The artificial version of this popular coastal crustacean offers a wider array of performance than the real deal.
In 1968, Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell told us: “Ain’t nothing like the real thing, baby.”
Well, that’s kind of like the adage: “All that glitters is not gold.” I get the point, but factually speaking, gold glitters; so the syntax is incorrect. A more accurate statement would be: “All that glitters is not, necessarily, gold” or “Not all that glitters is gold.”
And to quickly connect this to fishing, Gaye and Terrell probably weren’t including shrimp in their message. Reason being, the artificial version of this popular coastal crustacean offers a wider array of performance than the real deal.
Now, hold the hate mail; no one’s dissing live shrimp. It catches fish — no question. But there is a daily cost and time investment for obtaining live shrimp; you have to have a livewell or, at least, a flow-through bucket; and, at some point, your bait supply will end.
Some find these considerations well worth the desired outcome and, to those, we say: “Live like you want to live.”
However, some find that foregoing baits with heartbeats and working with the impostors has its benefits, as well. No muss and fuss of handling natural bait, one-time investment, rarely run out of bait — the argument for artificials stands on solid legs.
Models vary from the original DOA Shrimp, to Unfair Lures Rattlin’ Shrimp, Egret’s Vudu Shrimp, Livetarget’s Rigged Shrimp, ZMan EZ ShrimpZ, Savage Gear TPE Hard Shrimp and Storm 360GT Shrimp Jig. Some are made with their own jigheads or weighted hooks, or you can opt to fit your preferred bait on the rigging of your choice.
Whatever your preference, you’ll find artificial shrimp comprise a highly versatile lure family well deserving of prime space in your tackle tray. Here’s a handful of ideas for their use.
Let’s be honest, the very thing that makes live shrimp so appealing to just about everything with a mouth is exactly what limits its performance. Despite its shell, a shrimp is a relatively soft forage species that is easily caught and easily gobbled. That means short shelf lives, especially when casting and retrieving.
Not so with synthetic shrimp. Sling ‘em as long and hard as you wish, and barring any toothy encounters, the bait will last all day.
Adjust jig or weighted hook sizes for water depth and wind conditions.
This one’s as simple as it gets. If you spot redfish finning, tailing or obviously foraging (when are they not?), cast your shrimp ahead of their course and snap it into the water column like fleeing prey when the fish approach. If they pass, they’re vegans.
Predation attracts predation; that’s the key principle behind suspending a synthetic shrimp below a popping cork. Of course, depth control is a valuable tool when fishing over oyster reefs, grass or any other ensnaring risk; but noise is key.
Specifically, the gurgling, blooping disturbance a popping or clacking cork rig produces grabs the attention of nearby fish and calls in others from a distance. When fish come to inspect what sounds like another fish feeding, the image of a shrimp twitching vulnerably below is an easy sell.
Paul van Reenen, president of Unfair Lures, suggests popping the cork a few times for his backwards-swimming shrimp.
“Then keep slowly retrieving the cork. Do not stop the cork and your hook-up rate will drastically improve,” he adds.
When free-line fishing, van Reenen suggests keeping the rod tip high when casting and retrieving.”Y
“You will see the shrimp skip just like a live shrimp,” he said. “Try suspending it ever so often. Fish your shrimp like an escaping shrimp. Create the panic to attract your fish.”
Rocking the rigs
Use heavier jigs or weighted hooks to sink your shrimp along the legs and any adjacent structure like crew boat piers. Cork rigs may work better once you dial in the target depth. With either presentation, a lone shrimp won’t last long once the speckled trout spot it.
Largemouths in tidal fisheries from the Venice marsh to Delacroix have come to appreciate the taste of traditionally saltwater forage. Blue crabs delight these gluttons, but shrimp are much easier to catch and they don’t fight back.
Casting synthetic shrimp toward laydown trees, wellheads and pumping stations or Roseau cane points is a good bet. Falling tides will find bass rubbing elbows with redfish and flounder at the mouths of marsh run-outs, so toss your shrimp (free lined, or corked) into the outfall and work it past those corner ambush spots.
For a full day of diverse fishing, keep an assortment of artificial shrimp lures on standby. Change up your body styles and colors and if the bite’s slow, enhance your baits with chartreuse tail dyes.