Deep Dropping 101
I started deep dropping with no idea what I was doing, but I wanted to know what was down there. A friend gave me an old beat up electric motor that bolted onto a little 4/0 Penn, I loaded it up with 50 pound braid. I put a chicken rig together that looked like what I had seen in fishing magazines and added a 4 pound window weight. After a big day catching mahi I told the crew lets drop this contraption to the bottom. We cut up some chunks of bonito and with zero regard to bottom structure we let it fly in 550 feet. It hit the bottom and immediately something ate it. Whoa, we are pros at this! Up comes a blueline tile fish. I had no idea what it was or if it was good to eat but we found out it is top notch table fair. I think we caught three that day and it seemed pretty straight forward, just put meat on the hook get it on the bottom catch em up.
We started catching all kinds of species. I had to look them up on the internet to figure out what they were. We landed snowy and yellowedge grouper, golden and blue line tiles, a crazy fish called an Alfoncino, blackbelly rose fish, barrelfish and southern hake. All these fish are top notch on the dinner table with the Alfoncino at the top of my list. Little did I know how much I’d get hooked on this fishery, or how expensive it can get! High end electric reels are expensive and you will get hung losing everything from the rod tip down on occasion.
The more I dropped and paid attention to the bottom machine (learning how to use your sonar can be more in depth than expected) I started catching these mid-sized grouper, 15 to 20 pounds, on what looked like rock bottom. Hmmm 550 feet has grouper I started wondering what’s stopping us from going deeper. So as we trolled for dolphin I stared at the sonar all day and noticed thick red bottom in 800 feet. I pulled in the trolling baits cut up some skipjack tuna and pulled up current from what I guessed was rock and fired it down.
After a while, the spool stopped. I put the little reel in gear. As it hit the bottom it seemed like we were hung. Oh no, what do we do now? I drove the boat back up current gave the line some slack then hit the switch. At this point something was pulling back hard. I thought the little straight butt trolling rod was going to break in the rod holder but after a minute or two I started gaining line. A few minutes later I see a big brown fish coming up. Holy grouper! It ended up being a 40+ pound snowy. I was hooked.
I used the little electric until I stripped the gears out of the little 4/0, it died owing me nothing. I upgraded to an Elecramate bolted to a 12/0 Penn on a bent butt rod that you could use as a pull up bar while working out. I’ll tell you right now it was a huge upgrade, but the rod was way overkill. It was so ridged it was hard to tell anything was on if it didn’t weigh more than 30 pounds. I loaded the reel with 130 pound braid. I use 80 pound now it doesn’t require as much lead to hold bottom. I’ve also backed off to what I would call a 50 class bent butt rod.
So now what about the chicken rigs? I’ve seen crazy ones that were 25 feet long with 4 foot leaders and super simple ones. I build mine out of 200 pound mono about 5 feet long with two large 12/0 or bigger hooks. I’ll clip a Linger Pitman diamond light on the top of the rig but I have caught plenty of deep fish without the light.
The federal fisheries folks have cut us back to one snowy per vessel, so no need for a bunch of hooks. Since we can only keep one and I had to drive way out there to get it, I prefer to catch a big one, right? I use big bait and a big circle hook. When I say big bait, I mean a sword squid or a fillet off a large bonito on each hook. This will cut down on bites but that’s the idea, I only want one bite. The right one.
I want to be clear on deep dropping with an electric, I personally don’t see it as being sporting but that’s ok. What we ar really doing is putting some great eating fillets in the box. However, we can change this nonsporting deal to sporting very quickly by using a large spinning reel or conventional reel loaded with braid. Reeling a fair-sized grouper of 25 pounds or so up from over 550 feet is not for the faint of heart, but it can be done.
To start, don’t go too heavy on your rod and reel. 30 class tackle and 30pound braid is all you need. I also don’t think a high speed reel is necessary. Remember you will want cranking power not speed, it’s a marathon not a sprint. When dropping by hand I like use as light a lead as possible but that will depend on how much current you have, which can change from day to day. I like to start with 16 ounces or so and adjust from there. I have also had good success with dropping a heavy grouper jig, 6 ounces or bigger tipped with a strip of ballyhoo. Biggest tip I can give is to stay in contact with the bottom as much as possible.
I believe deep dropping is an easier task if you have a good number (spot) to drop on to start with. Getting a good number from a friend that deep drops probably isn’t going to work out but if you take a look at Google Earth it will help you get in the right area.
Give the deep side a try you might get hooked on it just like I did.
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