The next few weeks have historically proven to be some of the best fishing that we will have all year. Simply soaking a live bait or a piece of shrimp anywhere inshore is pretty much a sure bet for a good bite. But if you want to make it even more fun, challenging and productive, then you’re not alone.

It’s a question that we hear in the tackle shop all of the time: “How do I improve my fishing skills so I can catch more fish and get the satisfaction of fooling them into eating a piece of plastic and synthetic materials?”

First and foremost, make sure that your tackle is right for the job. That old rod that can fling a two-ounce sinker and a big chunk of mullet into the next county is great for soaking bait, but it is not the best tool for fishing artificial lures. We need rods that can throw light lures accurately and quietly to a target the size of a dinner plate. It will need to be light weight for repetitive casting and it will need a sensitive blank with a fast tip that will allow you to feel the lure working and the lightest of bites.

Go down in rod and reel size instead of up. In other words, think about a 3000 or smaller reel frame instead of a 4000. Same with rods, a 6-foot, 6-inch rod is going to fish a lot lighter than a 7-foot, 6-inch of the same model. Your local tackle shop can give you recommendations for bettering your equipment in a price point that you will be comfortable with. The main thing is think stealth, accuracy and light weight.

Once you have the right rod and reel, you will be able to improve your casting skills, which is the next big thing that you can do to improve your success on the water.

Speed and accuracy are the name of the game. Imagine a big redfish cruising along an oyster bank. You have to get the cast off fast while you can still see him. Miss by two feet and it’s usually game over. It can happen to anybody but it will happen to you less often if you practice. Practice accuracy, practice casting quickly and practice casting without looking at your reel so you can keep your eye on your target. While you are at it, practice backhand casting and if you can learn to skip cast, you’ll catch a lot more fish under low hanging tree branches and docks.

The next thing that you have to do is really up to you. You have to make yourself switch it up and experiment with different lures instead of going with your tried and true method of soaking a bait and waiting.

Invest some time in your skills because the only way for you to make that lure look alive is by using it and watching how it responds to your rod tip. Jigs, suspending jerk baits, topwater plugs, crankbaits, spoons, swimming plastics, spinnerbaits, your choice. They’re all fun and productive. While you are on the water learning how to use them, you’ll figure out the when and where to use them in the process.

Catching a fish on light tackle and artificial lures might just be the biggest accomplishment in our sport. Good gear and practice will get you there before you know it.

Capt. David Peralta is the fishing tackle buyer at The Charleston Angler.