What's hot: Pompano have moved into the mouth of Tampa Bay in force. The tasty speedsters tend to school; once located, the action is constant. They'll congregate in many locations so you may have to do some searching.
Tackle: Seven-foot spinning rods and reels loaded with 10- or 12-pound braid works great. About 2 feet of 15-pound mono leader rounds off the rig. For baits, try Doc's Goofy Jig or the Silly Willy jig. These are Gulf Coast pompano fishermen's go-to lure. Another good bet is a quarter-ounce Cottee grub tail jig with the flipper part of the tail cut off. It closely resembles a sand flea.
Searching: Bridges and piers near the mouth of the bay are often hot spots. Passes into the gulf are also good places to search. Strong moving tides keep fish bunched and on the feed. From the boat, cover more territory with drift fishing. When located, idle back upstream and fish the same area. The fish are prone to move a bit as the tide changes so alter your drift if fishing slows.
Tip: Your bait needs to be on or very close to the bottom. Make a cast, let the jig sink, then snap the rod tip up and let the jig fall back. Repeat. If the jig drags along, you'll likely snag. Keep it "jigging."
Paul Hawkins runs FlatsGuy charters out of St. Petersburg and be reached at (727) 560-6762.