The right gear makes all the difference for anyone serious about pitting himself against fish in great depths. You'll need two-speed reels filled with superbraid and typical stand-up rods with plenty of backbone. (We used Penn 50W Internationals, with 80- to 100-pound Power Pro, Izorline, Berkley Whiplash and Spiderwire braids, on Crowder 80-pound deep-drop rods, with roller guides, swivel tips and interchangeable bent and straight butts.) Low gears are great for heavy fish; high speed is nice for powering up after a fishless drop. Particularly if prospecting on small spots in the open Gulf, away from the obvious structure that rigs present, electric reels (we used Fish-Ng's) can be nice for locating fish for the real battles with manual gear.
Belts and harnesses help over the long haul. You won't face the strain typical of 200-pound tuna, but you'll always have plenty of resistance to overcome - with-or without fish - when reeling up from such great depths. (We used Smitty plates and its Spyder harness, as well as the OTR harness.)
Leaders should be marlin-size mono; you needn't worry about spooking fish in these dark environs, but do need to worry about the sharp edges of rig structure. (We used Lindgren-Pittman leader favored by Schatman, but any 300- to 500-pound hard mono properly crimped will do.) The leader should consist of three sections, connected by two stout three-way swivels. To each swivel connect a 12-inch piece of leader with a 12/0 to 14/0 circle hook. At a loop in the bottom, tie the lead(s) with 2 or 3 feet of 30-pound mono. That way, if the weights catch in structure, you won't lose the whole leader and can re-rig quickly. Finally, the all-important light is tied to the top loop, where the end of the main line is tied. (We used K-lights and Sadu lights. These may be a bit hard to find. Call 800-330-3087 or visit www.snlcorp.com for K-lights; call Sadu Lures at 561-795-9516.)
The right electronics help, but in the very specific case of rig-fishing aren't critical. That's because with your structure jutting far into the sky, there's no problem finding it. A good GPS can point you in the right direction since many of the offshore (deepwater) rigs are a long way out. Even though you can fish the rigs without a depth sounder that will read bottom in 1,000 or more feet (as we did), an adequate depth sounder can help you by revealing the lay of cables and huge concrete anchors. 'Adequate' means plenty of power - 1,000 watts at the least and a 50-kHz transducer. To find and fish natural irregularities on the deep bottom, use a good GPS and depth sounder.
A pair of tough gloves can help minimize the toll - to much cranking and guiding of superbraid - can take on your hands.
For more information on Venice Marina or to book deep-drop or other trips with Dave, Brent or Brandon Ballay or with Damon McKnight, call 504-534-9357, or go to www.venicemarina.com.