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Offshore Bottom Bumping during the Summer Months

Offshore Bottom Bumping during the Summer Months Offshore Bottom Bumping during the Summer Months
By Jim Hammond

Offshore bottom fishing is like almost all other fishing, it is seasonal. Without a doubt, the best times of the year to go fishing are when you can but the better catches of bottom fish come during the cooler months. I am by now means trying to advise you not to fish offshore for bottom fish (snapper, grouper, seabass, etc..) because if you follow some of these steps, you will still end up with a nice box by days end.

What happens during the summer months, is the bottom fish bet more spread out and of course there is much more down there for the larger fish to eat, so they are less likely to chase your bait. During the summer months all of the smaller baitfish have hatched and when this happens, the ocean is covered up with school after school of small fishes for the larger ones to feed on.

What all of this means, is that you will have to work a little harder to find the nice snaps and groups and you usually will not find large concentrations like you do during the cooler months.

For those of you with boats that have a long range, 50 to 60 miles out and back, you can still do well on nice bottom fish, because the larger concentrations have moved out at least that far during the warmer months.

For the rest of us that have smaller boats of just don't feel comfortable about running 60 miles out, we are going to have to do the best that we can at the closer in spots.

I like to get the boat ready by loading several styles of rod and reel outfits, as much bait as I can get in my bait box and some of the new Daiichi Bleeding Bait Hooks. These are the sabiki style rigs that are used so much around here to catch bait. These are great rigs to catch cigar minnows, small vermilion and anything else that is down there. Having a live well full of small live bait will help in having a successful day.

For the poles, I like three or four sizes.

A large one for the places that I know there might be a real nice grouper or snapper. For me, this outfit consist of a Shakespeare BWB 1120 8' with a Dolphin Electreel. This outfit has the backbone and pulling power to winch up the trident submarine, so the nice grouper and snapper, don't stand a chance. This outfit gets rigged with 80 pound test monofilament on the spool and a slip sinker style rig with a 3 foot long leader with a Daiichi D-82 8/0 hook on the business end.

A medium size for the smaller fish like seabass and vermilion. This usually consist of a Shakespeare Tiger Rod BWC 2201 7' with the new Shakespeare Tidewater Machined aluminum reel, TWMA 30L. This is a gold anodized reel that not only looks like a million dollars but also has performed flawlessly every time out for me. On this spool, I have 150 pound test Power Pro line (30 pound mono diameter) tied to a 100 pound class barrel swivel and a piece of 50 pound test monofilament about two feet long with three dropper loops. The first and second loops are for a small Daiichi Circle Wide, about a number 1 or number 2. The last loop is for your weight, about a six ounce bank sinker.

The next rod is for Mr. Kingfish. The same rod and reel as above, except instead of 150 pound test Power Pro, I use 80 pound test Power Pro (18 pound mono diameter), with a kingfish rig tied to the end of the Power Pro.

This is the rig that you will want to send out when at anchor. Use a live or dead bait. Put the first hook through the fishes nose and let the second just hang. Send this out about 30 to 50 yards from the boat, put it in the rod holder and wait. You will know when there is a fish on, as the rod will be doubled over and the clicker will be singing to you.

You are now ready to head to the ocean for a day of bottom fishing. No matter what the weather man says, don't be stupid. If the ocean is bigger that the forecast said it was going to be, you can always go home and try it another day or do what I did when I had a real job. Get all of your fishing buddies ready to go on a moments notice and when the ocean is flat, lay out of work and go. Don't try to call in from the boat, those reeling in fish noises wont fool anyone. Have your wife or girl friend call in for you, you are just too sick to come to the phone or better yet you were up all night throwing up and you just got to sleep and she doesn't want to wake you. That one always works. One more thing about laying out sick, wear plenty of sun screen. You don't want to come back the next day with a nice tan.

Head on out and find some nice bottom. If you can find something that looks like this, I think you are in the right spot.

The fish that are up off of the bottom are going to be bait or vermilion snapper. The fish on the bottom are usually grunts, seabass, grouper and snapper.

I like to start by sending down the Daiichi bait catching rig. This is usually on a Shakespeare Tidewater SS 4850 spinning reel on a Tiger Rod BWS 2200 6' 6", spooled with 20 pound test Power Pro. The reason that you want this on a spinning outfit, is so you can get it back to the boat in a hurry and the retrieval rate is usually higher on spinning outfits. Once you have hooked these small baitfish, they are sending out distress signals and everything down there is trying to get them off of your hook, so it is a very good idea to get them back up quickly.

After I have a few live one in the bait well, I send out two live bait rigs, the ones above with the treble hooks. Send one out in each outrigger or off of each corner of the boat. I also like to have some balloons aboard and tie one of them to one of the rigs after I have sent out about 20 feet of line. This keeps the bait up off of the bottom and usually changes the drift so the two rigs do not get tangled with each other.

Now you are ready for the bottom fishing part of this trip.

To catch the vermilions, I like to send the rig down and when it hits bottom, I crank it back up about ten feet. If you are using the rig with the Daiichi Circle Wide hooks, DO NOT SET THE HOOK. When you feel something grab the bait, lift up on the rod and wind. Between the fish pulling down, the superb hook setting power of the Daiichi hooks and the no stretch of the Power Pro line, the fish will almost always be there.

For the big snapper and grouper, I like a big chunk bait or a live bait. For the big chunk baits, you can use big fillets of bonita, bluefish, vermilion snapper, grunts, fresh cigar minnows, spanish sardines or a large piece of Fish Bites. For the live bait, I like small vermilion snapper, cigar minnows, sailors choice (pinfish, take a pair of scissors and trim off the top and bottom fins on the pinfish). When you get a good bite on this big outfit, come up with the rod tip and get down on the push button electreel. If you have a nice fish, the reel will be working hard to get your fish to the boat and the rod will be bent pretty good. I like to tighten my drag pretty good on the electreel and once I have the fish off of the bottom, I will work the rod to get the fish to the boat. I will lift up on the rod and use the electric motor got get the slack up. Let the rod work for you and you stand a better chance of getting the nicer ones in the box.

Here is a good rule to follow:
If you send a bait down and there is no action after about 30 seconds, then there is nothing down there. Let out some more anchor line, turn the wheel to move the boat or move. If there are fish under the boat, you WILL be getting bites.

Being safe:
Keep in mind that we are now in the summertime weather pattern. After noon thunder storms are very violent. They can have winds in excess of 50 miles per hour, lighting and sideways rain. If you do encounter a big afternoon storm, you might want to go around it instead of through it.

One more thing:
If you catch any tuna one the flat lines, I get half.

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