Each year I find myself writing a few ‘snapper on soft plastics’ articles, but each year I wonder if it might be time to put this subject aside and concentrate elsewhere. However, just when I think that everything has been written on the subject I discover some new (or old and forgotten) ideas for hunting big knobbies that excites me once again.
My previous article on snapper in QFM May 2011, addressed Jeremy Arnold’s penchant for using mono instead of the braided line that I normally recommend as a mainline for soft plastic lure fishing for snapper.
After corresponding with Jeremy on his philosophies, I fished a bass tournament in the USA, which lead me to make comparisons about techniques for various species including largemouth bass in the USA and snapper in Australia.
Throughout the tournament I was catching bass that were sitting under a floating pontoon. The fish would dive down and eat my lure as it swam below them. If my lure dived too deep then the fish were less inclined to chase it and the lure could hang up on the bottom. If my lure ran too shallow it fouled in the weed attached to the underside of the dock, where the fish were most likely hiding. The balance was to adjust the weight in front of my soft plastic to get it to run around the desired depth.
Then I adjusted the line. When using braid, the lure runs deeper in the water, and when using mono the lure swims higher. And if you use thicker mono the lure runs even closer to the surface. Of course if the line is too thick for the conditions, and too obvious, then the fish will never eat your lure. But the point is that mono helps your lure run higher. So when using mono (as opposed to braid) your soft plastic lure will sink slightly slower. As we already know, for suspended snapper it is ideal if your lure sinks as slowly as it can through the water column.
Overall, mono just might give your lure an even better presentation at the right depth in the water; but what else might mono offer?
Last month Jeremy pointed out that he thinks that less snapper are spooked by using mono than braid. This is because the mono is transparent in colour compared to the solid colour of the braid – thus the snapper are less likely to see the mono.
Let’s look at this spooky snapper situation in more detail.
One of the golden rules of soft plastic snapper fishing is as follows:
If, in low light conditions, you stalk up on the snapper by cutting your boat’s engine and allow your boat to drift towards the underwater reef, and if you cast your soft plastic towards the reef, then if you are going to catch a snapper. In fact, the most likely scenario is that you will catch snapper in your first five casts if there are any unspooked snapper there. It might seem like a bold claim, but that is what our fishing diary records show. In truth I actually am surprised by them myself, even to the point of disbelief. But the facts are the facts. In the past six years my family’s records for over 100 snapper over 10lb on soft plastics show that in over 90% of cases the fish came within the first five casts on the first drift across an area.
Okay, so those statistics aren’t anything new. However I think it is valuable to reinforce this because Australia has been soft plastics snapper fishing for around seven years, and that ‘first few casts’ hypothesis has now become ‘law’, as long as the fish haven’t been spooked.
Taking this a little further I recently spoke to a few spearfishos and I asked them why snapper are not so common in their bags. Their reply was “Snapper are often too hard to get close to.” Apparently snapper that are schooling up high in the water (i.e. suspended) will spook very easily. “Just the flash of the glass on a face mask seems to put the whole school off.”
This observation, as passed on by the divers, aligns with my own experiences that any unnatural presence, including noisy boats and boat traffic is sufficient to ruin a snapper fishing spot by spooking the suspended fish.
So if mono makes a better lure presentation to suspended snapper and is less likely to spook snapper – then what are we waiting for this season!
But wait there could be even more!
What if we can enhance the factors that we have worked on in the previous paragraphs? Can we make the lure cast further and therefore get it away from the boat so that less fish are spooked; and can we use lures that sink slower?
It has always been my experience that lure profile is important for big snapper. I have very successfully used lures up to 9” and 10” long. However when I use lures that are any bigger, (say 18”) my strike rate often drops to zero. At the other end of the scale, lures like 3” Slider Bass Grubs and 4” to 6” skinny flirt worms work quite well too.
I deduced that snapper wanted big lures, but not too big, yet length wasn’t the only criteria as both short and long lures seemed to work. So what about short fat lures? That is, bigger by being fatter. Short fat lures would cast well, plus they’d have the bulk and profile to be seen by a snapper. As well, fat lures (made from the right material) can sink slower than skinny lures. Before I’d even put a lure in the water I was excited by the potential.
At the end of last season I tried some of the fattest short lures of the type known as ‘creature baits’ (or ‘beavers’ in the USA) and the results were astonishing on snapper.
Additionally I had another reason for using a different lure. I’ve been writing for QFM for over 15 years and anyone who has stuck with me that long may recall that I am a big fan of showing the fish a different lure. That is, we’ve all been showing the snapper the long profile 7” shads for about five years now, so why not show them something different, something that they haven’t seen before?
The complete opposite of the 7” straight-tailed shads is the wide-bodied beaver style lure. I’ve written recently in QFM that the beaver looks like a squid hovering in the water.
The other piece of snapper tucker that the beaver will look like in the water is the moulting crab. Suspended snapper eating crabs that float past only a couple of metres below the water’s surface – that is about the easiest meal a snapper can get!
To make the beaver soft plastic lure look like a crab (or half a crab), simply pinch the soft plastic connecting tabs between the beaver’s legs and let all the appendages waft around. The huge majority of the snapper that I catch and keep have crabs in their stomach about the same size as a beaver lure. Accordingly, it only seemed logical that one day we’d try the moulting crab beaver colours on the snapper. And it wasn’t any surprise to us when the lures turned out to be a trump card in our lure selection.
I’ll never know if the snapper see the beavers as squid or floating crabs, but they certainly like eating them.
Incidentally, we’ve also caught these snapper with squid and good-sized fresh prawns in their belly. The prawns had that telltale bite behind the head that the squid is known for. In many cases the bite had severed the prawn in two, so the prawn was most likely already being eaten by the squid when the snapper ate the squid.
The new Sizmic Darter Shad (about 6” long) is an interesting study in lure profiles. The Darter Shad is sort of elliptical in shape, especially around the belly, so rigged straight up and down it has a skinny profile that works well for higher speed darting retrieves. However rigged on its side, the fat belly bulge slows the rate of fall and causes the lure to sassy and waft as it slowly descends through the water column.
This lure is specifically designed to offer the two rigging options. We’ve used it successfully in the fast mode for trevally and also successfully in the slow freespool sink application for snapper.
Next month I’ll look at soft plastic school of crabs presentation for snapper.Reads: 3035