What's hot: After a day or two of upcoming inclement weather, the red-hot bottom bite likely will return with a vengeance. Moving away from the sluggish tides of the last quarter moon phase and heading into the stronger flow of the new moon is a plus. We have enjoyed continued success inside 50 feet; on many trips, mangrove snapper have been a bonus. Our last trip in 40 feet, southwest of St. Pete Beach, we managed half a dozen keeper grouper and three dozen mangos.
Bait: Large grouper baits have been relatively easy to gather. Pinfish, full-grown whitebait and greenbacks have been readily available particularly in the dark along the lightline of bridges leading to the gulf. Taking time to gather 3-inch whitebait for the mangos has paid off. With a chum bag, smaller baits offered on 20-pound tackle will often get bites the heavier stuff won't. On our last couple trips, we cast-net small baits near the gulf pier on Fort De Soto.
Technique: I like to start each stop with light tackle to allow our chum to work. When the frenzy begins, half our anglers switch to heavier grouper tackle, and the rest stick with the light stuff to keep the often finicky mangos from losing interest.
Jay Mastry charters Jaybird out of St. Petersburg. Call (727) 321-2142.