As the annual mullet run approaches down Florida’s Atlantic coast, anglers are eager to get out on the water. Whether you’re a seasoned vet or a first timer, this migration is a sight to behold. As these flashy baitfish make their way south along the beaches, anglers and onlookers get front row seats to this traveling feeding frenzy as snook, tarpon, redfish and many other predators will be in on the action. It’ll be here before you know it, so here’s a rundown of some of our favorite artificial enticements to get you ready.
As massive schools of mullet make their way south along the Sunshine State’s Atlantic coast, anglers gather their arsenals in preparation for the hot action to come. There are many ways to approach the mullet run, and factors such as location, time of day, weather conditions and target species all warrant consideration when gathering your tackle. For many anglers, larger inshore become hot targets this time of year.
This mean relatively light tackle is going to be your best bet, with exact specifications varying based on the aforementioned factors. For example, if you’re specifically targeting tarpon, you may want beef up your reel and rod size, as well as leader and terminal tackle. Conversely, if you want to keep all other options like mackerel, jack, bluefish, snook and redfish on the table, perhaps a lighter setup will provide more sporting quality
Regardless of the tackle you choose, your bait selection matters more than you think. Given the presence of mullet, it may seem obvious that mullet should be your bait of choice. While that’s certainly a good rule to live by, fishing the mullet run properly requires a more nuanced approach. For those who are willing and able to procure their own mullet, fishing fresh live baits is hard to beat. However, there are scenarios when the schools of bait are so large that your hooked offering simply goes unnoticed. In these cases, altering your approach to a chunked or butterflied dead mullet can be a real game changer. But, if you’re like many who don’t fancy cutting bait or dealing with the mess, artificial mullet imitations are the way to go.
There is no shortage of lifelike mullet lures out there, each bringing its own set of advantages to the table. However, like so many other aspects of the world of sport fishing, there is no one-size-fits all approach, if you will, meaning it’s in your best interest to have a variety of offerings ready for the wary game fish you’re targeting.
One of the best all-around lure styles during the mullet run is a swimbait. These artificial enticements offer not only incredibly lifelike patterns, but also yield a swimming motion that closely mimics that of a mullet. What’s great, too, about swimbaits is that they can be fished at every level of the water column. If you had to pick just one lure to throw this time of year at migrating mullet, the swimbait is likely your best bet given its versatility. There are many effective swimbaits out there, but the Mullet Swimbait from LIVETARGET (livetargetlures.com) is certainly among the best. Available in 4.5” (1 oz.) and 5.5” (1.5 oz.) sizes, as well as silver mullet and striped mullet patterns, this offering covers all your bases when it comes to mullet. Work it like a traditional swimbait or bounce it along the bottom, either way, it’s deadly.
If you prefer a body made of harder material over soft plastic on your swimbait, then Marea’s (mareagear. com) Motion Minnow is hard to beat. This lure, available in 3.5”, 5.5”, 7.2” and 9.5”, is durable enough to stand up to repeated strikes from not only top targets like snook, tarpon, jack and redfish, but also endures the brutal teeth on mackerel, sharks, bluefish and barracuda. The jointed body yields an excellent swimming motion when slowrolled like a traditional swimbait. However, if you get creative with your rod tip and retrieve rate, the lure also delivers burst of flash to mimic an injured mullet, garnering reaction strikes from finicky fish.
If you prefer fishing with a jighead or worm hook pinned to a soft plastic body, then Z-Man (zmanfishing.com) has a bait for you. One of our favorites is the DieZel MinnowZ series. The large paddled tail generates a swimming motion that propels the slender bait in a manner that gains the attention of any nearby predator. Additionally, these baits are made using Z-Man’s ElaZtech plastic, which gives them natural buoyancy and impressive durability.
Not to be forgotten in this collection of mullet fakes is the twitchbait. Though they are usually smaller than the aforementioned offerings, twitchbaits are excellent at inducing strikes from wary predators. You cannot go wrong with really any artificial imitation from Rapala (rapala. com), but the X-Rap Twitchin’ Mullet is one of the legendary manufacturer’s best. This lure features a slow sink rate and a relaxed, side-to-side twitching action that closely resembles nervous or injured finger mullet. The rare sub-surface “walk-the-dog” pattern is proven on a variety of inshore gamefish, making this lure a must in your mullet run arsenal.
Last, but certainly not least, we need a topwater offering to round out the collection. Again, there are countless options to choose from and personal preference certainly plays a role here. However, we’d be remiss if we didn’t point out the new Choppo from Berkley (berkley-fishing.com). A modern take on the classic “Whopper Plopper” that has driven largemouth bass crazy for years, the Choppo combines a lifelike action and appearance with a noise factor that drives fish crazy. Used in low light and calm water scenarios, this lure swims across the surface with a natural swimming motion, as opposed to lures that twitch side to side. Like mullet that frequently swim casually along the surface, this lure is sure to be engulfed from a predator below.