely hammer them.
It’s definitely worth it to have a handful in your boat for when the need arises.
Shrimpy Jigs – Ugly but Effective
I don’t know if this is a proper name for them, but it’s what we call them around here. These are just large soft plastic shrimp with twin curly tails. They are usually fished on a 1 to 3 oz jig head and primarily used for Cobia. It’s not the sexiest bait you’ll ever lay eyes on, but it is highly effective. I use them to jig Cobia around structure and to cast at them on the surface.
I like to use Shrimpy jigs in white or chartreuse. You can find them at West Marine in Brunswick along with the jig heads that go with them.
I use Strike King or Z Man jig heads almost exclusively but I also recommend Slayer jig heads for your smaller soft plastic.
Strike Kings are great and I will use them with DOA Cals, Assassin Grubs, and Gulp baits. I also like to use Z Man soft plastics but if you use them you will need the Z Man jig heads as well. They are designed specifically for Z Man baits and their unique characteristics. I’ll get more into that in a minute.
The sizes you’ll want to have handy are 1/16, 1/8, and 1/4 oz. I don’t keep anything heavier than that and most of the time I will use a 1/8 oz. You want to use the lightest jig head possible. Just make sure that you can make contact with the bottom and feel what you are doing. Going too heavy is just as bad as going too light.
Grubs / Jigs
You can spend a small fortune buying every color, brand, and body style grub that is out there. The fact is that some work for our area and some don’t work very well at all. The best thing to do is find a color and shape that you are confident in and stick with that.
I use DOA Shad tails in natural colors most of the time but I also use Z Man grubs. Z Man grubs will last forever but if you try to put them on a different jig head you will find that they don’t want to push all the way up to the lead head. You’ll need the Z Man jig head that has a small pin that runs along the shank of the hook.
I also keep Gotcha curly tail grubs in Christmas Tree color in my boat during the winter. These are clear plastic with silver, green, blue, and red flake. Winter time is the time to get a little freaky with your color selection and break out the chartreuse and the candy corn colored stuff as well.
Popping Corks and Adjustable Corks – 3 of My Favorites
There are so many corks out there these days that you can choose from and everyone has their favorite. The best one to use is more than likely going to depend on your personal fishing style. The 3 corks that I use are Bomber Paradise Poppers, Billy Bay Aggravators, and Thill Big Fish Sliders.
The Bomber corks are regular popping corks and they come in 2 styles and 2 colors. Oval and Concave / Orange and Yellow. I really like the oval corks when fishing plastics, but I prefer the concave corks when fishing live bait. The oval shape allows you to do rapid pops to put some action into the soft plastics while the concave can be popped once every few seconds for a nice “bloop”. I think when you are fishing live baits you really only have to pop enough to get the fish to come check out the zone, then let the natural movement of your bait do the job of getting the fish to eat. When you are fishing plastics you have to get them in the zone, and then make them strike, which might require a little more popping. I fish these corks in 2 to 7 feet or so.
One last hint on color: buy orange, you can’t see the yellow very well in a glare.
The Billy Bay Aggravators are adjustable popping corks. You can fish them in shallow depths and then slide your stop knot up and fish them deep. They are very versatile, and that is why I use them a lot on my fishing charters.
You’ll want to use a 1/2 oz weight, and like I said before, I choose to use an egg sinker instead of a trolling sinker. With that much weight the corks cast like bullets which is another bonus to me as a fishing guide. These are awesome corks to use if you are going to fish a variety of depths and they are also great to give to novice casters. Do yourself a favor and glue the small cork at the top before ever fishing with them.
The Thill corks are not popping corks and are purely adjustable corks. Most people that use these are primarily fishing in depths over 8 feet. They come in three sizes. Just remember the deeper the water, the bigger the cork. The reason you want a bigger cork in deep water is because you’ll want to use a heavier weight to get your bait down to the desired depth faster.
One great thing about the Thills is that their shape almost completely eliminates what I call hitch hikers. The line will usually slide ride off of the top of the cork due to its torpedo shape.
When the water is warm and light is low, you’ll want to have some topwater plugs in your box. Trout and Redfish can’t resist surface baits when the conditions are right and you just can’t beat the visual treat you get when they explode on a plug. This is also my favorite way to scout new water because you can cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time.
There are two plugs that I keep on my boat. Yep. Just two. Did I mention that I like to keep things simple? I keep 8 Heddon Spook Juniors and 8 Rapala Skitter Walks at all times from Spring through Fall. It would be irresponsible to not mention Bomber Badonkadonks though. I would not hesitate to tie one on, but my confidence baits are the Skitterwalks and Spooks.
One thing that I look for in my topwater plugs is for them to have some orange on the bellies. It might just be me being superstitious, but I feel that orange on the belly makes a difference.
If you are a solo angler then you have the luxury of being able to have multiple colors and types of plugs to throw. You might have some with rattles and some that are silent and so forth. For me, I keep it simple and throw what I know and I make sure I have plenty of them in case the fish prefer one over the other or we have a string of break offs.
All of these baits are fished with a “walk the dog” retrieve which comes from holding your rod tip down and doing a twitch, twitch, twitch cadence while taking in just enough line to take the slack out. Remember not to set the hook until you feel the fish load the rod.
Gulp Baits – The Closest Thing to Live Bait
Just like DOA, you’ve probably been living under a rock if you haven’t heard of Gulp baits. I might throw some variety in the boat from time to time, but for the most part I keep three types of Gulp baits in the boat.
3 inch shrimp- Natural, Molting, New Penny
3 inch swimming mullet- White, Chartreuse
Eels- Any color
The shrimp are great on a jig head or worm hook as well as under a popping cork and the swimming mullet are awesome Redfish and Flounder baits when pinned on a jig head.
The eels are excellent early season Cobia baits and all you have to do is nose hook them with a 6/0 circle hook to have a deadly pitch bait.
I try to keep about 10 bucktails in my boat primarily to pitch to Cobia but I will also use them to bottom fish for Sea Bass, Flounder, Snapper, etc.
Spro makes some awesome looking bucktails and you can use a number of soft plastics for trailers. There are also several companies and individuals out there that will make custom buck tails for you.
To be honest, I don’t keep any hard plastic plugs in my boat other than topwater lures. They just don’t mix well with charters most of the time. However, I want to mention them because if I was fishing by myself I would definitely bring some along.
If I had to pick 3, I would go with the Bomber Long A, Mirrodine, and 52M Mirrolure. If you really want to learn how to work these plugs I suggest reading Capt. Tim Cutting’s blog.
Big Nasty Topwater Plugs from the Bargain Bin
I figured I should give them their own category. When I’m in a store and see big ugly topwater plugs in a discount bin I usually buy several. The only fish I use them for is Jack Crevalle and maybe the occasional Amberjack. Trust me, they’ll eat it, and you don’t want to give them 10 or 20 dollar plugs because they are going to wreck them.
I keep an assortment of wide gap worm hooks in the boat at all times. Some are weighted, some are un-weighted, some have nose screws, some don’t. I use them in too many ways to list but primarily for casting to Redfish in grass. Match the size of the hook to the bait you are using.
DOA Cal Jerk Baits
It makes sense to mention jerk baits right after worm hooks. You can pin the jerk baits on a jig head but what I really like to do is rig them weedless with a worm hook. You can cast them to tailing Redfish, cast them into grass edges and work them out, Carolina rig or Texas rig them, and who knows what else. The bottom line is that you’ll want to have them with you.
If you plan to fish offshore at all you’ll want to have some Sabiki rigs. I find that the Daichi rigs work as good as any and they aren’t the most expensive. Like I said above, you’ll want to have some sinkers with you for your Sabiki rigs. If you have never heard of a Sabiki rig, they are made with 5 or 6 “flies” tide one above the other and are used to catch baitfish. Greenies, Spanish Sardine, Boston Mackerel, Blue Runners, and Threadfins are common targets and if you let them go to the bottom you will find an assortment of grunts and other bottom dwellers. Most of the time though, if you let it go to the bottom, your chances of getting your rig back intact aren’t very high.
What do you think?
I’m sure I’ve left some things out and that other folks have their go to baits, good luck charms, and favorite rigs that aren’t mentioned here. Please feel free to leave a comment and share what you would add to this so that everyone can benefit from it.
If you have any questions about colors or rigging please feel free to ask in the comments below as well. I’ll leave a bullet list of all the items mentioned as well so you can use the list as a reference if you are building up your tackle box.
If you decide to by some of the specific products I mentioned and you get the opportunity to let the company know that you heard about them from me, I would greatly appreciate it. As a tournament angler you can never have too many mentions when you are looking for sponsors.
- #2, #1, 1/0 kahle hooks
- 6/0, 8/0, 14/0 circle hooks
- 100 lb snap swivels
- 1/4, 1/2, 1, and 3 oz egg sinkers
- 4, 6, 8, 10 oz bank sinkers
- 20, 40, 80, 150, 250 lb mono, Kingfish wire #4 / Shark #7
- Mustad 7766D hooks
- Plastic beads
- Hogy 10″ black / white – 7″ black / white – Hogy Hooks and Jig Heads
- Doa Shrimp Near Clear Gold Flake, Clear with Red flake, White, Glow, Near Clear Chart.
- Doa Bait Busters / Swimming Mullet
- Shrimpy Jigs
- Strike King or Slayer jig heads 1/16, 1/8, 1/4
- Z Man jig heads
- paddle / shad tail grubs by DOA, Slayer, Z man
- Billy Bay, Bomber, Thill Corks
- Barrel Swivels
- Aberdeen Hooks
- Zara Spook Jr, Badonkadonk, Skitter Walk
- Gulp Shrimp 3″ Natural, New Penny, Molting
- Gulp Swimming Mullet 3″ White, Chartreuse
- Gulp Eels for Cobia
- Spro Bucktail for Cobia
- Bomber Long A, Mirrolure 52M, Mirrodine
- Bargain bin topwaters for jacks
- Gamakatsu worm hooks
- Cal jerk baits
- Sabiki rigs
See you on the water!
Capt. TJ Cheek
Capt. TJ is a professional fishing guide serving coastal Georgia in the St. Simons Island and Jekyll Island area. You can follow him as he fishes The Elite Series starting in July 2015 on Destination America on Saturday mornings.