Get Out and Get Down
  |  First Published: February 2011

There are two main outfit concepts that anglers have evolved into using for deep water soft plastic fishing.

The basic outfit is the same as you’d use for your all rounder out at the reefs, something like a Penn Senator 6/0 mounted on a Live Fibre M10. With this outfit, regularly referred to as a bottom basher, the big softies intended for snapper often get fished on the same paternoster rig that is used for bait fishing in deep water. Success in deep water is commonly all about getting down to the strike zone.

As charter crews will tell you, anglers turn up for their once a year charter trip with jigheads that they haven’t tried before, which generally break, and a limited selection of heavy weights. Rather than waiting until next year, most anglers will have a crack at combining their plastics and a snapper lead adorned paternoster rig on their bottom basher. And guess what, it works! In fact it works so well that many charter crews regularly recommend it as a simple solution and some even use it as their first line approach. Quite a few who’ve gone along this path are muttering that, after a season or two, the stats show a very high percentage of big fish falling to the plastics.

The other reason for ditching the jigheads is that when the water gets deeper, and also when the typically faster currents of summer start to kick along, then there just isn’t enough weight in a jighead to get you into that 10m zone near the bottom where deepwater snapper call home.

In the summer you’ll start to encounter more sharks too. It can be a serious race to get the snapper to the surface before the noahs dine out on your hard earned catch. It can be pretty frustrating only getting a couple of kilos of head to the boat. It seems a waste to throw the head back over the side but I guess it would count as one of your bag limit – and even though it would make great fish head soup if you kept it, unfortunately it might not make the 35cm legal length either. The need for speed in getting snapper to the boat is why you require the larger reel, such as the 6/0.

Snapper can be caught at any time of year. Winter of course is a very popular time due to predictable weather patterns, and often lesser currents. But whenever the weather and currents allow you to get out and get down then you’ll often find snapper in residence in their known lairs. And there will always be a place for the big guns.

These outfits also enable you to ‘talk’ seriously to members of the seriola clan when you hook them up. In order to turn big kings, AJ and samsonfish, your tackle needs some muscle in the form of cranking power and drag pressure. The M10 rod with 6/0 reel definitely puts you in the game. A 4/0 Senator is a viable alternative if your bent leans towards a lighter heft outfit.

In the old days I didn’t mind a bit of shark fishing. Hey, if they are eating everything before I can get it into the boat then why not do a bit of gamefishing. I’ve had many a long fight with up to 100kg of whaler or tiger on the M10 rig. Alas these days recreational anglers are not allowed to take these sharks (the maximum legal length for sharks is 1.5m). But rest assured the M10/Senator is a great all rounder for anything you may encounter out on the blue.

The Live Fibre M10 (RLFCM10) is 7’2” long and perfectly suited to snapper fishing. However if you are likely to also encounter bigger more powerful fish, such as any of the seriolas, big cobia or red emperor then I’d suggest you saddle yourself up with the Live Fibre RLF19 which is 7’0”, rated to 24kg line, and packs a lot of fish fighting power for braid classes up to 50lb. If you are going even heavier in line class then the shorter 6’0” RLF19K will serve you well for 65lb braid. The shorter rod hurts your back less when you are pushing the 65lb line to its limit.

I won't go into it in too much detail because it is contrary to a lot of opinion - but you'll note that the shorter RLF19K is rated to 20kg line - my experience, and the relevant context is that I weigh 55kg and hit the gym as much as time allows ... I fish 30kg line off this rod because it has the right action for me to push the heavier line. In others words with stand up tackle then the equation for me is something like ‘the heavier the line then the bendier the rod should be.’

Line class and capacity wise, the 4/0 Senator suits 40-50lb braided line or 30lb mono. The 6/0 Senator for 50-65lb braid and I fish 80lb braid on a 9/0 Penn Senator.

The other outfit that I use, especially when fishing a running ball sinker rig above my plastics, is more modern-tech. I prefer the running sinker rig rather than jigheads because I can mix and match weights and hooks, which means I get away with carrying less of the heavy stuff.

The reel is a modern deep jig reel, in my case a Penn Torque and the rod is a trigger grip Texalium. With this outfit I can cast the lure away from the boat a little and even cast it up current if it is the first drift over an area. The line on this reel is coloured every 10m which gives me a quick reference to how much line I have out. A knowledge of how much line I have out and a quick look at the depth on the sounder tells me if my lure is that magic 10m zone near the bottom.

Casting up current on the first drift is something that I’ll try every now and again. On the first drift, anything that is ahead of the boat will not have been spooked yet and they may be in a feeding mood. Sometimes you can get lucky.

Another reason why I like to have the Texalium/Torque combo in my quiver is that I regularly use this outfit for dragging 7” soft plastics behind the drift in the 30m waters around the Cape. Often I use a lighter sinker at spots like Smiths and a much bigger weight out wide but otherwise the outfit is the same for both locations.

In the really deep water the type of plastic doesn’t seem to matter as much. It seems the snapper when they are in the mood will eat anything.

I have a theory that the big snapper eat the softies because the pickers don’t have as much fun with them. After the first bump the small pickers must surely have worked out that the plastics are not full of nutritional value. Thus the plastics stay on the hook until Mr Big comes along and munches down taking plastic and hook all in one mouthful. Then all you have to do is beat the sharks to get it into the boat.  

There is no reason why you can’t use a spin outfit to present your running sinker rigged softie to the snapper. I’d use a deep jig type spin reel and a 7’ rod. But you can only take as many rods as your rocket launcher will allow. And in mine the spin outfit spot is owned by a high speed retrieve spin reel with a metal lure tied onto the end. Accordingly I tend not to use a spin outfit that much for deepwater soft plastics. My overheads get used more than my spin sticks for slower type presentations in the deepwater and for most of my fishing, which means either bait or soft plastics on the overheads.

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