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The Best Baits for Grouper Fishing

Whether you’re joining the crew of a commercial fishing trip for the first time or venturing out on your own vessel with friends, grouper fishing is a satisfying, exhilarating way to spend a day. 

There are a variety of grouper subspecies throughout the world’s oceans, and grouper can reach a length of ten feet (three meters) and weigh over 1,000 pounds (454 kilograms). But, what kind of bait should you use while targeting this diverse, delicious species?

What’s the best bait for grouper?

If you are wondering which baits are the best for catching grouper, there are a few that always seem to work throughout the seasons.   In this article, we’ll break down the seven best bait for grouper so you can reel up these prized, downright tasty fish.



live shrimp used for grouper bait

Shrimp are one of the most versatile baits in the angling world. 

Grouper, like many other species, respond very well to live bait. Live shrimp are certainly ideal, but since they’re not available year-round in some areas, frozen shrimp will do in a pinch. 

While you can certainly use shrimp for cut bait, most anglers simply slide a whole shrimp into a J hook, let their bait sink to the bottom, and wait for the monster bite. 

While live and frozen shrimp are available at most bait shops, you can also cast-net them over oyster beds and reefs. 




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Whole, live crabs are certainly a delicacy of the bait world, and despite their high price tag, they’re a grouper magnet. Frozen crabs are hard to come by—unless you trap and freeze them yourself—but after a short thaw, they can be just as effective. 

J or circle hooks are easy to use with crabs, and anglers simply have to hook through their body carapace to ensure a secure fit. For live crabs, make sure to wear gloves or use a rag—getting pinched is no fun.




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Squid are a tried-and-true, accessible grouper bait used by anglers everywhere. Thawed frozen squid are certainly the easiest to use, and they’re perfect for cut bait since they’re so malleable and easy to slice. 

Available at nearly every bait shop, frozen squid are inexpensive and effective with circle or J-hook rigs.




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For some anglers, catching pinfish on a Sabiki rig before heading to deeper waters is the perfect warm-up for a big day of grouper fishing. Grouper love live bait, so keeping pinfish alive in a baitwell is the best way to make use of these small-but-mighty grouper treats. 

In waters where circle hooks are legal, hooking them through a live pinfish and bottom-fishing is a surefire way to snag a grouper—or any kind of reef fish.


Cut Bait


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Cut bait is versatile, accessible, and effective for catching any number of species, including grouper. Whether you slice up an unregulated species—like grunts, rasses, or lizardfish—you snag while fishing or cut up store-bought squid, threads, or ballyhoo, cut bait are inexpensive and easy to rig. 

While you can use cut bait with just about any rig, remember to use a bait size that corresponds with the size of fish you want to catch. Bigger bait often leads to bigger fish.




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Pilchards are small, scaled, sardine-like fish. Their oiliness makes them the perfect, pungent attractant for grouper and a variety of other species, including freshwater fish, and they’re easy to find and hook. 

While you can catch live pilchards, they’re often available frozen at bait shops. You can use them for cut bait (they’re easy to present in cube form), hook them whole, or toss them into the water whole or cut for chumming. 

If gang hooks are legal in your area, they’re excellent for holding—sometimes fragile—pilchards together in tough currents and rough seas. 




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Grunts caught in search of grouper make excellent bait. While many fishermen enjoy eating grunts, others cut up grunts, freeze them for future cut bait, or keep them alive in a baitwell for catching larger fish like grouper and red snapper. 

They’re unlikely to be available at bait stores, so fishermen seeing grunts can simply use small bait and circle hooks (where they’re legal) over shallow reefs to catch them before heading to deeper waters. Rig them like you would any other live bait.


Final Thoughts

Shrimp, crabs, squid, pinfish, cut bait, pilchards, and grunts all make excellent grouper bait. 

While some are only available at certain times of the year, some are expensive, and others must be caught on the way to deeper waters. All of these are sure to snag a bite. 

As always, check your local fishing regulations to ensure the legality of baits and rigs before fishing, and ask staff and other anglers at your local bait shop for region-specific fishing tips. 

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