Whether enjoying the whispering of the river or the calm of the open sea, bottom fishing is present everywhere in the world. It’s one of the foundations of fishing for good reason, as the specific techniques and tricks are as diverse as the fish you can catch.
What is Bottom Fishing?
Bottom fishing is a very simple yet rewarding technique for catching fish who mainly live near the bottom of the water or in reefs and wrecks. It’s a very versatile technique, allowing for fishing from the shore as well as from a boat in the deep sea, both in fresh and salty water. Easy to learn but difficult to master, a favorite of rookie anglers and master fishermen all over the world.
The basic idea is to get a lure close to the sea floor or even to lay it on top of it, then wait for the fish to bite. Because the floor is covered in jagged rocks and weeds, the fish might run off with your line and snag it on rocks or get it stuck in underwater foliage. This means it’s best to study the targeted species and their behavior prior to fishing them. The boat can be stationary (above reefs and wrecks for example) or can be set to slowly drift, though you should take care to mark the spot you started drifting from, so you can get right back to it.
It’s also important to understand the bottom is a three-dimensional place and that different species and different sizes of fish prefer different depths. While keeping your bait on the very bottom of the water will attract certain fish, putting some live bait several feet above it might attract a larger predatory fish.
Equipment for bottom fishing
Bottom fishing can be done with the most basic equipment; just a hook, line and a sinker. However, you will get a notably better result with additional items. Since bottom fish like Groupers are ambushers, mimicking their prey works best and can be done with specialized rigging techniques. A solid line is preferable (up fifty-pound test) for most fish, due to the underwater terrain, so you don’t lose your catch and your rig.
Spreading out your bait is also recommended, as well as taking your time and making sure all rigs are up to snuff before you start fishing. A bad, tangled line and a poor lure might dissuade fish from biting your good ones. Another trick is to use chum sacks at the bottom, where the currents flow differently than at the surface, allowing you to get the fish just where you want them.
A sonar goes a long way when bottom fishing, as it allows you to spot reefs and wrecks even in deeper water. It's also invaluable for finding exactly the types of holes and crevices that bottom fish love to hide in. Trolling motors are also very useful, as they allow you to maintain a steady position above a suitable location, while not being as loud and spooky as a regular anchor with its chain. They’re particularly handy when hitting up shallows near reefs and wrecks in a smaller boat.
Locations for bottom fishing
- The Gulf of Mexico: Orang Beach and Destin are particularly productive bottom fishing spots, due to a large number of artificial reefs as well as wrecks.
- Australia: The Great Barrier Reef off the east coast is one of the best spots in the world to go bottom fishing, not to mention its stunning natural beauty. Cairns is one of the major ports. Not only is its bottom fishing great, it has a world-famous Back Marlin fishery, too.
- Belize: The Belize Barrier Reef is the 2nd largest coral reef in the world with hundreds of species living in it, allowing for fantastic fishing.
- Canada: A really good place for bottom fishing, offering you a wide choice of prey, from cold rivers, across the wide lakes and finally the open sea, the variety of catch is very rich.