Quick-change Deep-drop Rig

Sys­tem­atize ter­mi­nal tackle for speed and ef­fi­ciency

Saltwater Sportsman - - Table Of Contents / Departments - Ge­orge Poveromo Spe­cial­ized lead­ers, tai­lored for great depths, sim­plify deep­drop­ping for tile­fish.

With the in­creas­ing pop­u­lar­ity of hand-crank deep-drop­ping — ver­sus push­ing a but­ton on an elec­tric reel — re­fine­ments are evolv­ing, e.g., the best reels, rods and lines for spe­cific species and depths; the most po­tent ter­mi­nal rigs; lights; the best baits; pre­ci­sion boat po­si­tion­ing; and more. It’s ba­si­cally a new world down in th­ese dark depths.

Beth Synowiec of Vir­ginia Beach, Vir­ginia, is one of th­ese recre­ational hand-crank deep-drop afi­ciona­dos, with a pen­chant for catch­ing gi­ant golden tile­fish in 700 to 1,000 feet. Her first-ever drop for golden tile­fish on De­cem­ber 31, 2010, aboard Capt. Jake Hiles’ char­ter boat Mata­dor, with Capt. Mike Beane at the helm, re­sulted in a mas­sive 41-pounder. Since then, she’s be­come ob­sessed with the species and tech­niques. In the last two years alone aboard her own boat Clas­sic Rock­fish, she has scored mon­ster gold­ens as heavy as 36.1, 32.2, 28.5 and 28 pounds. And this past Au­gust, with MARC VI in Vir­ginia Beach, she put me on a huge golden tile­fish that weighed 33.4 pounds. I hand­cranked the be­he­moth up from 800 feet of wa­ter along the fringes of Norfolk Canyon.


I es­pe­cially took in­ter­est in the con­fig­u­ra­tion of her ter­mi­nal rigs. As she ex­plained, they’re quick-change, in that sec­tions can be re­placed within mo­ments.

She keeps du­pli­cate com­po­nents of the main leader, ex­ten­sion lines of var­i­ous strengths, and swivels and lights in sealed, clear bags.

“They’re boat-friendly,” says Synowiec. “I can eas­ily fab­ri­cate th­ese rigs on the ride out, make ad­just­ments to an ex­ist­ing rig, or change out any parts a fish might have da­m­aged.

“I even have both golden and blue­line tile rig com­po­nents in dif­fer­ent leader strengths, and swivel and hook sizes, should we wish to make a few drops for those on the way back in.”

One thing her rigs aren’t is fancy. Deep-drop rigs can be tricked out to the hilt with chafe guards, glow beads, sound and vi­bra­tion en­hancers, and pre­ci­sion-crimped con­nec­tions. How­ever, in Synowiec’s case, speed and sim­plic­ity rule.


For ex­am­ple, with the 130-pound mono she prefers for tro­phy gold­ens, there are no well-man­i­cured, crimped con­nec­tions. In­stead she uses Dunkin or uni-knots.

As is stan­dard with most deep-drop rigs, an end loop at the bot­tom per­mits quick sinker changes. At the op­po­site end of the main leader is a 175-pound-test crane swivel at­tached to a 200-pound-test snap swivel on the fish­ing line. Synowiec also af­fixes a deep-drop light here.

To min­i­mize tan­gle risks when drop­ping to depths ap­proach­ing 1,000 feet, the sec­tion of mono from the crane swivel to the first 130-pound, three-way swivel is 16 to 18 inches long. The sec­tion between this up­per three-way swivel and the lower three-way swivel is 21 to 24 inches. And there’s ap­prox­i­mately 15 inches

between the lower swivel and sinker. Again, knots join th­ese sec­tions and swivels. The prom­i­nent use of swivels coun­ters the line twist from drop­ping and re­triev­ing, drift­ing and the cur­rent; the fish­ing line and ter­mi­nal rig must lie per­fectly straight as they soak on the bot­tom.


Some de­bate sur­rounds how long the ex­ten­sion lines or strands should be. How­ever, to avoid tan­gling with the sinker, Synowiec’s lower strand is roughly 10 inches long.

The length of the strand com­ing off the top three-way swivel is 15 to 18 inches. The drop­per strands are tied to the swivels, whereas their 7/0 cir­cle hooks are snelled. “The snell of­fers a more se­cure hook at­tach­ment,” she says. “It also keeps the hook some­what straighter dur­ing the bait pre­sen­ta­tion.”

For blue­line tile­fish in shal­lower waters, 80-pound mono is the foun­da­tion for her rigs (100-pound for really large blue­lines). The strands are between 12 and 16 inches long from bot­tom to top, re­spec­tively, and 6/0 cir­cle hooks get the nod.


A lot goes into deep-drop­ping for deep­wa­ter species, aside from lo­cat­ing the right type of bot­tom and de­liv­er­ing the bait.

Synowiec mostly holds bot­tom with 24 to 28 ounces of weight, which, aided by some skill­ful boat han­dling to stem the cur­rent, al­lows her to stay put over promis­ing bot­tom longer. Other than the up­grade to 32-ounce weights, our day was no ex­cep­tion.

Ba­sic drop­ping rules: Lay the ter­mi­nal gear straight in the wa­ter and then free-spool. Even with a heavy weight pulling the rig and line to the bot­tom, pe­ri­od­i­cally pause to stop any bow from form­ing in the line and keep the delivery as straight as pos­si­ble.


On bot­tom, Synowiec in­sists on stay­ing in con­tact with the mud and feel­ing the weight drag across it.

“Th­ese gold­ens live in deep bur­rows within this mud,” she rea­sons. “The rig must stay on the bot­tom long enough to slide across a colony of gold­ens and for the light and bait scent to in­ter­est them. Some­times it feels like you’ve hung bot­tom when a big golden eats.”

You need that heavy tackle to keep the fish from get­ting back into its bur­row and hang­ing up. We were us­ing stout Penn stand-up rods and twospeed Penn Torque 40NLD2 and Penn In­ter­na­tional 16 reels filled with 65and 80-pound-test Su­fix 832 braid.

Once you get the fish, in­spect the rig, change out any­thing that’s frayed or da­m­aged, bait up again, and get back down there while you’re over a hot area.

Though the quick-change rig out­lined here is for large deep­dwellers the likes of golden tile­fish, snowy grouper and bar­relfish, it’s just as ef­fi­cient when you scale down for smaller species like blue­line tile­fish, sea bass and fluke.

DEEP WORK: Smart rig­ging yields tro­phy tile­fish catches.

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