John's Journal...

Breakdown to Success

Six Secrets to Catching Big Red Snapper

Click to enlargeEditors Note: Brian Bracknell of Mobile, Alabama, has fished out of Orange Beach for most of his life. Two years ago, Bracknell got a new boat, the “Crowd Pleezer,” and decided to make charter fishing his primary business. One of Bracknell’s unique characteristics is that he’s learned how to snatch victory out of defeat. In the 2006 Red Snapper World Championship, Bracknell’s never-say-die attitude earned him over $5,000 and enabled one of his anglers to catch the red snapper of a lifetime.

“Although many ingredients come together to produce a red snapper big enough to win money in the Red Snapper World Championship, I believe there are several keys to finding and catching that tournament-winning fish,” Bracknell explains.

1) “The captain has to build his own artificial reefs every year. I Click to enlargehave certain spots that I only fish during the Red Snapper World Championship.

2) “You have to save some spots each year for the Red Snapper World Championship. Some areas will naturally produce more big snapper than other spots will. I don’t know why; I just know it happens. I believe that red snapper migrate. I don’t think they spend their entire lives on one wreck or reef. If you build an artificial reef along the red snapper’s regular migratory route, you’re much more likely to produce a big snapper on that reef than if you just build a reef out in open water. The best way to save a spot is to build a reef, and then forget it even exists for 2 to 3 years. You don’t fish this reef, and you hope somebody else doesn’t find this reef; you totally forget that the reef even exists. Now, if you’re lucky enough that nobody finds this reef or nobody fishes this reef for that 2- to 3-year period, then your chances are better to find a snapper on it when you fish that reef. I like to build at least 10 to 15 reefs every year. Out of those 10 to 15 reefs, I generally leave at least two of those reefs alone and not fish them for at least 2 to 3 years.Click to enlarge

3) “Once I decide to fish one of those hidden reefs, I may or may not fish it more than once or at the most, two to three times during the tournament. Now, this is not an absolute. I’ve caught big snapper on a spot that I fish regularly, which is why I believe that snapper migrate.

4) “We usually catch our biggest snapper on drift lines out the back of the boat. A drift line is simply a hook with a live or a dead bait on it and no lead, which we drop overboard and allow to drift behind the boat. We’ve discovered that the bigger snapper usually hold higher up in the river column than the smaller snapper do. As the live bait swims down toward the bottom, many times the bigger snapper will take it.

5) “I’ll be fishing reefs tClick to enlargehat I haven’t fished in several years to give each one of the parties that I fish during the Red Snapper World Championship a chance to catch a money fish every day during the tournament. However, many times our big fish will come off reefs that we fish regularly. The biggest element to your success in catching and finding big red snapper is going to be luck. Each one of the captains fishing during the Red Snapper World Championship is trying to catch the winning red snapper for his clients and his boat. Remember, the boat wins just as much money as the angler who catches the red snapper, and there’s as much incentive for each captain to catch a trophy snapper as there is for each angler. So, every captain is trying to catch that big snapper every day of the tournament.

6) “The one factor that seems to produce the most big red snapper is reefs with or made of rusty metal because big snapper seem to prefer those reefs to concrete or natural bottom reefs. If two reefs sit side-by-side, one made of concrete and one made of rusty metal, the rusty metal will hold more and better fish. One of the reasons that more big snapper may be holding on rusty metal reefs is because on a reef that has rusty metal, a big old snapper can pull that line against that metal and usually get free. Now, if you put on a bigger leader so that the leader won’t get cut when the snapper goes into the metal, then you don’t get the bite. Hooking-up a big snapper is only half the battle of getting that snapper on the boat. Once you hook him, you’ve got to get him away from that reef. On our boat, we lose big fish just about every other day because the fish break off, or they get into the wreck, and we can’t get them out.”

To fish with Captain Brian Bracknell, you can contact him at (251) 471-2868, or (251) 379-8099. You also can write him at Captain Brian Bracknell, 2405 South Vaughan Drive, Mobile, Alabama 36605, email him at or visit his website, To learn more about the Red Snapper World Championship, check out For more information on the Orange Beach area, go to or call the Alabama Gulf Coast Convention and Visitor’s Bureau at (800) 745-7263.

Tomorrow: How to Hit the Home Run on a Big Red Snapper

Check back each day this week for more about "Breakdown to Success"

Day 1: The Big Day
Day 2: Six Secrets to Catching Big Red Snapper
Day 3: How to Hit the Home Run on a Big Red Snapper
Day 4: Not Just Big Snapper Wins
Day 5: Catching Amberjack with Little Brother


Entry 367, Day 2