This article isn’t about ‘old man’ snapper, but rather pan-sized squire such as you might catch in the Brisbane River, Pumicestone Passage, Redcliffe Reef, along the inside of Moreton and Stradbroke Islands and around the many islands of Moreton Bay.
Many articles have been written on chasing snapper in Moreton Bay on soft plastics, but most of these articles have focused on the big fish, which are naturally the stars of the show. But what about those spots where the fish generally aren’t that big, or those days at the big fish spots when the monsters don’t want to play? In both these situations there are a few ways you can adjust your approach to increase your chances of taking home a five-fish Queensland bag limit of pan-sized squire. I’m talking about the finesse approach.
In most seafood eating households, a feed of 35-40cm squire rates very highly. I’d actually rate a feed of 40cm squire more highly than a feed of 30cm bream, so why not specifically target the tasty squire?
There are many factors to consider when choosing a finesse soft plastic for squire fishing. It’s all about the system as a whole – the lure, rod, reel, line, leader, hooks and matching it to the location and the conditions on the day. Over time you’ll get a better idea about which lure to use and when, and also when to make changes or adjustments.
As an example, with one lure product that I use in the USA there are at least 20 variations (not counting colours) for the same lure – they include different thicknesses in the same brand, different lengths, different plastisols (there may be floaters, suspenders and heavy plastics in each model) and quite often the same body may have three or four different types of tail or even no tail at all. Some are scented, some unscented, some salted. Then there are all the different ways to rig them for different effect and action.
For getting a handle on this, nothing beats time on the water – especially when you focus on practising new ways to tweak your tackle so that you can develop a few favourites of your own.
I plan to delve into rigs and lure varieties in separate articles in the next two months. For this month let’s look at the basic procedure for selecting a lure and then conclude by addressing squire fishing.
Firstly you need to get the lure into the strike zone, so you need to consider factors such as casting distance and whether the lure sinks or floats. The desired action of the lure, lure style and how you rig it and weight it to get that action also carries substance, as does the size of the lure relative to the fish. Finally the colour of the lure. On some days lure colour can make all the difference.
If you don’t agree with the order of the selection process that I’ve suggested, that’s fine. What matters is that a process, in any order gets thought about.
If you want to catch pan-sized squire in Moreton Bay, I recommend using skinny soft plastics. These smaller squire, with their smaller mouths, can have trouble getting themselves hooked when you are using the bigger ‘normal’ snapper plastic shads that can be 5” to 7” long.
I’m not sure whether you’ve noticed but squire tend to eat 4” to 7” (10-15cm) soft plastics by biting the lure just behind where the hook is when the soft plastic is jighead-rigged. You wouldn’t even call it a bite, the squire certainly don’t slash across the lure and they actually are more likely to suck the wafting lure in by inhaling. Thus, the skinny soft plastic lure folds in half just behind the jig hook as it goes into squire’s mouth.
With big thick soft plastics, when they are folded in half they really don’t fit into a small squire’s mouth very well. And if they do end up inside, they seldom get far enough down into the squire’s mouth for you to get a hook-up that stays connected. Typically you feel the bite and that’s it, sometimes you’ll feel weight for a second or two but the fish and your lure soon part company.
What you need is a very skinny lure that folds over easily and comfortably fits inside the mouth of a 40cm squire. The lure will get well down inside the fish’s mouth on the inhale and you will get a very solid hook-up around the corner of the jawbone… perfect.
My dad and I recently compared snapper techniques, and I found that he’d evolved into using 5” shad style soft plastics for targeting snapper over 50cm. Interestingly, when he and Mike Connelly first started catching squire on softies in Moreton Bay about three years ago they used 4” versions of the same style of lure.
And me? Well, I’ve been away a lot so I’ve been subject to the finesse fishing needs of another fishery. On my frequent trips home I’ve been using skinny worms for at least two years on bay snapper, and have developed a fondness for 4” very skinny worms – and I still catch my share of 50cm-plus fish.
However, I recently ran low on my favourite 4” worms and – in my ongoing search for the magic pan-sized snapper lure – I got a batch of new varieties of 4” skinny soft plastic worms and hit the water to test them.
The lure that came up trumps came from the samples that we tested was the 4” flat-tailed slender Slider. These lures had been gathering dust from the days of the early bass soft plastics studies that we did with a whole variety of plastics.
The Slider 4” flat tail worm was one of the original lures designed by Charlie Brewer for his ‘do nothing’ finesse techniques, and the good news is that Aussie squire love them. In hindsight it was hardly surprising; Charlie Brewer was a Hall of Fame awarded mover and shaker in the development of finesse fishing globally, and here we were refining finesse techniques for Aussie squire.
Another lure that looks like it should produce the goods for finessing squire is the Berkley Gulp 6” Sandworm. I haven’t tried the Sandworms in Moreton Bay yet but I’ve heard they work well in Western Australia for bream.
As far as rigging skinny lures goes, jigheads with wire keepers seem best rather than jigheads with thick collars that tend to tear and destroy skinny plastics. I also like the flat heads that are on the market; they certainly help the lure to glide, and a dab of superglue will keep the plastic on the hook.
A very viable alternative is to Texas rig the lures. Use either a pegged or free running steel bullet weight as detailed in my Pumicestone Passage article in the December 2005 issue of QFM.
We like to throw these 4” skinny worms with the light 1/16oz jigheads on our premium bream spinning outfits, although sometimes we go up just a little in the rod’s line class rating and/or the reel size. The best lines are Platypus Superbraids in the 4lb to 8lb bracket, 4lb for super finesse and 8lb for when the fish are fairly active and don’t quite need the full finesse package.
For a budget outfit, I recommend a Pflueger Trion combo with a Trion GX-7 4735G (for 4lb braid) or a GX-7 4740G spinning reel (for 8lb braid). For a matching rod the lighter reel gets coupled to a Pflueger Trion PTSPAB4770-1LFT spin stick and the ‘8lb braid’ stick in the quiver is a PTSP 4770-1MFT. Both rods are 2.1m long, I like them like that.
Stepping up to the next level, performance-wise, I like the Pflueger Medalist combo, consisting of a Medalist 6035 or 6040 ten stainless steel ball bearing spinning reel married to the new 2.1m Medalist graphite spin rod.
Coming up: rigs and lure varieties.
1. On a day when the smaller fish were just bumping the bigger soft plastics, a Slider 4” flat tail worm took a full bag limit of squire. Amongst a few boats that morning, downsizing the lure meant the difference between going home with a feed or going home with nothing at all.
2. Troy Jones caught this fish on a 5” Gambler straight tail Super Stud shad. Smaller squire usually fold the lure when they inhale it and most days this is what a hook-up will look like, but when the fish are finicky and you get a few missed hook-ups, skinny plastics can be your best bet.
3. When the fish aren’t wolfing down the big lures, try offering them a smaller bite-sized morsel like this 3” Slider T-Tail.Reads: 3122