Sussing out snapper rigs
  |  First Published: November 2016

In fishing, there is a fine line between landing a trophy fish, and not even getting a bite.

A lot of the time it comes down to the tackle you’re using. Whether it be leader size, hook size, bait presentation or sinker weight, the narrowest of margins can stand between you leaving the boat ramp empty-handed and catching a whopper. As snapper fire up in Victoria, I figured it would be fitting to have the conversation about snapper rigs. What to use, when to use it, and specifics in terminal tackle. I asked my good mates Dan Lee from Compleat Angler Rosebud and Shaun Furtiere what they thought about snapper rigs.

What is your preferred rig for snapper?

SF:Typically in Western Port, a standard running sinker rig is my preferred rig. My main line is mono of around 25lb breaking strain. My leader is around 1200-1300mm of 60lb nylon. A simple 10cm loop is placed at end of the leader to allow bomb style leads to be attached. I always use quality roller type swivels in the small to medium size – 90-120kg or so. Hook arrangement is always a twin snelled set up of 4/0 size, in an octopus pattern. Although single circles are a good choice, the addition of two hooks while on charter is a safeguard for the most part.

DL:I love the lightly weighted northern Port Phillip Bay rig for most of the bay including Mt Martha. I always snell the top hook, put a glow bead on and generally use small barrel sinkers rather than balls as they do not twist up the rig as badly. In more tidal water further south of Port Phillip Bay, I use the ‘Western Port’ style of rig with twin hooks.

How many rigs do I need to know?

SF:98% of the time I use two rigs in total for every fish species encountered on Western Port. Occasionally, slider float rigs are deployed for catching squid during spring time, but this is also well suited for snapper, gummy shark and mulloway. The main difference is a slight shift in leader size up to 80lb for gummy shark and the use of a single 8/0 Octopus circle style hook.

For smaller species such as whiting, yakkas, cowanyoung, slimy mackerel and silver trevally, a simple fixed loop rig is all that is required. Tie on a small swivel in 12-17lb mono or fluorocarbon leader, 10cm down from swivel make a 15cm or so sized loop for sinker/lead attachment. This is best tied with a simple figure eight knot. Extend leader a metre from the swivel, cut, and attach the hook.

Hooks are many and varied for different bait offerings, however most patterns around a size 6/0 will work best for all small species mentioned, and size 4/0 for snapper.

DL:It’s all dependant on where you are planning on fishing. Channel fishing on the southern Mornington Peninsula or off the Bellarine Peninsula in the Western Channel or Symonds channel requires the ‘Western Port’ rig. North of these areas, it’s all lightly weighted stuff, so realistically, you can get away with knowing the two main rigs.

Is there any problem with pre-made rigs?

SF:I think the convenience of them is ideal for many anglers who may be pressed for time or may not be as proficient rigging gear up. Over the years, there have been many fine captures of snapper using pre tied rigs, but I’ve never bothered with them, as I much prefer to tie up my own as required. Typically I’ll tie up a few leader/hook set ups once at home, then these are stored in a rig type wallet/folder. This cuts down on lost time should a rig need replacing while out fishing. It is well worth the time to pre tie your own rigs up for the season if possible.

DL:Pre-made rigs are OK. The best of them are those that come with just a length of leader, two hooks, with the top one snelled but no swivel or sinker. This allows you to turn them into a lightly weighted rig for northern Port Phillip or a Western Port style rig using a sinker slider or Ezi-Rig. So while they are technically pre-made, you still have to do some work.  Both Icon and Gamakatsu now have these on the market and are my choice if I’m using pre- made rigs.

What is your preferred hook?

SF:For snapper and mulloway I use a 4/0 octopus style hook, as opposed to gummy shark fishing where I prefer a single circle in size 8/0. The 4/0 for snapper has proven very reliable over the years, so I have no need to change yet.

DL:My favourite hooks are the Konan 5/0 Beak Hook for the lightly weighted rig, and a Konan 6/0 Mutu Light for the heavier rig for tidal water like the southern part of Port Phillip Bay. The Konan 6/0 is also ideal for Western Port.

How important is fluorocarbon leader when snapper fishing?

SF:I’ve used it here and there with no appreciable rise in catch rates. However, it is good for abrasion  resistance and longevity over the more common soft style leader material. I also feel its extra  stiffness can be an advantage in less tidal waters such as Port Philip Bay.

DL:I am not a huge fan of fluorocarbon when fishing for snapper. The main reason being that the heavier fluorocarbon leaders are hard to tie knots in. I prefer a supple leader like the 40lb Icon. I don’t believe fluoro has a huge impact on catch rates when bait fishing for snapper.

There is a reasonably simple formula to take out of all this; be mindful of the little things like leader and hook sharpness. Taking the time to ensure your rigs are well tied and prepared correctly, along with the right set up for where you are fishing, will increase your chances tenfold.

What do I think of pre tied snapper rigs? I always drop a couple either side of the boat when anchored fishing for snapper. I feel it could be an attractant if nothing else, I feel similarly about casting soft plastics around when anchored, it all helps to create a bit of excitement around the area you are fishing. All in all, good luck out there whichever rig you decide to run with, and have a great time fishing. That’s what it’s all about!

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