John's Journal...


The “Hog Wild”

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 enlargeAccording to Frank Garrett of Cantonment, Florida, who fished on the charter boat, “Hog Wild,” with Captain Ronnie Hogue out of Pensacola, Florida, during the tournament, “I’d never fished with Captain Hogue before. But my nephew from Kansas had heard of him and asked me to meet Hogue and charter his boat for a family fishing trip. We were fishing about 85-miles south of Pensacola in about 180 feet of water when I caught a 30.70-pound red snapper to take second place in the tournament and win $15,000, plus $250 for the biggest fish of the day. I caught the fish on a frozen cigar minnow that I’d hooked through the eyes. I really thought I’d hooked a grouper because the fish kept trying to get back to the bottom.”

Hogue’s customers had caught big snapper before over this natural bottom. As Hogue explained, “My boat had caught a 35-pound snapper on this same spot in 2003. I only fish for big snapper at this place once a year. This site hardly even shows up on a bottom machine, and that’s why the big snapper are there. This spot is so unique that most Click to enlargefishermen run past it and never fish it.” Hogue fishes with the same type snapper rig as Greene, except instead of using 80-pound-test main line, he prefers 130-pound-test main line. “I want the heaviest line I can possibly use to get a big fish up,” Hogue emphasizes. Also Hogue utilizes a somewhat different strategy for hooking a big snapper. “To catch big snapper you must make sure the snapper never feels the line until the bait’s deep enough in its mouth to get a good hook set. I tell my anglers to let their egg sinkers lay on the bottom. Then when one feels a snapper bite, he needs to allow the fish to take the bait for a little while before setting the hook. Remember, the egg sinker drops to the bottom and will arrive at the bottom before the bait does, which means the bait will be well up off the bottom, even when the sinker’s on the bottom. When the snapper comes up to take the bait, the baits on a slack line. So, the fish doesn’t feel the line when it sucks in the bait. Then you can start reeling to fight the fish.”

Click to enlarge Hogue believes that this technique produces best when you’re fishing on a natural bottom. However, when he’s fishing artificial reefs and wrecks, he instructs his anglers to reel their lines up to about 5 to 10 feet off the bottom before starting to fish. Hogue’s secrets for catching big snapper include that an angler must …
* “be on at least a 12-or a 14-hour trip or an overnight trip to have enough time to fish enough spots to try to catch a really big snapper.
* “fish big baits, like an amberjack fillet, a whole live mangrove snapper or a large whole dead herring.
* “use heavy line, because I believe you need strength in the line to move a big snapper.
* “fish big-snapper spots. A captain who fishes long enough in the Gulf can and will learn where big snapper live.”

Captain Hogue won $15,000 for taking second place in the tournament because he’d entered his boat.



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 3