GERARD NG shares tips on how to entice groupers.

To bait or lure?

Baiting is definitely fun because you get to choose what to use, and based on my previous attempts, groupers are easily attracted to the smell. The setback, however, is when a grouper strikes—chances are that the fish will take your bait and swim into its hole before you can react.

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Why I prefer luring  

  1. Groupers are lazy fish and they like to ambush. By luring for them, you are giving yourself the chance to present your lure to them quicker and over a larger area, thus increasing your strike rate.
  2. Groupers are responsive to sounds. Choosing a lure with ball bearings and loud rattling will tempt groupers to swim out from their hole, even from long distances.
  3. You are mobile and have access to more terrains and fishing spots, as opposed to baiting, where you are stagnant most of the time. Some good spots require you to trek long distances, while others require you to stand on breakwaters.
  4. Using a crankbait, you can get a good feel of the terrain and depth of the water. This would allow you to switch to a lure that is able to swim just above the rocks, allowing it to be at the prime strike zone.

Selecting a lure

I prefer using crankbaits over minnows when fishing for groupers simply because I can reach lower depths and increase my chances of hooking one. However, using a lure that dives towards the seabed has its drawbacks.

I lose crankbaits often, but I always tell the naysayers this: “No pain, no gain!” For a full day of fishing, losing five to 10 lures is common. On some days I may not even lose a single piece. It all boils down to knowing the terrain you fish, using a suitable depth crankbait for that particular location, and lastly, luck. If you are fortunate, you may find that your crankbait floats up after your line has snapped. In worse case scenarios, you will hook into a coral or someone’s discarded line which causes you to lose your lure.

Recommended tackle

Opt for a baitcasting reel because you will get lesser resistance when retrieving the line. At the same time, such gear will allow for higher sensitivity, giving you better control of the lure. My personal preference would be a 6’6 luring rod with a short  butt; for the necessary leverage you would need to steer the fish out of its home, a 200-sized baitcaster or equivalent (go for larger gears which will allow you to retrieve crankbaits with ease), 20lb main line and 40/50lb leader. You may not need a 20lb line to get a fish out of a rock, but always be prepared for the big one. On top of that, if you hook a chunk of weed, roots or a coral, using line with a higher breaking strain will reduce the chances of losing your lure.

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The 27-year-old owner of the lure brand HABITAT has been fishing for bait fish (tamban) at the Bedok Jetty since the age of five and has since explored surfcasting, fly fishing, luring and jigging. He started luring 15 years ago and has fond memories of catching groupers in St. John’s Island and Kusu Island, Sentosa, Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal and the Singapore River during the late 1990s, when fishing was still allowed at these areas. Landing a 2-3kg grouper was common back then, but Gerard feels that if anglers know the feeding times and behaviours of fish in each spot, saltwater fishing can still be enjoyable today. An avid fan of the grouper, he still dreams of catching a Queensland one using a lure.

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