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Discussion Starter #1
Grew up fishing from shore and the pier. Just got a 17 carolina skiff and have fished the pass the last two weekends in a row. A lot of fun chasing reds and whatnot. Can someone fill me in on the seasons for sheepshead/snapper/grouper and some good spots in the bay?

Im kind of clueless on all of the above, and advice would be appreciated!

Any info on bait and tack would be helpful too. I usually run a egg weight and circle hook, but know that limits a lot of what I am targeting.
 

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Pensacola Fishing – Inshore 101
Familiarization:
• Download some type of GPS software to complement the GPS on your boat. I’m cheap and simple, so I’ve chosen to use Garmin Base Camp software and it’s compatible with most, if not all, Garmin GPS hardware. I have my Garmin GPSMap 78 series hand held device with me pretty much everywhere I go – on the water, in the field, and on the road.
• Study the area on Google Earth or Google Maps – look at areas where you see drop-offs (places where there is a dramatic change in water depth), creek mouths, points, or other hidden and submerged areas.
• Make some basic “study points” in your GPS to help you find the area when you’re on the water (HINT: things will look different when you’re on your water versus when you’re sitting in front of the computer.)
• Turn breadcrumb trails on in your GPS and routinely download the GPS data into your computer to study it later.
Tides:
• Incoming tides push bait into shallower areas and into tidal creeks – setup in shallow water and cast into deeper water and drag your baits into the shallow water.
• Outgoing tides suck bait out of shallow areas and tidal creeks – setup in deeper water and cast into shallow water and drag your baits into the deeper water.
• Fish shallow on a high slack tide and fish deep on low slack tide.

Baits & Rigging (NOTE: I solely use artificial baits and I have very little experience fishing live bait inshore.)
• Whether you use braided line or monofilament, you’ll probably benefit from using a fluorocarbon leader. I typically use 10# - 12# braided line tied to 15# fluorocarbon.
• Tie the leader to the mainline using a uni-uni knot or an Albright. Whatever you use, learn to tie it well.
• Tie the lure to the leader using a Rapala (loop) knot or a uni knot. Learn to tie the knot well.
• Baits:
o Topwater – something like a skitterwalk, badonkadonk, spook jr, or the like. Get a few that are white, or bone, colored and some that are dark.
o Suspending – there are others, but a mirrodine just can’t be beat. Get a few that are light/bright colored and some that are dark colored.
o Soft Plastics on a Jig Head – Don’t rule out simple lures like DOA CAL Shads, Mirrolure Provokers (Lil’ John XL) but others work well too. Once again, get something bright like white or chartreuse and something dark like avocado. The Hank Brown hook-up jig heads are my personal favorite – I prefer red or white in 1/8 oz or ¼ oz.
• Presentation – topwater during low light, suspending lures during the transition, and soft plastics when the sun is high. THAT SAID: if your presenting lures to an area where you see fish and they’re not eating your lure, then try something different. Don’t be afraid to try something different if they’re not eating.

Log Book
• Keeping a log book is probably the single most important thing you can do.
• Write down notes about every trip, even the failures.
• Be as thorough or as brief as you need to be, but try and capture things that are relevant to you: tides, time of day, air temp, water temp, what you fished with, and where you fished.
• Before too long, you should start seeing patterns.

Lastly, don’t rule out hiring a guide. Use a couple or three different guides in different areas and in different times of the year. A guide has built a business doing all of the things I mentioned earlier – proper guide selection will exponentially reduce your learning curve.
 
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