John's Journal...


The “Intimidator”

Click to enlargeEDITOR'S NOTE: During 30 days of fishing in the spring of 2004, more than 8,000 anglers on 95 boats participated in the Orange Beach Red Snapper World Championship and caught big snapper with more than 28 of them weighing over 25-pounds each. This year’s Championship will take place April 21 – May 20, 2005 with headquarters at Zeke’s Marina. Total tournament monies will be $500,000 with a $200,000 bonus if a new world ‘s record red snapper is caught, but anglers only will pay $5 per fisherman per day to enter the tournament. All proceeds from the tournament will go to support the building of public reefs and conducting red snapper research. You can buy tickets to participate at Blue Water Ships Stores in Foley, Ala., Outcast Bait and Tackle in Pensacola, Fla., and in Orange Beach, Ala. at J&M Tackle, Orange Beach Marina, Outcast Marina, Sam’s Stop & Shop, San Roc Cay Marina, Sportsman Marina, the Rod Room, Top Gun Tackle, Trent Marina and Zeke’s Landing Marina. To learn more about the Championship, visit where you also can see a list of captains and their contact information; or call: (251) 981-8565; the Orange Beach Fishing Association at (251) 981-2300; or the Alabama Gulf Coast Convention and Visitors Bureau ( at (800) 745-SAND.

Click to enlarge“We were fishing about 50-miles south of Orange Beach on an old oil rig that had been cut off and left on the bottom,” says Captain Johnny Greene of the “Intimidator.” Greene felt sure someone would take a big snapper on this spot because last year one of his anglers caught a 38.7-pound snapper at this same site. “I believe that big snapper attract big snapper,” Greene explains. “To catch really-big snapper, you can only go to an area like this once a year, because big snapper can’t handle too much fishing pressure. The more you fish a spot with big snapper on it, the less likely you are to catch those big fish the next time you go there. The 38-pound snapper we caught off this place in 2003 was a female. I haven’t heard back yet from AMRD to learn the sex of the 32.25-pound snapper we took this year to win the tournament. If the fish we’ve caught in 2004 is a male, then I think it will be three or four more years before another pair of big snapper will move back on that spot and set up residency there.”

Ty Parham of Bowman, Georgia, who caught the winning snapper that weighed 32.25 pounds, recalled, “The snapper took the bait very hard. The second captain on the boat, Captain John Stockstill, was in the cockpit with me and the other anglers when the fish hit. When I said I had a bite, Stockstill told me to set the hook and start winding. Stockstill coached me through landing the fish from the time the Click to enlargesnapper took the bait until the fish was on the deck.” Parham fished with the same type snapper rig commonly used along the Upper Gulf Coast. He used 80-pound-test main line with a 2-ounce egg sinker up the line, a 250-pound barrel swivel tied on below the egg sinker, a 5-foot 120-pound-test monofilament leader and a No. 13 Mustad circle hook. He baited with a whole northern mackerel hooked from the bottom lip out the top lip. He first dropped the bait to the bottom, before reeling it up 5 to 10 feet off the bottom.

“I caught this big snapper on the first place we stopped on the first day of a two-day trip,” Parham said. When I asked Captain Greene to list the secrets to catching really-big snapper, he named five basic ingredients. “You have to ...
* “fish where big snapper live.
* “fish 5 to 10 feet or higher up off the bottom. I want a snapper to come off the bottom and take the floating bait so that my angler has a little more margin for error to keep the fish from getting back to the bottom and into a reef or a wreck.
* “listen to the first mate from the time you set the hook until you put the snapper on the deck, because the first mate spends more time fishing for snapper in one year than most anglers will in their lifetimes.
Click to enlarge * “start turning the handle on the reel when the snapper takes the bait and don’t stop turning until you’ve moved the fish about 20-feet away from the bottom. Often a fisherman doesn’t catch big red snapper when the fish takes the bait, and he knows he has a big fish on because he’ll move the rod from under his armpit to the rod-holder belt. Instead, he needs to keep the rod under his arm and continue to reel, even if the snapper’s pulling drag. Then when he gets the fish high enough in the water, it can’t go back down and cut his line on the wreck or the reef.
* “put in rail time. Every time the boat stops for anglers to drop their baits to the bottom, you have to be at the rail ready. You can’t wait to see if another angler catches a fish before you start fishing. If you miss one drop to the bottom, that drop may have been on the spot where a big snapper is living.”

Because Greene had entered his boat in the Orange Beach Red Snapper World Championship, he also won $25,000, just as Parham who caught the winning snapper did.



Check back each day this week for more about MONSTER HAUL OF RED SNAPPER

Day 1: What Scientists Learned in the 2004 Orange Beach Red Snapper World Championship
Day 2: The “Intimidator”
Day 3: The “Hog Wild”
Day 4: The “Therapy”
Day 5: We All Won



Entry 296, Day 2