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Versus Goliath - Targeting Goliath Grouper in Florida (continued)

With our Bonita on the menu Paul drove the boat around looking for the perfect marks on the edges of the wreck. Good electronics and mapping are key to targeting goliath versus hooking up to one accidentally when reeling back your catch. The reason being that if you don’t get the fish out and away from the wreck or reef quickly they will simply dive right back in and sever your line in the process.


Once you find the fish hooking a goliath isn’t the difficult part, it is successfully preserving your line and keeping them pinned long enough to get them up to the surface that is the real challenge.


Paul shows me the massive hook tied on the end of the leader

Paul knew the best angles of attack and even though he found excellent marks on his Raymarine unit he decided to target some of the smaller marks on the most outer edge of the wreck. Once we were in position I sent the Bonita down on an Okuma Makaira spooled with 200lb. Yozuri Super Braid topped off with 100lb. Yozuri TopKnot 100lb. pink leader which is designed to be abrasion and shock resistant while still offering very good knot strength. I needed every advantage I could get.

Sorry Bonita, your going down

Within minutes the first Bonita was taken and the ensuing battle lasted all of five second before I felt the weight of the fish suddenly disappear. I was only able to get in a couple turns of the crank before the Bonita was successfully stripped! Strike one.

Paul find a combination of bait and structure as we near the wreck looking for clear goliath sized marks

With only one more Bonita in the boat I sent the next bait down, this time with the hook a bit more exposed on the Bonita's back. This time Paul had me drop in right above the wreck to see if we could get the fish to come up. They didn’t want to come out and play so I let more Super Braid out and right as the Bonita hit the top of the wreck it was crushed. This time I managed to get the fish up pulling up on the rod, reeling as hard as I could each time I lowered the rod tip. This was it, my goliath moment, and just as I was starting to feel confident the fish pulled away once again, stripping line and surging downwards. “Reel, reel, reel, get him out of there,” Paul yelled. I tried as hard as I could to lift the rod but there was simply no stopping that fish, and as it dove back into the wreck it severed my line in the process.

As I lost my second goliath I let out a big sigh in defeat. These fish were proving so much harder to catch than I could have imagined. Even with the right gear I seemed completely powerless to get them up and away from the structure. Strike two.  

To improve our chances we deliberately didn't target the biggest fish over the main wreck but the smaller Goliaths on the edges. Good electronics and quality Navionics mapping definitely made the process easier

With no more bait in the boat and only forty five minutes before we needed to be back on shore Paul put his boat in gear and rather than head back to shore went right back to where we found the Bonita the first time. We casted the jigs once again, desperately trying to catch just one more Bonita. It took us about twenty minutes but we finally did catch one, and it was probably the smallest of the three that we had caught all day. “This guy small but it is still perfect size for goliath bait,” Paul determinedly explained as we head right back to the edge of the wreck.

With time running out we caught one more Bonita, and though it was a small one it was my one last shot

Using the Cuda tools we had on board we setup a whole new rig, cutting off any frayed braid and putting on a brand new Yozuri leader. We also made one more adjustment, adding a sinker above the bait so that we could drop the bait with much more pinpoint accuracy on the edge of the wreck. “We are going to do something different this time,” Paul explained. “You are going to drop the Bonita right on top of the goliath and the second that you that fish gets hit you let me know and hold on tight as you can while keeping that rod tip and line away from the boat. I’m going to power the boat and we are going to try and pull that fish away from the wreck and before he has a chance to get back down you need to get him up!”

With my arms burning and my knees buckling I finally got the goliath to the surface

This was my last chance! Paul found a very clear mark and I sent that final Bonita down, getting ready and bracing myself. BAM! “Go! I’m hooked up, go, go, go,” I yelled as I felt the fish start to pull away. Paul powered the boat and I held on as hard as I could and could feel the weight on the end of the line. As Paul slowed the boat I began my battle, hoping that the tow had successfully tired out the beast below, if even just a little.

Fighting the Goliath was an incredible experience and for an angler that fishes for bass the majority of the time this was the biggest and heaviest bucketmouth I had ever tried to winch up.

With three hooked and one landed I finally won the battle versus goliath. Having the right gear and the knowledge of someone like Paul who has targeted these giants before is key to successfully landing one of the giants

My arms burned, not from cranking on the Makaira but from trying to lift the rod and fish in between cranks. The strain on your arms when fighting these fish with a rod and a reel is amazing and after ten minutes I finally saw a flash, and thank goodness because I am honestly not sure that my arms could have taken any more. Goliaths don’t have a huge endurance and once they get higher up what you are pulling on is not the fish running but their sheer weight. As the fish finally broke the surface I admired the monster that I had finally successfully brought to the surface. “Small one, probably around 120-150lbs,” Paul laughed. That 100lb. class fish had me on the deck and I couldn’t even imagine trying to battle a 500 plus pound goliath! Goliaths are protected in South Florida so we proceeded to move quickly and I lifted the goliath’s head for a quick picture before we removed the hook, and one other stray hook that we found on the other side of the fish’s mouth, and released him. As he disappeared back down to the depths I finally was able to catch my breath and allowed myself to let out a happy sigh. Having the right tackle, quality electronics and mapping, and the knowledge of how to get these fish are all key to winning a battle versus goliaths. I gave Paul big high five and thanked him for helping me cross off this amazing fish off my bucket list. It took over two years but I finally got it done. There would be no strike 3 on this trip. Redemption!










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