I was shark fishing out of SLP a couple of years ago, just catching sand sharks on shrimp in about 25' of water and caught a croaker. I figured why not and threw it back out as bait. The second it hit the water my rod was absolutely lit up. I had never hooked up with anything like that and was way unprepaired. I was fishing with a 5500C on a Flippin' Stick. It ran and ran and ran, then jumped. "Is that my fish?" I was not familiar with my rod pointing one direction and the fish jumping at a 45 degree angle to the left. Needless to say there was no bowing involved and he spit the hook! Dissapointed? Absolutely not, that was one of the most exciting things that ever happened to me on the water. After some short celebration I re-bait and hook another croaker. Well of course, I hook it up and throw it out. Figuring that was never going to happen again, BUT, BAM!!!! It immediately heads towards Cancun and about the time we get the anchor pulled to chase him the line snaps. My buddy Andy looks at me and figures I've got to be ticked (I have what they call, "a bit of a temper") but all I can do is sit there and smile!!!! What a rush to be hooked up to such an amazing fish, twice.
At the time was fishing out of a 16' john boat about 2 miles off shore (stupid) Since I have bought an 18' Kenner and am yet to be back after them, but vow to myself I will.
And NO, the bay rods will not handle the big ones. The one that I saw was easily 4' and no way I was getting him in on the 5500C and flippin' stick and that's a lot more than I fish the bay with.