The Knocker Rig

Catch more bottomfish with this simple rig.
Hunter Ledbetter
Simple is often better when targeting bottomfish. The Knocker Rig is about as easy as it gets, but there is still some finesse involved when fishing it. First you have to find the fish, then you have to present a bait that will get them to strike. This is how it's done. Hunter Ledbetter
Many of the demersal, bottom-feeding species of fish we target hold in tight to cover on reefs or other types of structure to protect themselves from predators. The fish will also use cover to hide out and ambush their prey.
Because these fish stay in and around the structure, anglers must present a bait close by that will swim frantically enough to draw the targeted species away from the reef.
The Knocker Rig is probably the easiest bottomfishing rig to set up, and it's very effective when fishing around structure. You don't need much more than a strong circle hook, four feet of abrasive-resistant leader material and an egg sinker.
Whether targeting red, black or gag groupers and snappers, anglers rely on this rig to get the fish to bite and haul them away from entangling structure. I've caught everything from the groupers and snappers you would expect to yellow jacks, porgies and even tarpon using this rig.
The hole in the egg sinker lets the leader move freely through it. After the lead hits the bottom, play out some line and let the leader slide back through the sinker. The line won't tangle and you can cast the knocker rig or drop it directly down.
After you tie your leader to the mainline (I use 50-pound fluorocarbon leader material) run the leader through the hole in the egg sinker. The size of the sinker depends on the current, but 2 ounces is usually enough.
Choose your hook size to match the size of your bait and the size of the fish you're targeting. You don't want to put a 10/0 hook into a small bait. Tie on the hook using a snell or a uni knot.
Trim off the tag end of your leader and the weight should move smoothly on the leader and catch on your knot at the eye of the hook. Now drop a bait down and put some fish in the boat!
Venting bottomfish that have barotrauma increases the mortality of released fish. Leaving a fish on the surface with an inflated swim bladder is usually lethal, too. A good alternative is using a release tool like the which attaches to your a line using a three-way swivel. Clip the SeaQualizer on the fish's lower lip and send the fish and tool down using a heavy weight. Once at depth, the fish's swim bladder will deflate and the pressure of the water will open the jaws of the device, allowing it to swim free.

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