Fighting Big AJ and Grouper:

Discussion in 'Reef fish' started by Uncle Russ, Jun 9, 2008.

  1. Uncle Russ

    Uncle Russ Senior Member

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    Although I have never fought a truly large specimen of either, I have done a lot of research on the gear required, and the best baits and how to hook them. I also understand the general principle that they will run to structure and you have to stop them fast. This topic addresses the best way to begin the fight on a headboat (i.e., where you cannot use the boat to pull them out of structure):

    OK, so with tuna, I am either feeding line out with the rod tucked under my arm OR sitting in the rod holder. In either case, the reel is in freespool. When the fish begins to run, I slowly bring the lever up to some pre-determined point--let's say strike.

    But what is the preferred technique when you are standing at the rail, dropping, let's say, 300 feet, with a 4-pound live bait on an 11/0 circle hook with 2 or 3 pounds of lead and a 400 pound leader?

    1. Do you start with the reel in freespool as you would with a tuna?

    2. Do you hold the rod under your arm or place it in the holder?

    3. What would be the ideal drag settings at (a) just past free spool, (b) strike, and (c) full? My thinking on this has been, to the extent possible, something like (a) = 20#, (b) = 35#, and (c) = 45#.

    4. When the fish begins to run with the bait, what do you do with the lever? (a) gradually increase drag until he slows, (b) ram it up to a high but not brutal setting (say, for example 35#), or (c) ramp it up immediately to the unbearable 45# or whatever, to stop him NOW?

    Thanks for you your help.

    Russ
     
  2. d-a

    d-a Senior Member

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    Uncle Russ,

    I have never caught any trully large ones either. I do know that with larger baits such as Blue Runners that you have to let them take the bait for a bit before you lock the reel in. I generally use a 3-5 count befor engaging the reel.

    d-a
     

  3. Sea Crappie

    Sea Crappie Senior Member

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    1. Generally the reel is in gear. This is especially true for AJ's in midwater depths. When fishing for grouper with dead baits, sometimes I'll "feed" them the bait by keeping the reel in freespool and playing line out. With live bait, neither groupers nor AJ's peck at the bait like perch on a nightcrawler (you'll be very aware you're hit). And when I say in gear, I mean just enough drag to keep the bait where I want it in the water column.

    2. If you're asking about bottom fishing, always under the arm or already in the harness. From the rod holder, the line would be straight up and down (no bueno).

    3. However much drag you and your gear can safely control is what I'd use.

    4. I fish circles w/ live bait and Owner Jobus with dead. In both cases, after getting hit I smoothly (over the course of 2 sec or so I'd guess) move the drag to strike and reel tight on the fish (usually already in low gear) and keep cranking.

    Once at your fighting drag (strike or full, your choice), the goal is "no line out" if at all possible. The crappy thing about fishing rigs, is that you can exert enormous pressure, but the fish can swim upwards toward the rig legs, creating enough slack to make it back and cut you off. Then all the drag in the world won't help unless you stay tight. This is why people pull away from the rig w/ their boats, to keep constant pressure on the fish (much more so than just by cranking).

    Russ, I hope you're taking notes, cause I think my head would explode by this point.......................

    For me though, I think I'm leaving all that heavy unwieldy bait fishin' gear at home for the 4th of July trip. :D
     
  4. ALW

    ALW Senior Member

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    My last trip out on the Big E. First two stops on way out. I had two 50 lb AJ's and a 50 Lb warsaw. Had my Pen 50 VSW 35lbs drag, in low gear on a Calstar Baby Boomer rod. Smitty harness. Rig in the harness. 130lb JB and a 130 lb mo top shot. Big 12 O circle hook. Dropper loop rig made by the deck hands. Soon as the rod loaded up I was cranking. Rod was bent double. Fish came right up no problems. I really don't see how you could do anyting with a rod under the arm or on the rail unless you just want to torture yourself or you are a young buck with some weight lifting background. Will fish the same way July 4. With 40 fishermen the longer you take to get the fish in the more problems. If some guys have wimpy rods and gear avoid fishing near them.
     
  5. etan

    etan Senior Member

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    I agree with ALW. Just let the rod load up with the circle hook and start reeling. There is no hook setting necessary with AJ and a circle hook. Most of the AJ misses I've seen with AJ are being impatient and not letting the fish load the rod and set the circle hook. If you can keep it out of the rig you are set!
     
  6. xs_tackle

    xs_tackle Senior Member

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    The above is consistent with what I've done on many, including the largest (87 and 83# respectively) goupers and AJ's I've caught in the Gulf. One small tweak: as soon as you have hook-up, be walking briskly toward the back of the boat (away from the structure). If the water is very deep, the boat is over the base of the rig, so up is as important as away. Short rod, stout tackle and good rail technique help.
     
  7. ALW

    ALW Senior Member

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    The last trip I was on. I caught my AJ about mid deck, not close to the rig and at the depth they were marking the fish. Did not have rig problems. I don't think it is necessary to fish as close to the rig as posible. With a harness you can fight the fish. When you use the rail you fight it and the fish and the torque on the rod cranking the fish in.
     
  8. Uncle Russ

    Uncle Russ Senior Member

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    Thanks Gentlemen. I realized about loading the rod for the circle hook and not trying to set it. What I had never encountered or thought about was the fact that the angle of the rig's legs and the depth lets the fish get into the structure just by coming up and out faster than you can pull him toward you. Makes more sense now. The tips are, as always appreciated.

    Crappie: If I had more big fish under my belt, I would join you in going with jigs and poppers. I just ain't there yet. Plus, if I don't bring home fish I don't go again so easy.

    Russ
     
  9. BretABaker

    BretABaker Guest

    jig for the AJs, theyll destroy the jigs. just use a spinner with good drag
     
  10. hookedonfishing

    hookedonfishing Senior Member

    366
    1
    jig for the AJs, theyll destroy the jigs. just use a spinner with good drag

    What is the ideal gear ratio you want when jigging for AJ's? I use a Daiwa Saltist 40H when jigging for tuna, but I don't know if that is best for AJ's.
     
  11. d-a

    d-a Senior Member

    5,475
    206
    What is the ideal gear ratio you want when jigging for AJ's? I use a Daiwa Saltist 40H when jigging for tuna, but I don't know if that is best for AJ's.


    Generally the faster you can work the jig the bigger the Aj you catch. I like 4.9 to 1 up to 6.0 to 1 gear ratio's. Keep in mind that the slower the ratio the easier it is for you to jig with big heavyjigs without tiring. My go to Big AJ reel has a 5.9 to 1 ratio.


    d-a
     
  12. Enoch

    Enoch Senior Member

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    Thank you UR for posting.

    I was also wondering the live bait method from a lever drag.
     
  13. straycatboat

    straycatboat Member

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    Generally the faster you can work the jig the bigger the Aj you catch. I like 4.9 to 1 up to 6.0 to 1 gear ratio's. Keep in mind that the slower the ratio the easier it is for you to jig with big heavyjigs without tiring. My go to Big AJ reel has a 5.9 to 1 ratio.


    d-a
    What reel do you use for the Big AJ's??
    I keep breaking mine!:confused: :confused:
     
  14. corybahr318

    corybahr318 Banned

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    I have caught grouper to 90# and aj to 85# all on jigging tackle (Stella 20k SW & Carpenter OH Xh or similar tackle) & I have found it is luck and skill that save the day. We just lock the drag and pull them out if we have to.
    We have hooked (Multiple times)what is believed to be a Monster Warsaw on a Kristal XL with 200 JB Hollow and 400# mono and can't do anything with her when she wants to go home. On a head boat Really large specimens of either species would be rare in my opinion. Chumming them away from the platform legs with cut bait is one way. Your best shot would be on a rock pile or shelf.
     
  15. Russ57

    Russ57 Junior member

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    Russ, I'd fish for the grouper different than the AJ. This may be about the area I fish. Down here (miami) grouper are caught right on the bottom. Standard rig is a big egg sinker and a long mono leader (upwards of 20 feet) with a live bait. The idea is to get the grouper out of his hole by allowing the live bait to swim a few feet off the bottom. I favor a star drag for bottom fishing. As I'm often catching bait at the same time (aka yellowtail snapper) The rod goes in a holder and I wait till it bends over. The drag needs to be tight but not so tight you can't get the rod out of the holder and into your fighting belt. Use a spring scale and know how much more to tighten down once you are good to go. I'd rather add drag with my thumb and will look to set drag aroung 50% of actual breaking strenght. It helps to play around and know where things will break at.

    AJ's can be caught mid-depth. I find they are often strong enough that you can't get away with trying to prevent some type of run. With a grouper once you get him 10 feet off the bottom the battle is won. Aj,s are more like tuna and I would set my drag and fighting stlye about the same.
     
  16. matt09

    matt09 Senior Member

    537
    3
    My last trip out on the Big E. First two stops on way out. I had two 50 lb AJ's and a 50 Lb warsaw. Had my Pen 50 VSW 35lbs drag, in low gear on a Calstar Baby Boomer rod. Smitty harness. Rig in the harness. 130lb JB and a 130 lb mo top shot. Big 12 O circle hook. Dropper loop rig made by the deck hands. Soon as the rod loaded up I was cranking. Rod was bent double. Fish came right up no problems. I really don't see how you could do anyting with a rod under the arm or on the rail unless you just want to torture yourself or you are a young buck with some weight lifting background. Will fish the same way July 4. With 40 fishermen the longer you take to get the fish in the more problems. If some guys have wimpy rods and gear avoid fishing near them.
    How is that even fun...
     
  17. bottom line

    bottom line Senior Member

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    11
    How is that even fun...
    Different strokes for different folks.
     
  18. Captain Ross

    Captain Ross Senior Member

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    You can see the combo in back that I took this toad on.
    Tyrnos 30, Star heavy roller guide rod. 80lb momoi mono.
    She ate a 3lb blue runner on the bottom. Probably using an 11/0 circle.

    Be prepared for a little back ache.

    [​IMG]
     
  19. d-a

    d-a Senior Member

    5,475
    206
    What reel do you use for the Big AJ's??
    I keep breaking mine!:confused: :confused:


    Missed this the first time around, but since the thread has been resurrected.


    I use an Ocea Jigger 4000 or 5000 with PE 10 for big Aj's




    d-a
     
  20. carlosburitica

    carlosburitica Senior Member

    2,663
    232
    Although I have never fought a truly large specimen of either, I have done a lot of research on the gear required, and the best baits and how to hook them. I also understand the general principle that they will run to structure and you have to stop them fast. This topic addresses the best way to begin the fight on a headboat (i.e., where you cannot use the boat to pull them out of structure):

    OK, so with tuna, I am either feeding line out with the rod tucked under my arm OR sitting in the rod holder. In either case, the reel is in freespool. When the fish begins to run, I slowly bring the lever up to some pre-determined point--let's say strike.

    But what is the preferred technique when you are standing at the rail, dropping, let's say, 300 feet, with a 4-pound live bait on an 11/0 circle hook with 2 or 3 pounds of lead and a 400 pound leader?

    1. Do you start with the reel in freespool as you would with a tuna?

    2. Do you hold the rod under your arm or place it in the holder?

    3. What would be the ideal drag settings at (a) just past free spool, (b) strike, and (c) full? My thinking on this has been, to the extent possible, something like (a) = 20#, (b) = 35#, and (c) = 45#.

    4. When the fish begins to run with the bait, what do you do with the lever? (a) gradually increase drag until he slows, (b) ram it up to a high but not brutal setting (say, for example 35#), or (c) ramp it up immediately to the unbearable 45# or whatever, to stop him NOW?

    Thanks for you your help.

    Russ
    1. yes
    2. you hold it in your arm while jigging and while you are hooking it up. then you can use a fight belt or the boat rail (party boats)
    3. i feel confortable at 18 pounds of drag
    4. let it run and don't play with the drag.
    i landed 75 pound aj with 18-20 pounds of drag