Best Grouper fishing Tackle and Lures

Best Grouper fishing Tackle and Lures

This post will cover the best grouper fishing tackle and lures. Grouper are a highly coveted bottom dwelling species. They are found in the warmer waters of the Atlantic Ocean, gulf of Mexico, Caribbean, and points south. While they are a powerful fish that puts up a strong battle, grouper are prized by many anglers for their flaky white fillets!

There are many different species of grouper. The most popular species in the United States are gag grouper, red grouper, goliath grouper, and black grouper. There are quite a few other species of grouper that are found in deeper waters and throughout the Bahamas and other locations. For the most part, their habits are very similar and will be treated all the same when it comes to tackle and techniques.

Anglers can purchase Capt Jim’s E-book, “Inshore Saltwater Fishing” for $5 by clicking on the title link. It is 23,000 words long and covers tackle, tactics, and species.

gag grouper fishing tackle

The one thing that all groupers have in common is that they are bottom dwelling, structure oriented fish. Seldom will one be found high up in the water column or on sandy bottom with no structure. Reefs, wrecks, artificial reefs, areas of rocky bottom, and ledges are the top spots where anglers catch grouper in open water. They are also caught in inshore waters around the same structure as well as docks and bridges.

Best grouper fishing rods and reels

fishing for sea bass

Heavy conventional tackle is the best choice for grouper. Grouper fishing is not about finesse. It is about hooking the fish, and getting it’s head turned before it can get down into the structure and free itself. Therefore, stout tackle is required when fishing for grouper. The rods and reels need to be durable. Heavy conventional tackle with 50lb to 80lb line works best. Heavy spinning tackle can be used in shallow water.

However, anglers do not need to spend a ton of money. Also, most outfits can be used in other types of fishing. Penn is THE name in saltwater tackle and makes some excellent equipment at reasonable prices.

Conventional tackle works best for grouper fishing

gag grouper fishing

A 6 1/2 foot to 7 foot medium heavy rod with a 30-40 or 3/0 to 4/0 series reel is a good all-around and versatile grouper fishing outfit. This can handle most the bottom fishing situations as well as some light tackle trolling. Most grouper fishing is done bottom fishing. Casting is not required.

Anglers can click this link to shop Amazon for Penn Squall conventional outfits

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grouper fishing

Anglers using conventional tackle for grouper fishing can choose a reel with a level wind or one without. Level winds are nice in that the line is spooled up evenly as it is retrieved. However, some anglers look at that is just one more piece to break or go bad. Many old school grouper fishing reels such as the venerable Penn 4/0 do not have a level wind. The angler uses his or her thumb to evenly dispersed the line on the spool.

penn senator

Anglers can click this link to shop Amazon for Penn Senator rod and reel outfits

Not all grouper fishing is the same. Grouper vary greatly in size. In some locations, a 5 pound grouper is a decent fish. In other places, fish pushing 50 pounds are not uncommon. Goliath grouper grow hundreds of pounds and requires special tackle. Anglers need to tailor the tackle to the size of the fish being sought as well as the depth of the water being fished. Anglers fishing in hundreds of feet of water in the Atlantic Ocean with heavy lead will need a stouter outfit than those fishing in 40 feet of water in the Gulf of Mexico.

Spinning tackle options for grouper fishing

While conventional tackle is the best choice in most grouper fishing situations, spinning tackle certainly has its place. Anglers fishing in shallow, clear water sometimes find that lighter spinning tackle makes a more natural presentation. Grouper can be a little bit line shy in very clear water. Some anglers simply prefer the comfort and feel of a spinning outfit.

There are also occasions where anglers can cast to grouper. This mostly occurs in the shallow waters of the Bahamas and the Gulf of Mexico north of Tampa. In water as shallow as 10 feet, the boat will scare the fish. Therefore, anglers anchor or drift a decent distance from the spot and cast live baits or lures in towards the structure.

The best spinning outfit for grouper fish and is still fairly stout. A 7-8 foot heavy action rod with a 6000 series real is a good all-around combination. With this outfit, anglers can cast lures and live baits towards structure as well as have a decent chance of landing a big fish that might be hooked when bottom fishing. In water much deeper than 50 feet, conventional outfits are simply a better choice.

Anglers can click this link to shop Amazon for a Penn Battle spinning combo

Line choices for grouper fishing

Anglers shopping for grouper fishing tackle and lures will have quite a few choices when it comes to fishing line. Line is basically broken down into two categories; monofilament line and braided line. Monofilament line is cheaper. However, it is not as durable, has some stretch, and is of a larger diameter.

Most anglers grouper fishing have gone to braided lines. While the initial cost is higher, braided line last much longer than monofilament. It also has zero stretch and incredible sensitivity. This is very important when grouper fishing as it allows anglers to feel the take as well is get the grouper away from the structure. Braided line is also thinner in diameter, which allows it to sink faster when fishing in deep water.

Click this link to shop Amazon for Power Pro line


Most anglers fishing for grouper use some type of leader. This is certainly true of braided line. Many use a strong black swivel to connect the leader to the main line. A sliding sinker is often placed on the main line and then the swivel stops it from going any further. Leader length and strength varies greatly, depending on the fishing situation.

Many anglers fishing in deep water use a very long leader, up to 20 feet and even longer. Generally speaking, the shallower the water, the shorter the leader. Anglers fishing in 50 or 60 feet of water will only need 3 to 4 feet of leader. Fluorocarbon leader is almost always used these days. It is strong, abrasion resistant, and very close to being invisible in the water.

Click this link to shop Amazon for flourocarbon leader

Grouper fishing hooks

Hooks are really a matter of personal choice. Anglers grouper fishing in the Gulf of Mexico are required to use circle hooks. Many anglers use them wherever they are grouper fishing. When properly used, circle hooks almost always hook the fish in the corner of the mouth. This aids in a live release and reduces fish mortality.

It is very important when using circle hooks to not set the hook. Setting the hook will generally result in a missed fish. Instead, when a bite is felt with the rod tip held low near the water surface, the slack is taken up with the reel and then the rod lifted. As the hook is being full through the fishes mouth, it rotates and turns almost like a can opener, hooking the fish in the mouth on the way out.

It is important when using circle hooks to use the proper size. The hook may look huge, but the important part is the distance between the tip and the shank. That area needs to be large enough to easily bait the hook as well as for it to work when a fish takes the bait. 8/0 to 10/0 circle hooks are a good all-around size.

red grouper fishing

Standard short shank live bait hooks are also popular for grouper fishing as well. These hooks need to be stout and strong! Many experienced grouper anglers still prefer these hooks as they allow them to set the hook. In very deep water, just reeling and coming tight as is done with circle hooks works best anyway. 5/0 is a good all-around size live bait hook. Anglers can go up or down in size, depending on the size of the bait being used and the fish being targeted.

Bottom fishing weights

Weights are required to get the bait down to the bottom. The two most popular types of weight used by anglers bottom fishing for grouper and other species are sliding egg sinkers and bank sinkers. Sliding egg sinkers are popular because they allow the grouper to pick up the bait and move off a bit, without feeling the weight of the sinker. The weight is generally placed on the running line ahead of the swivel that attaches the leader.

Sarasota bottom fishing

However, there is another rig that works very well for grouper fishing, particularly in water shallower than 100 feet. It is called a “knocker rig”. With this rig, the sinker slides on the leader and rest right on the eye of the hook. To some anglers it looks a bit silly, but it actually works very well. One advantage to this rig is that when the sinker is on the bottom, the hook is right on the bottom. Also, when snagged up, the sinker jerking up on the line then banging the eye of the hook will often free it. This is how it gets its name.

Bank sinkers are also used by anglers when bottom fishing. They are most often used with what is termed a high low rig or a chicken rig. With this rig, multiple hooks are tied off of dropper loops on the main line. This allows anglers to present several baits at multiple levels off of the bottom. This is often done when drifting in deeper water. The bank sinker works well as it tends to walk and bounce off of rocks and other snags.

scamp grouper fishing

Top grouper fishing lures

While most grouper are caught on live or natural bait, there are a few situations when they can be taken on artificial lures as well. For the most part, this means trolling. Trolling with deep diving plugs is an incredibly effective technique when grouper are in fairly shallow water. It allows anglers to cover a lot of water over a large piece of structure in search of fish.

Trolling for grouper

Trolling is effective anywhere that there is submerged structure in the 50 feet deep or shallower range. In very clear water, grouper will come up out of deeper water to hit a plug running above. The maximum depth of even the largest plugs is about 50 feet. The shallow waters of the Gulf of Mexico, channel edges and large bays such as Tampa Bay, and coral reefs of the Caribbean are prime spots to troll for grouper.

When it comes to deep diving plugs, the Mann’s Stretch series of plugs was the original innovator. They are available in several sizes which allow anglers to troll up to 50 feet deep. The large lips determines the depth that which they will run. They are categorized by size, giving anglers a good idea of how deep they will go. For example, a Stretch 30 will generally run about 30 feet deep. Rapala and several other lure manufacturers also make quality deep diving plugs for grouper fishing.

These plugs are very easy to use. A 6 foot long section of 80 pound to 100 pound leader is used between the running line in the plug. The line is then let out a good distance behind the boat and the rod placed in a rod holder. With the boat idling along at 4 to 5 knots, the plug will dig down to the maximum depth, putting out a lot of flash and vibration. When a grouper hits, there is no mistaking it! This works mostly on gag grouper.

Anglers can click this link to shop Amazon for Mann Stretch 30 plugs

Trolling for grouper with downriggers

Anglers can also troll with downriggers as well. This is a bit more complicated. A downrigger is a device with a cable and a heavy ball which takes the lure down deep. A clip secures the line to the ball. When a fish strikes, it pulls the line out of the clip and the angler can fight the fish. Plugs, spoons, and jigs can all be used when trolling for grouper behind downriggers. This technique is used extensively in the Great Lakes region for walleye and salmon.

Casting lures for grouper

Grouper can also be caught by anglers casting artificial lures, though there are limited situations where this can occur. Basically, when grouper are holding over structure in fairly shallow water, usually 10 feet deep or shallower, casting lures over the structure and retrieving them back in can produce jarring strikes from grouper. This is most often done on the West Coast of Florida and over coral reefs in the Bahamas.

The two lures that are most often used for casting to grouper are diving plugs and jigs. Plugs will dive down to a determined depth, while jigs can be worked through the entire water column but are extremely effective when bounced on the bottom right on top of the structure. White buck tail jigs are often used and can be tipped with a strip of squid or cut fish. A jig with a soft plastic grub tail can be effective as well.

Top 4 grouper species

There are basically four types of grouper that are found in good numbers in the United States. They are the gag grouper, red grouper, black grouper, and Goliath grouper. There are other grouper such as yellowfin grouper, Nassau grouper, and scamp that are found in the Bahamas in in deeper water.

Gag grouper

Sarasota fishing charter

Gag grouper are perhaps the most abundant of the grouper species found in the United States. They are also found in shallow water around structure more often than the other species. Gag grouper are very aggressive and are the species most often targeted by anglers fishing with artificial lures. They have a tendency to move shallow in the cooler months. This makes them quite accessible to anglers who prefer to troll. In the warmer months, they move back out to deeper water.

Red grouper

Red grouper are quite plentiful, especially in the Gulf of Mexico. While they will occasionally be caught inshore, the vast majority of red grouper are caught in water 50 feet or deeper. They are not quite as aggressive as gag grouper. They are often found on smaller breaks and areas of hard bottom, also known as Swiss cheese bottom. Red grouper often prefer cut bait over live bait, as it is easier to track down.

Black grouper

Many anglers call gag grouper black grouper. When in fact, black grouper are a separate species. They are similar in markings to gag grouper. However, once one is: or when they are laid side-by-side, it is easy to tell the difference. Black grouper are normally found in the deeper waters of the Atlantic Ocean and down around the Florida Keys. They are probably the hardest fighting member of the grouper family. They are not as prevalent as either gag grouper or red grouper.

Goliath grouper

grouper tackle


Goliath grouper are by far the largest member of the grouper family that are commonly found in the United States. Surprisingly, they are often encountered in the inshore waters, as shallow as five or 6 feet deep. Many a large Goliath grouper has surprised an angler casting to the mangroves for snook or redfish. Anglers targeting giant Goliath grouper use 5 pound jacks as bait and 200 pound conventional tackle. This is not a game for the meek! They are also found offshore as well. It is not at all uncommon for an angler to lose a 5 pound snapper or grouper to a big, hungry Goliath grouper.

In conclusion, this article on the best grouper fishing tackle and lures should help anglers catch more of these hard fighting and fantastic eating bottom fish!

Jim Klopfer

Capt Jim Klopfer has been a fishing guide in Sarasota, Florida since 1991. He grew up in Maryland, fishing the Chesapeake Bay waters. Capt Jim has been creating an writing articles about fishing for decades, contributing to many regional and national publications. He also lives part time in the North Carolina mountains where he fishes for trout and other species. Capt Jim Klopfer is a wel rounded angler with 50 years fishing experience, and he loves to share what he has learned with other anglers!

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