Bubba Life


By: Nick Honachefsky

Without a doubt, tarpon can make or break an angler’s dream. With rip roaring runs and line-snapping head shakes, the monster fish can humble any angler on the water. Captain Rick Stanczyk of Bud N’ Mary’s in Islamorada makes a living showing fishermen how to battle the beasts properly. We got some of his insights into landing a tarpon of your dreams. Here are his top tips:

“Tarpon have notoriously thick bony mouths so hooking the fish is of paramount importance,” says Stanczyk. He Uses Owner 5/0 to 7/0 SSW hooks- the bigger hooks are used when live baiting with mullet and smaller hooks for chunk baits. “You need a good solid hookset first on the take, then when he feels he’s on, you need to set the hook again strong and hard, but no more after that or you’ll get him mad and he’ll fly all over the place and shake the hook. You don’t want to aggravate a tarpon. When he jumps keep your rod tip low and drop it so “the bow to the king” mantra applies. The bow in the line allows for give, its not taut to dislodge the hook or break the leader, especially with braided line where there is no give.”

“Usually I fish for tarpon during the daylight hours. I also avoid the full moons as I am mainly day fishing there’s a lot of current and the water can get a bit dirty, so plan around fishing the waxing or waning moons for tarpon.” Stanczyk uses 60 to 80 pound fluorocarbon leader with a float and usually live mullet or crabs as bait. He sets the float out about 70 to 80 feet from the boat. “I like when people hold the rod in their hand to get that rush and feel the fish hit. I’ll adapt and just freeline baits take the floats off if that’s not working well to get bites. If the water is off color or dirty, we can go to 100-pound mono leader. Fish around bridges and where current flow is rushing to push and funnel the bait out or in. It’s a little bit easier fishing at night for tarpon as there is less light and they are not as wary to jump on a presentation.”

“You have to be careful as tarpon are big and strong at boatside and many people panic and lose the fish then. Guide them to the boat, let the captain leader the fish.” Best equipment for landing tarpon is a pair of BUBBA Ultimate fishing gloves and when at boatside, then avoid the thrashing around and use a BUBBA Hook Extractor or pair of BUBBA 8.5-inch fishing pliers to release the fish. “If we need a quick release or the hook is buried, we break the leader at the hook and let them go in the water, not to bring them on the boat,” adds Stancyzk. Check out Rick on Instagram @richardstanczyk