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Snapper On Bait: The Long Floater
  |  First Published: June 2009



As snapper fishers go, Brisbane-based offshore anglers Troy Dixon and Kord Luckus have legendary reputations amongst both the competition set and recreational anglers who dream of big reds out from Brisbane’s southern offshore access.

Troy and Kord have been regular fishing friends since their school days. For an occasional snapper bait fisho like myself, a day out on the reefs east of the South Passage Bar under their tutelage presents as a golden opportunity and I’ve certainly learnt a few things.

As a lure fishing writer, it is quite a serious change of pace for me to soak a bait in south east Queensland. As best as I can recollect my first trip with them a couple of years ago was the first time I’d soaked a bait offshore for around seven consecutive winters.

On my first trip with them under their guidance, I dropped my bait over the side and as it wafted slowly down under the weight of a number four ball sinker I felt the pace begin to quicken. Line started peeling off my overhead reel and I was sure it was being pulled off quicker than the sinker and current could ever achieve. Clicking the reel into gear, my long rod bucked down and the head bumping started right from the outset.

From my soft plastic experience I knew it was a snapper and by the bend in the rod and the weight it certainly felt like a good one. There are a number of benchmarks in snapper fishing and the most basic of them is to catch a fish greater than 4.5kg. I’d never caught one on bait and with this fish showing all the right potential I was certainly excited and enjoying the fight.

Down deep I saw a flash of the right colour and of the perfect size to be my new PB bait-caught snapper. When my snapper was in the net I was a happy girl. The knobby pushed the needle around and down to the scale’s 5kg limit – it had bottomed out! A snapper of this size wouldn’t necessarily be a milestone to many more-seasoned snapper anglers but it made me happy and proved that the boys have big snapper on a string.

I know Troy and Kord catch more than their fair share of fish twice the size of mine, but for me I was happy to catch a good one on bait after catching them on plastics for years. I mused that in the modern era there are probably anglers out there who’ve caught all their big snapper on soft plastics and never experienced the catch on bait. If you’re one of those people then Troy and Kord’s bait techniques are bound to come in handy

Prime Baits

On the way out, after clearing the South Passage Bar, the block of frozen WA blue pilchards hit the bucket of seawater to thaw. Also we attacked the bait reefs with Sure Catch multihook bait jigs in order to target live yakka and slimy mackerel for the livewell.

Berley or Not?

On my trips with them, Troy and Kord haven’t used berley. They hunt big fish by locating them and bait schools around known spots with their sounder. Once they’ve located the fish, they’ll then float baits down to them looking for a bite.

Long Rods

The boys’ technique is somewhat similar to the flylining baitfishing techniques that I learned a few years ago on the long range boats out of San Diego, Southern California, to target yellowtail kingfish and schooling yellowfin tuna.

With Kord being an influential tackle developer and tester with Wilsons, he is a rod designer for the Wilsons Live Fibre range, he’s taken the traditional 2.1m M10 style rod and lengthened it to 8’6” in the best of flylining tradition. Known as floatlining in South East Queensland, the technique uses long rods for better line control and their ability to steer the fish. In the snapper’s case, the long rods cushion the fish’s runs, lifts their heads up and steers them away from the bottom when you lean back to set the hook.

These rods are longer than what most would consider a snapper rod. Sure, I have a broomstick bottom basher as stiff as a board and around 1.65m long and I also have a 2.1m long M10, but after fishing with Troy and Kord I made sure I added a 2.5m Live Fibre Texalium ZWS80MJT 10-20kg Overhead to my offshore baitfishing kit.

As I’ve often written before, a technique is part of a system – and the system includes the purpose-designed and built rod that is part of the ‘long floater’ outfit.

Reels

Penn Senators have long been the favoured star drag overheads for decades for offshore baitfishing, which is what I tend to use. The boys also use these, as well as the Shimano Torium and Trinidad stablemates.

Line

I have friends who use braided lines for snapper baitfishing, but Troy and Kord both favour low stretch monofilament type lines of between 25lb and 50lb. The 30lb would be a good starting point for anyone setting up their first outfit. Once again, it is all about the system. In some circumstances I may use braid, but for this system, with this technique, over this rod, it is 30lb mono that is my first choice.

Rig

The hooks are tied direct to the monofilament main line. Either single or two-gang rig, with a small ball sinker free-running to the hook.

For the single hooks, use live yakkas and slimies presented on a 7/0 Mustad Big Gun (model no. 10829NPBLN).

When using ganged doubles, I run with WA blue pilchards rigged on ganged 7766 Mustad Tarpon hooks size 6/0 to 7/0, depending on the size and thickness of the pilchards. Using the wider gaped hooks means that you don’t have to crush the head and stomach areas of the bait; hence the bait will then stay on the hooks for longer.

An alternative to the 7766 hooks is to use the Mustad Big Guns for ganging. Likewise, if you can’t get high quality pilchards then strips of freshly caught mac tuna is just as effective

Boat Handling

Troy runs a 19’ Haines Hunter runabout with a high canopy so that the crew can stand up with full headroom. The runabout seats have been removed, and replaced with a high quality esky, and the floor rebuilt.

Once out over the deepwater offshore reefs, after finding the fish on the sounder, Troy moves up-drift using the drift line shown by the GPS. Once set for the drift, the engine is stopped and the boat is allowed to float back past the target spot while the anglers onboard freespool their sinkers over the side, wafting their baits down to the bottom.

Technique

This is a deepwater technique; anglers fish for suspended fish about two thirds of the way to the bottom. The aim, says Kord, is to never get your livie or pilchard to the bottom – the slower it wafts down the better. And if the bait never gets there because the snapper keep intercepting it, then all the better!

Flylining and Floatlining

I don’t want to confuse the two techniques, so here is a brief description of both.

Flylining, as practiced to pelagic fishing, commonly uses no weights; just a hook and live bait. Once the cast is made the reel is kept in freespool but the line is released by hand about a foot or two at a time.

When floatlining, sinkers are used to get the bait deeper below the boat. Dead or live baits are freespooled down through the water column with the lightest thumb tension on the spool to stop overruns. The weight chosen is just enough to get the bait wafting slowly downwards. Floatlining will use a ball sinker rather than the heavy snapper lead approach of bottom bashing.

A flylining rod from the USA will have a lighter tip suited to unweighted livies, whereas Kord’s floater rods handle the sinkers and the need to turn a fish that you’ve hooked down deep.

I use my flylining rod when conditions involve a super slow drift and lighter 20lb line. When using 30-50lb line I use a Live Fibre Texalium model ZWS80MJT 10-20kg Overhead, the same as Kord uses.

The rods, the reel, the line, the hooks, the bait, and the technique; plus the GPS and sounder – they are all part of this very successful system.

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