I love fishing for Snapper with Soft Plastics because I enjoy the challenge of targeting the bigger trophy fish, the fish of a lifetime. When all the hard work, research & countless hours comes together and you land, photograph & release that beast to fight another day, there is nothing better.
I also enjoy the learning involved into mastering the art of catching the head thumping monsters consistently. To catch big fish consistently, you need a fair amount of knowledge of your local reef and fishing grounds plus a little luck.
You will need to have a good understanding of how to read and use your sounders plus have quality fishing tackle. You do not need the most expensive gear on the market. The right quality gear is the most important.
WHEN AND WHERE
When chasing these big head thumpers, there are a few times throughout the day that increase your chances, but don’t fish only these times. Some of the best snapper can be caught in 10 meters of crystal clear water in the middle of the day.
I find sunrise and sunset on a cold winter’s day can be a great time to target snapper, especially in the shallow water under 20 meters deep. The Snapper like to move in over the reefs and kelp beds often at these times of the day to feed. I believe as the sun rises, smaller bait fish starts to come out and get more active.
Likewise, when the sun is setting, it gets darker which makes the fish feel like they have a sense of cover. They can move safely in the shallows chasing squid and small fish.
Another popular time to target is around the turn of the tides. As the water movement slows it is a lot easier for the fish to move around. The bait fish will move out into the open from where they have been resting out of the current.
Some people completely ignore the moon phases, others say that full moon is a terrible time to fish. In my areas on the north coast of NSW, I find that during winter a few days before and after the full moon, the snapper will be very high in the water column and very active and aggressive in their feeding patterns.
The old adage of ‘find the bait, find the fish’ still works too.
I like to use a lighter Rod in the shallow water under 20m deep. A personal favourite is the Atomic Arrowz Offshore 7ft Rod with an 8 to 16lb rating matched to a Shimano Stradic 4000 reel. I like to fill the reel with 20lb Multi Colour Braid and use a rod length of Unitika FC The Rock 20lb Fluro Carbon Leader joined with a FG Knot.
In water over 20m in depth, I like a slight heavier rod. The Samurai Reaction is a serious Rod that will allow me to set a lot tighter drag on my reel to help stop the monster fish.
The Samurai Reaction I use is the 7ft 10 to 20lb Rod matched to a Shimano Stradic 5000 reel.
I like to spool this reel up with 30lb Dangan Braid, However I will push up to 30lb Fluro Carbon leader if there is some big fish around. If I happen to use this outfit in the shallows I am happy to run 20lb Leader.
My jig head tackle Box has a range of Atomic Seeker jig heads ranging from 1/8th through to 1oz with 5/0, 6/0 & 7/0 heavy gauge hooks. My favourite soft plastics from the Atomic Plazos range are the 4inch Prong and the 6 & 7inch Jerk Minnow. They come in a range of colour but best fish have come on Old Penny, Electric Chicken, Radioactive Rooster, and Motor Oil Gold & cannot go past having a White Colour Plastic. A Soft Plastic with UV can help as well.
In shallow water under 20m I will start with as light as possible Jig head from 1/8th through to a 1/3rd
I find drifting the boat towards the bait or reef the best method of attack with the motor switched off and in gear so the prop does not spin & tangle your braided line.
I cast towards the bait or reef letting my soft plastic sink slowly through the water column as most big Snapper will hit it on the drop. As I drift closer to the spot and my soft plastic has now sunk deeper below the boat, I like to give it some erratic twitches to see if I can attempt a fish to take the lure out of aggression.
If nothing has happened, I wind in slowly and repeat the process again.
It is easy to work out if your jig head is too heavy. You will find you are getting snagged on the bottom on every drift, or you will catch bi-catch fish like red rock cod, otherwise known as a bucket.
If you find you are drifting fast because of the wind but still want to use lighter jig heads, using a sea anchor can slow your drift down enough. I prefer this method over having to go to a heavy jig head to counteract the fast drift.
In the shallow water, try not to drive your boat directly over where the bait or reef is as the fish tend to spook and shut down.