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Make a Shrimp Teaser for Weakfish

By Russ Bassdozer

Weakfish are opportunistic feeders. They have wide, cavernous mouths. They will take hold of large prey like bunkers, snappers, and practically anything else that swims. Fangs allow them to clamp and hold onto such large bait as they suck it down in a series of gulping movements. The mouth cavity is very flexible and semi-collapsible inward - which allows the weakfish to generate a surprisingly strong suction force by collapsing its closed mouth inward, flaring its gills to vacate water and build pressure within the mouth cavity, then instinctively opening and expanding its mouth walls outward at the precise moment. In this way, they can clamp down on and swallow very large bait in a series of gulping, sucking movements.

It's like in a sci-fi movie. The mouth also allows weakies to vacuum in any SMALL food close to it. It is kind of like in those sci-fi movies when they get a hole in the side of the spacecraft...and everyone gets sucked out into the vacuum of space! Same thing with the weakfish's feeding technique! Every small fish in proximity gets sucked out of the water and into the vacuum inside the weakie's mouth. Striped bass can also generate strong suction, but differently than weakfish. Striped bass can suck razor clams right out of their burrows in the bottom!

This vacuuming tactic works most efficiently with smaller bait like spearing and shrimp. In fact, weakies clearly seem to have an affinity for sucking in grass shrimp and sand shrimp. Both are diminutive critters typically under two inches in length. Grass shrimp, the predominant species is a translucent dirty white color. Less prolific, the sand shrimp is a see-through smoky grey color. Both species have prominent black eyes on the end of eye stalks.

It's a spring thing. Shrimp tend to swarm near the surface during the first warming weeks in early spring. You will surely know when this is happening because the small terns will be busy dive-bombing the shrimp everywhere, particularly where the shrimp are riding the tide in strong currents. A good clue is that you will not see anything in the tern's beak as it pulls away from the water. This is because the shrimp are so small, and also neutral colors. When this is going on in spring, it can be a good idea to always try a shrimp teaser up ahead of whatever else you use to imitate the predominant bait (spearing, peanut bunker, snappers, tinker macks, etc).

Here's how to make a simple shrimp teaser. You will need a vise, scissors, a bobbin full of thin white thread, a bobbin full of thin black thread, some white bucktail hair, and Mustad stainless O'Shaughnessy hooks (model #3407) in sizes ranging from around 2 up to about 1/0 max.

1) Clamp a hook in a fly-tying vise or hand-held needlenose vise grip pliers. Clamp it right behind the barb of the hook.

2) Cut a 2 inch length of bucktail hair. Don't need too many hair fibers here. Better too sparse than too thick. Look for hair fibers that are thin and silky as opposed to the coarse, hollow hairs. Look for the needle tips of the fibers to end at varying lenghts - not all the hairs tapering to points at exactly the same spot.

3) Start to wrap the bucktail hairs using white fly-tying thread. Make the wrapping about 1/8 to 1/4 inch back from the hook eye....and leave the cut ends of the bucktail fibers sticking out past the hook eye. Do not make a bulky wrap, keep it about 1/8 inch wide. But do wrap it so tight that the hair fibers really flare out both behind AND in fornt of the wrap.

4) Use scissors to square off the cut ends of the bucktail fibers sticking out past the hook eye. This creates the wide, triangular tail of the shrimp. The hook eye should be hidden in the flared-out tail fibers. The tail should extend out about 3/16 to 1/4 inch past the wrapping.

5) Now take the tapered tip ends of the hairs and compress them closely together, forming a needle point. Take the white thread again and start to wrap down the needle points of the hair right onto the bend of the hook shank. You do not want to use a lot of tension do not want the fibers to flare out, especially not the want the very tips to stay tight together and pointed. These tips imitate the pointy "thorn" and antennae on the head of the shrimp. Done properly, the tips should extend down and outward over the bend of the hook at about a 45 degree angle from the hook shank. This imitates the curved body posture of a fleeing shrimp.

6) This is not really a step...just a comment on the overall effect of the hair tips and body shape. First, look at the body of the shrimp...the section between the two wraps. The fibers should have puffed out nicely between the two wraps, forming what I will refer to as a "thin football" shape. Also notice that many of the needle tips of the hairs should be sticking out from the body section...that is, many of the needle tips were too short to make it under the second wrap of thread on the hook shank...THAT IS JUST WHAT THE DOCTOR ORDERED! In fact, not a whole lot of the tips should have made it under the second wrap, and the antennae should only extend out about 1/2 to 1 inch past the second wrap, in proper proportion to the hook size and total body length. Overall best thing to do here is to net a few grass shrimp to study their body proportions before wrapping.

7) Now take the thin black thread and wrap a very slim band of black over the center of the last white wrap. This thin band of black gives the impression of the black eye stalks on the shrimp.

8) Coat the wraps with some clear nail polish and you are ready to fish!

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