How To Make A Grouper Rig That Saves Money, Time, & Marine Life
By: Luke Simonds on December 3, 2015
Time to talk about one of my favorite fish species… Grouper!
The fact that these predators:
- Are tough as heck fighters
- Can be found in most regions/depths
- Grouper provide some of the most popular fish-eating meat in America…
Makes them a very popular fish to both offshore and inshore anglers (and tourists looking for a good Grouper sandwich).
Looking back, I remember grouper being the fish I got most excited about catching back when my dad took my and my brothers out from Ponce Inlet when I was very young…
And bottom fishing was my absolute favorite because the action was often constant since there are some many fish of all sizes to be caught off of the reefs and wrecks we’d target.
Best of all, you don’t need a huge and expensive boat to catch them…
But a problem with grouper fishing (and targeting other species when bottom fishing) is that many anglers don’t put much thought into making their leaders…
They simply get a weight, a hook, some line, and perhaps a swivel or two and start tying their favorite knot for all of the connections.
Trust me I know, I was doing it the WRONG way for many years myself…
And a majority of the time, that lack of thinking about all aspects of what they’re targeting leaves the following two problems:
- The weight gets fixed onto the line with no way to slide off.
- The weakest point in the overall system (most often at the knot that connects the lighter main line to the top of the heavier leader assembly) is up above the weight.
Here’s an example of a leader system that Does NOT allow the weight to slide off (not recommended):
Knowing that grouper are a structure oriented fish that quickly hide under rocks when they feel threatened, we know that some are going to end up winning the tug of war battle by getting up under a sharp rock that cuts through the line above the weight…
Or the anglers’ battle trying to pull the grouper up before it gets to the structure puts more pressure on the line than the weakest point can handle (typically the very top knot), leaving the anglers with just a bare end of the main line and the grouper with an entire leader stuck to them…
So the problem with having a leader system that has a fixed weight on it becomes pretty clear because that can lead to the grouper having to drag that weight around until the hook rusts out (and it’s less likely to fall out when under the pressure of the weight).
And since grouper are structure oriented, the odds of them getting stuck to the bottom due to the weight getting snagged are high which will make them easy targets to the next shark that cruises by.
In case you have doubts about this actually happening, here’s a video that will surely change your mind:
How To Make A Better Grouper Rig
Knowing that grouper and most other bottom fish seek comfort in structure when the feel threatened, we need to account for the fact that there will be break-offs in our decision for how we make our leader assemblies.
Here are the two most important things to consider… we need design the leader so that:
- The weight can slide off of the line in the event that a fish breaks the line above the leader
- The weakest point in the system is right above the hook
#1 Sliding Weight
This factor is important because it saves the fish from becoming an easy meal to the next shark that comes along after the weight gets stuck to the bottom and pins the fish down.
There are several ways to address this…
Simply sliding the weight onto the main line and then tying that to a swivel (or direct line-to-leader knot) that stops the weight from sliding all the way to the hook without blocking the weight from sliding up the line can be a great choice.
However, this method can significantly weaken the main line because the lighter main line will have direct contact with the bottom when dropping the baits down until the line stops going out… you don’t have control of what type of structure your line will hit before lifting it up off the bottom so a rough patch of bottom can easily damage your line.
So my preference is to tie on a couple feet of line that is much stronger than both my main line and the final leader section that goes to the hook so that even a lot of rough landings on the drops will not cause that section of the line to be weaker than the final section of leader… [see video below for details].
#2 Controlling The Weak Point
When targeting strong fish that live in and around heavy cover, the likelihood of getting snagged on the bottom is high.
And we of course know that it’s not good to have fishing lines hanging from our local wrecks…
So it’s on us to be smart and plan for what we know will likely happen… and that of course means to get as much tackle as possible up from the bottom when you get snagged onto the bottom.
One idea is to beef up everything to muscle through whatever the hook got snagged on…
But that of course won’t always win because a it still won’t pull up an entire ship.
Another method is to use a hook that has a breaking or bending point that is less then the strength of the knots you’re using…
This certainly works, but it’s hard to control because different hooks have different breaking/bending points, and those breaking/bending points are not listed by manufacturers.
So my preference is to set up the overall line system to have the weakest point be the knot that goes directly to the hook while also beefing up the line most exposed to getting weakened from bumping rough patches on the bottom (directly above the weight).
This grouper leader setup explained in the video below requires the following:
- Braided line for the main line to get optimal feel of the bottom with the least amount drag on the water from current
- FG knot – extremely strong and slim knot that a standard egg weight can simply slide over
- 2 levels of leader… the strongest is for the weight, and the lightest is for the hook
- Good snug knot like the Uni, Cinch, Palomar to connect the top of the light leader to the weight section.
- Loop knot at the final connection from the leader to the hook (it allows for maximum action of bait in the water while being slightly weaker than the top snug knots like the Uni, Cinch, Palomar, etc.)
Watch this video to see how this grouper rig looks once complete:
How To Tie A Grouper Rig (Step-by-Step)
How To Tie The Leader Knots
Here are the knots that I use for this leader assembly:
#1. FG Knot
This is the knot used to connect the main line (must be braid) to a much thicker mono/fluoro leader. It is the strongest knot that we’ve tested for this connection, and it happens to also be the thinnest which is great because it allows for the weight to slide right over it to save a fish if it happens to somehow break off above the leader.
There are several different ways to tie the FG knot, and the one shown in this video is the quickest and easiest that I’ve been able to find so far:
#2: Perfection Loop and Orvis Knot Combo
These two knots allow an easy and strong connection of the two mono/fluoro leader lines…
The Perfection loop serves two purposes:
- Keeps the weight from sliding down to the hook allowing the bait to move around more natually
- Provides a loop which we then can tie the lighter leader onto as if it were an eye of a hook
The Orvis knot is my preferred choice to tie to the Perfection loop because it’s extremely fast to tie and is very strong (not quite as strong as the Palomar, but it’s stronger than any Loop knot I’ve tested so it’ll not be the weakest link).
Here’s a video that shows both knots and how they relate to one another:
#3: Kreh Loop Knot (aka. Non-Slip Loop knot)
The loop knot at the end serves two important purposes:
- In allows the bait to swim around more naturally due to less resistance from the line
- It’s slightly weaker than the snug knot on the other end of the leader making this the weakest point in the system
- Note: This assumes that your braid main line’s rated strength is at least within 40% of the final leader touching the hook… for example, I often use 30 lb braid main line to an 80 lb top leader to a 50 lb final leader… and the loop knot is what fails when having to break off almost every time (but it’s a 50/50 shot when I bump up to a 60 lb final leader on the 30 lb braid.
Note: Different line brands/types of course have different breaking points, so these values are just to serve as a rough estimate.
Here’s a video that shows how to tie the Kreh Loop Knot:
Grouper fishing is a fantastic way for a group of friends or a family to get out on the water and enjoy nature together…
And given their popularity, we need to pay extra attention to take the best possible care of them so our future generations can continue to enjoy this great game fish as well as other structure oriented species that also be harmed by poorly designed leader rigs.
But the good news is that there are multiple solutions to the leader problem, and the one described above ends up saving money on tackle and allows for less time re-rigging while out on the water… it only requires a few unique knots and basic tackle.
If you know of any better grouper rigs that help grouper conservation and help you save money, let us know in the comments.
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