Without a doubt, the question I get asked most frequently is “How can I catch some of those big snook?”
Every single day I get this message 5 times in my Instagram DM’s.
While my first response is usually “book a charter with me” – I realize not everyone has the funds for a charter. And snook ARE the most popular fish in Florida.
Anyway, I decided to put together a comprehensive list of how I catch big snook. I realize that this isn’t the only way to catch them. I know that the baits I mention may not always work. I’m sure your brother in law once caught a 47 lb snook on a Creek Chub Darter with rusty hooks. What I am saying is that these are the methodologies and techniques I follow day in and day out to give my clients the best chance possible to put a monster snook on the deck.
I know. We’ve all been to the Florida Sportsman seminar where the guide stands up and says something to the effect of “big fish eat the same bait as small fish . . . ” In fact, you may have heard me say that at some point. My very own sister’s largest snook was caught on a shrimp TAIL while snapper fishing. I concede that this tip isn’t ALWAYS the rule.
If my client wants a BIG snook, I don’t mess around with little bait(s). This summer, we’ve caught 40″ plus snook on: whole ladyfish; half a 4 lb. jack; any type of filleted and cleaned carcass (snapper are preferred); chunked pinfish; live grunts; 15″ mullet; etc, etc, etc. The key in all these instances has been LARGE baits. Why? A couple of reasons . . .
Big baits filter out the little snook. While I’ll shout from the mountain tops that no snook is a bad snook, our stocks have rebounded in such a way that you have to “wade” through 50 little snook to get the big one. Putting out a foot-long bait eliminates some of the spike snook right off the bat. Yes, we can and often do catch slot and over slot fish on shrimp or greenbacks or dollar-sized pinfish – it’s just that we catch a lot more under slot fish with those baits.
No Catfish. Just like the larger bait filters out most of the under slots, going with a BIG cut bait will usually eliminate catfish. I’ve caught snook on whole fish heads that a bunch of little catfish are fighting over. Next time you’re at the cleaning station, pay close attention to that redfish head you pitch in. If the water is clear enough, you’ll see the cats swarm the head . . . But, they’ll simply nibble around the edges. It takes an apex predator to eat the head whole. Go big, eliminate the catfish.
This is like an In-Fisherman article from 1992. But the fact remains – if you want big snook, find “interesting” structure. What I mean is this: Big snook did not get big by being stupid. There’s a way they’ve avoided frying pans and poachers . . . One of my theories is that they hang out in less conspicuous places. Sure they’ll prowl a flat, or sneak along an oyster bar, but by and large we catch them around structure that I term as “interesting” – if I’m fishing a mangrove shoreline and find a slightly deeper depression near the trees, that will have a bait in it the next time I fish there. A dock with a giant power boat and lift, meaning there’s likely a big hole where the prop wash has blown out silt right behind the lift – that’s like finding buried treasure. A cut in a creek near easy food, a la an oyster bar or flat, or that creates an ambush point? All day every day.
Sure all fish, in particular ambush species, like these characteristics in a hole, but my point is a bit broader – find these holes and stick with them. You will catch a bunch of shorts by easing along the shoreline and pitching baits under the trees; you will catch a slob by soaking a cut ladyfish in that depression.
Put the Rod Down
This drives most anglers crazy.
Do you want to catch a monster snook? Awesome. Put on a big bait, pitch it into the spot you’ve picked out, and stick the rod in a rod holder.
Play solitaire on your phone. Watch the shorebirds playing around. Take a nap. Organize your soft plastics. Do ANYTHING except hold the rod.
Yes. I see something playing with the rod. I see the tapping. Ignore it.
Yes. I saw it jerk down. Go back to Facebook.
When do you pick it up? When you hear the drag.
This is non-negotiable. Put the rod in a rod holder and step away.
This is the most important one of all.
Whether you’re fishing a dock, or a bridge, or a hole, be patient.
Oh sure, in July, when the big girls are spawning and will eat almost anything in front of them, 30 minutes isn’t impatient. In September, if you want a big snook, I will stake out a spot and wait. And wait.
No music. Whispered voices. No banging around the boat.
I have a bunch of clients who want to catch a lot of fish. And I have a bunch of clients who want to catch giant fish. All of my clients want to catch a ton of giant fish. However, this isn’t typically how it works. If you’re accomplished, and have a number of snook under your belt, you may want a trophy. I have frank conversations with my clients about this type of trip – it may mean 6 hours with 2 or 3 bites. It may mean no fish boatside. It may also mean a 30 lb plus slob. As easy as it may seem, catching the fish of a lifetime is exactly that – a chance of a lifetime. It doesn’t happen every time. So be patient. Put in your time. It may not happen today, but it WILL happen.
That’s it. Yes, I have and do catch over slots on artificials regularly – but this is how to have the BEST chance at a monster.
Give it a try. You won’t be disappointed.
Or give me a shout @travisthompson on social media, [email protected] and I’ll show you how to get it done!