Rigging For Grouper Fishing In The Gulf

Ava Flores
• Wednesday, 23 June, 2021
• 18 min read

Sliding sinker rig with 6-foot mono leader, ready to drop sardine, pinkish or other bait. “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.

grouper fishing near gulf mexico lucas caught pacific san side water
(Source: www.bdoutdoors.com)


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.

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.

fishing grouper rigs position boat oil gulf
(Source: www.thehulltruth.com)

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.

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.

grouper fishing bottom rigs bait lot pros florida there fish dropping lie letting simply than
(Source: www.floridasportsman.com)

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.

(Source: www.youtube.com)

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. The idea is to stop the grouper from taking the line and returning to his structure home.

When a grouper strikes, anglers will lay their rod on the rail and start winding as hard as they can. 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.

fishing bottom grouper snapper
(Source: www.youtube.com)

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. Tile fishing is a fast growing sport and produces exceptional table fare.

grouper rig gulf mexico regulators fishing
(Source: www.youtube.com)

Not long ago, tile fish were pretty much unheard of as a rod and reel fish. 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.

gulf grouper fishing luck bait pitch slow lures ton else techniques anyone past week comments having been
(Source: www.reddit.com)

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.

grouper rigs destin baits fishing reply thehulltruth gulf
(Source: www.thehulltruth.com)

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.

grouper fishing gulf near mexico
(Source: www.bdoutdoors.com)

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. Holden is a pioneer in daytime sword fishing along the Texas coast; he holds numerous bill fishing records and shares his deep drop techniques every year at the Texas Swordfish Seminar.

Posted on Sunday, March 8th, 2020 at 3:50 am | Category Articles, Fishing, Offshore | Tags: barrel fish, booby trap fishing team, Brett Holden, deep drop fishing, deep drop techniques, deep dropping, electric reel fishing, how to catch tile fish, how to deep drop, LP reels, Texas tile fish, tile fish, Warsaw grouper, yellow edge grouper, yellowtail sea bass | Comment | Randy fishes 8-ounce Mission Fishing jig heads with pink, chartreuse or glow curly tails.

Randy targets “Swiss cheese” bottom, which is simply limestone rock formations with frequent sandy holes that give the appearance of a submerged dairy product. Grouper take up residence in these holes and generally respond aggressively when a jig comes bouncing by their dwelling.

grouper rig bombproof
(Source: coastalanglermag.com)

Randy advises dropping the jig/bait to the bottom and letting the boat’s drift move it along the structure. As the lure hops and drops into and out of the cheese holes, its buck tail skirt dances and pulsates to give the illusion of a living creature.

(When anglers go with the manual option, it’s wise to have at least one more rod in a holder to maximize your effort.) Swiss cheese bottom also attracts swarms of mangroves, lane and vermilion snapper.

Randy is Vance Time, owner of Tight Lines Tackle in Tampa and founder of Brother 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.

Daydreamer Fishing Charter’s seasoned captains can take you to the offshore rigs and the deepest depths of the Gulf of Mexico for World Class Blue Water Sport fishing. It’s a true test of patience and persistence, even if you’re a seasoned professional.

grouper rig fishing saltstrong
(Source: www.saltstrong.com)

Saltwater fish species like drum and sleepyhead both feed on crustaceans. Many saltwater game fish, including dolphin and greater amber jack, love squid and octopus.

Simply cut the squid into strips or the octopus into chunks for bait, or use smaller ones whole. Red Snapper are one of the most sought after, and definitely one of the top targets of all anglers along the Florida Panhandle.

Recent years have seen a huge increase in size and numbers. Minimum size limit is 16 inches in total length, two per harvester per day.

You can buy charts from Half Hitch, or you can look online at www.myfwc.com/conservation/saltwater/artificial-reefs, or on a county site like www.co.okaloosa.fl.us/dept_pw_resources_reefs.html. Optionally, you can have a reef company build your own private spots.

The next string of four, I like 20 or so miles down the beach just inshore of the state water line. The last three of my order I like 20 or so miles from home in water 150 ft to 200 ft deep south of my two inshore strings, these will produce snapper, grouper and amber jacks.

grouper gulf mexico
(Source: www.youtube.com)

Many times they put a large reef like a tug boat down first and then make an X pattern around the tug boat using Florida Special reefs. Most people want to go and fish the tug boat in the middle of the cluster but I often find the best fishing on the far ends is the X pattern of reef modules up to a 1/2 mile from the larger anchor wreck.

The reason for this is it is easier for people to find the larger center reef and it just gets fished more. Google Earth has a neat feature now; there was a study done of the Florida Bank or Destiny Dome.

If you look at Google Earth and really start to zoom in on our area you will see two lines start to appear along the coast from 180 ft to 300 ft. All the area inside these lines is hi-definition bottom. When you first open Google Earth you need to make a couple changes to the settings.

I have checked known numbers for rocks, and they are within 20 ft. You can even use Google Earth to organize all your places. To really catch red snapper you will need a good bottom machine and GPS unit.

If you like spinning rods and reels an 8000 size reel on a 6 1/2 ft to 7ft medium heavy rod with 65 lb braid works good and is also great for when you want to butterfly jig for snappers or fly line for kings. The leader should be 60 lb test 6ft long with a 7/0 Owner Mute Light hook or similar.

rig grouper amberjack fishing wreck fish log double swivel
(Source: www.fishmiamicharters.com)

As for the size of lead I like the lightest possible to be able to fish straight up and down in the current. With this rig you use a much lighter lead no matter the depth of the water, only about 2 oz.

When you arrive at the spot toss as far up current as you can and let it slowly drift back to you. By the time the rig is under the boat you will often have a snapper bite already, and many times one of the larger ones you will catch all day, as the bigger snapper will often be very close to the surface, closer than you may think.

Regular mono works good for leader material, but when fishing gets tough, or you just want an extra edge, make your rigs out of Jaguar Fluorocarbon. Fluorocarbon is the same density as saltwater and does not refract light making it nearly invisible to the fish.

Most of the time a regular Hayabusa bait rig works great. Sometimes during a full moon the bait fish can be very finicky and difficult to catch.

One of the things most people hate about catching bait is how to store the Sabik rigs at the end of the day. I cut 4 or 5 pieces of PVC pipe 5’ long and zip tie to attach them to a leg of the T-top, I slide the bait rig lead first into the PVC pipe and hook the last hook on the edge.

grouper fishing rig tip
(Source: www.saltstrong.com)

This way the rigs does not just stay tangled on the rod at the end of the day. For those of you who are like me and sometimes get bored fishing with bait waiting for a bite there is always butterfly jigging.

For me tossing over a Sure mark buoy when we get to the spot makes it so much easier. The nice thing about the Sure mark Buoy over other models is once you throw it over it feeds out just enough line to stay right on top of the wreck and not drift out of place.

This article was provided by Half Hitch fishing expert, Tim Broom. When I was 16 years old, there was nothing I wanted more than to become 1st mate on one of the many charter boats that fished out of Dauphin Island, Alabama.

It was my dream to follow in my brother’s footsteps and earn the big payday that I saw the other deckhands pulling in. One fateful morning as a lay in bed, the phone rang and I got my opportunity.

The predominant way to bottom fish back then was to have 3-4 anglers of the stern off the boat fishing “sow rigs” while the remainder of the fisherman walked up the sides of the boat armed with a two-hook rig and a bucket of cut squid and mullet. If they were fished up the sides next to the two hook rigs, they would quickly tangle with the 12-ounce bank sinkers that were resting on the bottom.

grouper rig fishing surf saltstrong rigs money saltwater
(Source: www.pinterest.com)

I didn’t know this of course, so I let my fisherman take the sow rigs all around the boat, creating tangles the likes of which few have ever seen. When I got back to the dock that afternoon, all my tackle was busted, and I knew I better get smart quick if I wanted to keep this job.

I found the wisest person I knew at the time, 20-year-old Skipper Thierry. I begged Skipper to show me how to tie rigs for my trip the next day.

He gave me a handful of sow rigs to use because he knew I wasn’t ready for that challenge yet. I did what he said, and within a week I could tie two hook rigs with amazing speed.

Fluorocarbon certainly helps in some applications, but I do not think it is necessary for bottom fishing this way. Circle Hooks: 8/0 is a good size, small enough for the gulf aggregate species like vermilion snapper and trigger fish, but strong enough to handle a large red snapper.

Now, we’ve written about classic live bait rigs before. With snapper season underway, you should learn how to tie the two hook rig and put a few out on your next fishing trip.

(Source: www.youtube.com)

Trolling for Grouper is not a common method known to many fishermen, however it is extremely productive and can also be employed when the wind is blowing hard making it rough offshore, but inside on the reef it is nearly flat. This is a great way to make what might be a “weather day” in the Bahamas very productive and fun.

Start with preferably Dacron or braided line, with second choice being wire, and third monofilament. The more flexible the rod, the better to take shock on strike and to keep from pulling hooks.

Rig a 50' 250lb mono (trace) leader behind each sinker with a heavy duty snap swivel. Connect your favorite Tormented lure with a 6' wire leader (as Yahoo & Judas love this rig too) to the snap at the end of the 250lb mono trace.

Let your line out steadily applying pressure to the spool with your (glove protected) hand. Let it out quickly but not too fast until you feel the lead hit the bottom and then lock the drag up IMMEDIATELY.

Troll STRAIGHT with only SLIGHT turns as you are dragging your lure only feet above the reef bottom. Any turn will allow your lead and lure to sink and probably (not possibly) hang the reef.

grouper rig reyes tony rigs
(Source: www.thelongfin.com)

After you have pulled the fish a bit, you might be able to back the throttle to idle but STAY IN GEAR! Pump and reel (giving ZERO slack) until you see the fish on or near the surface behind the boat.

At this time, if needed, you can pull the boat out of gear as long as your angler will not slack the line. Grab the leader when you get the sinker to the tip and ease your Grouper to the boat where you should have your favorite gaff handy.

Sidebar: On my very first captain's job when I was 19, getting ready to fish the Bacardi Tournament in 1979, the marlin fishing was slow, so I gave my mate the wheel, and went to the pit to make up these really strange rigs (strange to everyone else on the boat anyway). It was around 3:00 in the afternoon when we (I) deployed these rigs and climbed back to the bridge.

I yelled to the mate to reel up the second line quickly as my Boss Lady wasn't pulling very hard and I would need to slow down. “It's a rock” she said (repeatedly), I kept telling her it wasn't until she stopped reeling and the fish found a nice hole to wedge itself into.

I had schooled my skeptical mate on what to do when he got the leader (beat the grouper's head against the rock until he gives up). Well, he wasn't even going to try it seems, but lucky for him, the fish felt some slack and swam out of the hole.

rigs double rig fishing drop snapper bottom chicken grouper fish sabiki charters threat gulf sner miami fl
(Source: www.fishmiamicharters.com)

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