"If you're anchored over a wreck or other hard structure, you can excite grouper by jump-starting the food chain. You'll need a cannonball-type downrigger weight tied to the end of a heavy rig. Drop the weight and allow it to freefall until it hits. Then raise it 10' or so and let it freefall again. Repeat the process a dozen times, then bring the cannonball up and drop your baits. Banging on the structure will dislodge and smash all kinds of organisms and sediments, which creates easy pickings for the small fish, which in turn attract the big fish." -from Rudow's Guide to Fishing the Mid Atlantic, www.geareduppublications.com. Rigging Tip
Use 20' of monofilament backing when spooling up with superlines and braids so the line wont spin around once under tension.
New Dog, New Tricks
Penn Spinfisher $89.99 • 219/229-9415 • www.pennreels.com
I've been fishing with Penn Spinfisher reels since they were green with white drag knobs. Over the decades I've found every incarnation of the series to be workhorses. To see if the new Spinfisher SSg lives up to the legacy, I clamped a 550 SSg (holds 275 yards of 12-pound test line and weighs 15 ounces) on a rod, spooled it up, and started casting to stripers.
The new bail design, incorporating a trip friction ramp, never tripped early. The lightweight graphite body didn't wear me out and the infinite anti-reverse allowed me to set up quickly when the fish hit. While I bested fish to 22 pounds with the SSg, the main shaft isn't as heavy-duty as on the beefier, more expensive Slammer series. As a workaday spinner that won't corrode apart, this reel is the ticket.
Get Down Cannon Downrigger $699 • 800/227-6433 • www.cannondownriggers.com
In-line planers aren't exactly fun to use. Enter the Cannon Mag 10 Tournament Series downrigger, which is equally at home chasing big tarheel kings as it is Great Lakes trout. With a Minn Kota motor under the hatch, this rig retrieves 250' per minute with 20 pounds of lead on the line, making it the fastest, most powerful unit on the market. IP68 electrical plugs, waterproof toggle switches, and a Lexan body keep water damage at bay, and there's a line-counting dial. The positive ionic control emits a low positive charge in the water that's supposed to be pleasant for the fish. But my favorite feature is the automatic short stop. As long as the unit is spooled with wire (the function works on a ground), it will automatically stop retrieving your weight at the water's surface.