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SPJ Middle Grounds

August 30, 2017

We booked a private charter with Flying Hub2  out of Hubbards Marina for a middle grounds trip on August 26, 2017. When I said we, it was actually Rob (Henry). I met Rob in one of the Yankee Caps trip earlier this year and he contacted me around early July. He told me about the flying hub2. Earlier this year Doug and I had a walk-on trip booked with flying hub2 but it got canceled due to weather. We finally got to do a Middle Grounds trip with Rob’s coordination.

 

 flying hub2 is a hydrofoil assisted catamaran, it cruises at 50 mph (pic courtesy of hubbards marina)

 

Doug and I got to the other side of the coast the night before. We stayed at one of the hotels called “thunderbird beach resort“. We got there with no reservations but with the amount of hotels in the area there was no problem looking for a room to crash for the night. The number of hotels in the area was crazy. If the hotels had wheels it would’ve put to shame the traffic in International Drive in Orlando during rush hour.

We left the hotel at around 4a.m. and went to Hubbards Marina. When we got there Rob, Benny, Andrae and Walter were already there. A couple of minutes later we had a complete head count. We loaded our gear on the boat and departed the dock at 4:45 a.m.

The boat cruises at 50mph/44knots and it was alot smoother than I expected. We passed by a couple rain showers on the way to our first drop. I can’t remember exactly what time we got there nor the travel time.

Our first drop was at 380ft, as Capt. Anthony positioned the boat and Rich dropped the anchor, I snapped some photos of the guys.

 

 preparing for the first drop of the day, Dan (black shirt on the right) on his first Slow Pitch Jigging trip.

 

 Doug, Rob and Benny getting ready for the first drop of the day (left to right)

 

 Walter and Rich the mate – cool and funny guy

 

After everything was set, Rich gave the go ahead to drop. The rule on this boat is, “you can’t drop your bait/jig if the mate don’t tell you to. You have to wait for the signal that it is o.k. to drop”. This is a good idea since some would drop even if the boat is still moving and tangle everyone else.

 

On the first few minutes after everybody had dropped their jigs I heard a commotion on the starboard side. I moved to look at what was happening and saw the first grouper of the day caught by Walter.

 

 20-25# gag grouper caught by Walter at 380ft using his brand new custom spiral wrapped Sea Falcon Z Shaft HHeavy w/ a DFS Slammer 500N and Sea Falcon deep neo 400g

 

A blueline followed the gag grouper soon after.

 blueline at 380ft using a sea falcon deep neo 400g

 

Walter was on fire! Even the cold rain showers weren’t able to cool him off. I think this was his 3rd or 4th ARS.

 ARS on a custom spiral wrapped Sea Falcon ZShaft HHeavy and brand new DFS Slammer 500N, ARS safely released.

 

I was looking around if anyone has hooked up and I caught a glimpse of Rob with a bent rod. After a minute or so I saw him pulled up a Mystic grouper a.k.a Kitty Mitchell grouper on his first Slow Pitch Jigging trip and first Slow Pitch set up.

 

Rob’s first kitty mitchell grouper was caught on a custom spiral wrapped Sea Falcon ZShaft H and Sea Falcon ZSlow 350g

 

We then moved to multiple spots. Going shallower each stop.

 

We caught fish at every spot we stopped but we were hunting for the bigger groupers. So the Capt. looks around each stop and if he doesnt see anyone catching grouper he would say, “groupers are not here guys, lets move to another spot.” We finally got to a spot where everyone was hooked up and bent with some real big ones pulling lines from our reels.

 

The sad part was only 2 fish was landed. That spot was AJ crazy. You hook up then it gets dropped and as you are reeling your jig in another monster picks it up.

A big AJ caught on a diamond jig and bass pro rod and reel (?).

 look at the Richs’ face lifting the fish, yup it has some weight to it!

 

Rob also landed an AJ on that spot.

 

Below is a picture of Rob putting on a clinic on how to fight a big fish with slow pitch jigging gear.

 Rob is using his new custom spiral wrapped Sea Falcon ZShaft HH, Torium 20HG and a Sea Falcon ZSlow jig

 

Fighting the same fish. The AJ was a demon on light tackle.

 nice bend on the spiral wrapped Sea Falcon ZShaft HHeavy

 

Rob landing the AJ on light tackle, estimated to be 50-60#.

 picture didn’t do the fish justice, it was bigger in person, cameraman needs to get fired!

 

Rob showing the jig that tricked the AJ into biting. Where did the other hook go?

 Sea Falcon ZSlow 220g with one assist hook missing.

 

Scamp grouper

 scamp that hit a deep neo 400g at 380ft

 

Rabbitfish

 this rabbitfish fell victim to a sea falcon ZSlow 180g

 

red grouper

 Rob with a red grouper on his first slow pitch jigging trip, off to a good start

 

Benny caught a mangrove snapper on a jig. You don’t see this very often as these fish are finicky and are very hard to catch on a jig.

 Sea Falcon S Impact 200g was used to catch this fish, rod was temple reef levitate and reel was maxel (? size)

 

red grouper, i think we need to fire the cameraman for next trip.

 fish caught on Sea Falcon Z Remain 200g

 

This was my first Middle Grounds trip and it was a learning experience. It was a completely different way of fighting a fish than what I’ve been used to especially on light slow pitch tackle. We landed fish, the smaller ones and lost the bigger ones.

 

The 2.5hr drive home gave me some time think on what I could’ve done differently. Remembering all those talks about “grouper digging” using penn senators and hammer down the drag and using broomsticks like calstars and seekers to winch the fish. When I got home, I can’t help myself with my OCD (obsessiveness compulsive disorder) that I had to spend a couple of hours on the computer and do some research. How will a slow pitch jigging set up “consistently” land the bigger groupers on rocky bottoms?

 

The Ocea Jigger and Daiwa Saltiga is the perfect reel for slow pitch jigging. It is a smooth, well engineered reel for a price that can’t be beat. There is nothing wrong with the reels mentioned, I love my OJ’s and Saltiga’s, I have used them since I started slow pitch jigging and I have no complains whatsoever. Well, actually I have one complain, they could’ve made the handle longer.  These reels excel fishing in the Tortugas or anywhere where the bottom is sandy and there is no rocks and holes for the grouper to hide. However, we need the stopping power to prevent the fish from pulling too much line. Once they are able to pull line they’ll head straight to their holes, stick their head in and flare up their gill plates.

 

Check the entire write up here.

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