We will argue the merits and catch rates of these terminal tackle rigs at a later time; for this discussion, I want to talk about leaders in general. On my rod, the leader is there to prevent a fish from chewing or cutting the line with their mouth.
If he hangs up, his store bought pre-made leader is lost along with a hook or jig head. Fishing in and around rocks with this type of leader gets expensive for Brett.
He was simply in too much of a hurry to re-tie his initial leader and consequently lost numerous fish to a broken line. Lots of anglers use a very heavy leader for larger fish.
The heavy leader helps prevent cutoffs from fish and structure. If they hang on the bottom, the leader should break before the line, thus saving their sinker.
They are difficult and time-consuming to build, even with some magic wire wrapping tools. That one kink puts a weak spot in the leader that will surely break on the next fish.
With king mackerel, bluefish, and other sharp-toothed fish, a wire leader is almost a necessity. I use those days when the weather is bad to my advantage and tie up a number of wire leaders.
I keep them in small plastic zipper lock bags, and they last indefinitely if they are kept dry. A good leader, one appropriate for the fish being sought, can mean the difference between a full ice chest and an empty one.
The rule of thumb I go by is to use a leader roughly two and a half times your line strength. Whether red, gag, black, yellow fin, or Warsaw, a good grouper in the ice chest means a successful day for lots of folks.
They prefer to be able to seek shelter and hide, and although their name implies that they stay together, they can also be very solitary fish. Grouper will chase a bait occasionally, but by far they prefer to ambush their prey.
Their coloration and ability to change hues and shades to identify with their surroundings give them that ambush capability. It is this ambush ability that makes them relatively easy to hook, but difficult to land.
Anglers find that medium heavy bottom fishing tackle is the best way to approach the grouper. Conventional reels in the thirty- to fifty-pound class teamed with a medium heavy boat rod will do the trick.
Grouper feed on other small fish, crustaceans like crabs or crawfish, and squid. When an easy opportunity swims buy they rush out, inhale their prey, and quickly return to their lair.
A good rod and reel, with fifty-pound test monofilament line, can handle almost all the grouper you may encounter. The terminal tackle consists of a sinker, leader, and hook arranged one of two ways.
Even when the rig is dropped right into the bottom structure, it seldom hangs up, something charter captains love. More serious grouper anglers will opt for the second approach, called a live bait rig.
Advertised as virtually invisible to fish, it does seem to draw more strikes than regular monofilament. Serious grouper anglers will crank the drag down on their reel as hard as they can, often using a pair of pliers to lock it down.
When a grouper makes it into a rock or reef, many anglers will simply break off the line and try again. In the Gulf of Mexico, grouper anglers use magnum diving plugs that will go as deep as thirty feet or more.
Strip baits are cut and attached to a double hooked trolling feather. The wire line method is popular in and around south Florida in the winter when big black grouper move into the shallower reefs.
Sometimes thirty yards in diameter, they are an ideal habitat for black grouper. When one occurs, the boat moves directly away from the reef to drag the fish away from its hole.
A head boat that provides the bait and tackle is an ideal way to bring some home to eat. They are found in the warmer waters of the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean, and points south.
While they are a powerful fish that puts up a strong battle, grouper are prized by many anglers for their flaky white fillets! There are quite a few other species of grouper that are found in deeper waters and throughout the Bahamas and other locations.
For the most part, their habits are very similar and will be treated all the same when it comes to tackle and techniques. The one thing that all groupers have in common is that they are bottom dwelling, structure oriented fish.
Seldom will one be found high up in the water column or on sandy bottom with no structure. Penn is THE name in saltwater tackle and makes some excellent equipment at reasonable prices.
Goliath grouper grow hundreds of pounds and requires special tackle. Anglers fishing in hundreds of feet of water in the Atlantic Ocean with heavy lead will need a stouter outfit than those fishing in 40 feet of water in the Gulf of Mexico.
Anglers fishing in shallow, clear water sometimes find that lighter spinning tackle makes a more natural presentation. Some anglers simply prefer the comfort and feel of a spinning outfit.
This mostly occurs in the shallow waters of the Bahamas and the Gulf of Mexico north of Tampa. Therefore, anglers anchor or drift a decent distance from the spot and cast live baits or lures in towards the structure.
A 7-8 foot heavy action rod with a 6000 series real is a good all-around combination. In water much deeper than 50 feet, conventional outfits are simply a better choice.
This is very important when grouper fishing as it allows anglers to feel the take as well is get the grouper away from the structure. Braided line is also thinner in diameter, which allows it to sink faster when fishing in deep water.
Many use a strong black swivel to connect the leader to the main line. A sliding sinker is often placed on the main line and then the swivel stops it from going any further.
The weight is generally placed on the running line ahead of the swivel that attaches the leader. With this rig, the sinker slides on the leader and rest right on the eye of the hook.
Also, when snagged up, the sinker jerking up on the line then banging the eye of the hook will often free it. With this rig, multiple hooks are tied off of dropper loops on the main line.
The bank sinker works well as it tends to walk and bounce off of rocks and other snags. While most grouper are caught on live or natural bait, there are a few situations when they can be taken on artificial lures as well.
Trolling with deep diving plugs is an incredibly effective technique when grouper are in fairly shallow water. It allows anglers to cover a lot of water over a large piece of structure in search of fish.
Trolling is effective anywhere that there is submerged structure in the 50 feet deep or shallower range. The shallow waters of the Gulf of Mexico, channel edges and large bays such as Tampa Bay, and coral reefs of the Caribbean are prime spots to troll for grouper.
They are categorized by size, giving anglers a good idea of how deep they will go. Papal and several other lure manufacturers also make quality deep diving plugs for grouper fishing.
With the boat idling along at 4 to 5 knots, the plug will dig down to the maximum depth, putting out a lot of flash and vibration. A down rigger is a device with a cable and a heavy ball which takes the lure down deep.
This technique is used extensively in the Great Lakes region for walleye and salmon. Grouper can also be caught by anglers casting artificial lures, though there are limited situations where this can occur.
Basically, when grouper are holding over structure in fairly shallow water, usually 10 feet deep or shallower, casting lures over the structure and retrieving them back in can produce jarring strikes from grouper. Plugs will dive to a determined depth, while jigs can be worked through the entire water column but are extremely effective when bounced on the bottom right on top of the structure.
White buck tail jigs are often used and can be tipped with a strip of squid or cut fish. There are basically four types of grouper that are found in good numbers in the United States.
Gag grouper are very aggressive and are the species most often targeted by anglers fishing with artificial lures. Black grouper are normally found in the deeper waters of the Atlantic Ocean and down around the Florida Keys.
Surprisingly, they are often encountered in the inshore waters, as shallow as five or 6 feet deep. Many a large Goliath grouper has surprised an angler casting to the mangroves for shook or redfish.
Or the anglers’ battle trying to pull the grouper up before it gets to the structure puts more pressure on the line than the weakest point can handle (typically the very top not), leaving the anglers with just a bare end of the main line and the grouper with an entire leader stuck to them… 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.
Loop not at the final connection from the leader to the hook (it allows for maximum action of bait in the water while being slightly weaker than the top snug knots like the Uni, Cinch, Palomar, etc.) It is the strongest knot that we’ve tested for this connection, and it happens to also be the thinnest which is great because it allows for the weight to slide over it to save a fish if it happens to somehow break off above the leader.
There are several ways to tie the FG knot, and the one shown in this video is the quickest and easiest that I’ve been able to find so far: 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).
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Florida Grouper fishing usually takes place in deeper water, over structure and reefs, but is also highly popular as an inshore species. Grouper are very fun to catch, can offer a battle on a rod, and are one of the best-tasting fish in the ocean.
For example, while they put up an epic battle, Goliath and Nassau Grouper are illegal to harvest at any time. With epic battles and general year-round availability, Florida Grouper fishing is without a doubt one of the most popular activities for fishermen in the state.
One of the greatest aspects is that you can target these offshore quality fish within the state coastal (shallower inshore waters) with ease. Our season dates for targeting inshore grouper generally run from June 1st to December 31st.
This shallow water targeting is a unique aspect of the Crystal River area. For shallow water bottom fishing, you would look to focus on holes, springs, and reef formations.
What this means is that once they hit your choice of bait, they turn right around for a powerful deep dive back to cover. Here in Crystal River for instance we utilize 6000-8000 size spinning reels loaded with 60-80lb braided line.
These are mounted to heavy action rods with a final leader composed of 80 to 1300lb fluorocarbon. In this, a strong reaction is necessary to keep this species from making it back to its rocky cover- and possibly snap the line across a sharp edge.
Thankfully, saltwater fishermen can boost their chances with one simple tweak: adding a leader to the end of their line. This helps create a less distracting visual for incoming fish, making the idea of taking the bait that much more tempting.
When you’re fighting a particularly toothy or abrasive fish, leaders can better resist the rips and tears that other lines might not be able to withstand. Pro saltwater fisherman Captain Blair Wiggins has some tips he’s picked up through his experience in the chop.
Follow these helpful guidelines to strengthen your chances of landing your next big catch. This suggested extra length is due to the fact that many saltwater species can develop abrasive scales and sharp spurs at the ends of their tails.
Be sure to narrow down your intended targets for the day so that you can efficiently determine the right leader length you’ll need. Mono filament is a great inexpensive option that can be easily knotted by amateur fishermen and can be strong enough for a variety of fish species.
Fluorocarbon is great for anglers because it can become nearly invisible in water while still featuring a strong, reactive state. No matter what material you choose, the goal of creating a solid presentation for the fish remains.
Through trial and error, you can better judge how thick of a line you’ll need to land your big catch of the day. Now that you have these helpful tips, you’ll be on your way to a better saltwater fishing setup and cast your way to a great time on the water.
With the arrival of our first few mild cold fronts, Red and Gag Grouper have begun their fall migration into nearshore shallow water haunts. This seasonal migration offers bay boat anglers the opportunity to target keeper sized grouper well within sight of land.
They often relate to very low profile exposed limestone and soft coral areas. It’s a wonderful way to scout for new fishing areas and it’s also great for pulling big grouper away from heavy structure.
These depths generally produce Gag Grouper, so I’m looking to troll near hard bottom areas with small breaks and ledges. Make sure to mark your GPS when a fish is hooked for a second round of trolling or jigging.
Heavy action spinning outfits are preferred for jigging, they offer a lighter weight package that’s more comfortable to fish for extended periods of time. Casting and Jigging Soft Baits, like the Holy Pro Tail Series is excellent for covering bottom while drifting and on anchor.
Owner of The Intrepid Angler, Captain Ross hails from the historic waters along the Caloosahatchee River. He has a a fishing guide and outdoor professional working the waters of Florida and Alaska over his career.
He now permanently resides in Cape Coral offering anglers exciting opportunities to target trophy game fish around Southwest Florida on a custom Pathfinder 2500 Hybrid Bay Boat. Deep dropping for tile fish and grouper is becoming more and more popular by the day here in the Gulf of Mexico.
I began fishing for these deep-water critters in the mid-1980s, and the sport has grown into a daily routine for many Gulf anglers. These deep drop techniques will help you find these fish in 400–1,300 feet of water.
Mike Parsons with a huge tile fish that measured in at 43 inches and 33.08 pounds. Warsaw, yellow edge and long tail sea bass are commonly found around mountain tops, hard spots and deep water oil rigs in the 400–900 foot range.
Yellow edge grouper are delicious and average 8–18 pounds, with a few 20–30 founders still caught fairly regularly. For big barrel fish, you want to fish down current from the edges and walls of deep water mountain tops.
The edges will have well-defined drops and barrel fish can stack up very thick at the top and bottom of this structure. They’re usually found a bit higher off the sea floor and mark well on a good bottom machine.
Now that eyes are opening to the new daytime sword fishing industry here on the Texas coast, more and more tile fish are being boated. Smaller tiles, averaging 2–10 pounds, can be targeted on the continental shelf wall without any special areas or specific “numbers.” Muddy areas anywhere from 900 to 1,000 feet of open water will hold tile fish.
Drop on the down current side of small dips and slopes in 1,000–1,250 feet of water. Tile fish tend to feed right on the bottom, so try to stop your bait and hold the boat on an area as tight as possible.
However, slow drifting will also produce tile fish and is great for covering ground. Drag the bait against the bottom, stopping often, and then continuing the drift to explore new areas.
The biggest ones will hold against ridges at 1,200 feet and are bold enough to follow baits headed for deep water. Use a large hook and bait to avoid the smaller fish when targeting big tiles.
I seem to catch lots of big tiles early in the year, April through May, and sometimes in as shallow as 850–1,000 feet. Beware of spiny, toothy and venomous critters that you might pull up from the deep.
Spiny dogfish are small, deep water sharks that have spikes near the dorsal fins that can cause a painful sting. Hake, a small brown fish averaging 1–3 pounds, also bite at night and can be a nuisance.
The tile fish don’t bite at night but grouper will if you’re in an area free of eels. If we are targeting BIG tiles I will rig the weight and light 15 to 20 feet above the bait.
The standard double and triple bait drops work well for yellow edge grouper and smaller tile fish. With a light current and this braid, 3 pounds is a good weight to start with on your standard double bait leaders.
I use cannonball style weights because they don’t get hung up as easy on rough, rocky bottoms. Some of these deep water fish have sharp teeth, so heavy mono leaders are a necessity.
Yellow edge, long tail sea bass and other smaller grouper are not so bad but tile fish, eels and small sharks have sharp teeth. The grouper will wear through light leaders eventually and the tiles will bite clean through them.
Tile fish and grouper have no problem snagging themselves on a circle hook and I would say it definitely helps keep the fish on when cranking them up from the deep. It is a long ride to the deep water fishing grounds and you might lose tackle to rocks and snags.
The LP is a deep dropping fishing machine that also has the strength and drag system to handle big Warsaw grouper and swordfish. You can also hand crank tile fish and grouper on conventional tackle but it is a long way up and down.
The Reel Frankie is a must-have, great product that can assist in getting your rig up from the bottom fast. It does a great job of winding up all the line, instead of you wearing out your arm on empty hooks.
You can be also deep drop with two lines but it can be tricky fishing and requires some boat handling. Avoid hard, bony, bulky baits that can push a fish off the hook.
Softer baits like fish fillets and squid will result in better hook ups. These fish eat lots of shellfish, which can result in some nasty strong tastes in the meat if not taken care of properly.
The entire continental shelf from Texas to Louisiana holds great bottom structure, supporting tons of deep water species. Some fish stay directly on top of structure, some live on the walls, slopes and drop offs and some species are found on flat bottoms.
Don’t forget to mark your hook ups on your GPS and keep a track record of your best catches. Brett Holden is the captain of the Booby Trap, which holds the record for largest swordfish in the Gulf of Mexico.