PARTY BOAT WRECK FISHING – BLACKFISH (TOG) & SEABASS
When fishing the wrecks for Blackfish(Tog) and Black Sea Bass on a party boat, I recommend a conventional reel and rod with a solid backbone but with a somewhat sensitive tip. I prefer a length of 6’6″ or even 7ft especially for the harder fighting Blackfish as it is critical if you hook a big one to get him off the wreck as quickly as possible. You need the backbone and the length to accomplish this in one swift motion. Set the hook and heave! For line, I like to use 20-pound mono when Sea Bass is your prime target. For Tog 25 or 30 pound mono is more suitable. You should have an ample supply of bank sinkers from 5 to 12 ounces to ensure you hold the bottom in a variety of ocean current conditions.
There are a number of commercially made blackfish or sea bass rigs available. For me, the nature of wreck fishing means you could be certain that you are going to lose a fair amount of tackle. I like a simple top and bottom rig consisting of two dropper loops, one high one low, with a 2/0 or 3/0 Mustad 92641 Beak Baitholder hook for Sea Bass or a 3/0 Mustad 92625 Standard Beak hook for Blackfish(Tog). I like the bigger hook for Tog as to try to keep the real small tog where they belong on the wreck. Many folks prefer to use the Virginia Style Hollow Point Hooks Mustad 4011E size 3 to 5 for tog and they too are fine to use. For the top end, a number 3 or number 1 barrel swivel is good to tie your rig to your line. You can use a standard dual lock snap for a sinker clip however I like to just tie an end loop and push it through the sinker eye this keeps the expenses to a minimum.
As far as bait is concerned most party boats supply clams at the least, while some will also supply Green crabs when blackfish(tog) season arrives. Check with your captain to be sure as if it is tog season not having green crabs could make for a frustrating day. Tog do respond to clams readily however so does all the other species on the wreck so it is tough to keep them down long enough to nail a nice tog. Sea Bass will also eat green crabs as well but they are more readily caught on clams. Sometimes when the water temperature gets low enough tog will take clams or even bloodworms and ignore crabs entirely so it is a good idea to try and get a handle on your water temps. If you can get a hold of Calico (Lady) crabs or Jonah crabs you may find them to be an excellent substitute when trying to lure out those bigger togs from the innards of a wreck.
One of the keys to successfully catching big sea bass and tog is patience! Sometimes when fishing a wreck there is a continuous barrage of smaller fish pecking at your bait. I have watched countless people trying to set the hook at every bite only to crank up a foul hooked bergall, small tog or a pair of empty hooks. A big tog or sea bass will pick up your bait and start moving with it. Sometimes they will just sit there and hover about it but there is something that always feels different when they are around your bait. Sometimes the smaller fish will stop hitting for a second while they move out of the way of the larger ones. Other times your line will go slack for a second as a big fish picks up your bait from the bottom. It may take some time to learn but just be patient and keep sending down fresh bait. Always watch the mates or other more experienced tog fishermen for a while and you will soon get the hang of it.