Tackle: Slugging it out with bottom-dwellers such as big grouper and snapper requires heavy tackle. After all, when you are anchored right, you should be dropping baits right outside of their jagged, rocky front door. We used a minimum of 60-pound tackle on most trips.
Tactics: When bottom fishing, never set the hook, no matter how shallow you're fishing. 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 of the water. When you get a hit, reel as fast as possible and don't stop. This sets the hook and gets 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, especially in deep water. If a larger fish is hooked and you are fortunate enough to pry him off the bottom, make sure to loosen the drag about halfway to the surface. This ensures the fish is not lost due to line breakage when it turns to surge back to the bottom.
Tips: Having a great catch usually has more to do with anchoring than skill. One effective way to ensure good position is to fish ledges or breaks facing the wind. If the wind is out of the north or south, look for breaks that run east and west. This technique makes anchoring on the spot easier because there is a little more room for error due to the fact that 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.