Gulf Bottom Fishing Basics: Party Boat Insider Tips
Eugene L. 06.03.22
Party Boats are a great economical way for you to be able to offshore and fish the gulf. With a seat on a party boat being 1/3rd to 1/5th the price of a private charter trip per person, it’s hard to beat if you just want some water time. While you’re not able to hit the best spots like the private charter boats. That doesn’t mean you can’t catch good fish on a party boat. So here are some tips and tricks on how to have a better time on a party boat.
Bring Your Own Gear
While all the boats out there will provide you the rod, reel, and tackle. It’s honestly not going to be anything nice. You can’t really blame a boat that is going out every day. It will more than likely be a Penn Senator 4/0 spooled with 50lb monofilament line. This mated with some old fiberglass rod that has been beaten to hell and back. This gear while pretty bulletproof is incredibly dated and slow to use. Those old Senator reels have 3:3:1 gear ratio, so lots of torque but very slow. So by bringing your own rod and reel you can possibly spend more time with a bait on the bottom instead of reeling.
A more modern reel like a Penn Squall, Shimano Torium, or Daiwa Saltist will have a faster retrieve rate. Depending on the reel this can halve the time spent on reeling up when you need to check your bait or are reeling in a fish. That plus having a rod that only you use, the gear just will be in better condition and more comfortable to use.
Rigging your gear can help a lot as well. Most boats will have their rods set up with a two-hook chicken rig with a couple of medium-sized treble hooks. While they work, if you’re wanting to target bigger fish switch your rig out. Use a three-way rig with a single large bait. Just match the presentation to your target fish, instead of using their one size fits all rig.
The party boats use just one size of steel circle hooks they buy in bulk. Use nicer hooks of different sizes to match what you’re targeting. Using smaller thinner circle hooks when you’re wanting to catch vermilions, red porgies (white snapper), or triggerfish is a good idea because of their smaller mouths. Switching to a larger hook for bigger baits and bigger fish will help you stay connected to that big snapper or grouper.
Along with the hooks, fluorocarbon is a good idea for leader material as well. It stays much less visible than monofilament underwater as well as it is more abrasion resistant than the monofilament they provide on the boats.
Bring Your Own Bait
Most party boats will give you a couple of options for bait. Cut up chunks of squid, and some cut sardines and herring. They chop up blocks of the frozen stuff on the way out and give you a bucket of it to grab bait out of as you fish. It works alright, great for vermillions and red porgy. I’ve seen trophy triggerfish, red grouper, and sow red snapper caught on it as well. But I prefer to bring my own baits, especially larger whole fish and live bait. It makes your baits stand out amongst all the chunks of squid down there.
Even bringing your own box of frozen cigar minnows or box of calamari squids can make a difference. You can be more choosy with your presentation with the baits you brought yourself. Along with frozen baits, most boats have live wells on them. Catch and bring your own live bait, hard to beat a live bait when offshore. I’ll put a pinfish trap out with some Spanish sardines the day before and then bring all the pinfish with me in a bucket. Especially if you don’t mind sharing, the mates will gladly put them in the live well near you.
Location on the Party Boat
Most if not all boats have assigned spots for where you can fish. Being choosy about where you fish can make a world of difference in your experience out there. While not always available I prefer the very front of the boat at the bow or the stern at the back of the boat. This reduces the chances of getting tangled in other people’s lines. Because the boat is generally moving either forwards or backward so the lines on the sides of the boat have a higher chance of tangling with each other.
In my experience with the 10-hour trip on the Captain Anderson party boat. The port side at the very front of the boat is a great choice to fish. Plenty of space and right next to a live well, great for it you brought some live bait with you.
At the end of the day, you just got to remember to have fun out there. You’re not out there trying to make money from your catch, so just relax. Don’t work yourself up over little things and just enjoy your time on the water. Go into the galley have a burger, drink a beer, and remember you’re out there to have a good time.