If you want to nail a genuine hump-headed trophy snapper on a lure, or even catch numbers of smaller to medium pinkies, then soft plastics are a safe bet and a dependable go-to option.
Using soft plastics for reds has maintained its appeal amongst snapper addicts right around the country. Part of the long-term attraction is the fact that soft plastics are a modular system of heads and tails that can easily be adjusted to fish virtually all depths and current flow situations. The endless colour schemes, sizes and styles also adds to your bag of tricks on those hard bite days. Soft plastics like the Squidgy range also draw a reaction bite out of these aggressive fish, making them potent red catching weapons.
An essential part of going soft for snapper is lure selection, and thankfully there are a host of tried and proven profiles that make great 'workhorses' for long spells of twitching, with plenty of other models to try in between when you feel like mixing it up, or when a change is warranted. The Squidgy Flick Bait in 145mm is a proven profile that was right at the forefront of the snapper on lures craze when it first kicked off, and is just as popular and effective today. Leave no stone unturned during your snapper sessions, with grub, prawn, crab and many other profiles worth a run.
Snapper are aggressive feeders so don't be deterred fishing a large profile plastic, with even a 150mm Whip Bait for example still being an easily consumed meal for a hungry red. This said, you can reduce your lure size if you're missing a lot of strikes from fish, or you require a more stealthy presentation for a hard bite.
A broad rule with snapper soft plastic lure colour is to go bright or glow in low light, then natural patterns during brighter conditions. Snapper when switched-on however won't be overly discerning.
With jighead selection the aim is to have enough weight to keep your plastic in the strike zone and be able to effectively "work" the area by keeping in touch with the bottom, while also allowing you to impart those bite-triggering twitches on the lure. Squidgies Pro Range Weapon Jigheads have you well covered with weights up to 40grm, with the 6/0 hook size recommended for bigger snapper. As the tide slows or you're fishing shallower consider reducing your jighead weight for a more sneaky and natural delivery of your softie.
When it comes to how to fish your soft plastic for snapper it isn't a perfect science. The obvious advantage a lure angler has however over a bait fisho soaking a static bait is that they can cover ground, and find the fish, which is an element to exploit by working your casts around the boat, throwing your lure up-current and bouncing it back, or even free spooling it well behind the boat for a look - don't die wondering! A basic lift and double flick of the lure will bring it to life nicely, while you can also change it up and try more passive presentations, and conversely more aggressive ones as well.
Snapper strikes on soft plastics are no-nonsense affairs, and with the bigger fish it'll feel like you've snagged the bottom, or there's a heavy deadweight on the other end, and this is the time to strike hard and get a solid hook-set. With a constant fighting pressure, and by not going too hard or soft on the fish, you should come out on top.
The range of powerful yet compact Shimano threadlines, and graphite rods to match, makes it possible to use "sporty" tackle for these fish and still land even the biggest of snapper swimming. Such tackle offers the sensitivity to fish soft plastics well, but also increases the pleasure when you're hooked into a running, head-shaking red.
The perfect snapper on soft plastics outfit would be a crisp tipped graphite rod rated 6-10kg, around 6' 6" to 7' 2" in length, with a 4000 or compact 5000 sized threadline running 6-10kg braid. There's a need for this gear to be practical and not overly light, as genuine big reds can take some stopping and if you can't keep pressure on hooked fish they will spit out lures or find reef. By the same token, if you fish too heavy you will lose a lot of sensitivity and also risk tearing hooks out by being too heavy-handed while fighting fish. It's a balancing act.
Rigging wise, Ocea Fluorocarbon in 20-30lb is a great starting point as a leader, with a rod length or two of this connected to your braid with a slim joining knot such as the FG. This trace rating is a great compromise of strength and stealth, but can be increased if needed. Tiagra Mono Leader is a fair substitute when you don't have fluoro' on hand, and is a durable, cost-effective alternative
All in all, catching snapper on soft plastics entails a relatively straightforward system of tackle and technique, but with all the essentials in order, and backed by quality Shimano outfits and terminals, your odds of on-water success will be greatly improved!