Artificial intelligence: Winter is a great time to hone your artificial skills. While whitebait is on its way out and fishing with shrimp might not excite you, using artificials can be a great change of pace.
Controlling your speed: One of the best reasons to fish artificials is you control the speed and action of your bait. Slowing your bait is key to enticing lethargic winter fish to bite. Experiment with the action and retrieval rate until you find the pattern the fish react best to that day.
Getting jiggy: My favorite winter artificial is a 1/8- to 1/16-ounce jig head with a light-colored body. Light-colored paddletails are usually a good bet, but you also can't go wrong with stinky shrimp-style bodies. Clear water is a blessing and a curse when targeting flats game fish on artificials. Though the great visibility we have right now is great for spotting fish and sight casting, the fish can see you and your offering much better. Going down to 10- to 15-pound test fluorocarbon and a 1/16-ounce jig head could be the difference between catching and fishing.
Matt Santiago can be reached at (813) 205-2327, CaptainMattSantiago@gmail.com and FishingGuideTampa.com.