“Anything works for bait,” Neill says. He has caught fish deep-dropping with both flutter- and conventional-style jigs, as well as a wide variety of natural baits. “Squid is excellent but comes off the hook too easily,” he explains. As with most deep-droppers, he favors a chunk of fresh bonito or skipjack. Scent from oily fish spreads along the bottom, and their toughness makes it hard for bait stealers to succeed. Based on the size of the targeted fish, chunks or strips are impaled onto the hook.
Whether he’s looking for golden tilefish along muddy bottom in 600 to 800 feet, just shy of a canyon, or snowy or Warsaw grouper and wreckfish on rocky bottom along a canyon wall, Neill says it’s crucial to keep on top of promising spots as long as possible. This requires a person at the wheel to stem the current, allowing the baits to reach bottom and achieve adequate soak time. Sometimes it’s a matter of probing different sections of a given area to uncover fish. That’s often the case with golden tilefish, which tend to colonize within certain zones along a stretch of muddy bottom. Then, slow-drifting and thoroughly covering an area is warranted. And once a population is uncovered, limit the focus to that particular patch of bottom.