By Alex Ciccozzi | 11 February 2019
MODERN technology has undoubtedly offered the angling scene its fair share of innovations capable of improving success rates for certain target species. And whilst it’s fantastic to have this type of information and equipment available at our fingertips, sometimes these advancements can pose more of a headache than a blessing, particularly for the more novice fisho looking to broaden his or her horizons.
I speak in reference to some of the more old-school bait species such as snapper, or big reds as they’re commonly known. Rewind the clock a few years and the only plausible method of chasing these fish was by pumping a berley trail at anchor and soaking a few baits below. In hindsight this was a fairly limited technique with little wriggle room in the way of advancements, but nonetheless it was simple to execute and most importantly produced results.
Fast forward to the present day and all of a sudden we are faced with a plethora of options for chasing reds beyond the standard bait fishing application. Literally any technique from micro jigging through to downrigging hardbody lures is now capable of producing big snapper action. The scene is ever-evolving and someone starting out on snapper for the first time could be excused for getting a little confused knowing where exactly to begin. This may even apply to traditional bait fishos keen to expand their repertoire and dabble with some artificial alternatives.
The objective of being well rehearsed in a variety of options to target snapper with is certainly one worth pursuing however.
These fish are capable of frequent mood swings and can regularly changing bite preference throughout a session often requiring techniques to be mixed up for a better chance at success. This has been further highlighted to me over the years when fishing alongside commercial boats, and it never ceases to amaze me how sometimes our lures are knocking over fish and the pros aren’t even getting a look in. Then, almost as if a switch was flicked, the fish would turn onto baits and our lures were suddenly out of favour. Placing all of your eggs in one basket with a single angling style results in a ceiling effect that essentially limits what could potentially have been a session to remember.
Dedicated snapper tackle will bring more fish to the net.
Designed with purpose
Unfortunately there’s no “one shoe fits all” criteria for chasing snapper with a range of techniques and, as I’ll endeavour to explain, the best chance of multi-pronged success is to strip it all down and understand the key fundamentals that make each technique successful in its own right. This in turn will no doubt lead to better success rates when transitioning between the techniques available to anglers on today’s snapper fishing scene.
Dedicated tackle is one of the key points to consider when taking a step back in order to understand the ins and outs. Tackle is purposely designed for what it is intended to do and fishing rods in particular play an important role here. The correct rod for the job is paramount to provide comfort with certain techniques or actions when working snapper lures or baits and this will have a flow on effect for persistence and consequently better results. This is even more important for newbies trying their hand at a different style as the temptation to resort back to tried and tested techniques will always exist until the code is unlocked. But with the right gear for the job things become a hell of a lot more comfortable and the confidence can quickly gain momentum.
Modern gear and techniques can push the odds in your favour.
So what makes one rod more suited than another to certain snapper fishing styles? Well within this realm you can essentially split it up into three different sub categories. Micro jigging is the first and these relatively short graphite rods are designed with a parabolic action capable of working lures but they also fold away nicely upon hook up to exert some pressure on the fish. Recommended jig weight rating of the rod is important to acknowledge here as this will significantly affect the ability to work jigs correctly. Snapper micro jigging exploits generally command a jig weight of around 40-70 g so a broad rating somewhere around this mark should place you in the ball park within respect to this being very well scenario dependant. Micro jigging rods generally have a longer butt section which allows them to be tucked under the armpit for comfort when working these jigs in a vertical manner. This renders them inappropriate to transition over to other artificial snapper techniques such as soft plastic fishing for instance as the shorter nature and longer butt section makes it difficult to cast and work these lures back to the boat.
In contrast, traditional snapper soft plastic or lure casting rods are much longer at around 7 ft or thereabouts and rather than a parabolic action they are what you would consider a fast taper blank. This allows the rod to remain somewhat stiffer through the mid-section and most of the action is around the tip or upper section in order to flick and work lures well. Their graphite composition also assists with this. What makes a true soft plastic rod more comfortable for this style of fishing is the shorter butt section which helps balance the rod with the momentum exerted when flicking or jerking soft plastics through the snapper strike zone. Rod rating should be suited to fish and lure size, but as a general rule of thumb something around 3-7 kg is a good starting point and this will easily account for some quality sized reds.
What about bait?
Bait fishing on the other hand is a slightly different ball game and probably one where you can get away with crossing over rods designed for other uses. I must admit I’ll commonly double up both my soft plastic snapper gear and lighter micro jigging outfits for bait fishing use, but only because we are fishing relatively unweighted in shallow water so the rods are transferrable. Using circle hooks is my preferred fishing method and a lightly rated rod around 3-5 kg will flex over nicely to help set the hook when a fish grabs the bait. In saying this however, having a well set drag is more pivotal in setting the hook rather than rod choice in my opinion when fishing in this manner. If adding a few ounces of lead or fishing in deeper water then the rod rating will typically need to be stepped up to handle the extra weight required. I’ll happily fish as heavy as a pe 3-5 outfit at times when tides are racing in deep offshore water and whilst this may be considered overkill for your average sized red it is a necessity to get 8 oz or more of lead down and back up again from the bottom. As far as fibreglass rods go they also work well when for snapper bait fishing needs, especially for beginners, but they don’t double up well for working lures due to their lack of crispness.
The reel debate
Choosing an appropriate reel is equally as important for multi-pronged snapper success. Overhead or baitcast versions compared to traditional threadline reels is often at the crux of discussion and consequently the decision making process. Both have their own pros and cons. Application is relatively simple however and spin reels will generally encompass all of your snapper needs regardless of technique. The main decision lies simply around finding the right size and specs to suit your local snapper situation and also what you’re comfortable in using. For me a spin reel around the 3000-4000 size is a great all-rounder and will cover most snapper bases. Don’t be frightened by small reels of this nature as line capacity isn’t a concern when chasing these fish. Old school bait fishos might also be familiar with baitrunner spin reels. In preference to them standard spin reels with an appropriately set drag on a quality graphite rod will get the job done, and in essence it is a much more versatile outfit.
Two styles of overhead predominate, a larger jigging model or a smaller baitcast reel, and the decision essentially comes down to the style of snapper fishing you’re intending to use it for.
Baitcast reels are undeniably better suited to soft plastic work due to their less bulky appearance, balance on the rod and ability to assist with casting. They can also be translated across to light bait fishing methods and I’ve been having some good snapper success fishing this way by feeding down unweighted baits. There’s even a few models appearing on the market with inbuilt ratchets, further enhancing their appeal to bait fishos.
Traditional overhead jigging style reels are a little different in comparison and generally come without a level-wind system. This allows the angler to perform a more clinical and efficient vertical jigging action and with larger drags and spool capacities they are chosen in preference over baitcast reels for deep water bait or jigging work.
Back to basics
Anglers are blessed with a plethora of technological advancements and success in adopting these techniques comes down to understanding the key fundamentals involved.
Now there’s a certainly a lot more detailed information to delve into, but stripping it all back to basics and applying the right gear is the first starting point required to help get the ball rolling.
This isn’t just aimed at complete beginners on the scene but also the more seasoned bait fisho. The results are there to warrant persistence and once the various codes are unlocked you’ll find that versatile snapper success is within reach.