Trolling Rapala® Original Floating® Magnums® in the Intercostal Waterway channel through Biscayne Bay is the hottest ticket going for aggressive gag grouper.
“People are just learning this now, because they didn’t think that you could catch groupers there,” says George Poveromo, host of George Poveromo’s World of Saltwater Fishing on NBC Sports. But he and pal Harry Vernon III did just that while filming an episode of his show last year. And since then, the bite hasn’t cooled.
“It’s a totally fresh look with that plug,” Poveromo says. “It has been very, very hot as a trolling type of a lure. It’s still red hot.”
Built of tough African Abachi wood, Floating Magnums feature a tapered-lip design that imparts Rapala’s legendary wounded-minnow action at any speed retrieve. Perma Steel hooks and rugged rust-resistant hardware ensure premium performance.
Poveromo’s game plan for targeting Biscayne Bay gag grouper is fairly simple: troll up and down the Intercostal Waterway channel at five to seven miles per hour — first the deep side, then the other side, then up the middle. It’s an active trolling method, not a kick up your feet with the rod in rod holder kind of deal.
“First, you’re going to let out line while holding the rod tip down, about four or five inches above the water’s surface,” Poveromo instructs. “This gives the line a very low profile of entry in the water, which helps the line go down deeper with less line out.”
Let out the lure a ways and then stop it, letting it swim. “If you don’t feel it bump bottom, let it out a little more,” Poveromo says. “You want it far enough back that when you stop it and it starts to swim, you’ll feel it bump bottom. And once it does that, crank it in probably about a half a dozen turns. You want that lure within five feet or so from the bottom, where the groupers are.”
After you’ve found the right running depth, hold on tight and pay attention. “This is finesse trolling — you’re always keeping that rod tip near the water and you’re feeling for what’s happening,” Poveromo says. If you feel your lure stop pulsing, for example, you’re going to want to reel it in and check for weeds.
While trolling, Poveromo uses down-looking and side-looking sonar to locate and target rock piles on the bottom, “or any part where the channel juts out just a little bit.” Such structure, he explains, provides ambush points for — no pun intended — groups of groupers.
“They’ll get behind these to break the water current flow, so they don’t have to expend a lot of energy,” he says. “They’ll sit there and when you troll that Magnum by them, they sense the vibration and they’ll charge out and eat it, thinking it’s a mullet or something swimming by them.”
While Poveromo’s game plan is relatively simple, two aspects are “critical,” he says. The first: Speed up the boat when you see a big rock pile or hump on your sonar display. “A little bit more speed will help you swim those plugs higher than the rock pile, so you don’t snag on it,” he explains.
His second tip: “Never, ever” put the boat in neutral once you hook up. “Keep going at the same speed,” he instructs. “Because those grouper are coming out of these rocks. By keeping the boat going forward, it will keep them off balance a little bit and it should stop them from being able to turn around and run right back into the rocks and break you off.”
Although bait colors are often of great importance, Poveromo’s productive gag grouper bite relies more on the Floating Magnum’s action and running depth.
“The lure’s action and where you fish it is the key,” he says. “They have to react really fast and chase it down and eat it before it gets away. So they just feel the vibration and hone in on that and nail it. I don’t think they have enough time to actually follow it and look and see ‘Oh I like that color,’ or ‘I don’t like that color.’ Because if they don’t eat it, one of the other five or six grouper that are in those rocks will eat it.”
Poveromo trolls Rapala Floating Magnums with “small, conventional reels” spooled with 50-pound-test Sufix 832 braid connected via barrel swivel to an 8-foot leader of 60-pound-test Sufix Invisiline 100% Fluorocarbon.
As much fun as Poveromo has been having trolling for gag groupers, the Floating Magnum has produced memorable moments elsewhere, including catching a 100-pound-class tarpon while filming. “That same lure, you could troll that over reefs for king mackerel and wahoo, and it’s a great for intercoastal trolling around bridges for snook and tarpon,” he says.