When it comes to Snook fishing, the preferred method for catching them depends on the angler you ask. Fishermen like to employ various tactics for catching Snook: soaking cut bait, free-lining live bait, targeting docks, etc. One popular method for catching Snook on Florida’s west coast near Tampa is the use of flare hawks. That’s right, those big buck tail type lures with an eight-inch stream of synthetic hair. Popular on the east coast of Florida, they are notorious for catching Snook—BIG ones. And they are one of my favorite ways to catch over slot.
What are Flare Hawks?
Flare hawks are heavy jig heads wrapped with synthetic hairs. Unlike bucktails, flair hawks have a fuller profile. There is one distinguishing feature that sets them apart from bucktails: they have a long stream of hairs about six to eight and a half inches long, depending on the manufacturer. The hairs in this stream are typically a different color than the surrounding hairs. I don’t know why these lures drive Snook crazy. Some say they resemble shrimp, others say they are akin to Mullet. Whatever they look like, just know that they work. There are several brands of flair hawks: First Light, Gulfstream, Snook Candy, T&A Jigs and Red Tail. They normally go for $2.50 to $3.50 a piece, depending on where or from whom you get them.
Where to Use Them
Where you fish determines whether or not you should use flare hawks. This is not a flats lure, as they are typically too heavy and bulky. They work well on the beaches, in the passes, at bridges, along rocky points, and around piers. Use them anywhere there is deep water and fast current. Although I find better success in deep water (15+ feet), it is not a hard and fast rule. They will also work in shallow areas with dense structure, such as pilings and rocks.
What Gear Should I Use?
Heavy gear. Trust me, you’ll need a long rod to throw big 1.5 oz flair hawks, and a good backbone to wrangle these big mommas out of dense structure. Although you want heavy gear, you will also want something light enough to toss your lure all night without too much fatigue. I use an eight-foot, 15-25 lb Stellar Lite paired with a 5k Shimano Stradic FJ. My Stradic is spooled with 40 lb braid, and I use a two to three foot strand of 60-80 lb mono leader. I initially started out with fluoro, but promptly discovered I did just as well with mono, so I switched. Because you’ll need to nearly lock down your drag and pull the Snook out of structure, the heavy leader will prevent heartbreaks and break-offs. You’ll be fishing at night, so you won’t have to worry about Snook being line shy. If you are beach fishing, go with lighter leader, such as 30 or 40 lb, and lighten your drag so you’ll have more room to play the fish. -
How Do I Use Flair Hawks?
Use them at night during the strongest tides. I normally begin catching Snook approximately three hours before and after an outgoing tide. The current will be strong, so I recommend a 1.5 oz. flare hawk to reach the bottom, if necessary. If the tide is too slow, switch to a 1 oz jig. There are several methods to work these jigs. I like to simply cast and reel.
I caught six overslot Snook of up to 39 inches on one of my best nights employing this method. Play with the depth. I’ve caught Snook while my jig was falling, while rapidly reeling the lure along the surface, while reeling it mid-depth, and while bumping it on the bottom. I will also occasionally bounce the lure along the bottom with a jerk-pause motion just to switch it up from time to time. My favorite colors are chartreuse with a blue or red tail.
More importantly, have patience. These are big lures and they will catch big fish. It is a game of quality over quantity, so keep in mind that you might have to wait a couple hours before you get a good bite. I’ve had days when I’d toss my lure out for two hours before getting a bite. But once they started biting, it’s game on—and it’s totally worth it.