By: Captain Joe Cacaro
After a forty minute boat ride we had our
28' Whitewater anchored and the chum was hitting the water. Within
30 minutes the chum slick was alive with Mangrove, Yellowtail and Lane
Snapper. We proceeded to hammer a variety of Snapper species using
several light tackle methods. We simply worked the chum slick from
front to back and top to bottom with live bait, cut bait and jigs.
This scenario usually plays out in the
Winter along the Southwest coast of Florida when predators such as Shark,
Barracuda and Jewfish are not present. The Snapper are free to feed
throughout the water column.
We usually begin by probing the bottom with
12# spinning gear. Rigging starts with 3' of fluorocarbon leader in
the 20-40# range. We always start with the lighter leader and only
move up in leader size if my customers are experiencing too many
cutoffs. Most quality offset hooks in the 1/0 size work well.
However, we have found the Mustad 92671 offset works the best. These
hooks are lightweight, strong and relatively thin, allowing easy
penetration with minimal pressure. We bait the rigs with cut Spanish
Sardines, Threadfin Herring, Squid, Shrimp and any small live bait.
In order to detect the subtle strike of a large Snapper, keep the line
tight and use as light a sinker as possible. Whenever bottom fishing
always try to drop 30' of anchor line every 40 minutes or so. This
way you can continue to fish different areas of your chum.
There are couple of great ways to work your
chum slick. One is free lining Shrimp or small cut bait with no
weight back into the slick. As the bait flows back with the chum it
will eventually reach the depth where the fish are feeding. Free lining
is best done with 10-12# spinning tackle and the same 1/0 Mustad 92671
tied directly to the lines. Sometimes we will use a 20# fluorocarbon
leader attached to a double line using a spider hitch. This method
is great for catching Yellowtail and Mutton Snapper as well as jumbo
Mangroves day or night. Kingfish and Bonito can be a nuisance or
tons of fun depending on the angler.
My single favorite way to fish for
"man-sized" snapper on light tackle is with a Hank Brown's
Hookup Jig in pink or chartreuse. We use 1/4-5/8th oz. sizes
depending on the strength of the current. Simply pin a whole live
Shrimp on through the base of the tail and you are ready. Casting
this setup further back into the chum often results in strikes from the
larger, more wary Snapper that tend to hang further back and deeper in the
chum slick. When jigging vertically, we prefer a 5/8th oz. Pompano
jig. It sinks fast and boasts a small, strong hook.
By now you have figured out that chumming
heavily makes a HUGE difference. We begin with frozen blocks
of Menhaden chum. You must supplement the chum slick with what you
are using for bait. Dead Shrimp make the best Snapper chum and can
be obtained from local bait shops when the clean the tanks.
Remember, when it comes to Snapper chum, "the deader the
better." Mixing a couple blocks of frozen glass minnows makes
for an excellent flashy visual to help draw big snapper off the bottom.
Bottom line: Use light lines,
leader, weights and small hooks for jumbo Snapper. Hopefully some
UNREEL tips will help you catch more and bigger fish.