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Snapper Lite        
                                             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.


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