The DOA Shrimp

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             Mark Nichols cranked out the first fake shrimp in 1988. Many of us have heard the story of how he established the plastic shrimp industry, one lure at a time, on his kitchen table. Today Mark offers 54 colors in a wide variety of sizes from two to six inches.

Fishing the Shrimp

            When a lure’s been around for over 20 years and been used by hundreds of thousands of anglers, various fishing techniques naturally evolve. Here are half a dozen effective ways to fish it.

Mark grew up in the shrimp business, and spent his youth studying their movement in the family’s live shrimp tank. He designed the D.O.A. Shrimp to emulate that natural motion in the way they swim and dive. One easy way to take advantage of this naturally balanced lure is to simply throw it upstream, let it sink, and then reel in line just fast enough to swim it with the current. This is especially effective at night around dock lights and bridge shadow lines.

 Waking

            Shrimp moving over long distances often swim at the surface during low-light periods, riding the tide. Over shallow flats, it’s easy to copy this pattern: Cast upcurrent, and simply raise your rod tip while reeling slowly and steadily to wake the shrimp along the surface. There’s nothing cooler than watching the giant wake of a 20-pound snook closing in on the little V-wake of the shrimp in a foot of water. This technique is more subtle than walking the dog with a topwater plug, but creates enough surface disturbance for fish to locate the lure silhouetted against the surface. If a fish strikes but misses it on the surface, let it drop, then begin a twitching retrieve beneath the surface. Very effective at first light.

 Deadly Combo

            Mark makes fun of one of the simplest techniques, but anytime you fish on his boat, you’ll see a plastic shrimp rigged beneath a rattling cork (Mark’s pre-rigged version is called the Deadly Combo). It’s virtually foolproof--cast it or throw it behind the boat and pop it occasionally. That’s it. Perfect for kids or novices, but it’s also won the redfish tour championship.

            The concept behind the Deadly Combo is that the rattling cork--Mark uses brass clackers on oval and cigar shaped corks--creates a noise that simulates predators feeding, which in turn attracts other predators to the frenzy. When they arrive, the only thing they find that looks edible is a plastic shrimp dangling 18 to 24 inches beneath the noisemaker. When the cork goes under, you have a fish. Kids of all ages like that. One advantage to using the shrimp rigged this way is that it forces the angler to slow down the retrieve, keeping the lure in the strike zone longer and giving fish time to find it. The cork also effectively keeps the lure above thick grass. Want a lure to drag behind a kayak over grassy bottom? Replace the shrimp with a ¼-ounce CAL jig head and 3-inch soft-plastic shad tail beneath the cork and start paddling.

            One rigging tip is to tie a short length of fairly stiff mono or fluorocarbon between the braided line and the cork. Braided line is so limp it can become entangled on the cork stem between snaps of the rod tip. The stiffer fluoro or mono provides a buffer to keep the braid a safe distance from the cork.

 Weedless Rigging

            Another of Mark’s techniques is rigging the shrimp weedless for use in thick-grass venues such as Mosquito Lagoon. Start by trimming the tail flukes off. Remove the original hook, and thread a D.O.A. 3.5 Long Neck worm hook Texas-style through the tail, out the bottom, and up through the shrimp. The result is a weedless shrimp that swims backward. In murky water, help fish find the lure by inserting a small rattle in the original hook hole. An added advantage of the backward bait is that it creates a weight-forward setup that casts much farther than the original.

 Another approach to fishing the D.O.A. Shrimp weedless is to remove the original hook and replace it with an Owner weighted or unweighted weedless hook. Insert the attachment screw into the original hook hole in the shrimp’s nose, and impale the hook through the belly of the shrimp so the hook exits through the original hook hole in the back. The shrimp’s original weight can be left in or removed as conditions dictate. A 3/0 works well with the ¼-ounce 3-inch shrimp; use a 5/0 with the 4-inch, ½-ounce model.

 Circle Hooks

            Tarpon? Throw the shrimp right on top or in front of fish rolling at the surface for air, and let it sink as they descend. Off the beach, toss the 4-inch, half-ounce model ahead of moving fish (works great for cobia also) and simply let it drop in front of them. When it reaches the depth you suspect the tarpon are suspended, begin a slow retrieve with minimal twitching. Of course, getting the tarpon to eat isn’t always the hard task--it’s staying attached after the strike. To greatly enhance the hookup/landing ratio, there are two options: Insert the larger hook from the half-ounce model into the smaller 3-inch shrimp to get a bigger bite in the tarpon’s bony jaw, or replace the original hook with an appropriate-size circle hook through the nose of the shrimp. When using the circle hook, avoid a hard hook set and simply reel up tight when you get a strike. The circle hook is designed to lodge in the corner of the fish’s mouth, and even tarpon have a tough time dislodging it.

 Snap It Up

            Mark makes fun of the way Jerry McBride fishes the shrimp, but it gets results. Mark and Jerry filmed a dozen short instructive flats fishing videos for the D.O.A. Lures website during the long, cold 2010 winter. In it, you’ll see Jerry snapping the shrimp hard along pothole and channel edges for pompano and trout with excellent results, despite Mark’s withering comments in the background. Jerry has caught more giant trout and snook using this technique with a 3-inch D.O.A. shrimp than with all the other lures in his garage combined.

            The key is to give it plenty of time to fall to or near the bottom on the initial drop. Jerry doesn’t worry about fishing it in grass because he snaps it hard enough to knock the weeds off--as well as the puffers and pinfish. Throw it upstream and across the current above a pothole, dropoff or structure. Let it drop near the bottom. A short snap of the rod tip planes it up in the water column. If you tie it on with a loop knot--highly recommended for all techniques--it pops up, does a hard twist (usually to the left), suspends briefly, then dives back toward the bottom as you slowly reel up the slack. Twitch and repeat. You’ve just created a brief window of opportunity for the fish to grab what appears to be an easy meal before it escapes.