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By Tackle Tactics Pro Angler Luke Smith
First published: Aug 28 2018

From bream to barrel size bluefin, Luke loves fishing his home waters of southwest Victoria, while also being up for a trip anywhere around Australia to get stuck into some good fish.

Ep.4 Port Phillip Bay Snapper

After filming a few episodes of Tackle Tactics TV in far north Queensland the call was made to head south and after lining up Pro Anglers Luke Smith, Corey McClaren and Angus James for a few sessions in southern waters, Andrew and I were on a plane heading for Melbourne. Our first session plan was Port Phillip Bay snapper.

Our accommodation fell through for the first night so once off the plane it was grab a hire car and find somewhere to stay that was close to the boat ramp... priorities. The alarm went off and I was straight in the shower while Andrew (cameraman) smashed some cereal for breakfast... however upon exiting the bathroom ready for fishing I was met with a glare and told to go back to bed for an hour because I was still on Queensland time and Andrew had just eaten breakfast at 2.30am...

After the false start we were rolling and happened to bump into Luke on the drive to the ramp, so that made things simpler. Luke is a super-keen fisho, so it was great to catch up at the ramp, share a few quick recent trip reports while we loaded up and run through the plan to catch a snapper. The launch facilities and other facilities around Port Phillip Bay seem first class and I was also immediately blown away by both the size of the waterway and the population that surrounds the bay.

We launched in less than ideal conditions, with twenty plus knot winds and plenty of bumps, however we were just going to take it slow, push out into the centre of the bay and once anchored the boat would protect us from the wind and swell. It was a bit surreal being on the fishing Mecca that is Port Phillip Bay after reading so many articles and watching fishing television for thirty odd years that focussed on the awesome fishing on offer here.

We anchored up on the first show that we came across and the bite was pretty quiet, so we opted to move further into the bay. Baits were pilchard and silver whiting and you'll see in the video that Luke steps us through his rig, a rig that will work for anglers all over the country on a wide range of species.

It was also pretty cool to see the famous snapper rack in action. A rod holder system that lays the rods almost horizontal and allows you to set a spread of baits to cover the water and minimise tangling. The first few times I put a rod in the rack I was a bit paranoid that it would end up in the water, but no issue even when the baits were taken by fish.

With minimal run we were fishing lightly weighted baits on 7' rods and 40 / 4000 size reels. Both the Okuma Azores 702M Rod / Azores 4000 Spin Reel and the Okuma Flexi-TipZ 701SSL Rod / Epixor XT 40 Spin Reel performed well and I'm tipping with the Flexi-TipZ range starting at around $50 these rods are going to become a favourite for anglers putting together a set of combos for the snapper rack. The UFR technology in the tip means a stronger, more durable tip section, with increased lifting power.

After a few small flathead (Yanks) managed to eat some pretty big baits, Luke had a small snapper in the boat. Luke referred to these small snapper as piranhas as they can be in plague proportions at times and chew your baits to pieces. This is where the silver whiting comes into its own as a more durable bait. I copped some grief from the guys when I was stoked to land a double hook up of flathead and asked for a photo. Flathead are awesome and I seem to manage to land one whether fishing the upper reaches of a river for bass or in a hundred metres of water offshore. These were beautiful little fish and although they don't grow to the size of a dusky and can be a pain to snapper fishos, they are tasty and some anglers do choose to target them.

Luke was distributing a bit of berley into the water, in the form of pilchard pieces, and it wasn't long before a rod loaded and I was hooked up to my first Port Phillip Bay snapper. It soon turned into a double hook up and we were stoked to have a couple of nice snapper on board. By no means the biggest snapper you can land in the bay, with trophy fish available here, however with the camera on board and less than ideal conditions we were pumped.

We reset the baits again and I flicked a ZMan 4" StreakZ Curly TailZ around on a 3/8oz 3/0 TT Lures HeadlockZ jighead in the hope of tempting a snapper on a plastic. It wasn't to be, however I was quietly high fiving myself for landing a few flatties on the plastic, despite the sledging. It's hard to beat fishing a new location and catching a new species, no matter how big they are. Celebrate every capture and enjoy the experience.

We kept an eye on the bait rods, checked them if they had received some attention, made sure the baits were in good order and reset the spread as required. Luke was on next with another nice snapper and I took some time to appreciate the water colour, that beautiful blue colouration in the fins of the early season snapper and the backdrop of the Melbourne city skyline in the distance. So many anglers call this waterway home and yet the fishing can be sensational. Hopefully as our countries population grows we can all work together to maintain the quality of these waterways and in turn the quality of the fishing that is on offer.

One of my rods was next to load, with another nice snapper dragging the rod tip toward the water and finding the hooks. We had been on the water for a couple of hours and landed four nice snapper, a few smaller models and a bunch of flathead, so we had been kept busy and were taking home a feed of fresh fish. It was time to locate some weed beds and target a few squid on the new Fish Inc. Egilicious squid jigs, before travelling a few hours south to Luke's home town for a couple more days fishing.

Port Phillip Bay had impressed with its size, scenery, surrounding population, water quality and the fishing. If you don't have a boat there are plenty of charter operators who can put you onto a few snapper, squid, whiting and other species. There are also plenty of jetties and land based locations where you can wet a line or launch a kayak to access weed beds and other structure. Remember to check your local rules and regulations, including the signage that is on display at the launch points.

Gear List
Okuma Azores Spin / Jig Rods - 702M
Okuma Azores Blue 4000 Spinning Reel
Okuma Flexi-TipZ Spinning Rods - 701SSL
Okuma Epixor XT 40 Spinning Reel

All the best with the fishing.