The cobia is one tough hombre. It’s been said the real fight begins when they hit the deck, thrashing around wildly with bulky, muscle-bound bodies.
Though notorious for their mean disposition at hookup, cobia are relatively docile and curious creatures in the open ocean, and many times you’ll see them before they see you.
Ponce Inlet and surrounding area of the “Space Coast” outside Cape Canaveral, Florida is a red hot spot to find cobia cruising the ocean surface in the springtime. When water temperatures hit the magic 69-degree mark and into the 70’s, 20 to 50-pound cobia hound the mullet and pogy schools, easily spotted as their looming brown shadows betray their presence. Giant, black manta rays with 10-foot wingspans offer a key to finding fish as cobia wolfpacks glide underneath the rays, swimming with them sucking up the bait and forage the wings of the ray kicks up. Find the rays, you’ll find the fish.
Sight-cast with subsurface plugs such as Rapala X-Raps or Yo-Zuri Mag Darters, landing the lure 10 to 15 feet away from the wingtips of the manta ray. Twitch and pop the lure walk-the-dog style. Cobia will come out from underneath the protection of the ray and whack at the commotion on the surface. When a manta ray sounds, break out a 2- to 3-ounce Spro bucktail tipped with a 7-inch Hogy plastic or live eel, and let the bucktail sink down alongside the ray. Cast the bucktail, give it a five-count and then, using long sweeping motions, jig the lure upward to bring the cobia out from underneath the behemoth.
Heavy duty rods built to handle the beating are mandatory usage. Try a 7 foot Shimano Talavera rated for 30 to 50-pound matched with a Shimano Thunnus 8000, using 50-pound braided Power Pro and a 5 foot top shot of 40 to 50-pound fluorocarbon leader tied via uni to uni knot. Keep a fairly tight drag with just a little give to beat out the hard-charging runs of the brown clowns. Most importantly, have all hands on deck with the net or gaff man at the ready to stick or scoop the cobia when the opportunity arises. Its total mayhem in the boat when the cobe lands on deck, so get it into the ice box or back overboard with prudent expediency.