Eric Hensen’s Jumbo Shrimp Tips | Kayak Angler Magazine | Rapid Media
A man holding a large snook in a kayak. Photo courtesy: Eric Hensen

This crustacean can catch all types of predators.

Gulf shrimp demand big money at the seafood market. It’s no wonder that trout, reds, tarpon and snook are willing to pay the ultimate price to feed on these tasty crustaceans. Tampa-based pro guide Eric Hensen is in the heart of shrimp central. “Shrimp are a huge part of the local forage,” he explains. “It’s important to understand their lifecycle.

Shrimp migrate to deep, open water in the winter and return to the shallows

in summer. “That’s why the biggest shrimp are around in fall, spring and winter,” he says, “and tiny peewees in summer.” He adds that shrimp will move on the full moon when they can ride higher than normal tides. “Wind can affect the tide, too,” he adds, saying that an onshore blow will push more water into the shallows.

Hensen has noticed that shrimp tend to like water between 62 and 68 degrees. “When the water drops below 50 degrees, the shrimp will bury in the mud.”

Hensen lists three predominant species of shrimp along Florida’s west coast: pink, white and brown shrimp. “Pink shrimp live in the clear water of southern Florida,” he starts. Brown shrimp are found in murkier, deeper water farther north

along the coast. White shrimp also concentrate in northern waters. “They seem to like cloudy shallow water,” Hensen says.

The color and size of locally available shrimp can vary greatly from one area to another and from one hour to another, Hensen recommends carrying a wide array of soft plastics to match. “Carry jig tails from five-and-a-half inches to two and-a-half,” he suggests. His go-to size is four-anda- half inches. “That’s the size that the tackle shop labels ‘hand-picked’,” he explains.

He also packs a variety of hooks and jigs to imitate the shrimp’s behavior on a given day. “I’ll use a circle hook for drifting, a weighted belly hook to crawl the shrimp or a jig head to bounce the shrimp off the bottom.”

Hensen adjusts the size of his lure to match the shrimp he observes. A general rule of thumb is smaller shrimp in the heat of summer. “Trust me,” he insists. “Elephants eat peanuts.”

He also watches how the shrimp behave. “Are they moving fast or

holding in the water,” he asks himself and then tries to match the speed and depth of the natural bait. “I generally start out with a slow pause then adjust the pace of retrieve until I find out what sparks the fish.”



XMove Moster3X shrimp comes in a wide variety of sizes with matching jigs and weighted, weedless hooks.


If the fishing is slow, slow down the presentation. Sometimes waiting several seconds between moves can be the golden ticket.

Use a tough soft plastic to save changing lures all day. I can catch 50 fish on one soft plastic. 

Study the live shrimp at the baitshop to learn about the size and color of the local wild shrimp.

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