By Jack Gillespie
Targeting snapper in shallow water is always something very high on my priority list during summer and early autumn. Tracking their movements and working out a subtle pattern can be very rewarding, not to mention catching them on soft plastics with light tackle is a lot of fun.
It’s a common misconception that you need to fish deep and in the dark, or at the rising or falling of the sun, for this species. I have found plenty of success fishing at regular times of the day, without travelling miles offshore.
Typically when fishing shallow I find great success fishing broken bottom type areas just off the main section of a reef. Having a sounder in your boat will help but also not essential if you know where a reef, broken bottom or another likely area is located.
The next important point is if or when you do find them on the sounder, you must give them some time to settle. Snapper in 15m of water and shallower will be very spooky after having a boat go just over the top of their head. You will have great results by going at least 100m past where you marked fish or good bottom and then slowly drifting back towards them. Doing this will give the fish time to relax and go back into feeding mode.
The set up I now use in 90% of scenarios is my 3-6kg 7-foot Daiwa TD Zero, 3000 Daiwa Freams LT reel, spooled with 14lb Braid and 10-14lb leader, depending on what the bite is like. Heavier gear is always an option but expect fewer bites, especially in shallow water. If you’re finding the fish fussy and reluctant to bite, then I’d recommend downsizing your leader.
There are multiple lures from the Bait Junkie range that are fantastic for targeting snapper in shallow water. The 3.2” & 4.2” Minnow along with the 5”Jerkshad are proven performers.
You’re going to want to rig either of these plastics up with a jighead, anything from 1/4oz to 3/8oz. Again, if the fish are slow on the bite, try downsizing your jighead.
When fishing soft plastics, after you let the plastic sink all the way to the bottom, giving a gentle lift on the rod with a couple of small twitches will give the best results. I’ve found the larger snapper will mainly take the lure when it is suspending or falling back down the water column, so be prepared for that unsuspecting bite and don’t be afraid to let the lure sit for a good soak.