by Jarrod Day
November is the peak time in Victoria to go in search of snapper and while thousands of anglers target them with fresh or frozen baits, those already bored of doing so begin to look at other ways to entice these highly prized fish.
Gawaine Blake with a nice Port Phillip Bay plastic eating red.
Snapper in Port Phillip Bay range in size from pinkies around the kilo mark to fish in excess of 10 kilos but the majority of fish caught still hovers around the three kilo mark.
While these are great fun to catch with bait, their fight doesn’t really live up to the expectation. In saying that, the situation unfolds with a slow bending rod when the bait is taken. The rod loads and under the pressure of a few kilos of drag, the angler lifts the rod to set the hooks. The fish powers off for around 30 meters before you can get a wind on the reel working the fish back towards the boat. A few short runs here and there, the firs tires quickly and the angler can wind the fish to the boat before one last dive. The net id drawn the fish is landed.
When you get a hook-up the fight will be fast and furious.
This is a common scenario but can depend on fish sizes as to how hard they fight, not all two are the same when it comes to battle.
In saying that, a light tackle approach often appeals to angler more but for a real fight, catching them on soft plastics can be downright epic.
Soft plastic tactics:
Fishing for snapper with plastics really gets the fish to work a lot harder during the fight. The takes are more violent, the battle is more gruelling which is why this style of fishing is fast becoming more and more popular by all generations.
When embarking on a soft plastics mission make sure you have a variety at your disposal.
There are two main styles of plastic techniques used when snapper fishing, one is to drift and work the plastic over a reef or patch of fish found while the other is to flick around while at anchor.
When drifting, it pays to find fish on the sounder before motoring in front of them allowing the boat to drift back to where they are. This will require the angler to set the drift correctly according to the current and wind direction.
Once this is in place, the plastic can be cast out, and left to sink to the bottom. Once it has, flick the rod tip almost like you are trying to 'hop' the plastic across the bottom. This means lifting the rod tip around a meter. To add to that natural feeling, you can use a double 'hop' where by you lift a meter, then lift again. This will bring the plastic higher I the water column giving the fish more of a chance to see it. Snapper will always eat the lure on the drop, so the higher you can bring it off the bottom on each hop the better chance you’ll have at hooking up.
The author releasing a nice back to water.
Those just getting into plastic fishing tend to try it while at anchor. Some may only cast around a few times and think it doesn’t work putting their rods away. This is no way to test a new technique rather sticking to it and repetitively working the lure will bring success if you know there are fish under your boat. Sometimes it may take only 10 casts while others a 100 or more but if you’re really keen to give it a go, stick to it and you’ll see results.
In this situation, you’ll have to stay clear of your other lines if your bait fishing as well. Usually your baits are fanned out so you can cast and work the plastic between them. If you cast directly behind the boat, you’ll work the plastic up the berley trail where you’ll encounter most fish.
Choose the right weapon:
There are hundreds of different plastics on the market and all will catch snapper. In saying that, I still stick to those that have produced the goods in past fishing sessions.
Of my favourites, DOA 5.5' jerk baits in the Arkansas Glow and Pearl colours, Squidgy 110mm flick baits in evil minnow and pillie colours along with the Zerek 5' Shrimp. All these plastics have been proven snapper snacks and work a treat.
Up close and personal with a 5" Zerek Shrimp.
Zerek's 5" Shrimp has been a proven lure for snapper.
While snapper in Port Phillip Bay can be found in anything from six meters of water to 30 meters of water, you’ll require a range of jig heads to allow the plastic to get to the bottom. If the plastic isn’t worked along the bottom, you just won’t catch fish.
Most of the jig head I use are FUZE branded due to the specific head design allowing a slower sink rate. The weights used are a 1/8th ounce with 3/0 hook, ¼ ounce with 3/0 hook and 3/8th ounce 3/0 hook. Most of the time the 1/8th is used in depths up to eight meters, the 1/4 oz in depths ranging eight to 15 meters and the 3/8th from 15 to 30 meters of water.
At all time, the most realistic you can make the plastic look, the more chance you’ll have at a snapper devouring it.
The right tackle:
Using the right outfit for plastic fishing is also a must. Firstly you’ll want a graphite rod in the 7ft range. Because snapper will be a challenge on this type of gear, I suggest a rod rated 4-6 kilos. A 4000 series reel will suit nicely and should be spooled with 15 or 20lb braid. At this time of year, snapper still have quite sharp teeth so to prevent being bitten off, stick to 30lb fluorocarbon leader.
Personally, I use a Wilson Blade ‘n’ Tails Medium, 4000 series Shimano Twinpower loaded with 20lb YKG Syutsujin Grand PE WX 4 with Black Magic 30lb Fluorocarbon leader. The braid is one of the thinnest on the market allowing the lure to sink without too much influence from the water pressure or wind on the surface. These factors can influence the sink rate of the plastic on the freefall.
Experimenting with plastics to catch snapper can be a lot of fun. Better yet, I guarantee you’ll get a far better, more intense fight from a fish compared to the same fish on a bait. The next time you’re heading out, grab some jig heads and plastics and have a toss around. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at what these little lures can deliver.
A nice fish comes in to the boat.
The author with a solid red caught on a 110mm pilly flick bait.