I’ve recently gone back to using a lure I used first many years ago…the DOA shrimp. It has some excellent characteristics for the kind of fishing I do in shallow water. It’s simple to use, very resistant to destruction by marauding pinfish (although a puffer will take a nice chunk out of one), and one characteristic that sets it apart from scented baits like Gulp: it comes pre-rigged and rides hook up, out of the grass (it doesn’t stink either and it’s much easier to keep around your boat). Tommy Thompson and I have comparison fished the DOA versus the Gulp shrimp on a number of occasions; much of the time, the DOA will outfish the Gulp. One of the comments about these lures over the years is that they were expensive, but the fact that they are pretty indestructible compared to most soft plastics makes up for that. Recently, the company has started selling “spare parts” kits with 9 bodies, 3 hooks and 3 weights for a very reasonable price (http://www.doalures.com/).
This is great for me, because I like to tinker, and for at least ten years I’ve been changing out the hooks on my DOA shrimp. I always felt the angle of the standard hook was not wide enough so I would replace the hooks with wider gap hooks. DOA shrimp come in several sizes, based on their length: 2,3,4 and 6 inches. By far the commonest size is the 3 inch, which weighs 1/4 oz. The 4 inch, which weighs 1/2 oz., has long been a favorite of mine. Fishing in shallow water, the extra weight allows longer casts with light tackle. The problem is that the weight also drags the bait down quickly, and what is more desirable is a slower sinking rate. The new “spare parts” kits (in addition to the kits, you can buy separate hooks and weights as well for both 3 and 4 inch shrimp) allow me to really customize a shrimp.
Recently my friend Jerry McBride from DOA sent me a number of bodies and weights in both 3 and 4 inch sizes. First, it’s important to note that when you look at the shrimp bodies, there doesn’t appear to be much difference but the 4 inch shrimp is wider and just a bit longer (but not an inch by my measuring). I have found a specific hook that I use to replace the standard DOA hooks. I get it at Bass Pro; it’s a simple wide gap straight shank (not offset) hook. A 3/0 hook fits the 3 inch shrimp, and a 4/0 the 4 inch shrimp perfectly. I put a drop or two of Loctite Crazy Glue in the hook hole on the back of the shrimp and simply slide the hook through from the top and out the front of the lure. This keeps the hook in place; the standard non-glued hooks allow the body to slide up the line when you catch a fish; it can be easily slid back onto the hook, but glue will keep it in place. The weights slide into a pocket on the bottom surface of the shrimp. Using the different weights, I am now able to have a 3 inch shrimp that is standard, or one that can rapidly sink in deeper water with the 1/2 oz. weight. But what I’ve been doing recently is using the 4 inch shrimp with a 1/4 oz. weight. This combination allows me to use a larger bait (catches bigger fish, right?) that will sink slowly, important in less than 3 feet of water. And the added weight of the body provides a longer cast as well.
This picture shows the specific hook in its package, the 1/4 oz. weight and the 1/2 oz. weight, and an “altered” shrimp.
And this close-up shows the subtle differences in the hooks, with the standard hook on the bottom. Admittedly, it doesn’t look very different, but I think the little extra gap between the hook point and the body makes a difference. Plus it gives me a great excuse to get Crazy Glue on my hands and gives me something to do when it rains in Steinhatchee.
You really can’t talk about DOA shrimp without talking about colors; there are bunches to choose from. Jerry McBride has caught more huge fish on DOA shrimp that probably anyone (I guess except for Mark Nichols, who invented them). I’ve recently started using some of his favorite colors- the 382 holographic glitter and the 425 watermelon clear glitter (shown above). I have always leaned toward lighter colors, like the 305 glow (above on the bottom) and 318 chartreuse glitter. If you look at the mouth of the 20 pound redfish in my previous post, you’ll see a 4 inch 318 firmly attached to his jaw. According to Jerry, some west coast guides use almost exclusively pink shrimp, so I’ll be giving some of those a try.
DOA makes a lot of excellent lures, most of which I use at some point or another. The BaitBuster is a great lure for large fish in deeper water; I’ve caught cobia and bluefish in large numbers with them. Some excellent fishermen use the TerrorEyz a lot; I’m not one of them as it’s not really made for fishing grass. The relatively new CAL soft tails and the large BFL plugs have their devotees. But without a doubt, the DOA shrimp is my favorite. I fish them slowly, jerking the shrimp out of the grass and letting it settle back slowly; Jerry insists tying the lure on with a loop knot enables it to look more natural in the water. Some fish it faster, like a jig, but I’ve had better luck fishing it slowly and hopping it above the grass and letting it sink back down. Anyone that fishes in the Big Bend area should have a few DOA shrimp in their tackle box, and give them a try in the right conditions; I predict you’ll use them on a regular basis.