Fishing for bottom fish out of Port Canaveral, Florida, my wife and I have found this beefed-up "chicken rig" to be the most effective method for landing big bottom fish on deep wrecks and ridges. Most bottom fishermen use a single-hook rig with a slip sinker, large hook and big live bait for large grouper and sow snapper in deep water. However, the big bait eliminates strikes from other nice fish.
My solution: a heavy-duty chicken rig. With oversize hardware and good knots, this is as strong as any other bottom rig. On this rig we've caught cobia, 50-pound amberjack, 40-pound grouper, and even dolphin and wahoo on the way up or down. We usually put a squid or sardine on the top hook and a live bait such as a grunt on the bottom hook.
Although we've caught gray, mutton and yellowtail snapper on this rig, it's not the best rig to use for targeting these leader- and hardware-shy species. Big fish on shallow wrecks also shy away. But for fishing in 130 or more feet, the improved chicken rig will give you the best bang for your buck.
Tips to make the heavy-duty rig:
- Use heavy, offshore swivels.
- Use 100-pound monofilament for the leaders.
- Use lighter line for the weight. If the weight gets hung up, you can still get the rest of the rig back.
- A regular improved clinch knot will slip. Use either a uni-knot or a double improved clinch knot, running the tag end of the line through the loop twice in the final step.
- Make the hook lines a couple inches shorter than the line connecting the swivels, to prevent tangles.
- Sharpen hooks.