can't really advise you on types of lures much for Tarpon. For Bonefish I just use small jigs in a shrinp or better crab pattern and a small spin caster. You can always sweeten the jig with some hermit crab, they love it. Your guide may(MAY) have some jigs but the tackle is usually pretty rough.
Also, pack all lures in your check baggage. They wouldn't let you bring large lures on as carry-on. I had to mail them to myself at the gate.
When I went to Belize several years ago, we had a blast catching small (10-40lb.) tarpon in the mangrove lagoons on top dogs and super spooks. We used the same rod/reel setup as you would in texas bays(7' med/light action with a curado). White and silver patterns seemed to work best. Also the barracuda will blast a topwater so hard that they put holes right through them. I have several top dogs with perfect holes in them from barracuda teeth.
...have been rather on the poor side. At least for tarpon. Fifteen years ago or so, there were tarpon everywhere - and BIG ones. So big, in fact, that they we uncatchable on the flats. The only tackle stout enough to land the really big ones, you couldn't cast. Some of the fish were well over 250 lbs! I have a reliable report from one of my closest friends of a 300 lb/10-ft fish they chased around for an hour. They landed several 180lb + fish that trip, so I tend to believe them. We learned to target the smaller 100-150 lb fish on our trips - anything bigger would tend to tear up or spool our 20#/25# casting outfits. If we only had superbraids back then....
Then the netting pretty much wiped out the big fish. There were still tarpon available - here and there - but the bigger fish either moved way north, or were found along the mainland shoreline near, and up in, the rivers.
(I should mention all trips were out of Ambergris Caye and surroundingats/reefs).
The last few trips we made were limited to 1 to 3 sightingsper day, with a hookup being a good day. Snook and permit were non-existant. Certain times of year, there were some baby tarpon in the channels and creeks.
I should also mention that Belize is a very weather-dependant location. It seems to blow quite frequently - and if it blows too much, flats fishing is washed out. I remember a 10-day trip my buddy Pat that we only got 1 good day on the flats. When it blows, you are limited to fish in the mangrove channels and creeks.
However, bonefish were EVERYWHERE. A small school of bones was 200-300 fish - and you catch them off the dock. You could catch all the bones you wanted - but they are typically small - 1 to 2 pounds. A 3 or 4 lb. fish was large, and I never heard of any over 5lbs. There were a lot of big barracuda! The highlight was catching huge cuberas on topwaters or floater-divers near the reef.
I haven't been in 6 years or so...and I've heard the netting has stopped, and the tarpon are returning - but I haven't gotten any first-hand reports of consistant action - at least not as consistant as the summers right here in Texas off of POC or Port A. The flats 20-30 miles south of Ambergris Caye seem to hold the better fishing.
Coasthawks - white/black/red and the white/yellow/red
Rapalas - orange/silver/white.
Use good 25 # + gear. Ahab 20's or 16's if you do spinning, Penn 535 or better if conventional. Crank down the drag and keep setting the hook. Because you can chase with the boat, being spooled is less likely.
OK, sorry - didn't mean to rain on your parade. There are still plenty of fish in Belize for sure, and I've heard of some pretty good trips recently. Didn't mean to imply a bad trip. But I wanted you to have a realistic expectation and plans. Like taking gear suited for "backup" species such as cubera, cudas, etc. If you are expecting 10lb bones, for example, you might be very disappointed and feel the fishing is "bad". However, if you have a clear expectation, then you could feel real, real good about a 3lb. bone, for example. Likewise, if you put all your eggs in one basket, like flats-fishing, you might be unprepared when high winds muddy the flats, making them unfishable. Or perhaps you have visions of catching tarpon on pristine, blinding white flats with clear-as-air water (which Belize has a lot), and then be disappointed to find the tarpon at that time of year are in the river on the mainland that has dirty, stank, chocolate brown soup. I think one of the biggest mistakes made is lodges or travel agencies over-hype the fishing (regardless of destination) and set expectations for the traveling angler too high so that even a great trip for the area is viewed/percieved as so-so fishing. Sooo, with that in mind, here is some info:
BTW, I am assuming you're talking conventional tackle, not fly gear.
Rods & Reels - TARPON
7ft medium to med-heavy casting/popping rod would be my first choice. Put on it a casting reel such as an Ambassadeur 5000/6000 series. A Calcutta 400 is another good choice. The A7000 or Calcutta 700 (w/levelwind) is another choice, but these can be difficult to cast all day and get the range. Load the reel with a 20# or 25# test. Superbraid would be a good choice, provided you use a long mono/flouro leader or top shot. Please note, any tarpon over about 60lbs will be too much for any Curado, Cronarch or like reel.
Spinning outfit can work also and have some advantage in that you can go to a heavy outfit and line and still be able to cast with distance. However, it does get old casting a spinner all day. Remember, you are going to make lots of casts, usually with wind and long distances.
Rod & Reels - BONEFISH
Definitely choose a spinning outfit here. A 6.5 to 7.55 ft light to ultralight with a reel to match. The reel should hold a minimum of 175 yrds of line. Get a reel that has the smoothest drag you can afford. Use 6 or 8 lb line. For bones, you will be making long cast with tiny, tiny lures (unless you bait fish with shrimp or hermit crabs).
Rod & Reels - OTHER
The are many alternate species which frequently save the day. Your typical trout/redfish rod with 10# or 12# test line will work in many situations. Snook, permit, barracuda, snapper (except the large cuberas), chub, ladyfish, and others.
Mirrolures are a great choice for tarpon. They can be fished on the flats or in the deeper channels. If you are in the rivers or deeper channels, then coasthawks work well. Big broken backs (floater/divers) work pretty well too, and are irresistable to snapper and other reef species. Catch2000, or soft plastics are great choices when plugging the channels or mangrove-lined shorelines. Topwaters have their place for barracuda and if you can get the cuberas hit them on the reef - that's the ticket. The reason is that diving/sinking lures will draw strikes from cuberas, but they can grab them and head back into the reef before you can stop 'em. If you can get them to hit on top, then you are already halfway home because they are already far enough from the reef that you have a chance to stop 'em before they get back. Pick up some green (surgical) tube lures. On slow days, trolling a tube around the edges of channels and creeks will result in some HUGE 'cudas. Also, you never know what will hit a tube trolled along the reef - anything from tarpon and cuberas to sailfish!
Bonefish will require tiny jigs - 1/8 oz would be the largest - 1/16 oz is better. The reason is not so much the size of the jig, but the splash it will make. Anything larger than 1/8 oz will plop into the water spooking the school. Believe me, it is really frustrating to have your guide pole you 100 yards to get into position on a school of 300 bonefish and have your jig spook 300 fish that scatter and, in turn, spook 5 other schools of 200-300 fish in a chain reaction that empties 4 acres of flats of every living thing! If you have trouble casting jigs that small, you'll have to cast 10-20 yards in front of the school and let it sit until the school creeps up on it.
For bones, they make what's called a "wiggle jig" that is flat. Those are the ones you what. The point of the hook always rides up. Pink, brown, white, and yellow - in that order - are the standard colors.
Speaking of colors, I hadn't mentioned colors on other lures. I'm particularily of natural color schemes in the gin clear flats. But solid dark purple mirrolure was a consistant producer for tarpon on my trips (even in Mexico, Texas and Florida too!). Make sure your hooks are sharp, sharp, sharp for tarpon.
If you can tell me where abouts you are fishing (Caye Caulker, Ambegris, mainland rivers, etc.), I can provide some more specific info.
Thanks for the responses. Looks like we're all set for Tarpon, but the tackle we planned on using for Bonefish is way overkill. Going to have to bring the whitebass tackle it sounds like.
John, thanks. We're staying at Iguana Reef Inn on Caye Caulker, fishing with a guide named "Piggy". heh. That's all I know. I'd sure like more info on the jigs you say you need for Bonefish. I've got lots of light & ultralight crappie & white bass jigs, but nothing that "wobbles". Sounds almost like a 'Pet Spoon' the way you describe it. We had planned on using DOA shrimp & small topwaters for Bonefish, sounds like those are overkill even.
Thanks again for all the responses, I'll post a report, hopefully with fish pics, when we get back.
Caye Caulker is DEFINITELY the place for angling in Belize. You're going to the best spot, both for numbers and consistancy (those are the flats 20 miles south of Ambergris cay I was referring to!). In addition, at Caulker you'll have shots at permit, which have dwindled in numbers from the upper areas of Belize (but have increased in numbers a little north of Belize in the Yucatan - I'm heading for a week of angling at Boca Paila in Mexico at the beginning of October).
I am posting a picture of the wobble or wiggle jigs I am talking about. They may be available locally in Houston, but I've been getting mine mail order (Cabela's has them). These work not only for bones, but for permit as well. Pink and brown are best for permit.
Bones have a very small mouths located on the bottom of their head. Therefore, they are bottom feeders. The will tail down and pick up your jig from the bottom - very slow movement - don't "twitch" - they'll spook from twitches. Same for permit.
Last year, Pat Collis and I did the Boca trip and I saw Pat catch a bonefish (pretty good size ones too!) on a bass assassin, rigged weedless with a 5/0 hook! Craziest thing I ever saw! We also each caught, and had a few other strikes, on topwaters (his took a SpitNImage and mine a ZipNZiggy) while plugging for snook - but these were 1 in a million shots. All the guides at Boca, who been at it on average 17 years apiece, laughed about it and said it was the first time they'd EVER seen a bonefish taken on a topwater (and we did it twice in one week). So topwaters are really low-percentage choices for bones. Stick with the jigs.
I would suggest that might consider a flyrod, even if you've never used one. Flies are really the best presentation for bones, both for distance (with tiny baits) and the fact of the steathly presentation. The bones, being so plentiful and small in size, are the perfect learning opportunity for the beginner. The fact is that even a inexperienced flycaster will probably be able to cast farther with a fly rod than a 1/8 or 1/16 oz jig on spinning tackle - especially into the wind. With jigs, in actual fishing conditions - not out in the yard - you can really only get about 20-30 feet (those darn wiggle jigs catch the wind so easily). I gaurantee that you could do that with a flyrod, even if you never cast one before. Your guide should be able to get you that close with the boat, and a 20-30 ft cast wouldn't require any of the fancy techniques like double-hauling, etc. Simply strip out 20-30 ft of line and false cast a few times and you're there. For the size of typical bonefish, you wouldn't need an expensive outfit - a cheapo 5/6 wt with matching reel will do. Pick up some bonefish charlie or crazy charlies in pink, brown, or white and you're set. It is 100 times easier getting a bone to take a fly than a jig, trust me on that.
Anyway, here are pics of the wiggle/wobble jigs...
Good luck, and let me know how you do (when are you going?)
Actually, I have used a flyrod a bunch, just not in saltwater. Used to flyfish the Colorado river below Austin a lot. It just seemed like a lot of hassle when I can catch so many more fish on casting tackle. I have a cheap 6wt rig with some cheap wf floating line on it, and just used 8# Trilene XL for tippets. Actually have a never-opened spool of Scientific Anglers 6# tippet, guess that would work well. I even figured out the double-haul to get distance into the wind, although it didn't work a lot of times!
Looking thru my old fly box, I have several flies that look like they'd work, one grasshopper fly looks a lot like a shrimp. Even have my old stirrer straw pieces for tying nail knots. I'll check Roy's tomorrow and see if they have any Bonefish Charlies flies in pink. How many fish should I expect from each fly, 3 or 4? How long should the tippet be, 6'?
We're flying out this Friday morning, so I guess I'll have to do without the wobble jigs (doubt they're available in Corpus). Fishing three days straight then headed back.