In a selfish kind of way, I'm glad that flats anglers headed to Florida, the Bahamas, the Yucatan and Belize bypass barracuda for bonefish, tarpon and permit. That translates into a less pressured species that we 'cuda addicts drool over. I like to call them the "Cheetahs of the Flats" because when sharks prowl the flats for finny food, they simply cannot generate the speed and sharp toothed aggression that barracuda demonstrate in response to a properly presented lure or live bait.
My biggest 'cuda was over 40 pounds taken on an 8-pound spinning tackle and a tube lure in Fresh Creek, Andros Island. And while you can get a crack at some good fish wading island and beach shorelines, your odds for a big fish go up immensely when you can pursue them from a skiff or panga. Barracuda have an affinity for hovering around rock piles, shallow water wrecks and baitfish schools. This is where they most likely will find their food that they can pounce, sprint and bite into with their razor-sharp teeth.
Where to Find 'Cudas
Barracuda are easily spotted with polarized glasses and cast to. The other alternative is to fan cast likely looking areas when the water depths are about two feet or more. You can catch smaller fish in shallower water but you'll get your most pleasure from 'cuda over 10 pounds. There are two bonuses fishing for 'cuda. The first is that barracuda will remain on the flats in colder weather when all the other species are gone. The second is that barracuda can leap on the strike and after they have been hooked. I've had them leap much higher than giant tarpon: their jumps resemble muscled missiles.
Tackle and Techniques
On the techniques that follow are three constants. Always use a wire leader. Choose the leader in a non-reflective coffee color but make it the lightest gauge possible. The second rule is to make your casts and presentations stealthy but close enough to be seen. Finally, be aware that your retrieves should emphasize speed, since fleeing triggers pursuit and attack by barracuda, much like bears on streams and such. When using lures, use a fast retrieve spinning reel.
If you want to get in on the barracuda action, try out these three lures.
You can make your own with surgical tubing, wire leader and two treble hooks. I buy mine at Bass Pro Shops and very much like the Sea Striker Deluxe Cuda Tube lure. My personal preferences are hot colors like chartreuse and pink.
How to fish it: My best retrieve has been to rip them on the surface.
How to fish it: The beauty of lipped swimming plugs is that you simply reel briskly and the plug wiggles enticingly.
Topwater plugs like the Zara Spook produce truly epic barracuda strikes. These plugs are best used when the water surface on the flats is free of seaweed or grass and when there are calm to slightly riffled seas.
How to fish it: Cast your topwater well ahead of and past your target. Then begin a fast "walk your dog" retrieve and hang on!