Stock up now on Rapala® X-Rap® Long Cast Shallow plugs and keep an eye on the weather forecasts for South Florida. When the water warms a bit, Capt. Benny Blanco says, the tarpon bite should get hot.
“When that water temperature gets right, the tarpon come in and they eat everything in sight,” says Blanco, a Rapala Pro, in-demand Everglades guide and host of Guiding Flow, a fishing show on the streaming channel Waypoint TV.
“Every time we have a cold front, they push off and they wait. So they’re just offshore now and not quite in a targeting situation this second, but they’re foaming out the mouth to come in.”
In late February to early March in South Florida, warming water triggers tarpon and other highly sought-after sportfish into a spring pattern in which they move inshore and feed, Blanco explains. “We’re right on the precipice of that change. And that’s definitely what we’re looking for.”
To visualize the heart-stopping, Rapala-enabled tarpon action Blanco and his clients are anticipating, check out the video he posted to Instagram late last February. In it, a massive silver torpedo of a tarpon launches from the water of Whitewater Bay, tail-walking above brown waves and shaking its powerful head six times against a background of gathering clouds in a blue sky.
That fish came onto Blanco’s boat on a No. 14 X Rap Long Cast Shallow plug. “That is just a perfect search-bait,” Blanco says. “You can cast it a country mile and you can cover so much water.”
Designed to deliver extreme casting distance in even the most demanding conditions, the X-Rap® Long Cast and X-Rap® Long Cast Shallow are built tough to handle attack by the saltwater predators they attract, both in-shore or off-shore, including tarpon, snook, lingfish, wahoo, grouper, bonefish, cobia, permit, blackfin tuna and yellowfin tuna.
X-Rap® Long Cast
X-Rap® Long Cast Shallow
“The change to the spring pattern brings a lot of species into play,” Blanco says. “Tarpon is one of them. And the snook start to get really fired up in the spring too – even more so than they are right now. Right now, you can catch snook and redfish at will, and in another month, you’ll have the big five in play – which are bonefish, tarpon, permit, snook and redfish. The cool thing about South Florida is that there’s always a species that is hot, that’s ready to bite.”
X-Rap Long Cast Shallow plugs run one to two feet below the surface. A fast, steady retrieve elicits a strong rolling and wobbling action with minimal resistance. Flicking your wrists on the retrieve creates Rapala’s heralded X-Rap Slashbait action. A pause on the retrieve results in a fall with a seductive flutter.
While challenging spring weather conditions can make targeting tarpon difficult for some anglers, X-Rap Long Cast baits keep Blanco and his clients on the hot tarpon bite.
“When it’s blowing really hard and not many other people can fish for them, I’m out there with my clients slinging those X-Raps and making tarpon jump every third cast,” Blanco says. “It’s pretty special. You can see in that Instagram video on Whitewater Bay how churned up the water is and how much the wind is blowing, but it didn’t matter, we were still hooking tarpon.”
Whitewater Bay, large and only three-and-a-half to four-feet deep with a mud bottom and little grass, is where Blanco finds multiple tarpon for his clients to catch. “It’s just kind of tarpon floating around in there,” he says. “There’s usually very little other species in that [depth of] water.”
X-Rap Long Cast Shallow baits are available in sizes 12 and 14 and come in 12 color patterns: Albino Shiner, Bone Chartreuse, Blue Sardine, Fusilier, Glass Ghost, Gold Olive, Hot Olive, Moss Back Shiner, Olive Green, Red Belly, Red Ghost and Silver. 3D holographic eyes add lifelike detail, helping make these baits irresistible to gamefish.
Tarpon is, with a couple exceptions, a catch-and-release-only species in Florida, a classification Blanco supports. “There’s no reason to kill one of the most-sought-after gamefish that people come here from all over the planet to fish for, it doesn’t make any sense,” he says.
An award-winning conservationist, Blanco works tirelessly to promote protection of vulnerable, pristine waters across Florida and the world – and the sportfish that swim in them.
“We’re practicing a lot more catch-and-release for multiple species,” he says. “I’m promoting that as much as possible, because sustainability is a big issue in all of our fisheries right now, because there’s other factors in play. So taking care of the fish that we have is so crucial.”
Both the size 12 and size 14 X-Rap Long Cast Shallow models come armed with two VMC Coastal Black Tin Finish 4X-Strong In-line Single Hooks. VMC is a Rapala Respected Brand.
Fishing with inline hooks is a conservation-minded modification for catch-and-release sportsmanship. Removing a single inline hook – rather than a treble hook – from the mouth of a big fish like a tarpon puts less stress on a fish, greatly improving its chance of survival upon release. Inline hooks also present less of a danger than do treble hooks to an angler removing them.
Blanco is a key ambassador for organizations like Captains for Clean Water, Bonefish & Tarpon Trust and the Everglades Foundation, to name a few. When he isn’t in Tallahassee or Washington DC, you can find him guiding on the pristine flats of Biscayne Bay or the farthest reaches of Everglades National Park. Guiding Flow TV was born from his deep passion for these places and the desire to empower the communities around them to act as their stewards.