Catching snapper on soft plastics has come along in great leaps and bounds over the past couple of years. The techniques have changed dramatically, along with the tackle and braided lines that support this method of fishing. Therefore lightweight set-ups have become extremely popular amongst most fishermen nowadays, particularly the lure addicts. It’s no wonder that we choose these types of outfits though; one simply can’t imagine casting soft plastics around all day with a big heavy spin reel clamped to an even heavier glass rod! We’re all a bit more fragile these days.
Generally, I’ll have a backpack full of jig heads and softies that I throw in as well, but recently I decided to change things up a little bit. Using the same rod and reel set up that I would when flicking around larger Squidgies, I decided to drag a few hard bodied lures along with the Cannon Digi-Troll 5 downrigger we had recently installed on the Bar Crusher 780HT.
I had my partner in tow so we decided to load the boat up and head out to a couple of inshore grounds we knew would hold some nice pan-sized snapper. They weren’t thick by any means, but we were hopeful of catching enough fish to satisfy our afternoon’s intentions.
A short ride out saw the sounder light up with an abundance of bait, which is always a good sign when lure fishing for snapper. The baitfish usually ball up, which makes finding snapper that little bit easier, as they often hang pretty close to their dinner.
I wasted no time and set up the downrigger. The next step was to select a lure that would ‘match the hatch’. A lot of slimy mackerel and chow, or yakka, are about at this time of the year so I wanted something similar with nice, shiny sides. The 123mm World Stage Silent Assassins in Red Head and Natural Bait colour seemed a perfect fit. They only dive to depths of around 1 metre, which was exactly what I was after.
I see a lot of folk who downrig for snapper using deep diving lures, but when you’re fishing bottom that doesn’t stand up too high or have too much fluctuation in depth, in my opinion, a shallow diver is certainly the way to go. Using a shallow diver has some advantages. There’ll be less of a load on the rubber bands that are attached to your braided line and held on to by the clips on the down rigger ball, and there’s generally a lot more versatility in lure selection.
Now that we’ve selected the lure for the situation, all you are left to do is cast your lure about 30 or 40 feet out behind the boat, grab your mainline and connect the rubber band with two half hitches. Once this is set up, you can connect the rubber band to the clip and proceed to lower the downrigger ball to the right depth. Remember to release the drag on your reel here to avoid busting your rod as you watch the downrigger ball drop down in to the depths.
When trolling for snapper, I sit on about 2 knots, which is as slow as I can go whilst in gear. You’ll be surprised at how much ground you can cover in a short period of time.
The rod and reel selection is easy; whatever you’d use when throwing plastics around will be fine. I use two spinning set ups – a Shimano T-Curve T Series 701 snap rod with a Shimano 4000FE Stella reel loaded with 15lb PowerPro braid. The other combo is a G Loomis GL2 851M ESP rod with a Shimano 2500FG Sustain reel loaded with 8lb PowerPro Bite Motion braid. Leader for down rigging should be around 20 to 30lb and something reliable like Jinkai or Ocea Leader. Be sure to load the rod up once it’s in the rod holder and when the downrigger ball and lure are in place, as you don’t want any slack line, especially whilst trolling.
Back to the fishing. Both my partner and I had only been downrigging for about two minutes before the first strike on the Silent Assassin hard body. A loud rattle in the rod holder and heavy buckling of the rod was a sure sign of a solid connection to a nice fish. Shortly after, a snapper of around 4kg was boated and we were pretty happy with our efforts – or lack of effort, so to speak. It’s certainly an easy way to fish and handy if the rain is about and you don’t feel like getting soaked. We managed another half a dozen pan-sized snapper before calling it an arvo’. There’s nothing better than heading back in with a fresh feed of snapper on ice.
I couldn’t resist the perfect weather and went back out on a solo mission the following day to a ground a bit further out. I wanted to get into some of the bigger fish if I could. I pulled up when I was about 200 feet away from the drop, placed a deep diving Classic Dr Evil lure on and sent the downrigger on its way. After trolling for about 300 feet, the sounder lit right up and a huge school of fish came in to view.
It was only a matter of time, and as I turned around I saw the rod load up. The rubber band had obviously broken away and the 4000 Stella started howling! A tough battle resulted in a 93cm snapper hitting the deck. I was absolutely over the moon with how things had panned out! Not even five minutes in and a cracking red was already on board!
The next troll produced a mirror to the scenario that I just explained; 10 minutes of fishing and I had two big reds on board. It doesn’t happen like that too often; let me assure you of that.
I guess, in a nutshell, that I learnt a fair bit that day. No matter what fish you target, there’s always a way to mix things up a little and to challenge your own fishing abilities. It’s not always about ‘bagging out’ and using bait and berley to attract the fish to you. It pays to think outside of the square. There’s no doubt though, that the most important thing is that you’ve enjoyed your time on the water and that you’ve managed to find another way to utilise all of those lures.