John's Journal...

Click to enlargeHow to Catch Big Snapper

How to Get Big Red Snapper to Bite

EDITOR’S NOTE: While at the Red Snapper World Championship in Orange Beach, Alabama, that runs from April 21, 2006 – May 21, 2006, I talked and fished with Dennis Treigle, the first mate of the “Shady Lady” charter boat, captained by Butch Tucker and based at Zeke’s Marina in Orange Beach. Treigle probably could have been anything he wanted to be. With degrees in biology and nursing and as a former high-school teacher who also considered becoming a marine biologist, Treigle of Pensacola, Florida, is a renaissance man who has chosen fishing as his profession. According to Treigle, “I’d spent some time in Mississippi years ago working with marine biologists there. One of my professors told me that if I wanted to be a marine biologist I should plan to be poor. I decided I didn’t want to be broke the rest of my life, and I also didn’t want to sit around and do paperwork. I wanted to fish, be with fishermen and be on the water. I love working with different people daily. Therefore, being the first mate on the ‘Shady Lady’ for the past five years has been the perfect job for me. After teaching high-school students for four years, I feel like I’m a better deckhand. I know how to teach people to catch big snapper. Teaching also has taught me how to communicate better and how to coach people to catch big snapper. Most people know how to catch fish, but there are some fine points I can teach as the first mate that helps them be more successful – especially with folks who’ve never fished previously.”

Question: How many red snapper over 20-pounds each do you think you’ve helped anglers bring to the deck of the “Shady Lady” during the five years you’ve been the mate?

Click to enlargeTreigle: Probably I’ve helped anglers bring in 200 too 300, 20-pound-plus red snapper in that time. I’ll be the first to say that because of Captain Butch Tucker’s knowing the Gulf of Mexico so well and understanding where the big red snapper live he puts the anglers in the spots to catch those red snapper.

Question: What’s the biggest snapper one of your anglers ever has brought on-board?

Treigle: The biggest was a 36.45-pound red snapper that was caught last year on the “Shady Lady” during the 2005 Red Snapper World Championship. We’ve also put a 56-pound grouper on deck.

Question: What’s the secret to getting a big red snapper to bite?

Treigle: You never can tell what type of bait a big red snapper will bite. I think the real secret to catching a big red snapper is to vary the baits you put down every time the boat stops. We caught a snapper the other day using the backbone of a mingo snapper with a whole northern mackerel. Another snapper hit a piece of bonita strip with a whole northern mackerel. We’ve also caught big snapper on big cigar minnows. I do everything I can to vary my baits so that the snapper has a choice of what bait it wants to eat. This reason is why I think the Spike-It tube bait with Spike-It Menhaden Oil sprayed on it ahead of a mackerel helped you catch the 16-pound red snapper you took. Those red snapper probably never had seen a tube bait that looked like a baby squid in front of the mackerel. That bait looked like that mackerel was feeding on those tentacles of that Spike-It tube bait.

Click to enlargeQuestion: Dennis, what kind of rig do you use for big red snapper?

Treigle: Once anyone gets the bite, he or she has got to have heavy line to get the snapper in the boat. Except when we’re fishing tournaments, we’ll use 50-pound-test line like Mossy Oak Offshore Fishing Line. But in tournament fishing, we have to move all the way up to 80-pound test to get those really-big snapper out of wrecks. I like the Penn 6/0 reels, which are the 114Hs. These bigger reels give you more cranking power on the snapper. Two of my favorite rods are the 7-foot 3-inch rod, which handles 50-pound-test line. I like the longer rods, because they bow better than the shorter rods do and put a lot of pressure on the snapper. I also like an 8-ounce egg sinker, although some people prefer to use 6-ounce sinkers, while others like 10- or 12-ounce sinkers. An 8-ounce sinker will keep your bait down near the bottom better than a 6-ounce sinker will, and I just don’t like to use the larger sinkers if I don’t have to use them. Below the sinker, I tie as small-looking a 90-pound barrel swivel as I can get. Tied to the second eye of the barrel swivel, I use 3- to 4-foot leader that’s 60- to 80-pound-test line. I fish with a No. 7/0 to a No. 9/0 circle hook on the end of the leader. The hooks I like best are the Matzuo ones, which have very, very-sharp points. We’ve found after experimenting with them for the past 3 years that we get a better hook-up ratio with these hooks than we do with any others. Although I use the heavier line for tournament fishing, we’ll often drop back to Mossy Oak Fishing Line’s 50-pound test after the Red Snapper World Championship ends.

Click to enlargeFor more information on fishing with the “Shady Lady,” you can call Captain Butch Tucker at (850) 380-3321 or write him at To learn more about the Red Snapper World Championship (you can participate for $5 per day), which has a guaranteed payout of $155,000 plus a $500,000 prize for a new world’s record snapper and a new truck for a new state record snapper, you can call (251) 981-6539 or go to For accommodations, restaurants and attractions, call the Alabama Gulf Coast Convention and Visitors Bureau at (800) 745-7263 or visit

Tomorrow: Where to Fish for Big Red Snapper

Check back each day this week for more about "How to Catch Big Snapper"

Day 1: How to Get Big Red Snapper to Bite
Day 2: Where to Fish for Big Red Snapper
Day 3: How to Set the Hook on Snapper
Day 4: Don’t Stand the Snapper Straight Up
Day 5: Secrets for Catching Big Red Snapper


Entry 351, Day 1