Max limit for 2 from 17 ft skiff using the leader rig shown below. But a problem with grouper fishing (and targeting other species when bottom fishing) is that many anglers don’t put much thought into making their leaders… They simply get a weight, a hook, some line, and perhaps a swivel or two and start tying their favorite knot for all the connections.
And a majority of the time, that lack of thinking about all aspects of what they’re targeting leaves the following two problems: The weakest point in the overall system (most often at the knot that connects the lighter main line to the top of the heavier leader assembly) is up above the weight.
And since grouper are structure oriented, the odds of them getting stuck to the bottom due to the weight getting snagged are high which will make them easy targets to the next shark that cruises by. Knowing that grouper and most other bottom fish seek comfort in structure when the feel threatened, we need to account for the fact that there will be break-offs in our decision for how we make our leader assemblies.
When targeting strong fish that live in and around heavy cover, the likelihood of getting snagged on the bottom is high. So my preference is to set up the overall line system to have the weakest point be the knot that goes directly to the hook while also beefing up the line most exposed to getting weakened from bumping rough patches on the bottom (directly above the weight).
The Orris knot is my preferred choice to tie to the Perfection loop because it’s extremely fast to tie and is very strong (not quite as strong as the Palomar, but it’s stronger than any Loop knot I’ve tested so it’ll not be the weakest link). Note: Different line brands/types of course have different breaking points, so these values are just to serve as a rough estimate.
Grouper fishing is a fantastic way for a group of friends or a family to get out on the water and enjoy nature together… And given their popularity, we need to pay extra attention to take the best possible care of them so our future generations can continue to enjoy this great game fish as well as other structure oriented species that also be harmed by poorly designed leader rigs.
“Sometimes it’s hard to grouper fish with Mali swimming around your boat, but our stretch of offshore reefs can give up some really quality gags and scamps this time of year, particularly on spots deeper than 120 feet,” he said. The rig consists of an egg sinker sliding on an 18-inch piece of 100-pound mono between two swivels.
A 6-foot piece of 100-pound mono leads to a circle hook, with the size depending on the bait. “If I’m fishing for gags, my favorite bait is a live golden spot or a pinkish,” said Johnson.
Johnson prefers the slip sinker rig, because fooling big grouper is all about presentation. Keep the sinker pinned against the bottom swivel and at the first sign of panic in the bait, let him swim away from the weight unencumbered.
Johnson says he’d always prefer to hook his live spots, grunts, and pinkish behind the anal fin, but cautions that you have to consider the current. How to build three proven rigs for taking grouper, snapper and other bottom species.
Consistent success demands precise anchoring or drifting tactics, specialized rigs, a strong back and plenty of elbow grease, not to mention a little of luck. Should all of these elements fall into place, you'll find yourself muscling big fish out of the depths and into your cooler.
As simple as they might appear, bottom rigs have a major influence on success, or lack thereof. For many fishermen, the main selling point of fluorocarbon is that the material is simply less visible than traditional nylon monofilament.
Therefore, in murky water, where leader visibility isn't a concern, fluorocarbon still offers an advantage that justifies its expense. For groupers and amber jack, I'll use a large, double-strength, short-shank hook in a size ranging from 8/0 to 11/0, one with a relatively wide gap if I'm dropping big live baits.
Although there are numerous variations when it comes to bottom rigs, outlined on the following pages are three highly effective versions that will fool more big snappers, groupers, amber jack and cobra around reefs, wrecks and other structure. This is a good rig to use with weights heavier than 16 ounces and for fishing over heavy structure.
The weight, usually a bank sinker, is connected to the third eye of the swivel via several inches of lighter line. This rig boasts many of the same advantages as the in-line version when using a long leader, plus the heavy sinker won't chafe the fishing line.
Furthermore, should the rig snag on the bottom, it can usually be freed by locking down the drag and winding tight until the lighter line holding the sinker parts. However, the short leader provides hardly any slack for a fish to dive back into the structure before or at the moment the hook is set.
Then I tie on six feet of 40- or 50-pound fluorocarbon and a 5/0 to 8/0 circle hook, based on the bait I'm using and size of the fish. It's also productive when fishing the bottom well up current of a wreck or reef. The long leader allows a live bait to swim relatively unrestricted, or a dead one to float more naturally in the current.
As the in-line egg sinker rests on bottom, the bait flutters enticingly above it some 15 to 25 feet back. Should a suspicious fish peck at the bait, the play in the long leader usually prevents it from detecting any resistance.
Some bait shops may have pinkish you can buy, but we recommend going out a day before your grouper trip and catching some above bait fish to store in your live well. If you’re targeting a rock pile or wreck, anchor your boat up current and throw some old cut bait in the water.
A regular bottom fishing tackle setup is a great place to start. We like using a 6 to 7-foot long heavy action rod paired with a bottom -fishing reel and 50 lb test braided line.
Like we mentioned earlier, we usually fish for grouper off the coast of Florida and the Gulf of Mexico, so these are the species you’ll most likely encounter there. They are gray and brown and love living close to coastal rock piles and underwater wreckage.
Gag groupers will even hang in water only a few feet deep if there are structure and bait fish nearby. Their massive size means you need to fish with an extra heavy-duty set up in order to stand a chance.
One of the first mistakes amateur grouper fishermen make is keeping their drag at a normal level. This is a big mistake when fishing for grouper due to their tendency to retreat back to rocky holes and tunnels after they take your bait.
IF your drag is set high, it will be much harder for them to make it back to their rocky hideouts before you can reel them away. Since oftentimes the difference between catching a grouper and not is just finding them, drifting allows you to maximize your chances enticing them to bite.
As long as the current isn’t too strong and your lures aren’t down too deep, you should still be able to keep your live/dead bait right where you want it. Since they live at deeper depths than other sports fish, they still enjoy feeding when the surface bite is off.
This is why it’s always a good idea to have a bottom fishing reel and rod ready for off days. Grouper put up a great fight and taste delicious if you prepare them correctly.
Now that you know what the proper grouper bait is and how to fish it, you’ll be prepared next time you get out on the water. I try to up my odds of landing grouper by building leaders that can withstand the line-gnawing reefs.
My grouper rig is simple; it consists of a 6 to an 8-foot-long leader of 300-pound-test monofilament with a 9/0 to 11/0 circle hook. All swivels and the hooks are attached to the line using 1.9 mm crimp sleeves.
Slide your weight onto the line, and then attach the opposite end to the swivel on the long leader. A fighting rod of 5’8” or longer, rated for line up to 200-pound test will do in most cases.
My reel of choice is the Shaman Thorium 30HG spooled with 65-pound-test braided line. The 6.2:1 gear ratio makes it fast and powerful enough to move big grouper in a hurry.
The goal is to keep them out of the reef, but if they do get back to their hole, you’re prepared with a leader that can survive the fight. When I hooked the gag grouper in this picture, he immediately ran back into his hole in the reef.