Using long leaders for bottom fishing? Clip your weight.
Catching mutton snapper and other wary fish in deep, clear water often necessitates the use of a long leader to put distance between your bait and sinker. Trouble is, bringing that long rig back in with your dinner attached can be tricky. If your weight is permanently affixed 20 feet or more from the hook, that means a lot of handlining for you, and chances of escape for the fish, before you reach the business end of the rig. Also: If you’re using the really heavy sinkers, those things become miniature wrecking balls next to the boat. I’ve personally seen a cowling damaged because a 24-ounce lead knocked into it three times before the angler subdued it.
On a recent trip to Tavernier, FL, I had the pleasure of targeting mutton snapper and grouper with Capt. Ryan Van Fleet of Good Karma Sportfishing out of Tavernier Creek Marina. Van Fleet showed me a solution to swinging weights on long leaders while fishing in 200-plus feet of water.
His solution was a small blue clip that he modified. The clip is produced by Balloon Fisher King and is a simple thumb-press to attach and remove. Van Fleet drills a hole into the clip, slides a zip tie through it and attaches the clip to the weight. When I reproduced the rig on my own, I found that a 5/32 drill bit was a good size to allow most zip tie sizes to freely move through.
This clip works only on monofilament. VanFleet uses braid as his main line, so the rig needed to be adjusted accordingly so that he could reel all the way down to the fish. Simple: He added a small section of leader above a small swivel before his longer 20-plus-foot leader. The swivel prevents the clip from sliding down the leader; once the clip is removed, the swivel is small enough to reel through the rod guides to reel the fish all the way to the boat. Use your favorite braid-to-mono connection to a small leader roughly, 24 to 30 inches, that will run down to small barrel swivel that can be reeled through the guides of your rod and onto the reel. From there attach your long leader down to the hook of your choice.
For deep dropping or using weights heavier than 24 ounces, Van Fleet told me that he prefers to switch over to Church Tackle’s Lock Jaw clip, a product which was intended to be used for planer boards by walleye fishermen. He will use this when he fishes deeper areas that require more weight to get down. The Lock Jaw clip attaches to the line in the same way that the Balloon FisherKing clip does, but rather than a push button, it is a lever. The Church Tackle Lock Jaw clip works on both mono and braid, but it is $16 per clip and you’ll have to order direct from the company’s website. FS
First Published Florida Sportsman Magazine August 2018