In The Midst of Mayhem

In his initial experiments, Ivan Pavlov, a Russian physiologist known primarily for his work in classical conditioning, rang the dinner bell and watched his dogs come running. After a few repetitions, the dogs associated the sound of the ringing bell with food. The same holds true with hard-fighting Gulf amberjack. Set up over broken bottom in 80 feet of water, throw a handful of fresh morsels, and hungry reef donkeys swarm to the sound of the idling engines. It’s here on the surface where the king of jacks earn their stripes as highly capable competitors. In fact, even the most seasoned anglers are usually one-and-done after battling a big AJ.


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Photo: FSF Mag

Extended battles with brute amberjack are traditionally associated with deep water reefs and ledges, yet despite the fact that coercing a big AJ from the depths is incredibly strenuous, watching in awe as the highly competitive fish ferociously chase down a noisy topwater plug provides a whole new level of excitement. Full of vigor and on a rampage, these powerhouses use every trick in the book and will fight to the death as they attempt to break your will and the unfamiliar tether.

...watching in awe as the highly competitive fish ferociously chase down a noisy topwater plug provides a whole new level of excitement.

Since the schooling fish rise to the surface and anglers can practically sight cast to specific targets, you can certainly scale down to lighter tackle to make the most of the experience. There’s no chance of losing fish to structure, so quality spinning outfits result in the greatest level of sport. Still, success will only come to those who are properly prepared for the encounter with equipment capable of withstanding repeated attacks from one of the Gulf’s most destructive fish. Smooth drags are mandatory, as is a 48-inch length of 80 lb. class leader material between running line and lure.

With amberjack off limits in federally regulated waters of the Gulf beyond the 9-mile mark until August 1, fight these impressive game fish with care and be sure to use proper handling techniques prior to their release. Once the season opens, harvest one for the smoker and enjoy with crackers, sharp cheese and fresh jalapeno slices.


With a streamlined body, large cupped face resulting in a sizable splash, and durable thru-wire construction with heavy-duty components, the Hanta 40 gram AJ Killer is a perfect example of an ideal amberjack popper. Do yourself and the fish a favor and rig this pencil popper with barbless hooks.