John's Journal...

Breakdown to Success

Catching Amberjack with Little Brother

Click to enlargeEditor’s Note: While Brian Bracknell’s up in the tower driving the boat, finding the reefs and holding the boat over the reeds, his brother, Barry Bracknell of Orange Beach, Alabama, is down on the deck working with the customers, putting out the bait and coaching the fishermen. If you think that Barry’s just a kid brother helping his big brother run the boat, you need to know that Barry’s quite an accomplished fisherman. At the age of 4, he caught a winning king mackerel in a tournament that guaranteed him an all- expense-paid 4-year college scholarship to the college of his choice in Alabama. He’s been fishing all of his life and understands fish and fishermen. Since amberjack is considered a money- and a prize-fish by most anglers, we asked Barry how he catches them.

“We fish for amberjacks primarily around rigs and big wrecks,” Barry Bracknell says. “The real secret to catching them is determining the depth that they hold on, the bait they’ll eat and the right leader material that we need to make them bite and stay on the hook once we hook them. We start off with a 100-pound leader, and if the amberjack refuses the bait and I feel like they can see that leader, we’ll drop down to a lighter Click to enlargeleader. We fish about a 14-foot leader, which is an extremely-long leader, coming off a barrel swivel with an egg-shaped sinker above it. When we first started catching amberjack, I learned that long leaders produced more fish than short leaders did. I don’t think the amberjack sees the lead as well when the bait’s swimming on a long leader as it does when the bait’s swimming on a short leader. Another secret to catching amberjack is to catch one. Once you get an amberjack hooked, it gets excited, and the other amberjack in the school will go on a feeding spree. Once you catch the second or third amberjack, you can shorten-up your leader and allow more anglers to fish because the shorter leaders won’t get tangled up like the longer leaders do. Then your customers will catch more amberjack.

“Most people amberjack fish from halfway to the bottom to 3/4 away from the surface. But we’ve learned that many days when the amberjack don’t bite, we can drop our baits all the way down to the bottom and catch some. We’ve even caught amberjacks all the way down on the bottom in 300 feet of water. What I’ve learned about amberjack fishing is there are no hard, solid rules. If the fish won’t bite high up in the water like they’re supposed to, many times you can let your baits all the way down to the bottom and get the jacks to bite. Another trick to landing a big amberjack is not to try and take up so much line each timeClick to enlarge you pump the rod. We’ve learned on our boat that by making short pumps and gaining a little bit of line each time someone pulls the rod up, he can get the amberjack up quicker and easier than if you point the rod at the water, and then try and pull the rod up to the 10:00 or 11:00 position. You’ve got to keep enough pressure on the amberjack to keep it out of the rig and keep it coming up. If we get a really-big amberjack on the line, I’ll holler at the captain and get him to pull the boat forward so we can get the amberjack away from the rig. In 2006, our biggest amberjack weighed 72 pounds and we’ve caught two or three that have weighed over 60-pounds each. Our main line is usually 80- or 100-pound test, depending on the type of bottom we’re fishing.

“We use the 100-pound-test line when we’re fishing around rocks in deep water. The bigger line is usually better, but when you can’t get a bite on that big line, you have to drop down to 80-pound test. I also use fluorocarbon for my leader and many times for my main line because fluorocarbon’s harder for the jacks to see. We’ll also use about a 16-ounce sinker when we’re fishing far offshore. I like the heavier sinker because if you don’t get your bait down fast, many times the barracudas will eat it before it can get down to the amberjack.”

One of the newest features of some charter boats at Orange Beach is the Big Green Egg. Whether you’re fishing for snapper, amberjack, grouper or any of the other fish you can catch, the Big Green Egg, a ceramic smoker, seems to be a congregating point. Most captains like Bracknell have a special table built to support this smoker. “BecausClick to enlargee the egg’s made of ceramic, it doesn’t rust like a metal grill will, you don’t have a lot of grease to get rid of, and it holds heat longer and cooks faster,” Barry explains. “Before our customers come on board, we tell them we have a Big Green Egg. If they want to bring smoked sausage and biscuits for breakfast, they can cook the sausage and the biscuits while we’re driving out to fish. After they’ve had their breakfast of sausage and biscuits, if they want to put a pork loin, a Boston butt or any other meat in the Green Egg, that meat can be cooking while we’re fishing. The Egg not only cooks the meat, but it keeps it extremely moist and warm. By having the Big Green Egg on the boat, anglers can have any type of meat they’ll normally cook on a barbecue grill before they start fishing, while they’re fishing and when we’re on the way back. The Big Green Egg just adds another dimension to fishing here at the Gulf that makes a trip fun, exciting and DELICIOUS.”

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.

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 5