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.
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.
Randy Not is the co-publisher of Coastal Angler/The Angler Magazine’s Panama City/Forgotten Coast edition. 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.
Many Northeast anglers have sampled this delicious bottom feeder on trips to southern coastal states. Those dreams often go along the lines of pulling in a trophy fish and taking some pictures for prosperity.
But you will be lucky if you catch a prize fish on your first few trips as snapper are very smart and fussy feeders, especially the big ones. While a well-balanced rod and reel spooled with either braid or mono is important to catch a good snapper, it’s what is at the end of the rig that is the most vital.
This article will cover some rigs and baits that I have had success with to not only hook that prized fish but to get them in the net. Whether you spool your reel with braid or mono depends on what depths you are fishing in.
I have found that when I am fishing in deep water of 40 m or more, then braid is the better choice as it doesn’t get a bowing effect in the line as it goes straight down. The same tends to happen with braid when the fish is at the side of the boat and does a big dive for the bottom.
Once you have selected the right main line for your particular spot, the most important part of the set up now comes down to your terminal tackle. For this scenario a fluorocarbon leader is a better choice, as it is invisible in the water and most importantly, to the fish.
I use 40lb Black Magic Tough fluorocarbon leader, as I generally fish in shallow water close to reef ledges. Even when this leader has been rubbed on the reef below, it still is strong enough to land a good size snapper.
The longer the leader, the less chance of the fish seeing where it is connected to the swivel and main line. Of course the other vital part of this equation is that the hook is sharp enough to penetrate the hard bony mouth of a snapper.
If you do strike, you inevitably end up missing the fish so these hooks can make things a bit easier. In the past sets of 4/0 Mustard gang hooks were my preference for snapper fishing and I used them for quite a while.
The two hooks can also be set and hidden better in the offering as the big snapper are smart, they will only attack bait that looks as natural as possible. Another good thing about this rig is that the final hook can be threaded through the bait several times before it is set.
A well-tied, strong holding not makes all the difference when fighting that big snapper. If the knot is even that little suspect you will only find out how bad it is when a big fish is connected.
The last thing an angler wants is to lose that trophy fish for the sake of a badly tied not. The main thing to remember is to wet the knot when tightening as this helps to eliminate friction in the line and keep it at it’s stated strength.
My favorite baits for snapper fishing are garfish, paddy mullet, and scad. Pilchards certainly work well, but they can be a one hit wonder and are probably in my opinion more suited to deepwater fishing.
The next important factor in your hunt for a trophy snapper is how to present this fresh bait that you have acquired. The most important thing about baiting up that I have learned is to try different ways if the fish aren’t biting on the ones that I know work.
The most important thing to remember when chasing a trophy snapper is to experiment with each part of the process. I hope that you have found a few new ideas that will help to see a big snapper on the end of your line.