On a perfect April morning, LivetoFish.com took a trip out to one of our favorite wrecks off of Tampa Bay to see what we could pull up from the depths. Typical day on the water, first we stocked up on some white bait with a cast net and sabiki rod, then high tail it to the fishing grounds. The water was gin clear and flat as glass, and conditions were as ideal as they can get for any fishing excursion. We planned to target amberjack and possibly some toothy predators, so we were prepared with heavy gear, bait, and lures.
Rule #1: If you’re can’t be sure what type of fish you’re going to encounter, you’d best be prepared with a few options for rods and reels. Gear-wise, we had a few different selections on the boat to prep us for whatever situation presented itself. Since we knew we were going for amberjack, we had medium-heavy power Redbone Rods outfitted with a few sturdy saltwater spinning reels.
We also had some heavier 6 ft Shimano poles with Tekota 800 reels ready to go for the deeper drops. Redbone’s Medium/Heavy Offshore Rods performed very well, combining good action with enough backbone to horse the fish in quick before they get taken by toothy predators. We chose to pair one redbone rod with a Penn Spinfisher V Reel, and lined it with 65 lb. Power Pro Braid to give us the advantage that sturdy, dependable hardware and light, strong line bring to the battle. Be sure to check out the entire gear list at the end of this article.
April is for Amberjacks
We had some pretty serious action from the AJ’s as soon as we dropped anchor and chimed. In no time the jacks were running in full force and schooling closely around the boat just below the surface. AJ’s are a pelagic fish that typically congregate around the middle of the water column, above reefs and wrecks. This would normally call for a vertical jig or mid-water diving lure (or a knocker rig if you choose something lively on your hook).
Ultimately, Topwater Did The Trick
Today was a different story, the AJ’s close surface proximity made the situation ideal for running topwater lures, hard jerkbaits and shallow dive baits. Hooking up with a powerful jack was as simple as casting in and retrieving the line. The excitement and hyperactivity of the schooling AJ’s made for a decent hit and a solid fight on almost every cast. If you’ve ever caught a jack before, you know their nickname “donkey of the sea” refers to their reputation as an extremely powerful fighting fish. In other words, even if you don’t have a keeper on the line, you’re still in for a hell of a fight. After a full day of reeling in fish after fish, every arm on the boat was worn out and ready for a break, or at least a cold beer.
Highlights of the Day
A couple of visits from some curious blacktips and bull sharks made the day even more interesting, as well as a nice-sized Cobia that came up for a bite and turned into a nice catch-and-release. May he live to bite another day.
More Information About Amberjack
You can catch Amberjack in the Gulf of Mexico year round, but the season is closed from annually from June 1 – July 31. Current minimum size limit is at 34” fork length, and the daily bag limit is 1 per person. For more information on amberjacks, visit myfwc.com. For great deals on tackle and gear to help you on your next trip out, visit us at LivetoFish.com.
- Hurricane 7’ Bluefin Spinning Rod & Reel Combo
- Shakespeare Ugly Stik Spinning Rod & Reel Combo
- Redbone 8’ Medium-Heavy Spinning Rod
- Penn Spinfisher V Spinning Reel, SSV4500
- Matzuo Chrome Blue Nano Popper
- Mann’s Bait Textured Stretch Redhead Holographic
- Shimano Tekota 800 Levelwind Reel
- Shimano 6’6” Saguaro Medium-Heavy Spinning Rod
- PowerPro 65 lb. Test Yellow Super 8 Slick Line