Fishing for snapper can sometimes be a catch 22 – a tough decision between targeting a full bag of small snapper (squire) to fry whole in a pan or going for one trophy knobbly to feed the whole family.
Even if everyone on board decides pan-fried snapper should be on their menu, then it’s not quite as simple as going out to quickly catch four or five squire each, then move on to target something else. When one person on board has reached their bag limit of snapper, but another angler on the boat is yet to put one in his esky, precious time on the water is wasted.
Similarly to the pro fishos, who provide restaurants with 40 freshly caught pan-sized snapper around 40cm on any given day, we need a sure-fire technique so the ‘catching-dinner’ part of the day is dealt with quickly to leave more time to hunt the big stuff.
When fishing for squire, instead of targeting suspended fish, we target schools holding very close to the bottom, just like the pros.
The technique my family has used for many years is to combine the tried and true bottom basher snapper lead technique with some modern tweaks like braided line and circle hooks.
We first tried circle style hooks for bottom bashing around eight years ago and were very impressed by the positive outcomes. In particular fish were easier to hook and they stayed hooked all the way to the boat.
In fact we found by sticking the rod in the rod holder squire and sweetlip would hook themselves and it reduced the skill level required to set the hook.
There are also many benefits to using braid. For one braid affords us greater feel and allows us to use lighter snapper sinkers because the line is thinner and therefore less affected by water drag. Both of these factors combine to allow us feel the bites better and know if we have a hooked a fish.
Using lighter sinkers and lines with better feel will reduce embarrassing moments when you try to set the hook on a fish, only to find it was your heavy sinker you could feel. Braid also allows you to stay down in the strike zone until you are sure you have a fish on, which reduces lost time from winding in 100m of line to check your bait and having to then drop it back down again.
My squire outfits haven’t really changed in 20 years. One outfit is an Ugly Stik about 7’ long matched to an overhead star drag reel of Penn Senator 4/0 to 6/0 size and loaded with 60lb braid. In this case the line’s breaking strain is overkill. I’ve chosen this line because I like the thicker diameter to handle.
To the braid I tie a fluoro carbon leader of generally 40lb breaking strain. An overhand knot forms a loop on the bottom where the snapper lead is linked. I’ll tie one or two droppers, using a dropper knot, into the trace above the sinker, so I can loop either one or two hooks onto the line. Choose locations to use this technique carefully, as some places only allow you to fish with one hook.
When the rules permit fishing with two hooks, on the second hook I often rig a soft plastic, either a nose-hooked swim tail shad or a 4” Assassin Curl Tail,
My second bottom basher squire outfit is an Alvey 9” snapper reel matched to a 5-6’ solid glass rod – don’t laugh, some of the best deep jigging sticks are solid glass. It was once common to use 55lb Tortue line on this outfit but these days I use low stretch mono around 40lb.
To catch the fish, the technique is pretty simple. Freespool the snapper lead to the bottom and once it gets there, check the spool to stop overruns. Depending on the current flow and the activity level of the fish you can fish the reel in freespool. Keep your hand ready to engage the lever or turn the handle – or with an Alvery you maybe back winding.
With the circle hook the theory is you do not strike, rather you let the fish bite until you feel their weight. Once the fish is on, just start winding and steadily swim the fish to the boat and your waiting landing net.
After you catch five snapper, in Queensland, it is then time to go deep jigging or chasing pearl perch or maybe even go home and cook them up.Reads: 2693