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Drifting and dragging
  |  First Published: June 2006




Snapper are one of the best eating fish and these days I find I can’t get enough of them.

Part of their attraction is that they can be caught by many means throughout Moreton Bay, including a fair way up the two big watercourses that run into the Bay – the Brisbane River and Pumicestone Passage. These two waterways, along with the many spots along the Moreton Bay foreshores make a feed of squire accessible to 12’ dinghy fishers.

Squire fishing has become the latest fashion and it seems everybody with a boat can put a squire on the table. It’s not only the dinghy crew that are amongst the action – the sea kayak and stealth crowd are boasting their fair share too. Just recently we’ve even seen a few PWC (Personal Water Craft) riders with rod holders affixed and crushed ice in the seat/cooler out there catching a snack of squire.

One of the basic methods is to simply drift across rubble flats in the Bribie Passage, Brisbane River or along the foreshores of Moreton Bay in water between 2.5m and 7m. When the snapper are scattered across these rubbly-bottomed areas, a lazy drift across the spot will have your soft plastic in the zone and in the path of many fish.

You can opt to cast ahead of the boat to present your lure to the fish, or you can drag your lure behind the boat. Casting ahead is necessary when the fish aren’t moving around, which may be the case when they are holding on structure or slowly fossicking on the bottom. But when the squire are moving quickly over the rubble bottoms chasing baitfish, they are just as likely to angle in from the side and swim behind your drifting boat without ever being spooked. In such a scenario they can be easily caught by dragging a soft plastic behind the boat. Dragging is a simple and very effective strategy.

LURES

My plastics box for drifting for snapper is weird compared with most Aussie snapper plastic boxes.

I use the standard 4” flat tail Slider worms as well as the Reaction Innovations 4.95” Flirt, but then it gets a little out there. My favourite soft plastic for snapper is a 4” American lizard, and close behind are a variety of flat crawfish soft plastics (but not the more realistic round-bodied ones that squire can’t get into their mouths). It doesn’t seem to matter whether you use bright colors or naturals, we’ve caught fish on them all.

I know it’s a little weird, but I think that it’s the little curly tail legs on the lizards that add that extra attraction to the fish. Lizards suit this technique and are a great dragging lure for squire. Be brave and give these weird and wonderful creatures a try!

On slow days I’ve found that a spray of Spike-It Crawfish scent or either clear or orange Dip ‘n’ Glo can make all the difference. It is very common for your catch rate to increase after you’ve treated your lure to some scent.

JIGHEADS

There are a few exposed hook jigheads that I like to use for squire.

The standout performers are the Nitro jigheads. Something about them makes them perfect for the technique used when drifting, and I reckon it’s the fine detail of their shape which reduces the chances of them snagging up. The wide range of weights that they offer is also very important. Typically we use the 2-5g sizes with small hooks. I recommend that you buy a bunch of them and buy the originals.

Other jigheads that I’ve used with success are the Slider flat jighead SH18Us. They’re great jigheads, I just wish that they came in array of weights. Anyway, their approximate 4g weight is just about perfect for 90% of drifting situations.

Another jighead style, new to the world scene, is the Reaction Innovations Screwed Up jighead. My testing shows that it overcomes many of the problems that I’ve encountered when fishing weedless jigheads for squire. These Screwed Up jigheads are rated as the best jigheads for achieving solid hook-ups and staying connected when rigging weedless behind the jighead.

OUTFIT

A set up I love to use for squire is a bream spin outfit. A standard/middle power outfit is fine, although lighter models in the bream spin spectrum have their limitations. Just remember that the standard bream spin outfit is designed for catching fish to around the 30cm mark, whereas the squire rod will hopefully see a lot of fish in the 40-45cm bracket. With this in mind, a slightly heavier bream rod is best.

The reel is spooled with either 2lb or 4lb Platypus Super Braid, and the leader is premium quality Japanese fluorocarbon of between 6lb and 12lb. I use the lighter option for those very clear conditions and the heavier leader for stained, dirty water or even night fishing.

Another outfit to use is the estuary Alvey sidecast outfit that yourself or one of your forebears has in the garage or up in the rafters. With the sidecast and the feel generated because the line goes over your finger, you get the best of both worlds. It’s direct feel, the same goal that you pursue with graphite rods and braided lines.

TECHNIQUES

The methods to apply when dragging for squire are simple.

Plenty of people catch squire by putting their mind in neutral, sitting the outfit in a rod holder and drifting the boat across the rubble flats with the jighead bumping along the bottom and the 4” soft plastic wiggling tantalisingly behind.

If you want to take it to the next step, hold the rod. You’ll feel the bites and be able to react quicker if a big fish hits. If you hook a big one you’ll most likely need to do some of that tricky stuff to manoeuvre it away from submerged hazards… and you’ll probably need to do it fast!

The ultimate evolution of the dragging technique is to choose the lightest jighead possible, just enough to get your lure to the bottom. Your weight can be so light that sometimes you may need to do a little backwinding, or even freespooling, to get your lure to touch the rubble bottom.

When the lure does touch the bottom, let it kiss the stones a couple of times before gently lifting or flicking it off the bottom. This can attract the fish and get them to strike, plus it keeps your lure just above the rocky, shelly seabed, which reduces the chances of you snagging up and also minimises the wear and tear on your leader.

After the short hop, let your lure kiss the stones again, and continue the lifting sequence each time your lure touches down on the seabed. Kissing the stones lets you know where your lure is, so that you know that it is right in the strike zone. It’s percentage game – keep your lure in the strike zone for the maximum amount of time (without losing time getting snagged up and re-rigging) and you’ll maximise your exposure to the fish swimming past with their eyes on the bottom looking for a feed. This should increase the number of bites that you get.

You’ll find that it pays to have a good variety of jighead weights to work with, say, from 2g to 5g. Too heavy and you’ll get snagged, too light and you won’t kiss the bottom often enough. Each new day on the water demands some fine tuning to get the right jighead weight tuned into your rig relative to water depth, plus wind and current effects on your drift rate.

Drifting and dragging may also be two popular car sports, but they are also a great way to put a feed of one of Southeast Queensland’s best tasting fish on the table, fresh from the water.

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