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Inshore Snapper on Plastics

Will Lee

In the last decade finesse fishing with soft plastics has shone in the spotlight, particularly for bream. The trend has now evolved into a lot of different species and inshore snapper is definitely high on the list for light tackle enthusiasts. Snapper hit hard, grow large, are readily available, taste good and are a perfect to target on lures! Let's take a look at how to catch this iconic sports fish.

Having multiple rod and reel outfits on board when chasing inshore snapper is certainly an advantage as bite periods generally come in short stints and there is nothing more frustrating than having to retie during a hot bite. Fish size and the size of the soft plastics used differ from day to day, so having a range of different rods will help match your quarry.





Spin 7ft 2-4kg




Spin 7ft 3-6kg




Spin 7ft 5-8kg




High quality fluorocarbon leader with good abrasion resistance and knot strength is very important when chasing snapper. Six feet of leader material is perfect in most conditions but a slightly longer leader can help get a bite in ultra-clear water and calm conditions. To attach your fluorocarbon leader to braid, 'double uni' or 'improved albright' knots are both quick to tie and if you search for these knots on You Tube you will find how to videos.

Soft Plastics
Grub Tails - Plastics like the ZMan 2.5" GrubZ and ZMan 3.5" GrubZ are a very user friendly plastic for Snapper. This tail design works at ultra-slow speeds and starts to effectively fish from the time the plastic lands in the water. Grub tails made from the ZMan Elaztech, buoyant material are a great option when fishing a 'lift and drop' technique - when paused on the bottom, the tail will float up and move with the slightest bit of current or water movement.

Jerk Baits - ZMan do a range of 'Jerk Bait' style soft plastics, ranging from the tiny 3.75" StreakZ right up to the big ZMan 8" StreakZ XL. The ZMan 3.75" StreakZ and ZMan 5" Scented Jerk ShadZ are a great size for chasing inshore snapper, where the bait tends to be smaller. Snapper just love eating soft plastics on 'the drop' (when the plastic is sinking) and jerk bait style plastics when rigged dead straight on a light jighead have a gliding action that big snapper can't resist.

Paddle Tails - With a fish shaped body and a 'paddle tail', plastics like the ZMan 3" MinnowZ and ZMan 4" PaddlerZ or the larger 5" version have a super lively action and are a versatile option when targeting snapper in shallow water.

Jighead Selection
It pays to carry a wide variety of jigheads when fishing for snapper. Large snapper are regularly caught by bait fisherman using a technique called 'float lining', which involves using a lightly weighted sinker and large bait such as a slimy mackerel or pilchard. A similar technique can be used when targeting snapper with soft plastics, by keeping your jighead ultralight and allowing your soft plastic to naturally fall through the top half of the water column. This is a deadly technique for catching better than 'average quality' snapper on plastics.

If it is table fish that you're after, using a heavier jighead will get you to the bottom quicker which is generally where you'll find the majority of smaller fish.

It is also very important to match your jighead hook size to your soft plastic. As a general rule, the shank of the hook excluding the weight should be about a third of the length of your chosen soft plastic.   

The TT Lures Switchblade and Ghostblade are fantastic lures for chasing snapper when the fish are widely dispersed. Blades cast a long way and can be fished a little quicker than a soft plastic. The most effective way of fishing blades for snapper is by throwing them out on a long cast, allowing them to sink to the bottom or close to the bottom and then with two or three quick rips of the rod tip get the blade moving, before pausing for five to ten seconds. It's normally on the pause, when the blade is fluttering back down to the seabed like a wounded baitfish, that a snapper will engulf it so watch your slack line for any takes.

Snapper are a fish that respond well to burley when targeting them with baits so it makes sense to add some attractant to your lure. Adding some Pro-Cure Super Gel to your blade or soft plastic can make the difference between landing a few fish and missing out entirely, particularly if the water is clear and the conditions are calm. A lot of the ZMan soft plastics have a 'belly slot' which is just perfect for inserting a good dollop of smelly stuff.

First light is a prime time to target snapper and they will generally bite well for the first half hour of light, once the sun hits the horizon. It pays to be at your location early to have the boat positioned and ready to go for this peak bite period.

Dusk is also a great time for snapper. One advantage to an afternoon snapper session is that you can allow yourself time to sound around the area and get set for the last hour of light when snapper tend to fire up.

Where to find Snapper
Snapper are found right around the bottom half of the Australian Seaboard and their habitat can differ slightly from region to region. Predominately snapper can be found around reef, rocky bottom or headlands.

Artificial Reefs and boat wrecks are fantastic structure for holding snapper. Locate schools of bait on your sounder when searching around these structures and you will generally be in with a good shot of bagging a few.

Thankfully, state governments have seen the long term value of the snapper fisheries and in some cases increased size and bag limits to ensure this great fishery will continue. Next time you're heading out to chase some reds, make sure you've packed your ZMan plastics, TT blades and jigheads and some Pro-Cure won't be disappointed!

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