There is no question that a large percentage of the most commonly targeted species sought after statewide, are members of the snapper complex. Tasty, hard fighting, and often fairly easy to locate and catch during just about any month of the year, snapper simply rule! Yellowtail, lane, vermillion, mangrove, mutton, red, cubera, dog snapper, you name it, and a group of anglers somewhere around Florida are getting ready to go hunt them down. And while there are as many opinions as to the perfect snapper rig as there are different species of snapper, a few have time and again proven their effectiveness in a wide array of situations. Nevertheless, serious anglers can’t get complacent.
To find consistent success during your reef and wreck adventures, sinker bouncers must always keep in mind that water depth, velocity of current, prevalent size of targeted species, and variety of bait being used, all play a major role when determining exactly what type of terminal gear will best get the job done. Ideally, heading out to the rubble with a trio of outfits rigged and ready will insure you make the most of your bottom fishing bonanzas.
Free-line snapper rig: Perfect for stealthy applications with little to no current.
A free-line snapper rig is best suited for enticing strikes over broken bottom or shallow water reefs and wrecks in 20 ft. to 50 ft. of water. You’ll find free-line snapper rigs to be the most effective when fished on 12 lb. to 15 lb. spinning or casting gear.
Start by joining your main running line to forty-eight inches of 30 lb. fluorocarbon leader material with your favorite line-to-line connection, such as an Albright or Uni-to-Uni knot. Note that fluorocarbon leader is recommended throughout because of its added level of abrasion resistance over conventional monofilament. Finish off your free-line snapper rig by simply tying on a 3/0 bait hook (snell or improved clinch knot works best) to end of leader. In free-spool, drift your freshly cut chunk or strip bait away from the boat at same rate as the chum is flowing. Within no time, snapper investigating the sweet aroma of your chum slick will locate your morsel, and will inevitably make that fatal mistake.
Knocker rig: Ideal for situations with light to moderate current.
When the goal is to slowly descend your bait through the water column, knocker rigs are the way to go! Just as simple to tie as a free-line rig, a knocker is excellent for pinpointing the precise depth at which fish are feeding at. Not only do knocker rigs go hand-in-hand with super yellowtail snapper fishing, but this type of rig fished on 15 lb. to 20 lb. gear has also proven its effectiveness with feisty lane snapper, along with prized mangrove and mutton snapper which often roam off the bottom while sniffing out the source of an inviting chum slick.
Start by running your main running line through a relatively small egg sinker, ¼ to ¾ ounce will usually do. Again, tie your running line to a forty-eight inch length of 30 lb. fluorocarbon leader material with your favorite line-to-line connection. Similar to a free-line rig, tie your 3/0 hook directly to the end of the leader material, and you’re ready to fish. Like with the free-line rig, you should also avoid any type of swivel in this application. The egg sinker should rest on the eye of the hook while having the ability to sway freely up and down the line. As you drift your chunk bait away from the boat at the same rate as the current, the small amount of lead will keep the offering in the strike zone while creating as little restriction as possible when a strike occurs.
Wreck rig: Suitable for deep water reefs and wrecks including situations with stiff currents.
Commonly dubbed as a fish-finder rig, wreck rigs are known for taking big mutton snapper, the largest mangroves, and trophy size true American reds. With an extra long leader, this type of rig allows the angler to present an appetizing meal directly on the bottom without jeopardizing spooking the intended quarry. Bottom fishermen statewide will regularly find that the majority of gag and red grouper will fall victim to this double-hook rig as well.
Start by doubling the end of your main running line with a Bimini twist. Run the double line through the appropriate weight egg sinker. Ideally, you should rig with enough lead to keep your bait directly on the bottom with your line as vertical as possible regardless of depth of water or velocity of current. For relatively shallow water reefs sitting below less than 90 ft. of water, two, three, or four ounce egg sinkers will usually do the trick. Six to twelve ounces would be more appropriate for deep water ledges and submerged debris nearing and exceeding 200 ft. With the egg sinker now resting on your main running line, tie on a 100 lb. barrel-swivel. On the opposite end of the barrel-swivel, a twelve to fifteen foot length of fluorocarbon leader material is a must. Again, different scenarios will dictate the exact strength of leader material required. For most deep water situations where big grouper may also be a real possibility, having assorted leader spools of 50 lb., 60 lb., 80 lb., & 100 lb. test at arms reach should cover all the bases. The extra long leader prevents spooking weary muttons from sinker noise, the sound associated with your lead rolling along the hard bottom below. Complete rig by snelling first hook, while leaving enough tag line to tie on second hook. Slowly drop double-hooked bait straight to the bottom, lock up, and hold on!
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