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.
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.
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. Randy Not is the co-publisher of Coastal Angler/The Angler Magazine’s Panama City/Forgotten Coast edition.
Plenty of anglers try tackling big bottom dwelling fish with poor results. Shipwrecks, ledges and rock piles are marked on modern GPS chart plotters.
Don’t make the figurative mistake of bringing a knife to a gun fight when looking to catch big amber jack or grouper off a ship wreck. These fish will try and get back into the structure, whether it's a coral head, rock ledge, or shipwreck.
Here's a great site, FloridaGoFishing lists wrecks in Florida by county with depth, description and GPS coordinates. Almost all the big groupers we catch off Miami already have a few hooks in their mouths… These fish are capable of hard runs, often right back into the wreck to cut you off.
Keep in mind that in Miami it’s necessary to use heavy tackle due to the large and aggressive shark population around the many of the wrecks. The majority of black grouper we catch have hooks with 20-30 lb line attached stuck in their lips.
Choice baits include large blue runners, goggle eyes, speeds and pinkish. For more information on black grouper or amber jack, click the links to our species profile pages.
Also feel free to check out our article on Miami Wreck Fishing to see the best time of year for targeting different species. Successful grouper anglers tailor their rigs and baits to the conditions, and around the Florida coastline, that means widely differing depths, bottom type and currents.
As a result, you see an array of rigging systems on the more productive boats. Of note, these systems, while developed for particular areas, are easily adapted for changing conditions in any waters.
Gary Golden, Strike Zone, 27 Ocean Masters, Clearwater We all pretty much use an egg sinker with molded-in swivels, a 4-foot leader, and now a circle hook.
Nothing fancy, but the regulations are you must use circle hooks for bottom fishing in the Gulf. The circle hook regulation is so new, were still trying out different styles and sizes.
Scott Goodwin, ANVAR, 40-foot Guthrie express, Port Canaveral Our typical bottom is anywhere from 18 miles out to 30, local wrecks and several rock ledges.
We fish a Penn 50VS (variable speed) with 80- or 130-pound Mo moi Diamond braid on a Capt. We use about 15 inches of double line produced by tying a Bimini Twist.
The second leg of the swivel is used for about 3 feet of 60-pound mono ending in a large perfection loop. This loop will be used to secure whatever sinker is needed to hold bottom nearly straight down in the existing current, usually 1 to 3 pounds.
The last leg of the swivel hosts a monofilament leader 20 to 40 feet long. The leader length is shorter in shallower water or when IFA rules apply.