Grouper take up residence in these holes and generally respond aggressively when a jig comes bouncing by their dwelling. Randy advises dropping the jig /bait to the bottom and letting the boat’s drift move it along the structure.
Swiss cheese bottom also attracts swarms of mangroves, lane and vermilion snapper. Keepers are a tasty bonus to the grouper routine, but mortar undersized bait steamers that often chew the tails off jigs.
Although specializing in Tampa Bay trolling, Vance is equally adept at offshore jigging. Very often, he said, jigs will outperform live bait and the fish you get are generally quality size.
Vance figures the size of a jig and bait combination weeds out the little guys and appeals to grouper worth keeping. When you know your favorite spot is holding them, but they are being finicky on baits, jigging can often be the ticket producing a reaction based strike that triggers their predatory instinct.
Best places to jig for black, gag, red, and scamp grouper include hard bottom outcroppings, reefs, wrecks, oil rigs, and other structures that hold bait fish and provide hiding spots for ambushing their prey. The Shaman Saragossa 8000 and 10000, Died Saltiest 5000, and Penn Slammer SLAIII6500 are all more than capable if you are just getting started.
Black Hole Cape Cod Special 250g, Otis Fathom Blade 300g, and Shaman Arévalo 58XXH rods in both spinning and conventional models are all fantastic options that are super light weight with plenty of power and action to fool and whoop up on the best of them. If you are using a buck tail, you can simply attach directly to the jig and avoid the rest of the terminal tackle.
Otherwise, keep your jig at the bottom and reel in about 20-30’ towards the surface and then drop back down to stay in the strike zone longer. The higher you get in the water column also increases the probability of hooking amber jack aka Reef Donkeys, king mackerel, and more.
This is because grouper like to live near the bottom close to underwater structures like rocks and wrecks. The Your Crystal 3D Minnow Deep Diver Trolling Lure is a great option when trolling for grouper (and other saltwater fish like Spanish mackerel) as it’s realistic 3D eyes mimic an actual bait fish’s eyes.
The X-Rap has been a trolling favorite for years and works well for many species (like halibut, lake trout, and more) of fish besides just grouper. If you find grouper that are close to shore or in shallow water, your best bet for a trolling lure is the Papal Shadow Rap Shad Shallow Trolling Lure.
These lures look and feel more like the fish grouper are used to eating, and are an excellent choice for trolling. The rubber tail’s action imitates a frantic bait fish trying to escape a hungry grouper.
The rubber tail flutters in the water at all speeds and mimics a scared shrimp or shad. Grouper love feeding on both small crustaceans/bait fish and find the Each Fat Swing Impact Rubber Shad irresistible.
If you aren’t getting any bites on your soft plastic lures or the diving plugs, we recommend trying out a fishing classic: metal spoons. Metal spoons imitate sardines, mackerel, and other small shiny fish that grouper like to eat.
These chrome-covered spoons have been catching many types of fish for years, including grouper. They have a simple action that when trolled with a down rigger looks like a small bait fish that has been separated from its school.
It has a more aggressive action than the Clark spoon which can entice reclusive grouper from where their hiding in underwater structure. The Huntington Stainless Steel Drone Spoon works for many saltwater species (such as smaller yellow fin tuna and bonito) along with grouper, so it’s a solid addition to any tackle box.
Keep in mind that we typically fish for grouper in the southern Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, so these are the species common to those areas. 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 is structure and bait fish nearby. They’re often caught using down riggers and keeping your trolling lure 10 to 15 feet off the bottom.
While this can make figuring out where to fish for them easy, you need to be extra aware of your lure depth and how fast you’re trolling. If your lure bounces off the bottom when you’re trolling over underwater structure, you’ll most likely snag and end up losing equipment.
While most groupers won’t be larger than 40 lbs, some grow to enormous sizes! This might seem counter-intuitive when trolling, but you don’t want to give a hooked grouper any chance to swim back into the cover it darted out from.
If it gets back to the hole it lives in, chances are your line will scrape against the rocks and snap. A tight drag will not only prevent this but also act to set the hook with the movement of the boat.
When I fished with Tommy Butler out of St Petersburg, FL, groupers were so thick that it took only a minute to get bites on bait, but I couldn't land a single grouper on jig except a few scampi. I often fish grouper commercially in NC and it is usually tough to get them on jigs.
Grouper in Dry Tortugas usually hit jigs very well. I had about 50 grouper including shorts on jigs on 3 days trip with Capt Yuri.
I see so many groupers are lost on party boats because anglers use lighter line for them. Grouper can chase fast moving jigs, but I always have more success by moving jig slowly close to the bottom.
I caught some grouper by squid ding (reeling steadily in slow speed) too. I experimented other jigs with same results in recent years.
But the choice of rod is depending on what sizes of grouper I am getting on a particular trip. I see so many groupers are lost on party boats because anglers use lighter line for them.
We are going to try deep drop again in Mon or Tues in NC. When you fish deep, you have to use bigger jigs to hold bottom.