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When most people think of fishing for grouper, they usually think of using cut bait or jigs. This is because grouper like to live near the bottom close to underwater structures like rocks and wrecks. But what many fishermen don’t know is that trolling for grouper can be just as effective, if not more effective.
Author Note: Trolling allows you to cover more water and get your grouper trolling lures in front of more fish.
So what are the best grouper trolling lures? Glad you asked!
In this article we’ll go over the best grouper trolling lures depending on the type of lure and presentation you plan on using. We’ll go over the best deep diving grouper trolling lures, soft plastic grouper trolling lures, and more.
There are many different types of grouper, including the giant-sized goliath grouper, this post is aimed at the smaller species like the red and gag groupers, as goliath groupers are usually caught jigging in deep water with jigs or live bait.
We’ll even discuss where you should look for grouper when trolling and the different types of grouper you can catch. Let’s do this!
Best Grouper Trolling Lures
Deep Diving Grouper Trolling Lures
Probably the most popular type of grouper trolling lures, deep diving plugs work great when fishing for grouper in water no deeper than roughly 30 feet. These deep diving lures will dive down to where the grouper are living as long as you troll between 3 and 6 mph.
Grouper love to hold on structure like ledges, rock piles, reefs, and wrecks, and a deep diving lure like a crankbait is an excellent way to get a lure in the strike zone.
The Yo-Zuri Crystal 3D Minnow Deep Diver Trolling Lure is a great option when trolling for grouper (and other saltwater fish like Spanish mackerel) as it’s realistic 3D eyes mimic an actual bait fish’s eyes. If you’re trolling in relatively shallow water, the Yo-Zuri Crystal 3D Minnow Deep Diver Trolling Lure’s 13-foot diving depth is perfect. It’s our favorite when trolling for grouper close to shore.
If you want to troll even deeper, we recommend using the Rapala X-Rap Magnum Trolling Lure. The Rapala X-Rap Magnum Trolling Lure can dive up to 30 feet deep if you troll it fast enough – which is perfect when trolling for groupers in deeper water. The X-Rap has been a trolling favorite for years and works well for many different species (like halibut, lake trout, and more) of fish besides just grouper. It definitely deserves a spot in your tackle box.
If you find grouper that are close to shore or in shallow water, your best bet for a trolling lure is the Rapala Shadow Rap Shad Shallow Trolling Lure. The Rapala Shadow Rap Shad Shallow Trolling Lure only dives to ~5 feet and imitates the action of a wounded shad. Grouper love eating shad and will eagerly bite the Rapala Shadow Rap Shad Shallow Trolling Lure if it gets close enough to where they’re hiding. These are great for salmon grouper as well.
Soft Plastic Grouper Trolling Lures
If you have access to downriggers or want to use a diver separately from your lure, we recommend using soft plastic grouper trolling lures. These lures look and feel more like the fish grouper are used to eating, and are an excellent choice for trolling.
Soft plastic lures come in countless shapes, sizes, and actions, but the most popular for grouper are fish imitations like paddle tail swimbaits, curly tail grub bodies, or fluke style soft plastics, all of which have a time and place on the water.
Not only are soft plastic lure presentations great for trolling, they also work great if you want to cast or jig for grouper, making them a very versatile lure presentation.
The Bass Assassin Saltwater Sea Shad is a classic saltwater fishing lure that works great when trolling for grouper too. The rubber tail’s action imitates a frantic bait fish trying to escape a hungry grouper. We recommend getting the green and silver options when trolling for grouper.
Another great option for soft rubber trolling lures is the Keitech Fat Swing Impact Rubber Shad. The rubber tail flutters in the water at all speeds and mimics a scared shrimp or shad. Grouper love feeding on both small crustaceans/baitfish and find the Keitech Fat Swing Impact Rubber Shad irresistible. It’s another great choice if you have downriggers or a diver handy.
Metal Spoon Grouper Trolling Lures
If you aren’t getting any bites on your soft plastic lures or the diving plugs, we recommend trying out a fishing classic: metal spoons. Metal spoons imitate sardines, mackerel, and other small shiny fish that grouper like to eat. Below are our favorites when trolling for grouper.
Like soft plastics, spoons are every versatile lures, they can be trolled at any depth with the use of weights or downriggers, and if you want to take a break from trolling and cast or jig, the spoon is a great lure for those options too.
If metal spoons are the classic fishing lure, then the Clarkspoon 3 Inch Original Fishing Spoon is the classic spoon. These chrome-covered spoons have been catching many types of fish for years, including grouper. They have a simple action that when trolled with a downrigger looks like a small baitfish that has been separated from its school. A great grouper trolling lure to try when others aren’t working.
Another great option for grouper trolling spoons is the Huntington Stainless Steel Drone Spoon. It has a more aggressive action than the Clarkspoon which can entice reclusive grouper from where their hiding in underwater structure. The Huntington Stainless Steel Drone Spoon works for many different saltwater species (such as smaller yellowfin tuna and bonito) along with grouper, so it’s a solid addition to any tackle box.
What Kind of Grouper Can You Catch Trolling?
Now that you know what the best grouper trolling lures are, let’s discuss the typical kinds of grouper you’ll catch if you use them.
Author Note: Keep in mind that we typically fish for grouper in the southern Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, so these are the species common to those areas.
- 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. Gag groupers will even hang in water only a few feet deep if there is structure and baitfish nearby.
- Red Grouper. Another really common type of grouper you’ll catch while trolling is red grouper. Red grouper are red and live in slightly deeper water than the gag grouper. They’re often caught using downriggers and keeping your trolling lure 10 to 15 feet off the bottom. We also think red grouper tasted the best.
- Goliath Grouper. Goliath groupers get their name from their immense size – they often grow to over 500 lbs and are voracious predators. They’ve even been known to attack divers! You usually won’t catch goliath groupers while trolling because they live in deeper waters and go after larger bait. But if you do end up hooking one, pray that you’re using heavy equipment!
Grouper Trolling Best Practices
Now that you know the types of grouper you can troll for, let’s go over the best practices for finding the grouper you want to catch.
- Groupers love to hang out near underwater cover. This is oftentimes rocks and reefs, as well as wreckage. While this can make figuring out where to fish for them easy, you need to be extra aware of your lure depth and how fast you’re trolling. If your lure bounces off the bottom when you’re trolling over underwater structure, you’ll most likely snag and end up losing equipment. Not good.
- Use heavy gear. While most groupers won’t be larger than 40 lbs, some grow to enormous sizes! This means that you need to be prepared for the best and use heavy-duty saltwater bottom fishing gear. When in doubt, size up.
- Set your drag tight. This might seem counter-intuitive when trolling, but you don’t want to give a hooked grouper any chance to swim back into the cover it darted out from. If it gets back to the hole it lives in, chances are your line will scrape against the rocks and snap. A tight drag will not only prevent this but also act to set the hook with the movement of the boat.
- Consider investing in a fish finder. Having a side imaging fish finder will speed up the process of finding fish and increase your odds of catching them. It’s as simple as that.
Trolling for grouper can be a ton of fun if you have the right setup trolling setup. If jigging and using grouper bait aren’t working for you or you want to cover a lot of water, trolling is the ultimate grouper fishing weapon.
We hope that after reading this article, you now know the best grouper trolling lures as well as where to start when trolling for grouper. You should also check out our grouper recipes if you end up catching any.
If you see success using one of the lures from our guide, let us know about it in the comments below.