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Deep Sea Fishing at it's Best

Deep Sea Fishing at it's Best Deep Sea Fishing at it's Best
By Jim Hammond

Most of us when we think of Deep Sea Fishing, we think of a party or head boat, like the Mayport Princess. Now this is a style of Deep Sea Fishing and for most of us, we do have a good time aboard this type of vessel. All of us need to at least once in our life go on a private charter like I did last week. I called Capt Mark Williams and told him that I wanted to catch some nice offshore (deep sea) bottom fish and in the same time shoot a show catching some of these fish. Capt. Mark was his usual excitable self and his comment was let's catch'um.

Ron Gunter and I met him at the dock at around 7:00 am, loaded up and off to the ocean we were. On the way out he asked "what fish did you have in mind you wanted to catch"? My response was Seabass, Snapper, Grouper and Tuna. He looked at me and sort of grinned as he said, "seabass, snapper and grouper we can do, tuna might be a little tuff". See. I have a standing joke with all that I fish offshore with about tuna. I LOVE FRESH TUNA. Having this escheatable appetite for fresh tuna, sometimes sends me on quest far offshore to find them but to me the reward is well worth it.

After about a 45 minute run to the first spot, Capt. Mark slowed down, turned on his bottom machine (fish finder) and began to zig zag over his spot. He was looking for seabass on this spot and sure enough, the machine lit up with a heavy concentration of fish, just off of the bottom. Now, I would have sent over a marker buoy to mark the spot, but Capt. Mark has been doing this for so long and is very good at getting the boat right on the spot, he just throws the anchor and when the anchor rope tightens, the boat is dead over the spot. How does he do that, if I don't have a marker buoy, I might spend the better part of the day just trying to anchored in the right spot.

Now I was ready to send a bait down and as soon as he said lines down, I was there. My bait of choice was going to be an Exude Shrimp. I have had much experience using these baits when seabass fishing and know they work better than natural bait and stay on the hook for a very long time.

My rig was a Shakespeare Tidewater 30 reel, Shakespeare 7' Tiger Rod and for line I was using 100 pound test 20 pound diameter Power Pro. The business end of the rig consisted of 50 pound test monofilament leader with three dropper loops, two for the Daiichi hooks and Exude Shrimp and one for a 8 ounce bank sinker. This rig has the bait above the sinker, so when the fish pulls on the bait, it does not have to move the sinker for you to feel the bite.

I slide the shrimp head first on the hook so it is covering the shank and the tail is able to wiggle in the current.

As soon as my rig hit bottom, I felt a solid thump, lifted up vigorously on the rod tip, started to turn the handle on up was coming something nice. The rod was bent as if what ever was on the other end did not want to be on television or maybe it was afraid of the frying pan. Whatever the reason, it was pulling good. I stuck the rod in my gut and cranked it up. To the surface it came and as it broke the surface, I was the first to bring aboard a nice 2 plus pound seabass. In the box with him and back down I went. I felt a thump and another nice seabass was on his way to the box. Now, Capt. Mark is from the old school and for anyone in his words to be using "some sort of xxxxx rubber bait" must be after stupid fish. I didn't care how stupid the fish were, I was two in the box to his none on natural bait. This action went on for two more nice fish, before I offered him an Exude Shrimp. At first he was just a little hesitant, as he was being filmed taking a "xxxxx rubber bait" but his curiosity got the best of him and out his hand went in the direction of the "xxxxxx rubber bait". His first drop produced a solid thump and up came a 3 plus pound seabass, the largest so far.

Mark was not a believer but was on his way to being convinced that the Exude Shrimp will catch nice fish.

The reasons that this bait works so well is a couple of reasons.

  1. The color we were using was the glow body with the chartreuse tail. This bait has a glow in the dark feature that allows it to be seen way down in the dark water that we have in our offshore waters.
  2. This bait has a scent that is released into the water when it gets wet. This scent is a feeding stimulant and a fish attractant. So any fish around the bait or down current will smell it and head in the direction of the bait and your hook.
  3. The bait is made of soft plastic. It is hard for the fish to get it off of the hook. So people like me that are not the best bottom fishermen, have more of a chance of getting my hook in the fish as he tried to get the bait off of the hook. With natural bait the fish hits the bait one time and off the hook it comes. The your bare hook is trying to catch you a fish on your good looks instead of something for the fish to eat.
Capt. Mark and I continued to catch seabass, until we just about had our limit and most were in the 2 plus pound category. Not bad, we had been fishing for about 1 1/2 hours and had a nice box already.

Capt. Mark suggested that we now go and try to get a few snapper. We'll, I was not going to argue about that, even thought, I was having a blast catching these very nice seabass, 3 to his 1. See, in addition to the Exude Shrimp, I also had Daiichi Circle Wide hooks and between the hooks and shrimp, I did have the major advantage.

Capt. Mark does not like to pull the anchor up every time, so he just drags it. He has part of a shovel handle that he puts in a rod holder and then raps the anchor rope around it and heads for the anchor. This allows the power of the boat to lift the anchor up off of the bottom and he then drags it to the next spot, if it isn't too far from the current position. Doing this the anchor is just under the surface. It is not down there plowing up the bottom.

When he gets to the next spot, he circles it until he has the anchor in the position that he wants its to be, then spins the boat toward the rope and as he is giving the anchor slack line, it falls just where he wants it. As the boat comes tight on the anchor rope, he turns on his bottom machine and there they are, fish, right under the boat. I have learned to be ready, so when he started to point the boat towards the anchor, I was getting my rod ready for more action.

On this spot was snapper and he told me to take off the Exude and send down a piece of boston mackeral. Let me get this right, I have been catching 3 seabass to his one. I have been using Exude Shrimp and he has been using cut bait. I think I will stay with what has been working for me.

Down to the bottom, I sent my rig. Not more than a second or two after making contact with the bottom, I felt a thump. I lifted up on the rod tip and started to turn the handle. As I did this some thing on the other end was pulling back and much harder than the seabass from the previous spot. I grunted as I turned the handle and worked the fish from the cold murky depths. After a few seconds, up came something red, a red snapper. You would have had to be there to see Capt. Marks face when he saw that plastic bait hanging from a red snappers mouth. I was enjoying this trip more by the minute. I had caught more seabass than Capt. Mark and now the first red snapper and all on soft plastics. About the time I was ready to send my rig back down, Mark was hooting and hollering as his rod was bent over double. He had a nice one and it was on its way to the surface. He is another situation that words cant describe other than pure exhilarating excitement, watching Mark crank up a big fish. He does get wound up as he powers big fish from their hiding places on the ocean floor. This fish had taken a while to get up fro the depths and about the time it hit the surface, Mark let out a scream the pegged out my audio meter on the camera and rang my ears. Mark had managed to land a nice six pound red snapper and not on soft plastics. I was now on my way back down to the bottom as he slipped his fish into the box. My rig had no sooner hit bottom and the thump of the bite traveled up the line and into rod where it passed through my hands, where a signal was sent from my brain back to my arms and hands to set the hook and get this fish up. My arms and hands must be working well with the signal that my brain sent because up came another red snapper.

Capt. Mark had done his job and put us on the right spot. We managed to catch several snapper and a few more seabass at this spot before he said "lets make a short run to another spot".

After a short ride, we were at spot number three and again I was the first one with my bait on it's way down. And again I was the first one back up with a nice red snapper. We caught several more snapper and an occasional seabass when Mark hooked into something real nice. After a short battle up came about a 10 pound grouper. Boy was I going to eat good tonight, seabass, red snapper, grouper and a 3 pound trigger fish that wanted to come up and see what all of the excitement was about.

This spot was loaded with fish and some pretty nice. We stayed here for a long time and every drop produced a nice bite with most of them bending the rod enough to get Capt. Mark a hollering and jumping around. I have fished with a lot of people and most of the old salts professional types don't get real fired up about much but Capt. Mark acts like every fish is the first one that he has caught. He hollers and jumps around like he is having the best time of his life. He is excitable and a pleasure to fish with.

As the day wound down and we were both about wore slap out from all of the fish that we had cranked from the depths, my videographer (Capt. Ron Gunter) said that we needed two more fish to make an even 100. We have had 98 fish so far, I responded. He said, yep. Mark and I both responded by sending down another bait and cranking another snapper back to the surface. Not a bad day, 75 red snapper, 20 seabass, 2 sharks, 2 grouper and a trigger fish. Off course we DID NOT keep all of these fish. We kept all of the seabass, 6 red snapper 1 grouper and 1 trigger fish. This was plenty for all of us to eat fish for a few days.

Capt. Mark Williams runs out of Mayport, Florida, he runs a 26 foot long Shamrock that can handle up to 5 anglers. He charters for all of the bottom species like snapper, grouper, seabass and vermilion snapper and in the summer months he charters for striking fish like king mackeral, sail fish, cobia, barracuda and many more. Capt. Mark has been fishing since he was 5 years old and has been a U.S. Coast Guard Licensed Captain for many years. You can book a trip with him by calling 904 757 7550 or 904 745 4513.

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PETER P. IPPOLITI | Posted: April 19, 2003