If you’re planning to do some Florida shark fishing and want to stand a chance at catching a large shark you’ll need the right shark fishing gear. The 3 main components we’ll discuss are the rod and reel, main line, and tackle which includes shark leaders or shark fishing rigs, shark hooks, and weights to hold your shark bait in the surf. Throughout this guide we’ll assume you are targeting sharks 4′ and up. Sharks smaller than 4′ can be had on smaller tackle which normal surf fisherman typically use.
Shark Rod and Reel
You’ve only got two choices when picking a shark rod: spinning rod or bait cast. A spinning rod is a great choice for anyone only shark fishing a couple times a year. You can fish for bait or sharks with this type of rod, so it’s a great choice if your budget is of concern. The drawback to using a spinning rod is that the drag will probably melt down after catching couple big 6′ blacktip or spinner sharks. Purchasing a $30 spinning combo isn’t going to handle a fight from the oceans top predator. My recommendation would be a $40-$50 spinning reel capable of holding 300-400 yards of 40lb test line. This reel isn’t even close to top of the line but really is the minimum you should consider when targeting bigger sharks. When choosing a rod to complement your reel stick with heavy action rods that are 10′ or longer. A good $50 – $100 rod is exactly what you’re looking for here.
The other option is the bait cast reel. This is the type of rod you’d use if you were fishing from a chartered boat. They can range in price from $100-$2000 but will handle 10′-15′ big dogs that are cruising the beaches. The main drawback of this type of reel is they are hard to cast and can’t be used for general bait fishing. Generally speaking this type of rod and real is better for an intermediate shark fisherman who will be fishing a dozen or more times per year. A good combo in this class is the Penn Senator 113 or 113H and will run your around $100.
Your reel will be 98% main line. Here again you have a couple choices depending on your budget: Monofilament or Microfiber. Monofilament is the cheaper of the two but you’ll sacrifice the amount of line you can spool on the reel. Monofilament also isn’t quite as abrasion resistant as microfiber. You can expect 300-400 yards of 40lb monofilament to cost around $10-$15. This is a good choice for spooling the Penn Senator 113 as it has a high line capacity. If you decided the spinning combo best meets your needs I highly recommend the microfiber. You’ll be able to increase your line capacity almost two fold and get the much need abrasion resistance. It will cost you another $20-$30 but you’ll land more fish and it will last much longer than the monofilament.
Shark Fishing Tackle
The most critical part of all your shark gear will be tackle. This is where the shark meets your line, so using quality leaders and hooks will pay off and lead to more hook-ups. Before jumping into this section let me give you a run down of how a shark reacts to a hook in the mouth. Sharks are opportunists. If they see a hunk of bloody meat they are going come by and pick it up. Once they do they are going to swim off with the bait hanging from their mouth. If there is no resistance they’ll begin to eat the bait, but as soon as they feel any resistance or fight left in the bait all hell will break out. Generally speaking a shark may begin spinning or whipping its tail in an effort to get away or stun the bait. Your leader is going to take the main brunt of this abuse. If you main line comes in contact with the shark tail at any point in the battle you can kiss him goodbye.
A 400 lb stainless steel cable is highly recommended for all shark leaders. Some people have reported good success with piano wire as well. All hooks and swivels should be attached with crimps with similar ratings. To build several shark leaders it is cheaper to purchase the material individually and make them yourself. This also lends itself to using multiple hooks on a single leader in case the bait is quite a bit larger. However for the weekend fisher its probably better to purchase a couple pre-made shark leaders off the internet before your big weekend. These leaders should be a foot longer than the shark you plan on catching. It should have a drop for a hook, a weight, and a swivel to attach to the main line. Generally speaking you won’t find this type of heavy duty tackle in any bait shop so plan ahead.
The stainless steel leader is NOT attached directly to your main line. It’s highly recommended you purchase a spool of 100lb monofilament leader that will connect your mainline to your shark leader. This leader should be 5-10 yards long. This will provide a nice shock leader as well as protection from any tail whips that your main line will encounter during the fight.
You’ve got 2 choices when it come to shark hooks: J-Hook and Circle Hooks. I primarily have used J-Hooks because they work. However they tend to lodge themselves deep in the mouth which can make for an interesting scenario on the beach when trying to remove the hook. Circle hooks will lodge themselves in the corner of the mouth making hook removal a breeze. Many people seem to think that using circle hooks results in several missed hook-ups. Shark hooks sizes range from 10/0 to 14/0 for sharks up to the 6′ range. A couple of years ago I saw a couple guys using a hook as large as my forearm. They were targeting Tiger and Bull sharks with whole 30 lb Jacks.
A weight is very important because it will keep your shark bait locked in place as the surf tosses it about. This can be quite difficult the bigger your bait gets. I generally use a spider weight as they tend to lock into the sand really well. I buy several different sizes and will load them up 2 or 3 at a time depending on the conditions at the beach. This way when you’re shark fishing the weight is in the sand and your line is pulled tight, so the hooks are dangling in the water. Now if you get a bite you’ll see it on your pole instead just losing your bait. A good hook size for this rig really depends on what type of bait your using to catch your shark bait. For shrimp, squid, or fishbites you’ll want to use a good 2/0 hook. If you’re using mullet or other live or cut bait consider using a 3/0 or 4/0 hook. Generally speaking you’re going to catch much larger and gamier fish with this type of bait such as blue runners or jacks.