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Planning for pompano: maximize your chances when these great-eating fish migrate along your beach.

Pompano aren't particularly picky eaters, but when we target these tasty fish in the surf, it's important to A) understand that wave action makes their dining room a constant swirl of sand and bubbles, and B) make the necessary adjustments to help them find our baits in this often low-visibility environment. Accomplish this with a handful of rigging specifics.

TWO CHANCES: Simply put, double rigs give pompano twice the bait to locate. Ponce Inlet angler Andy White tries two sand fleas on one hook and a single on the other, while Joe Zsembik, from Port Orange goes with a sand flea and shrimp pairing. For Mark Woodford, also of Ponce Inlet, both hooks get clam strips (brined for durability). Options are many, but the principle remains constant: more food in one area increases your chances of a pompano or two finding your rig.

You can find rigs premade with coated wire leaders, lots of beads and snap swivels in tackle stores, but experienced anglers tend to shy away from these, as the fish tend to shy away from rigs with too much shiny metal. (Whiting, drum, spots and others don't seem to mind as much, so it doesn't hurt to have a few of these rigs in your box.)

The basic rig uses two dropper loops spaced about 12 to 18 inches apart. Good thing about loops is the ease with which you can change hooks to adapt to fish size and/or temperament. Just pinch the loop to narrow its form, shove about an inch through your hook eye, swing the look over the hook and pull the loop backward to snug it against the eye. To change terminal tackle, push loop slack back through the hook eye and reverse the process. Just consider that this ease of operation works both ways, so check your rigs often to make sure the hooks don't loosen themselves.

SCENT: Think "advertising." Sure, the appeal of a natural bait generally entices foraging pompano, but why not help them find your offering with a little extra scent. Surf anglers often accomplish this by sticking a thumbnail-sized chunk of Fish Bites Fish'n Strips on their hooks before adding the natural bait. Made in five colors with crab, shrimp or clam formulas, these synthetic bait strips release scents chemically formulated to match what fish naturally find. The durable strips hold tightly to a hook, even as natural baits are washed out or bitten off. Scent sprays and gels from Berkley Gulp!, Yum LPT work well, too.

APPEARANCE: While some are comfortable with white Fish'n Strips, others like Jacksonville's Dave Gil swear by the bright orange pieces, which stand out like a beacon amid the grays and browns of sand and shell fragments in the surf. Orange beads are also a popular pompano accent, as they resemble the orange egg cluster of an expectant crab (sand fleas and others).

Zsembik keeps orange, red, gold and blue beads handy and tries different looks until he dials in what impresses the fish that day. White also believes in the bead attraction, but he finds that rigging his drops on a 15-pound fluorocarbon leader reduces terminal visibility and results in more shots at wary pornps.

POSTURE: Similar to the bead accents, you'll often see pompano pros adding brightly colored floats just above their hooks. Some go with a simple chartreuse float, either homemade or pre-rigged like the Tackle Crafters Pompano Pro Rig; while others use green/yellow "pill" floats (sometimes flanked by orange beads) that slide along the dropper loop above the hook, similar to an offshore knocker rig. Both options raise the bait off the bottom to give pompano a better target. Whiting, drum, spots and other bottom scroungers also like shrimp and clam baits, so floating yours reduces the incidence of this pompano bycatch. Between pompano, there's nothing wrong with icing a few other edible species.
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Title Annotation:FS SEMINAR SURF FISHING
Author:Brown, David A.
Publication:Florida Sportsman
Date:Mar 1, 2014
Words:648
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