Some anglers like to test their strength and endurance against giant saltwater fish. Mossy Oak Fishing Team Member, Mark Davis of Lexington, South Carolina, has proven he’s on the extreme end of this giant challenge of man against beast. Davis fishes from Montauk, New York, to Brownsville, Texas, for all saltwater species for his TV show, “Big Water Adventures” on the Outdoor Channel.
My favorite type of saltwater fish to catch are what’s called ground fish or bottom fish, which includes grouper, snapper and amberjacks. That class of fish is my favorite for saltwater fishing because I’m originally from Indiana, have a tournament bass fishing background and always thought I’d grow up to be a tournament bass fisherman. I never fished in salt water until I was 22 years old when I went out on a party boat, where I later ended up working. That was the first kind of saltwater fishing I knew.
The second reason I like to ground fish is to be able to use stand-up tackle. I like to fish a heavy reel, 100-pound-test braided line with a 100-200 pound fluorocarbon leader and no drag. I’ve caught a 200-pound bluefin tuna before with 60 pounds of drag, a process that requires at least two hours to get one of those fish to the boat. But when I’m fishing for ground fish, I don’t use any drag. I’m 6’2” and weigh 255 pounds. I spend three days a week in the gym to get my body in shape to fight big ground fish.
If you’ve ever been on a boat, had a big bite and said something like, “That fish was so big, I couldn’t stop it,” well, that’s the fish I want to bite my line. When I catch a 40-pound grouper or a giant amberjack with no drag – just my strength against the strength of the fish – that’s the kind of fishing I love to do.
Nineteen years ago I was the first person to fight a Goliath grouper on stand-up tackle with no drag. Once I got that fish to the surface, I climbed into the water with it to photograph it. Before I even attempted this feat, I called Florida Fish and Wildlife, told the department what I wanted to do and asked if anyone there had any suggestions for me. For that catch, I took a Penn International 80 reel and used a pipe wrench to tighten down the drag, so it wouldn’t slip. I had a 900-pound main line, used a custom-made hook, and put a stingray the size of a garbage can lid on the hook. When I dropped that down, I caught a Goliath grouper.
Once I started doing this kind of fishing, I had more forearms cracked when a fish has jerked me down to the rail of a boat. I’ve had to go to the hospital. I like to use tackle that will allow me to pull as hard as I physically can pull on the rod. Eight or nine times out of 10, I’ll win. But then that ninth or tenth time, there will be one big fish that breaks my rod, snatches me down or just physically whips me.
I’ve caught giant amberjacks, Warsaw grouper and the Goliath grouper. The rods I use to do this must have a high ratio of fiberglass to graphite. These rods are so strong that I have a picture of me on my Facebook page picking up my 9-year-old daughter with just the stand-up tackle I use to fish for big ground fish. I have video of all these big fish using this type of tackle.