I'm not talking about the obvious fact that the big game tackle needed for marlin would not be used for inshore flats fishing. I'm talking about the more subtle differences that a lot of anglers miss.
Fishing offshore last week, several of us were looking for a big catch to supply an upcoming fish fry event. That necessarily meant looking for a lot of average size fish rather than baiting and fishing for th4 one or two good catches we normally pursue.
We anchored over an artificial reef some 28 miles off of Saint Augustine, Florida, and immediately began catching fish. Vermillion snapper and black sea bass were all over this wreck and showed up on the depth finder in great numbers.
The vermillion (we call them beeliners) were up in the water column as usually. With a double hook fish finder rig (a six ounce sinker on the bottom and two branches of leader and hook above) some of us were dropping all the way to the bottom where we lost our baits to small pinfish and grunts. We went right down through and missed the school of snapper.
Several cranks up off the bottom put the bait in a good strike zone where the beeliners were holding. While we caught some of the beeliners with this method, I knew we could do far better.
Beeliners, and snapper in general are wary fish, and the larger ones did not get to be that large by eating every bait in front of them. I have studied snapper underwater in my diving days and watched them approach a bait. Generally, the bigger the fish, the less likely he was to get caught. The bigger ones seemed to lay back and watch the smaller ones tear and run at the bait. Only after they seemed to believe that it was safe would they attack a bait. The trick was - and still is for snapper - to make the bait appear as natural as possible.
The seas were running about three feet with a pretty sporty northeast ground swell. The sea conditions meant that the baits suspended off the bottom would rise and fall, sometimes abruptly, as much a ten feet in either direction. This certainly was not a very natural presentation, and the catch rate was proving just that.
The fish we were after would top out at five or six pounds. There was no need for the 50 pound test line and 100 pound test leaders we were using. So. I took out my eight pound spinning outfit. I tied a twelve inch, twenty pound test fluorocarbon leader to the line using a surgeon's knot and tied a 3/4 ounce. 2/0 jig head to the leader.
The jig head was big enough to get my eight pound line down to eighty feet or so to the fish, yet light enough to actually let the baited jig drift down at a slower rate. As the boat lifted and fell with the seas, I adjusted the line leaving my reel accordingly.
It was pretty easy to watch the line slowly disappear from the surface of the water, and when it quit sinking, I set the hook. A big beeliner had grabbed the naturally sinking bait without hesitation. The great part was that the bait never had a chance to get down to the junk fish. Beeliners were jumping on it before it ever got that deep.
Two things were very apparent to me on this trip, and I believe they will make a difference for you as well. While I didn't catch the biggest fish that day (Jason stumbled onto a nice 20 pound gag grouper), I consistently caught more and bigger fish than the average size being brought aboard.
First, I believe the line size made a difference that took the wariness away from the larger fish. Second, I believe the bait presentation, being more natural because of the line size, was more appealing to the fish.
I watch people every day fishing for small fish with an arsenal that would theoretically catch a whale. They watch me and my parties catch fish right next to them and shake their heads. They simply don't get it! Fish are cold blooded and may not have the brains to think = or so we think. I believe that the right line size makes a major difference in catch rate and overall success.
Best of all, the lighter tackle makes catching them a whole lot more fun!