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November 19, 2008

Brawling at the Bar

Find two-fisted fishing action in the Florida Keys this winter.

Because larger bits and pieces help keep snapper and grouper interested in a chum line, Malinovski often sweetens the slick with a scattering   of four or five glass minnows and a chunk or two of cut bait. After throwing these, he follows up with a hook bait buried in a sand ball.

When the bite really heats up, anglers using this technique can also expect to hook and land their share of king mackerel, blackfin tuna and the occasional wahoo or sailfish - even on light leader. However, it always pays to have a larger rod with wire leader ready.

I Said Speedo, Not Thong!
The middle of December rates as prime wahoo time in Key West. And the best bait? Redtail scads or "speedos." These high-energy baits put out just the right "hum" to attract hungry wahoo - and anything else, for that matter.

"If you put a speedo out behind your boat, something will eat it," says Trosset.

The usual routine starts with anchoring in an area where schools  of speedos have been appearing. They usually mix in with the larger bunches of yellowtail.

"We catch them on small pieces of red meat and gold hooks with either no leader or a 3-foot section of 10-pound fluoro," Trosset says. "I'm very careful not to touch speedos when dehooking them, and I place them in a separate well with no other baits."

Trosset says he'll then start monitoring the charter-boat channels. When he hears of boats hooking two or three 'hoos in a pass, he motors over to the same area and starts bump-trolling live speedos.

For this type of fishing, Trosset prefers 20-pound conventional outfits similar to those used on long-range boats out of California. "The light-tip rods let you flip big baits away from the boat," he says.

The go-to rig in this situation is a 4- or 5-foot length of No. 7 (80-pound) Malin wire, attached to a single 7/0 live-bait hook. A short trailer armed with a 4/0 treble hook is placed 3/4 of the distance to the tail of the bait. Anglers concerned about abiding by IGFA rules should opt for a stinger consisting of a single hook.

Using this method, Trosset has landed (while releasing anything more than a legal limit) as many as 21 wahoo in an afternoon, as well as sailfish, amberjack, black grouper to 60 pounds and even the occasional stray yellowfin tuna.

You never know what you might encounter patrolling the end of the Boca Grande Bar. Chances are the area's fast action and multitude of species could make for the most  exotic domestic fishing trip of a lifetime. Give it a try this winter and see if it measures up. If not, there's always Duval Street (where Speedos are also a popular form of bait).