How to Create a Setup for Inshore Fishing

Five Parts:Rod, Reel, and LineLures and BaitsTerminal TackleToolsSport Fish You May Encounter

This article is a tutorial on how to set up the perfect tackle box for a great day of inshore fishing. This is designed for southeastern North Carolina, but it will work anywhere near the south. It is designed for inshore fishing, which means targeting redfish, speckled trout, and flounder in coastal, shallow water.

Part 1
Rod, Reel, and Line

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    Get a rod that's 7 to 8 feet (2.1 to 2.4 m) long, with have a medium action. This can handle small pinfish and croaker, to large drum and bluefish. The Shakespeare Ugly Stik is a good choice, but the Shimano Crucial rod is good for a larger budget.
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    Select a reel. Spinning rods are the best choices. They are better than baitcasters because they are not for casting precisely, rather for just casting into a general area. Choose a size 3000 to 5000 reel. These will hold enough line for a long run from a bull redfish, plus enough to reel him back in. The Penn Fierce is a recommended brand, but on a higher budget, the Diawa Black Gold is nice.
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    Pick your line. You can use monofilament line, or you can use braided line. Monofilament line is much cheaper than braid. Braid is stronger, and has better resistance to abrasion. Braided line must be used with monofilament line for backing, the reason being that braided line won't hold in to the reel's spool. Monofilament line or backing should be 10-20 pound test. Braided line should be 25-40 pound test. Monofilament is thicker than braid. The best monofilament line is Cajun Advantage Line, but on a higher budget, Ande Premium Line is nice. When using braid, PowerPro Braided Spectra is the best, but Berkley FireLine is great if you have a little more money to spend.

Part 2
Lures and Baits

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    Know the soft plastic bait options. The best ones look like shrimp. Gulp! and D.O.A. make nice ones. With D.O.A. shrimp, color doesn't really matter. 1/4 ounce sizes are the best. Gulp! shrimp should be 3" long and in the pearl/chartreuse tail color.
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    Compare the hardbait brands. The best hardbaits are MirrOlures, Zara Spooks, Yo-Zuri Shrimp, and Original Floating Rapalas. Yo-Zuri shrimp work great, but they run around $15 dollars. MirrOlures are a type of sinking twitchbait; the MirrODine series are a good choice. Zara Spooks are designed for freshwater bass fishing, but can be used as topwaters for redfish. Rapalas are great for seatrout. Get them in the F11 size or larger.
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    Consider your jigs. Pompano jigs are great for pompano, croaker, and countless other species. They come from many different brands and colors.
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    Keep some frozen shrimp on hand. They should be taken out of the tackle box and placed in the freezer after every trip. They will work for literally any fish out there. They will call fish up from the places you can't reach, and make them go into a feeding frenzy.

Part 3
Terminal Tackle

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    Have a variety of hooks with you. The best brand of hooks in general is Owner, but Gamakatsu hooks worm better, but cost a few cents more generally. There are many different types of hooks available, and every inshore angler should have a couple sizes of a couple type of hooks at a time. Circle hooks set themselves in the fish's mouth. You should have sizes of those ranging from size 1 to size 5/0. Size 1/0 hooks should work for every fish if you can only buy one pack. Long shank hooks are good for pompano and croaker, and should be used in size 1. Size 8 Aberdeen and/or baitholder hooks can be used on pinfish. Live bait hooks can be used for shrimp and other baits. With those hooks, the smallest hooks are used for bottom-feeding fish, like croaker and pompano. Larger ones are used for seatrout.
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    Consider buying pre-made rigs for fishing. It's a good idea to buy 1 ounce bottom rigs, and double drop rigs. Double drop rigs are monofilament leaders, with two monofilament "branches" on each side, which both hold a hook. Bottom rigs are single-hook, and come with a sinker already on. Most of the time, neither rigs come with hooks. Drop rigs don't come with sinkers. These are found at nearly every saltwater tackle shop.
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    Get floats, if you need them. Floats are only used when using live-bait rigs. Those have to be made by the angler. Popping floats are the best. I've always used Billy Boy's floats, but generic tackle shop ones work too.
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    Keep swivels on hand. With swivels, medium-sized ones are best. Too big will make fish more tentative strikers, and smaller won't hold up against a bigger fish. The Bass Pro Shops brand is a good one, but if you'd prefer to buy name brand ones, get Sampo swivels.
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    Depending on tides, currents, target fish, and landscape where you'll be dropping a line, you'll probably need a sinker... They are not all the same! Don't be afraid to ask questions when you're buying tackle. Anyone that works there LOVE to fish and talk about it. The weight will depend on the current or energy in the waves and how stable you want the bait to rest. The type are more specific: -Egg shaped sinkers are designed for areas that will need something to roll over instead of getting stuck. Rocks, reef, etc. -Split shots are used for lighter weight needs and are good to keep around. -Pyramid shaped sinkers are more suited for sandy bottoms where the sharp angles won't likely wedge itself in a rock. -Newer and more efficient sinkers are the teardrop shaped sinkers. Available in various weights and shaped suitably for rock or sandy bottoms.
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    Use jig heads if you want. They can be used for a better motion with plastic shrimp. They should be used in sizes 1/8 ounce, 1/2 ounce, and 5/8 ounce. They are basically a hook and sinker molded into one.
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    Consider your options for leader material. Fluorocarbon is preferable, rather than monofilament. It's best not to use it for a main line, because it runs around $40 dollars per spool. It has much better abrasion resistance, though. Around 30 yards (27.4 m) will cost you about $10 dollars. Get some in 30 pound test. A good brand to trust is Seaguar, and there aren't even very many other brands out there.

Part 4

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    Get some fish grippers. They come in handy, especially when you are handling toothy fish, such as bluefish and mackerel. They can also be used to hold every other fish too, and reduce the chance of losing the fish while holding it. The Bass Pro Shops GripMaster is a good choice, but if you can afford one ($125 dollars), a Boca Grip is great.
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    Buy a good set of pliers. Pliers should be the number one tool in every angler's tackle box, whether they be fishing inshore, offshore, fly, freshwater, surf, or whatever. They have literally infinite uses, from removing hooks from fish's mouths, to crushing barbs on hooks for easier removal. You don't need to spend as much on pliers as you would for 3 meals. You can get quality carbon steel pliers for around $10 dollars or less. I've always used generic Bass Pro Shops carbon steel pliers, but if you can afford them, the best ones I've seen are Rapala pliers.
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    Keep a knife on hand when fishing. Keeping both a fillet knife and a folding-blade knife is a good idea. Fillet knives are used for filleting fish that an angler catches. Fixed-blade knives can be used for protection, cutting line, fixing tackle, and plenty of other uses.One of the best fillet knife is the Rapala Fish 'n Fillet knife. For a folding-blade knife, the Gerber EVO folding knife is great.

Part 5
Sport Fish You May Encounter

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    Get to know some of the sport fish you might encounter in your fishing. Depending on where you live, these include:
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    Look for the red drum from New York to Florida. It is among the most popular inshore sport fish of the south. They are generally called "redfish" from South Carolina southward. They are a great game fish, and can reach weights of 95 pounds. The best baits are mullet, menhaden, mud minnows, blue crabs, and shrimp. Drum under 10 pounds are excellent eating, while any fish over that is not very good. They are wide-spread, found from New York to Florida.
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    The black drum is a relative of the red drum, but they have a larger average size. They are found from New York to Florida. They can reach weights of 115 pounds. The fish up to around 8 pounds are great eating, but any larger fish tend to coarseness. Crabs, shrimp, squid, and baitfish work well for bait.
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    The striped bass is a very hardy fish. They are found in rivers and lakes, and far offshore. While the largest "stripers" are found offshore, very large fish are found inshore. Striped bass are found from Maine to South Carolina. They are among the best fish to eat. This fish can reach weights of 80 pounds. The best baits are whole or cut baitfish, eels, and bloodworms.
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    The bluefish is a legendary fighting fish. Among the best sport fish for their size, they can reach weights of 30 pounds. While other fish species rank higher in edibility, bluefish are still a good eating fish. They can be caught from Canada to Florida, but each area has its prime season, The best baits are baitfish, squid, and shrimp.
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    There are two species of sea trout you may encounter: the spotted seatrout and the weakfish. The spotted seatrout reaches weights of around 15 pounds, and the weakfish reaches about 20 pounds. Both are very good eating. minnows, cut baitfish, squid, shrimp, crabs, and bloodworms all produce. The spotted seatrout ranges from New Jersey to Florida, and the weakfish ranges from New York to North Carolina.
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    Three small fish you may see are the whiting (last picture), croaker (second picture), and the spot (first picture). While the croaker and spot are represented by a single species, the whiting is represented by three species; the northern, southern, and gulf. Croaker can reach weights of around 3 pounds, the spot can reach 1 pound, and whiting can reach 3 pounds. Gulf whiting reach 3 pounds, and northern and southern whiting reach 2 pounds. All of these small fish taste very good, the best being the croaker. Croaker range from Massachusetts to Florida, spot are found from New Jersey to Georgia, and whiting are found from New Jersey to Florida. The northern whiting ranges from New Jersey to North Carolina, the southern ranges from New Jersey to Florida, and the Gulf ranges from North Carolina to Florida. The best baits for these fish are small, meaning they will readily consume shrimp, squid, bloodworms, and small minnows.
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    The cobia is one of the largest fish you could encounter. They are generally found on the edges of the inshore area, meaning they are more of an offshore fish than inshore. This also means that the larger ones are found offshore. These fish can reach weights of 135 pounds. They have a great unique taste, and they don't taste like any other fish. Batifish like pinfish, mullet, menhaden, minnows, grunts, and jacks are all great baits. Cobia are found from Massachusetts to Florida.
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    The sheepshead is a rather ugly fish, with its sheep-like teeth, hence the name. none the less, they are a great game fish and they taste great, due to their strict diet of crustaceans. They can reach weights of 20 pounds. They are generally found around pilings and seawalls, feeding on oysters and crabs. Therefor, the best baits are crabs, shrimp, clams, oysters, and bloodworms. They range from New York to Florida.
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    Flounder are among the most well-known inshore fish. Their flattened shape and their distinct eye position make them hard to forget after seeing one. The three species of flounder you are likely to encounter are the southern, summer, and gulf. The summer flounder is the most common species, but most anglers never bother to tell the difference. Summer and southern flounder both reach weights of 20 pounds, while the gulf flounder reaches weights of 10 pounds. The best bait is by far a mullet, but shrimp, crabs, and bloodworms work as well. As anyone who has ever had flounder will know, it is one of the best tasting fish, no matter which species. The summer flounder ranges from Massachusetts to Georgia, and the southern and gulf flounder ranging from North Carolina to Florida.
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    The Spanish mackerel is a toothy fish, and is generally caught by anglers fishing from piers. They are also, however, found by anglers fishing from docks and small boats in bays and off of beaches. They are caught from Maryland to Florida. Shiny baitfish and shrimp work best for baits. They can be up to 15 pounds. Although they are an oily fish, they are great eating.
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    The jack crevalle is found in a multitude of habitats, including bays, the open ocean, grass flats, canals, and backwaters. They are generally only caught from North Carolina to Florida. They are among one of the best fighting fish, both inshore and offshore. A 16-inch jack will bend your medium-action rod so far, you'll worry about it breaking. Now imagine a 60-pounder! These massive fish are known to occasionally reach around 60 pounds, and are common offshore at 40-50 pounds. The possibility of one that size inshore is low, but a 20-pounder inshore is not that rare in parts of Florida. They are not very good eating, as the meat is dark red. The best baits are fasts, silvery baitfish like mullet. The more frisky, the better.
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    The tarpon is the biggest inshore fish you're likely to see. They are caught from Virginia to Florida. They can reach weights of 285 pounds. They are possibly the worst-tasting fish you'll ever taste, and they are so slim that there is barely any meat there. They are well-known for their acrobatic jumps when hooked. They will readily strike baits such as pinfish, spot, mullet, menhaden, and even blue crabs,
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    While smaller threadfin shad and hickory shad are generally used as baits for large saltwater fish, the American shad itself is a sport fish. They will sometimes reach weights of 10 pounds. They are widespread, ranging from Canada to Florida in saltwater, and in almost every U.S. state in freshwater. The smaller ones are used for bait for many larger fish. The fillets taste great, but bony. They fight like a mini tarpon (see above). They rarely take live baits, and will sometimes take small bucktail jigs called "shad darts".
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    The common snook is a fine game fish, but its range is sadly restricted to Florida. They can reach weights of 55 pounds. If you've ever caught a decent-sized largemouth bass, imagine catching a 10-pound bass. That's how it feels to catch a 5-pound snook. The fish has white, mild tasting meat, and is great fried. They are well-known for "wrapping", meaning that they find and available structure and wrap the line around it. The best baits are live mullet and pinfish, using bigger ones when bigger snook are around, and smaller ones when smaller snook are around.
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    The permit is well-known by south Florida flats anglers as "the fish of a lifetime", and with good reason. These fish are probably the easiest fish of all to spook. Common in the flats of south Florida and the Caribbean, they are also found inshore in southern Florida. They will eat baits such as crab, lobster, and shrimp. The ones within the Florida slot limits are great eating. Any larger (which you shouldn't be keeping anyway) are not very good to eat. They can be 60 pounds.
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    The Florida pompano is a common catch from North Carolina down to Florida. They can reach about 10 pounds. They fight almost as well as a small permit, with bullish runs and brute strength. They are among the best eating fish, if they are available. They readily consume baits such as sand fleas, shrimp, crabs, and squid.
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    While the tarpon may be the biggest fish you may encounter, the tripletail is definitely the oddest. Reaching a weight of 40 pounds, they are a mid-sized fish. They will strike baits such as shrimp and minnows. These are a fish that is only likely to be found in Florida. The fish are great for eating, as well as being surprisingly a great gamefish, considering they are very thin and spade-shaped. Their fight features jumps, short, fast runs, and fouling line (wrapping around structures).


  • There are many useful books for inshore fishing. Check those out as well.
  • For your first inshore fishing trip, renting a local charter guide is a good idea. They will show you the best lures, baits, spots, and tackle for your area, and you'll make a new buddy who you can call up whenever you want and ask questions.
  • Be sure to check out shallow places with pilings, a weak current, oyster beds, a mud bottom, and reeds. If you find one of those, look for crabs and baitfish during low tide. If you see some, you know you have a great new fishing spot.
  • Your new inshore tackle will work for catfishing too.
  • Be sure to check out guides on rod and reel care.
  • Shrimp are not the only useful bait. Check out what bait is in your fishing spot, and go buy or catch some of that.


  • Be careful of different fish out there. Bull sharks can be encountered in brackish marshes. Stingrays will "harpoon" waders, and can inflict serious injuries. Pinfish have sharp dorsal spines. Drum have crushing mouths. Sheepshead have crunching teeth. Bluefish have very sharp teeth. Pufferfish are poisonous to eat. Cobia go crazy when brought into boats. Crabs have sharp claws.
  • Check seasons, limits, and tackle restrictions on all species of inshore fish in your area, if you plan on keeping fish. Not obeying size limits when keeping fish will land you in a lot of trouble.
  • Knives can be dangerous too. Use common sense when using knives.

  • Be careful where you fish. Fishing in no-fish zones or on private docks will land you in big trouble.

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Categories: Fishing