Artificial Shrimp Options
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Life as a shrimp is tough. Brown shrimp, white shrimp, grass shrimp - it doesn't matter what species, if you are a shrimp, you're born to be eaten. Virtually every fish that inhabits Texas bays love to gobble these tasty crustaceans. And, as summer gets into full swing, salt water fishermen in the Lone Star State can't do better than using live shrimp to tempt inshore predator fish. Or can they?

Over the past decade or so, a number of life-like artificial shrimp have found their way to tackle store shelves. True, imitating shrimp is nothing new. Anglers have experimented with fake shrimp for decades. However, the modern day incarnations of artificial shrimp are so good, they are often as good or better than the real thing.

Convenience is the most obvious advantage to fishing a fake shrimp as opposed to a live one. When employing artificial versions, anglers don't have to wait in bait stand lines or worry about keeping their offerings alive.

Cost is another consideration. Anglers can often stock up on enough artificial shrimp to last several trips for the same price as a quart of live.

However, few fishermen would choose cost and convenience over productivity. But, that's where some of the better artificial shrimp models really earn their stripes. Today's artificial shrimp can be fished in a variety of manners and often illicit more strikes than live ones. And, when throwing a plastic shrimp, anglers don't need to automatically reel in and rebait following a missed strike. Instead, the artificial offering can be allowed to remain in the strike zone, giving the fish another opportunity to take a swipe at it.

As productive as artificial shrimp are, however, anglers still need to know when and how to use the different models. Here are some of the better versions available, along with some practical advice on the most advantageous ways to employ them.

DOA Shrimp - Due to the `keel' weight implanted in the belly in the shrimp, the DOA Shrimp falls in a natural, horizontal fashion. This makes it a perfect bait for `dead-sticking.' The DOA Shrimp is particularly effective for dropping into potholes or freelining around bridge pilings or jetty rocks.

Currently, DOA offers 4 sizes ranging from 2-inches to 6-inches. By adjusting the size of shrimp utilized, anglers can effectively fish for everything from mangrove snapper to tarpon. However, speckled trout, snook and redfish are the most vulnerable to these baits.

DOA Shrimp can also effectively be used beneath popping corks or maulers in the same manner live bait fishermen employ live shrimp. However, the keel-weighted design causes the DOA Shrimp to fall extremely slowly. When using it in conjunction with a cork, it is important to allow the bait enough time to settle in the water column between `pops.'

For most applications, glow is the preferred color, although clear/gold or clear/silver work well in clean, shallow water.

YUM Sweet Shrimp - Keel-weighted and fitted with a single hook, the YUM Sweet Shrimp also falls in a horizontal manner. This bait also features a rattle and a `scent chamber,' which can be filled with liquid attractant. When fish are tight-lipped, the sound and scent can often make a difference between strikes and empty casts.

YUM currently offers two sizes of Sweet Shrimp - 3- and 4-inch models. The Sweet Shrimp runs a bit heavier than like-sized DOA Shrimp, making it a bit easier to use when utilizing a fast retrieve for deep water fish. This is a good bait to use on a deep cork rig when fish are feeling sluggish.

As is the case with the DOA, glow is the best all-around color choice. The Cortez and Poltergeist colors work well in clear water.

Crème Shrimp Tease - Unlike the Sweet Shrimp and DOA Shrimp, which mimic shrimp swimming horizontally, the Shrimp Tease imitates a fleeing in a `curled up' position. This bait is plenty heavy to fall quickly in the water column, making it an ease to work when rigged deep beneath a popping cork. However, due to its fleeing shrimp design, it is most effective when worked in an aggressive manner, which more closely imitates a shrimp on the run.  

GULP! Shrimp - It seems as if virtually everyone on the Gulf Coast has thrown a GULP! Shrimp at some point in recent years. And, for good reason. These baits do produce fish. However, since they are not pre-rigged with internal weights like the DOA and Sweet Shrimp, they must be fitted with a hook or jig head. Although the profile of the bait does not resemble a natural shrimp as closely as some other lures, the scent seems to more than make up for its appearance.

When fitted with a jig head, the GULP! Shrimp falls more like a traditional soft-plastic jig, that is, head first. This head first descent means the bait is not tremendously effective as a `dead-stick' bait when fish are higher up in the water column. However, it is extremely effective when retrieved as a soft-plastic jig or fished beneath a cork.

For finicky fish, the best bet for anglers employing GULP! is to let the bait lie on the bottom and let the scent do its trick. This is particularly effective for redfish working over clean bottom, such as sand flats.

Bomber Pop `n Shrimp - Anyone who has spent anytime fishing Texas bays has witnessed shrimp skipping across the water as they attempt to escape hungry predators beneath. This is precisely what the Bomber Pop `n Shrimp is designed to imitate. A hard plastic popper molded in the form of a shrimp, the Pop `n Shrimp is a great topwater bait to use when fish are pushing schools of shrimp to the surface.

Like the Shrimp Tease, since the Pop `n Shrimp is meant to imitate escaping shrimp, it is best retrieved at a fairly quick clip. Real shrimp don't rest on the surface when they are running for their life and neither should this bait. The amount of commotion caused can be controlled by the effort exerted on rod tip twitches. However, the cadence should remain fairly quick.

Stanley Wedgetail Shrimp - Featuring the bulbous tail the Wedgetail line is known for, the Stanley Wedgetail Shrimp can be rigged in a variety of manners. However, like the GULP! Shrimp, it is most effective when rigged on a jig head and retrieved in much the same manner as a traditional soft-plastic tail.

The Wedgetail Shrimp is also effective when used as a trailer for a spinnerbait and drug across shallow grass flats. The combination of the thumping spinner blade and wagging wedge-shaped tail can `call' aggressive fish from a good distance.

When fished under a popping cork, it is best to `head hook' the Wedgetail Shrimp, just as would be done with a live shrimp. A split shot placed a few inches above the bait will provide enough weight to keep it down in the water column.

Crème Jerk `n Shrimp - One of the few shrimp-shaped slow-sinking hard plastic baits on the market today, the Crème Jerk `n Shrimp harkens back to the Bingo Pluggin' Shorty from days of old. Though it is quite a bit more realistic in its finish than the Pluggin' Shorty was, the Jerk `n Shrimp still bestows a sense of nostalgia on anglers. And, when dead-sticked in potholes, the Jerk `n Shrimp is every bit as effective as its precursor.

With it's natural, translucent appearance, the Pop `n Shrimp is an excellent choice for specks under the lights. In addition to being free-lined, this hard-plastic shrimp imitation can also effectively be used under popping corks.

Although it's unlikely Texas salt water fishermen will ever completely quite fishing with live shrimp, all of the above baits offer ample options for those wishing to leave the livewell turned off. And, as was mentioned above, these baits often keep pace and can even outproduce live shrimp. In fact, about the only downside is you can't eat the leftover bait. But, with the way these modern shrimp imitations produce fish, you won't have to.

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