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The Best Grouper Bait: Grouper Fishing 101

If you want to catch a big fish without investing in a lot of complicated equipment, fishing for grouper is a great choice. Some grouper grow to over 500 lbs, and can often be caught with a simple hook and sinker style rig. The hardest part about grouper fishing is usually finding the fish. But once you’ve found them, what is the best grouper bait to use? 

You’ve come to the right place! In this article, we’ll be going over our favorite types of grouper bait, what kinds of grouper you can catch, as well as other equipment you might need when fishing for grouper. By the end of this article, you’ll be extra prepared for your next grouper fishing trip. Let’s get started!

What’s The Best Grouper Bait?

As with most predatory fish, using live bait for grouper will be your best bet as long as local regulations allow. As with all fishing techniques, check your state laws before attempting anything. In the waters off of Florida and Texas (where we’ve fished for grouper before), using live bait is completely legal – and quite productive. On days when we’re targeting grouper, we like to bring several different kinds of baitfish to try. It’s always a good idea to give yourself some flexibility when fishing for grouper. Here are our favorite live grouper baits

  1. Pinfish.
  2. Pilchards.
  3. Blue runner.
  4. White grunt.

Some bait shops may have pinfish you can buy, but we recommend going out a day before your grouper trip and catching some of the above baitfish to store in your live well.

Using Chum as Grouper Bait

Another technique that can spur on a grouper bite is to chum the water above where the grouper are hiding with dead bait. If you’re targeting a rock pile or wreck, anchor your boat up current and throw some old cut bait in the water. The chum will slowly sink down to the rocks where the grouper are hiding an entice them to come out. This technique works great for both bottom fishing and spearfish, as long as you have a solid pair of freediving fins.

Once you’ve thrown some chunk grouper bait in the water, bounce a vertical jig off the bottom or close to the bottom. Combining this with the chum and most grouper will find it irresistible. Another trick you can try is tipping your jigs with some of the dead bait. This will ensure any foreign scents are covered up by the bait.

What Size Hooks for Grouper?

Mustad UltraPoint Demon Circle Hook

Berkley Trilene Big Game Monofilament Leader

We recommend using either a 6/0 or 4/0 sized circle hook when using both dead and live grouper bait. This size circle hook will allow live bait to swim around frantically but will also be able to hook a large grouper. Combine this with a 2 to 3 foot long 80 lb test monofilament leader, a 4-ounce egg sinker, and you’ll be set up for grouper success!

Keep in mind that this applies to the smaller grouper species, and fishing for goliath grouper is a whole other game that requires very heavy equipment.

What Do You Use to Catch Grouper?

A regular bottom fishing tackle setup is a great place to start. We like using a 6 to 7-foot long heavy action rod paired with a bottom-fishing reel and 50 lb test braided line. The braided line will give you extra sensitivity when you have lots of line out and will increase the capacity your bottom fishing reel can hold.

Common Types of Grouper 


Now that you know what the best grouper bait to use is, let’s talk about the different kinds of grouper you can catch. Like we mentioned earlier, we usually fish for grouper off the coast of Florida and the Gulf of Mexico, so these are the species you’ll most likely encounter there.

Grouper come in many sizes, and fishing for them is similar with the exception of gear like rods, reels, and line.

Gag Grouper

Gag grouper are the most popular type of grouper to fish for in shallower waters and are abundant all over the Atlantic. They are grey and brown in color and love living close to coastal rock piles and underwater wreckage.

They make for some great table fare, and their tendencies to live in shallow waters close to shore means they are accessible to anglers on pier or from beaches and banks, and do not require you to have a boat to catch them.

Author Note: Gag groupers will even hang in water only a few feet deep if there are structure and baitfish nearby. This makes fishing for them with live bait possible even from shore.

Black Grouper

After gag grouper, you’ll usually encounter black grouper. They have a similar blotchy pattern as gag grouper but are much darker in color. They enjoy living in a similar habitat as gag grouper. 

Red Grouper

Another really common type of grouper you’ll catch off the coast of Florida is red grouper. Red grouper are red and live in slightly deeper water than the gag grouper. You’ll need to sink your bait down to where they like to live, which is usually in 40 feet deep water or more.  This also applies to salmon grouper.

Red grouper are very good eating, and this is the reason they are so popular, anglers love having fresh red grouper for dinner.

Goliath Grouper

You’ve probably seen a video on goliath groupers – they grow to be 500 lbs and are voracious predators. They’ve even been known to attack divers that infringe on their habitats! If you end up hooking a goliath grouper, you’ll most likely be broken off on the first run. Their massive size means you need to fish with an extra heavy-duty set up in order to stand a chance. It’s also worth noting that they were overfished in the late 1900s and are now a protected species. If you do catch one, you’ll need to let it go.

Anglers specifically target goliath grouper when fishing and it’s not really possible to solo fish for the species. Anglers targeting goliath grouper have the necessary gear to fight them, and safety is a major concern when fighting these fish. If you want to fish for goliath grouper, consider hiring a fishing guide who has experience so you know what to expect before venturing out to do it on your own.

Grouper Fishing Tips

Lastly, we wanted to share some grouper fishing tips that will improve your chances of catching grouper significantly if you follow them.

  • Set your drag tight. One of the first mistakes amateur grouper fishermen make is keeping their drag at a normal level. This is a big mistake when fishing for grouper due to their tendency to retreat back to rocky holes and tunnels after they take your bait. IF your drag is set high, it will be much harder for them to make it back to their rocky hideouts before you can reel them away.
  • Try drifting instead of anchoring. Drifting allows you to cover more water and get your bait in front of more fish than if you anchor your boat. Since oftentimes the difference between catching a grouper and not is just finding them, drifting allows you to maximize your chances enticing them to bite. As long as the current isn’t too strong and your lures aren’t down too deep, you should still be able to keep your live/dead bait right where you want it.
  • Go grouper fishing when it’s hot. Some of the best times to go fishing for grouper is in the middle of summer when the other bites have died off. Since they live at deeper depths than other sports fish, they still enjoy feeding when the surface bite is off. This is why it’s always a good idea to have a bottom fishing reel and rod ready for off days.
  • Fish on Calm Days. Fishing grouper on areas like reefs and wrecks require precision boat control, and if it’s windy and choppy you will have difficulty staying on the structure and fishing effectively.


Grouper fishing can be a ton of fun when other sports fish aren’t biting. Grouper put up a great fight and taste delicious if you prepare them correctly. And if you end up hooking a goliath grouper, you could be in for the fight of a lifetime! Now that you know what the proper grouper bait is and how to fish it, you’ll be prepared next time you get out on the water. Got a different grouper bait that we didn’t list? Let us know about it in the comments below.

Happy Hunting!


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