The islands of the Bahamas, located north of Cuba and just northwest of Hispanolia, consists of over 700 islands all which feature fertile deep dropping grounds nearby. Less than a few miles from Nassau, the country's capital, is where the continental shelf drops to over several hundred fathoms very quickly.
The rapid depth drop of these islands is the perfect landscape for any deep drop angler to capitalize on a variety of deep water bottom dwellers such as queen snapper, blackfin snapper, yellow eye snapper, mystic grouper, yellow edge grouper, wreck fish, and many more. Caves, holes, ledges, and a slew of other structure oriented habitat line the continental shelf of the Bahamas for deep water demersals to call home.
For visiting anglers, to ensure a rewarding experience when it comes to dropping in the 242, there are a few staples that should be followed.
Catching fresh bait is a must if you plan to connect with monsters from the deep. Starting the day catching some barracuda trolling along the reef or jigging jacks will keep the ice box filled with a steady supply of deep drop bait. Plan on spending some time targeting these fish before you drop as it will be essential to success. A Barracuda's skin is typically very tough and plenty durable to withstand all of the pecking of smaller fish. Freshly iced, the barracuda should be filleted and cut into large 10" x 3.5" strips which leaves enough meat on there for the larger predatory fish, like Grouper, to hone in on after all of of the little "peckers" or small bait fish first attack it once hitting the bottom.
Deploying whole squid is always a good idea when deep drop.Everything in the ocean eats it and nothing, and let's be clear - NOTHING, turns down calamari.
A combination of squid and natural cut bait is also a deadly recipe for attracting larger species and probes them to investigate. It's widely known that all snapper species adore fresh strips but the key is also in the size of the cut. When deep dropping for snapper, be sure to cut even strips of no more than 6" in length and 2" in width as this is a perfect "spaghetti" strip for them to devour and will increase your hookup ratio.
Selecting the correct size hook and rig will also determine the level of deep drop fishing success achieved. It's important to note that not all hook sizes are rated universally amongst hook manufactures. For example, a 9/0 rated in a Mustad demon series circle hook will not appear to be the same size as a 9/0 in an Owner SSW or Mutu series circle hook. When targeting blackfin snapper, yellow eye snapper, or greyline tilefish with smaller mouth openings, it's a good idea to generally stick to 4/0 - 8/0 size circle hooks. The mainline should be nothing lighter than 150lb along with the drops following similar breaking strength.
Let's talk deep about the rigs for a minute. All rig lengths are not created equal and must be made according to the targeted species. For example, if black fin and yellow eye snapper are the targeted species, then cutting a 7-8ft section of 150 lb mainline with 4 drops of 10" should be the perfect recipe for capitalizing during a hot bite. Grouper, Golden tilefish, or large queen snapper will ultimately test and possibly bust anything lighter than 300 lb and a 4-6ft section of hard mono is what's needed to tangle with the tyrants below.
The changes in depth from spot to spot is what's really amazing in the islands and with these changes at times come more current. The speed of the current also heavily dictates whether a honey hole is able to be fished properly. Having several stick leads ranging from 5 -15lbs is not only suggested but is a necessity prior to leaving domestic waters. After all, it's not like you can quickly pull up to South Florida's local tackle shops like RJ Boyle's shop in Lighthouse Point or Captain Harry's in Miami to stock up on lead while deep drop fishing in the islands.
Proper Fish Fighting techniques always play a major role in getting the excellent table fare from the water to the fish box. Current speed and size of weight used with along with paying attention to how much line scope is out are all techniques savvy deep drop anglers exhibit during a fight. Experienced deep drop anglers know that making drag adjustments throughout the fight will limit the size of the opening the hook is creating in the fish's mouth which is crucial to a landed fish. When dropping to depths pushing 1000 ft, anglers must know there is huge amount of pressure and the extended distance between boat and deep drop rig deployed, makes it a very technical fishery. Fluid, yet systematic synergy between the wheel man, angler, and equipment is a must as. Any abrupt or jerky movements will quickly expose any weakness in the rig or worse yet cause a pulled hook.
Quality electric or power assist reels such as Daiwa's Seaborg MJ1200 or Lindgren Pitman's 1200 are the standard protocol for serious deep drop success. Each have their benefits and both are more than capable of getting the job done. While the LP 1200 has the torque, line capacity, and no frills operation of commercial grade fishing equipment, the Daiwa MJ1200's lightweight yet powerful motor is tough enough to tangle with the meanest of the mean amongst bottom dwellers.
Pairing up a perfectly matched deep drop rod is equally as important to having supreme confidence in your deep water deployment. When selecting your weapon, be sure to look at nothing lighter than a 6 - 7 ft, 50-80lb rated blank and leaning more towards 80 to unlimited. Picking a rod blank with plenty of backbone but also a fast action tip will help detect bites easier when drifting and dreaming. Most high quality deep drop rods are designed with an aluminum bent but as this allows the rod to lay a bit more parallel to the water while drifting, provides more strength that traditional composite materials, and provides the angler a higher level of comfort while fishing. The guides and guide ring material is something that should not be skimped on. Fuji's Silicon Carbide series are components built with extra hard materials to withstand the rigors of braided line and deep dropping. The ring insert material quickly dissipates heat and allows for fluid gliding of the line for stress free operation. Would you want to use anything of less quality when deploying to depths of over 1000 ft?
No matter what your targeted species is, the islands of the Bahamas is sure to provide any avid saltwater angler with the adequate landscape to find their trophy. Spend time researching, exploring and marking new fishing grounds, talking with the local anglers, and imploring some patience to find the deep water riches of these islands.