Tackle: Slugging it out with bottom dwellers such as big grouper and snapper requires heavy tackle — at least 60 pounds. Drop baits right outside of their jagged, rocky front door.
Tactics: When bottom fishing, never set the hook. When the bait is on the bottom, reel the slack out of the line and raise your rod tip a couple of feet from the surface. When you get a hit, reel as fast as possible and don't stop. This will set the hook and get the fish heading in the right direction in one motion. As the fish comes to the surface, a steady crank of the handle is all you need. If a larger fish is hooked, loosen the drag about halfway to the surface. This guards against a linebreak.
Tips: A great catch usually has more to do with anchoring than skill. One way to ensure good position is fishing ledges or breaks facing the wind. For instance, if the wind is out of the north, head to breaks that run east and west. This will make anchoring on the spot easier because there is a little more room for error; the break should run right across the transom.
Steve Papen charters out of Indian Shores and can be reached at (727) 642-3411 and fintasticinc.com.