By George Mitchell
Yamaha Pro Staff
I just got back from Fourchon, Louisiana and have a week of down time with the family before I have to head back. Red snapper season opened June 1st in the Gulf of Mexico, and I spent a lot of my time in Louisiana working on dialing in the snapper bite.
The recreational bag limit on red snapper is two per person, so we made it our goal to catch quality red snapper—fish over 15 pounds and up to 25 pounds. The snapper population is very strong off the Louisiana coast, and you can catch all the fish under 10 pounds you want, but we wanted to focus on catch the larger fish, so we did a couple of things differently.
There’s a lot of bait items in the area, including pogies and herring, and you can throw a net on them, drop down a ½- to ¾-pound bait and immediately get slammed by 6- to 10-pound snapper. It’s immediately “Game On” on any rig, anywhere, but we wanted to catch the larger fish so you either have to go bigger or go faster.
The old adage, “Big baits catch big fish” came into play, as we tried to focus utilizing the prevalent food items in the area, one of which was a Spanish mackerel which we’d use whole, but butterflied. We’d take a three pound Spanish mackerel, butterfly it and remove the backbone and tail so that what we had left was about a two pound boneless bait.
The other option is to use a two pound live blue runner and clip its tail a bit to slow it down a little and add some scent to the water. Clipping its tail makes it grunt more, and the distress signal really calls in the snapper.
We also caught a fair number of big fish using Jigging Spoons, which is a generic term for the speed jigs everyone is using. We caught some nice fish on those spoons.
Location is the key for catching big fish on these oil rigs out in the Gulf of Mexico. The snapper would stack up on the up-current side of the rig, the problem being that you don’t always have the wind and tide in your favor where you can easily hold in place. That’s where the Command Link Plus shifting system made positing the boat effortless.
I have triple 300 h.p. Yamaha 4.2 liter V6 four stroke outboards on my 36’ Yellowfin, and one of the great features of the Command Link Plus shifting system is that you can disengage the center engine using the selector switch, which allows you to put one motor in forward and one in reverse, and spin the boat sideways allowing one angler in the stern and one on the bow to fish. That keeps the baits apart and prevents tangling when you’re dropping down in 150-200 feet of water.
There were also scenarios where I’d use the selector switch to take the port and starboard motors out of the equation and just utilize the center motor to keep the boat in gear, facing the current and stemming the tide or in reverse and stemming the tide to hold the boat in place. I’d use that technique snapper fishing and tuna fishing.
That’s just a great example of the advantages of the Command Link Plus shifting system and its ability to manipulate the use of one, two or all the motors. As a rule, the outside engines are for maneuvering, but the center engine is for performance on a straight or reverse course, so to be able to manipulate the use of those motors individually or as a group is a huge advantage.
We saw that advantage during the first kingfish tournament of the season a couple of weeks ago. Out in Louisiana, we use 2- to 3-pound live blue runners for bait, and you have to manipulate the engines to get the correct presentation, or you won’t catch fish. If you pull the baits too fast, they’ll spin and die, and if you pull them too slow, the baits will outrun the leader and when the fish comes up to eat it will get your line above the leader and cut it. So you have to be going just the right speed, which can be as little as 50 rpm faster or slower at times.
The majority of the rigs in the Gulf of Mexico have current on them, it’s not a lot, but it can be two or three knots, so you approach the rig, see what the current is doing, and then “Wrap The Rig” with your baits. When you approach the rig down-current you’re going too fast and up-current you’re going too slow, and that’s where the control feature on the Command Link Plus shifting system is in your favor.
You can bump your speed up or down by 50 rpm, so you could be going 700 rpm and bump up to 750, 800, 850, until you find the perfect speed. And you can do it with one, two or all three engines. And once you realize how simple it is, it becomes a standard part of your fishing.
We’ll get the right speed going and wrap the rig three or four times before moving on to the next rig. As we pass the rig and the current changes, we can adjust the rpm to maintain the same speed so that the baits are swimming at a consistent speed at all times. It really does let up make the perfect presentations of our baits.