After an initial dump of 20 or 30 baits, Trosset likes to start sending them out in drips and drabs - say, three to six baits at a time. "I'll stun a few by bouncing them off the transom, but you also want those healthy ones swimming around," he says. "The pilchards will fall back and then realize something is wrong. They try to swim down to the bottom to hide in the grass. But they're in 90 to 120 feet of water, and there isn't any grass. About halfway down, they turn to come rocketing back to the surface and head right for the boat. Usually predators follow, in the form of snapper, grouper, amberjack, tuna, wahoo, king mackerel and sailfish."
Those predators generally find a live bait hooked or bridled through the nose, deployed on a 12- to 20-pound spinning rod. Trosset prefers the recently reintroduced Fin-Nor Ahab reels, teamed with some of the company's heavier inshore rods.
"For most fish, you'll find outfits like these work great," he says. "Light enough to be fun, with enough backbone to catch some surprisingly large fish. When we specifically target tuna, wahoo or sailfish, I go up to heavier rods (his choice: Ahab Offshore rods) in the 20-pound class. Most of that fishing is opportunistic, and I like to have a rod rigged with a little heavier leader or possibly a short trace of Malin hard wire when those types of fish show up."
Trosset shifts gear to 20- or 30-pound conventional tackle to gain extra stopping power when trying for big black grouper, African pompano or other bottom brawlers.
If you can't sling a big net, don't fret. Dead bait can at times prove equally or even more effective than liveys, particularly when targeting snapper and grouper.
Capt. Nick Malinovski, running the Mannetti out of Hurricane Hole Marina, opts for a sand-balling system passed down to him by the late reefmaster, Capt. Joe Alexander. "He did just as well as any of the live-bait guys using his system of sand balls and chunk baits," says Malinovski.