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DEEP WATER SNAPPER ON PLASTICS

Declan Williams

Chasing big snapper offshore in deep water is awesome fun. Bail arm open, braid feeding out as the jighead and plastic plummet into the dark blue water... that is until the line speeds up, you flick the bail arm over and all hell breaks loose as that big red realises it's hooked, the solid head shakes start and the fish starts powering down toward the wire weed. Big snapper really are a trophy fish in Australia and plastics are an extremely effective method of targeting them, let's have a look at what has worked for us when targeting snapper on plastics in deep water.

When chasing snapper in deep water the sounder is your best friend and we generally target ledges, wire weed and bait patches. We have been successful targeting snapper in water depths from 40-140m, but focus most of our attention around the 80-90m mark. Fishing in these depth demands the use of reasonable quality gear, especially when by-catch may include kingfish, amberjack and cobia.

In up to about 90m of water we fish 30lb braid on 5000-6000 size spinning reels and 20-40lb rods. When fishing beyond 90m we up the braid to 50lb spooled on an 8000-10000 size spinning reel and fished through a 30-50lb rod. Fish in this depth aren't leader shy, so by fishing 80lb leader it makes it easier and safer when handling kingies and other fish off the leader and also provides some insurance when the snapper head for the wire weed.

Plastic and jighead selection is important as snapper will generally rise to a slowly falling plastic and eat it on the drop. The lighter the jighead the better and jighead selection will often be dictated by depth, wind and current. In 40m we commonly start with a TT Lures HeadlockZ HD jighead in 3/4oz 7/0, but have had a couple of magic days when the weather has glassed out and the current has been light enough for us to float our plastics down on 1/2oz jigheads. As you step into deeper water, a TT lures Tournament Series XHD (Extra Heavy Duty) jighead with an SL12 hook is perfect. A good starting point is 2oz in the 80-90m depth range and 4oz once you get beyond 120m.

Soft plastics that have been doing the job for us include the ZMan 5" Scented Jerk ShadZ, which has been dynamite from the shallows through to about 60m and then we tend to step up to the ZMan 7" Scented Jerk ShadZ and ZMan 8" StreakZ XL, which is a monster jerkbait in deeper water. These ZMan plastics are constructed from ElaZtech making them super-soft and flexible with a great action, while also being 10X tougher than a standard soft plastic, making them perfect for the offshore environment as they stand up to the pickers, toothy critters and the power of big snapper.

When fishing around the 40m mark we allow the lure to sink to the bottom, if it makes it that far, give the lure a few hops, wind it up 15m, pause and drop it back. Once it starts to get too far from the boat we retrieve it rapidly with a few pauses, just in case there is a hungry kingfish in the area. In 80-90m we drop the lure to the bottom, again if a snapper doesn't smash it on the drop, give it a few flicks and work it up 20-30m, allow it to drop back down and repeat. Again once the lure is too far from the boat retrieve it rapidly with a few pauses.

If you are continually being harassed by small pearlies and juvenile species keep the lure off the bottom. In 120m of water use a similar technique to when fishing 80-90m, but remember in this depth of water it is crucial that you use your sounder and work the lure through the bait and snapper... it's a long way down and back up again, especially if you keep missing the fish!

We drift when fishing plastics and it's important to pay attention to your line as the plastic sinks. If the line stops, twitches or takes off it could be game on. Flick the bail arm over, wind and strike. If there is no weight, pause the lure as sometimes the fish will come back. If not allow the lure to continue its descent.

By-catch when fishing deep water plastics may include kingies, amberjack, pearl perch, sweetlip and cobia. Peak bite times are generally dawn and dusk and remember to keep an eye out for mid-water bait balls as these attract snapper and a range of other species.

Chasing snapper on plastics in deep water is great fun and extremely effective. There is also plenty of epic by-catch and memorable moments including dolphins, flying fish and multiple hook-ups. On a recent mission targeting deep water snapper on plastics we were driving over a show on the sounder 10m down in 80m that we believed to be kingfish that were balling bait to the surface. We dropped our plastics and were met with a triple hook-up of kingfish... absolute mayhem! Our jaws dropped as five Spanish mackerel around the 25-30kg mark leapt from the water with fusiliers in their mouths! Stunned we all just looked at each other in disbelief and then simultaneously commenced a crazy dance to try and shake the kingies off our plastics so that we could get a shot at the Spaniards... to no avail... the jigheads held firm so no mackerel for us, but still a triple hook-up on solid yellowtail kingfish isn't bad. We then went on to have a hot snapper session on fish up to 6kg, along with kingies, amberjack, cobia and pearl perch, with the ZMan StreakZ XL 8", in Glow, Bubble Gum and Opening Night colours doing the job.

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