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It's true that any time you have a baited hook in the water, you stand a chance of getting a bite. It's also true that there are more productive times to fish than others, and dialing them in can be a lifelong learning experience.

A good start is to study a tide chart. Plan your trip to include a tide change if possible, then note when most of your bites occur. Pay particular attention to the solunar periods. You soon will notice that the height of activity generally is during these major and minor periods.

You will want to familiarize yourself with moon phases and how they relate to the tide. Some fish are more sensitive to these changes. The last-quarter phase we are in has never been a personal favorite when tarpon fishing. Often as sluggish as the tide in this phase, tarpon will become even more finicky than normal.

Michael Neal Mastry, 14, made the most of it Sunday, however. Fishing with his uncle, Larry Mastry, near Port Manatee, he battled a 133-pounder for 40 minutes before bringing it to gaff. He enticed it to eat a shad an hour before the tide changed, during the major solunar period.

Tuesday we tested the theory. Anchored off the beach at Anna Maria, we jumped three and released two, each estimated more than 100 pounds. Guess what? Each was hooked within an hour of the high change and during the major solunar period.

_ Jay Mastry charters Jaybird out of St. Petersburg. Call (727) 321-2142.