Best Tarpon Lures of 2021: Beginner’s Guide

Kenneth ReavesEdited by: Kenneth Reaves
Michael DarmontReviewed by: Michael Darmont

Last Update:

The Rundown

Best Overall: D.O.A. Lures (click to see)
“If you’re looking for a versatile and realistic lure with extra reflection, the D.O.A. Lures are designed exactly that way. The ideal choice for beginners and professional anglers alike.”

Best Premium Option: Sebile Magic Swimmer (click to see)
“The Sebile Magic Swimmer mimics lifelike movements thanks to its segmented body design. It’s available in hard and soft plastic, and performs great in multiple fishing techniques.”

Best Budget Option: Storm WildEye Swim Shad (click to see)
“Looking for a ready-to-go lure that’s easy to rig on the hook? The Swim Shad is a budget option for beginners who want to throw out passive bait while casting at fish schools.”

Tarpon is considered to be one of the best fighting game fish on the planet. While they aren’t tasty fish to bring home to eat, anglers seek out tarpon exclusively for the battle that ensues after hooking into the monster fish. So if you’re an angler looking to experience the thrill of a lifetime, you’ll need to know what lures work best for targeting tarpon.

The best tarpon lures can vary quite a bit due to the finicky nature of this fish. So while it’s essential to switch up your strategies, you’ll need lures that are identical to those hunted by the tarpon. With the right gear, you’ll be ready for the exciting fight ahead of you.

Since tarpons can be stubborn and ignore baits they aren’t hungry for, we’ve put together this list of proven tarpon lures to give you the best chance of hooking into the fish of a lifetime.

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Best Tarpon Lures For The Money

Top 7 Picks

Best OVERALL

DOA 86420 Cal Jighead Chartreuse, 1/4oz

D.O.A. Lures

Best Overall Tarpon Lure

Big eye to mimic fish

Most versatility for finicky tarpon

Best premium option

Sebile Magic Swimmer Ghostescent Fishing Bait, 6 1/2' | 19cm | 1 1/2 oz

Sebile Magic Swimmer

Best Premium Tarpon Lure

Segmented body mimics natural fish movements

Natural movement to tempt strikes

best budget option

Storm WildEye Swim Shad 04 (Baby Bass, Size- 4)

Storm WildEye Swim Shad

Best Budget Tarpon Lure

Paddle tail gives great action

Ready to use baitfish mimic

Best in deeper water

Rapala X-Rap Magnum 20 Fishing lure, 5.5-Inch, Glass Ghost

Rapala X-Rap Magnum

Best Tarpon Lure In Deeper Water

Lip allows the lure to dive down between twenty and thirty feet

Diving through channels to get big hookups

best topwater

Bomber Lures Badonk-A-Donk High Pitch Saltwater Grade, (4-Inch) - Redhead Flash

Bomber Badonk-A-Donk Lure

Best Topwater Tarpon Lure

Zagging action across the surface of the water

Rattling to help entice strikes

flashiest lure

Yo-Zuri Crystal 3D Minnow Floating Lure

Yo-Zuri Crystal 3D Minnow Magnum

Flashiest Tarpon Lure

Extra reflective patterns make the lure stand out

Attract fish by reflecting sunlight like a natural baitfish

best in dark water

Z-MAN STRXL-23PK2 Streakz XL

Z-Man Streakz XL

Best Tarpon Lure for Dark Water

Bright color stands out in murkier water like river mouths

It sits near-surface so expect explosive bites

Best Lures For Tarpon 2021

  1. Best Overall: D.O.A. Lures
  2. Best Premium Option: Sebile Magic Swimmer
  3. Best Budget Option: Storm WildEye Swim Shad
  4. Best In Deeper Water: Rapala X-Rap Magnum
  5. Best Topwater: Bomber Badonk-A-Donk Lure
  6. Flashiest Lure: Yo-Zuri Crystal 3D Minnow Magnum
  7. Best In Dark Water: Z-Man Streakz XL

D.O.A. Lures

Best Overall: Most versatility for finicky tarpon

DOA 86420 Cal Jighead Chartreuse, 1/4oz

KEY FEATURES

  • Versatility, work well with almost any soft plastic
  • Big eye to help mimic fish
  • A wide gap on the hook makes sure the point stays exposed

The D.O.A. jigheads are perfect for rigging soft plastics. They let you switch up your lure color and size as necessary and are an excellent choice for beginners and professionals alike. The simple retrieve also rules out needing to know any advanced techniques as well.

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Lure Features

The standout feature of these best tarpon lures is the large eye centered on the jighead. It gives a more realistic look to the soft plastic bait you choose and some extra reflection.

The hook is set with a wide gap to make sure once rigged. The point sticks out of the bait enough to get a solid hookup. So you don’t need to worry about it getting stuck in the bait.

How to Use It

You’ll want to cast your lure a few feet ahead of the tarpon school or fish. Allow it to sink for three or four seconds, then slowly and steadily retrieve the lure. You don’t need any jerking action, and pay close attention since the bites usually feel pretty light.

Sebile Magic Swimmer

Best Premium Option: Natural movement to tempt strikes

Sebile Magic Swimmer Ghostescent Fishing Bait, 6 1/2' | 19cm | 1 1/2 oz

KEY FEATURES

  • Segmented body mimics natural fish movements
  • Great for retrieval, trolling, or drift fishing
  • Hard or soft baits available

Unlike other lures that have tails that make them jiggle or look like they’re swimming, these segmented lures mimic fish movement when water passes over them. Coming in both hard and soft plastic versions, this lure works best for anglers who want a lure that can be fished using multiple techniques. 

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Lure Features

The lure stands out because of its segmented body and lifelike movement. Fished drifting or retrieved, it will look like a swimming fish. It’s also a reasonably large lure at nearly six inches and works well for large predator fish like tarpon.

Thanks to the attached split rings, you can change the hooks whenever you need or want to. Treble hooks work best, and you may want to swap to larger hooks if you’re targeting monster tarpon. 

How to Use It

Either cast out this lure and use a straight retrieve or slowly troll it behind your boat. You can also anchor up and let the bait sit in the water, with its natural movement attracting strikes from tarpon thanks to the current. It will naturally wobble and undulate as the water moves across the lure.

Storm WildEye Swim Shad

Best Budget Option: Ready to use baitfish mimic

Storm WildEye Swim Shad 04 (Baby Bass, Size- 4)

KEY FEATURES

  • Four styles to choose from
  • Paddle tail gives great action
  • Fish it on retrieve or under a float for a passive bait

These best tarpon lures from WildEye come ready to go out of the pack. Already rigged on a hook, the only thing you need to do is tie it on. They’re a great budget option for beginners and anglers who want to throw out passive bait while casting at fish schools. 

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Lure Features

The lure stands out as a budget option because it comes ready to fish. It’s already rigged for you, making it much easier and faster to use for beginners. 

It has a large eye and pattern to help make it seem like a baitfish. The paddle tail on the back gives the lure plenty of action, whether you’re letting it sit near the surface on a float or retrieving the lure after casting it in front of a tarpon.

How to Use It

You can use this lure much like any other, cast it in front of a tarpon school, and give it a standard retrieve. On the other hand, these best tarpon lures work great as a passive lure. Attach a float above it, cast it out, and let it sit in the current while you cast other lures at fish. It’s a great way to mix up your presentation and fish multiple tarpon lures at once.

Rapala X-Rap Magnum

Best In Deeper Water: Diving through channels to get big hookups

Rapala X-Rap Magnum 20 Fishing lure, 5.5-Inch, Glass Ghost

KEY FEATURES

  • Lip allows the lure to dive down between twenty and thirty feet
  • Multiple patterns to choose from
  • Split rings to let you change out hooks when needed

Rapala lures have a proven track record in both fresh and saltwater. Going after big fish like tarpon, you’ll need a big lure to get the job done. The Magnum 20s are the perfect size to cast to or troll through channels looking for big tarpon schools.

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Lure Features

The X-Rap magnum comes in various colors, so you can always try out another if one pattern isn’t working. Stick with whichever design is getting the best results to land more tarpon.

Dual treble hooks and split rings to swap out old hooks make the lure great at getting solid hookups in the tough mouth of tarpon. All of the X-Raps also have internal rattles to get fish fired up and help entice strikes.

How to Use It

Like many of the best tarpon lures, you can cast this one out in front of a tarpon school and pull it across their faces. Alternatively, you can take advantage of its lip, slowly trolling the lure at depth in channels and around bridges where you know tarpon is lurking.

Bomber Badonk-A-Donk Lure

Best Topwater: Rattling to help entice strikes

Bomber Lures Badonk-A-Donk High Pitch Saltwater Grade, (4-Inch) - Redhead Flash

KEY FEATURES

  • Variety of patterns to try out
  • Zagging action across the surface of the water
  • Internal rattles to help attract bites

Topwater hits from tarpon are explosive and one of the most exciting bites on the planet. The Badonk-A-Donk gives you the action and rattle you need to entice strikes and works great for beginners because it doesn’t require a complicated retrieve. The strikes from tarpon are certainly worth giving a topwater a try, and if that’s what they’re after that day, you can expect plenty of action. 

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Lure Features

These best tarpon lures are designed to have a great zagging action across the surface of the water. With the right retrieve, you’ll get a ton of action, and its rattle helps to attract the bites you’re after.

It comes in a variety of patterns, many of which mimic the colors of a real baitfish. But, to the tarpon, this lure looks like a lone baitfish separated from its school and, therefore, an easy meal. 

How to Use It

Try to get ahead of the tarpon school you’re after, then work the lure along the current like a baitfish would be pushed. Give it a couple of twitches, pause for a moment, and retrieve the line. You may need to repeat the process a couple of times, but be prepared to set the hook when the tarpon strikes.

Yo-Zuri Crystal 3D Minnow Magnum

Flashiest Lure: Attract fish by reflecting sunlight like a natural baitfish

Yo-Zuri Crystal 3D Minnow Floating Lure

KEY FEATURES

  • Extra reflective patterns make the lure stand out
  • Floats but dives on jerking retrieves to look like baitfish
  • 1 ½ ounce is a great weight for long casts

Yo-Zuri makes flashy, reflective lures in a variety of styles patterned after baitfish and game fish alike. These tarpon lures work well for anglers of any experience level in any water type due to their flashiness and simple retrieval.

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Lure Features

The lure floats along the top of the water, diving to around three feet on its retrieve. The flashy patterns and holographic inserts flash in the sunlight at those depths, making the lure stand out in dark and clear waters alike.

Split rings attach dual, chemically sharpened treble hooks to help you get solid hookups. If you need to swap out your hooks, a pair of split ring pliers is all you’ll need to do the job.

How to Use It

Yo-Zuri is simply the best tarpon lures. They’re great because of their versatile retrieves, and you can use whatever gets you the most success. Try fast and slow retrieves, sometimes mixing them with jerking motions, then use whatever has worked best.

Z-Man Streakz XL

Best In Dark Water: Bright color stands out in murkier water like river mouths

Z-MAN STRXL-23PK2 Streakz XL

KEY FEATURES

  • Bright colors stand out in darker water
  • It sits near-surface so expect explosive bites
  • Soft plastic feels like a natural fish body

The Streakz XL is a soft plastic that mimics real baitfish both in the feel and looks. Working best in darker water due to its bright colors, this lure is especially good in river mouths and bays where the water is murkier.

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Lure Features

The soft body of these best tarpon lures makes the tarpon more likely to swallow the bait after strikes. Use the brightest colors available, like the white ones in darker water, to make sure your lure stands out in the murk.

The best option for this lure is the hook and rigging variety. Coming as a soft plastic, all of the hook and rig choices are up to you. Again, a 10/0 hook is ideal, as it is the proper size for both the lure and the tarpon’s mouths.

How to Use It

With this lure, you’ll want to retrieve it by jerking it in more significant motions like six to eight inches at a time with pauses for a second or two in between. They work best when sight casting to fish. Just make sure you give the hungry tarpon time to eat the bait before setting the hook, as you can easily pull the lure out of the fish’s mouth.


Tarpon Fishing 101

What is a tarpon?

Tarpon is large game fish targeted explicitly for their ability to fight when hooked and their aerial displays during those fights. They are not good fish to eat, as they are mostly too bony, and their meat is somewhat mushy. Despite this, the tarpon is considered one of the kings of gamefish worldwide due to the intense experience of battling them.

It isn’t common to land tarpons or even get them up to your boat like marlin and sailfish. Typically, touching your leader counts as a caught fish. Large tarpon can grow to eight feet in length and over 280 pounds.

Like other fish, the tarpon uses its gills to breathe underwater. Their air bladder is distinct, however, as it can function as an alternative respiratory organ. This means that tarpon can come to the surface to gulp air and still get oxygen from it. Tarpons will roll along the surface, gulping air to fill their swim bladder, giving them bursts of energy for chasing prey fish and overall increasing the amount of oxygen they are taking in.

Where can you find tarpon?

There are two species of tarpon, one native to the Atlantic Ocean and one native to the Indo-Pacific. The Atlantic species live from Virginia to Brazil and all along the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean. This same species can be found on the African coast as well, from Senegal to South Angola. The other species of tarpon are found throughout Southeast Asia and along the East Coast of Africa.

Tarpon typically lives in shallow coastal waters but can sometimes be found offshore as well. They commonly swim up rivers into freshwaters and are often found in warm, dark, shallow waters.

How to catch a tarpon?

Tarpon can be incredibly difficult to catch because their appetites shift often, and they won’t eat just because there is food available if it isn’t what they’re hungry for. So what produces results one day may not get a bite the next day. 

It’s essential to vary your approach when fishing for tarpon. Try multiple styles of lures in various patterns, mix up your presentation as much as possible, and always fish with more than one option at once. They’ll often go for mullet, both live and dead, as well as an assortment of the best tarpon lures in this article.

You’ll typically want to cruise around looking for the telltale rolling of a school of tarpon. Once spotted, get in front of the school and retrieve your lure across their face or with the tide. If they aren’t striking your lures, switch up your tactics and keep trying. To catch tarpon, you’ll need to try different options until you figure out what the stubborn fish are looking for that day.


Wrapping Up

Remember that it is illegal to remove the fish from the water in some states, as the stress of boarding the animal can result in its death. Tarpons are not a good fish to eat, they’re targeted for their incredible fighting abilities, and the fight is the goal of a tarpon fishing trip, not taking home a fish.

Tarpon fishing is a thrill unlike any other. The explosive acrobatics of the fish is the main reason they’re one of the most sought-after game fish in the world. Try out the various best tarpon lures in this article, and remember to check all local laws regarding tarpon fishing before setting out.