© St. Petersburg Times, published August 4, 2002
Pinellas County resident "Rod" Rodriguez knows pompano. Some of his peers call him the "pompano king." Couldn't be because of the 100 pompano he caught in July, could it?
If you're looking for Rodriguez's favorite pompano hangouts, look no farther than the Sunshine Skyway's fishing piers. He'll be the first to tell you there's nothing secret about his fishing spots.
"I like to fish both piers," Rodriguez said. "But most of the time I prefer to fish the north pier about five or six pilings in from where you pay your money."
Rodriguez doesn't mind giving away his favorite places because he said it's his rig that makes the difference.
"It's all in the leader. A lot of these guys out here aren't using the same kind of leader material as I am and they aren't catching as many fish."
Rodriguez wouldn't reveal his material, but he acknowledged his use of 30-pound class line.
He did give away what type rod and reel he likes: one classified as an ultra-light outfit. He likes a 5-foot rod and a small spinning reel with no more than 12-pound test monofilament line. I was a little shocked to see that small, whippy rod. Most bridge or pier anglers use heavy 7-foot rods.
One might think someone who catches as many golden nuggets (that's what old-timers call pompano) as Rodriguez would use some sort of live bait such as crab or shrimp. Quite the contrary. Rodriguez only likes to use his buddy's homemade lead jigs.
This lure is a banana-shaped jig that flutters when it sinks, somewhat different from the traditional egg- or bean-shaped jig that most long-established pompano chasers use.
And unlike most jigs, which come dressed with a skirt made from plastic or hair, these banana jigs don't and work exceptionally well just the way they are.
Hot pink, chartreuse, yellow and white are favorite jig colors among pompano anglers, but Rodriguez swears by yellow or a yellow/white combo. Who would argue with his success?
He does dress up his jig. First he ties on a teaser: a small No. 1 gold hook wrapped with a pink skirt. The teaser gives the jig a little more flash. The other thing he does is soak his teasers in bait scent spray, preferably shrimp or crab scent.
Jig size or weight is a matter of preference, but Rodriguez lets the tide dictate what weight to use. Normally, he'll use a three-quarter ounce, but if the tide is running exceptionally strong, he'll tie on a half-ounce. The extra weight keeps the jig in contact with the bottom.
"Most of the bites I get will come as the jig is bouncing off the bottom," Rodriguez said. "I used to work the jig vigorously off the bottom, but now I give it just a little twitch and I'm getting more bites."
Rodriguez's technique depends on which way the tide is moving.
"If the tide is coming toward me, I'll cast way up-current and work the bait down-current to me. But when the tide is running away from me, I'll drop the jig to the bottom right in front of me and I'll let the tide take it out until I see the jig on the surface."
Pompano usually are found along gulf beaches as well as many cuts and passes such as Bunces, Pass-a-Grille, Southwest and John's Pass. Moving or turbulent water is preferred by these feisty critters because they are looking for the crabs and shrimp that the tide sweeps out.
Pompano long have been considered one of the best eating fish available in our waters. Some of the better restaurants charge big bucks for a pompano meal. One restaurant, in fact, goes as far as to keep pompano in large stainless steel aquariums until it's time for preparation.
Pompano do have a size slot limit and are measured from the head to the fork in the tail. Minimum size is 10 inches and they can be no longer than 20. There is a bag limit of 10 per person, but try to keep just what you're going to have for dinner and release the rest.
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