Skip to main content

Grouper Rig Tips

Sliding sinker rig with 6-foot mono leader, ready to drop sardine, pinfish or other bait.


Captain Robert Johnson of Jodie Lynn charters in St. Augustine has been counting the days until the May 1 reopening of shallow water grouper season in Atlantic waters.

“Sometimes it's hard to grouper fish with mahi swimming around your boat, but our stretch of offshore reefs can give up some really quality gags and scamps this time of year, particularly on spots deeper than 120 feet,” he said.

Johnson's favorite rig? A modified fishfinder with an 8- to 16-ounce sinker; weight depends on the current. The rig consists of an egg sinker sliding on an 18-inch piece of 100-pound mono between two swivels. A 6-foot piece of 100-pound mono leads to a circle hook, with the size depending on the bait. “If I'm fishing for gags, my favorite bait is a live golden spot or a pinfish,” said Johnson. “They require a 7/0 or 8/0 hook. If I'm fishing for scamps I want live sardines or cigar minnows and my hook maybeassmallasa4/0.It'sa balancing act on hook diameter. Thinner hooks are deadly on hooking fish, but can straighten out under a heavy load.” For starters, a 2X-strong hook is a good choice—large enough diameter for holding power, small enough for penetration.

Johnson prefers the slip sinker rig, because fooling big grouper is all about presentation. He's a live bait fisherman and the bait needs to be able to move naturally in an attempt to avoid the grouper. If the bait is pinned to the weight, he doesn't look natural. Keep the sinker pinned against the bottom swivel and at the first sign of panic in the bait, let him swim away from the weight unencumbered.

Hook placement is also often decided by current. Johnson says he'd always prefer to hook his live spots, grunts, and pinfish behind the anal fin, but cautions that you have to consider the current. If there's too much current for the bait to swim naturally with the hook in his back, hook him through the lips.

In extreme current, Johnson will fish a three-way swivel with a 16- or 20-ounce bank sinker. But mostly he favors the sliding sinker rig.

“Finding the right spots is the biggest key,” said Johnson. “The longer the weather is good, the more the bigger, more popular spots get picked over. Contrary to popular belief, neither scamps nor gags need a big ledge to hang around. They are perfectly capable of hiding up against a couple of rocks, or the tiniest ledge.” FS

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

Recent Videos

The crew at Marine Customs Unlimited get started on the finishing touches for the Albury Brothers build with a custom da...
Store

Refurbished 1987 Alumacraft Jon Boat | One Man's Dreamboat

The crew at Marine Customs Unlimited get started on the finishing touches for the Albury Brothers build with a custom da...
Learn

New Berkley Finisher: The All-Around Live Sonar Lure

The crew at Marine Customs Unlimited get started on the finishing touches for the Albury Brothers build with a custom da...
Gear

New Berkley Power Switch: Powerhouse Lure Designed for Foward-Facing Sonar

The crew at Marine Customs Unlimited get started on the finishing touches for the Albury Brothers build with a custom da...
Gear

New Berkley Krej: A Reversed Lip Jerkbait?

The crew at Marine Customs Unlimited get started on the finishing touches for the Albury Brothers build with a custom da...
Store

How to Install New Fuel Tanks in an Old Boat

The crew at Marine Customs Unlimited get started on the finishing touches for the Albury Brothers build with a custom da...
Videos

Testing Out the Latest from Old Town in the Marquesas

The crew at Marine Customs Unlimited get started on the finishing touches for the Albury Brothers build with a custom da...
Store

How to Powder Coat: Benefits of Powder Coating Metal Fuel Tanks

The crew at Marine Customs Unlimited get started on the finishing touches for the Albury Brothers build with a custom da...
Gear

Father & Son Customize a 20' Center Console | One Man's Dreamboat

The crew at Marine Customs Unlimited get started on the finishing touches for the Albury Brothers build with a custom da...
Gear

Best Features of the Shallow Sport X3

The crew at Marine Customs Unlimited get started on the finishing touches for the Albury Brothers build with a custom da...
Learn

How to Fix an Outboard Motor that was Submerged in Saltwater

The crew at Marine Customs Unlimited get started on the finishing touches for the Albury Brothers build with a custom da...
Store

Analyzing a Hurricane Damaged Boat for Restoration

The crew at Marine Customs Unlimited get started on the finishing touches for the Albury Brothers build with a custom da...
Store

How to Design & Build a Custom Dash Panel for a Boat

Florida Sportsman Magazine Covers Print and Tablet Versions

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

Preview This Month's Issue

Buy Digital Single Issues

Magazine App Logo

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Florida Sportsman App

Other Magazines

See All Other Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get the top Florida Sportsman stories delivered right to your inbox.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Florida Sportsman subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Enjoying What You're Reading?

Get a Full Year
of Guns & Ammo
& Digital Access.

Offer only for new subscribers.

Subscribe Now