How to

Mini Metal Reds

There are many ways to catch snapper. Bait fishing is a time-honoured way to target big fish, but new tackle and state-of-the-art electronics have combined to make actively targeting reds with lures an appealing and productive proposition.

Vertical jigging for snapper is not new, but with updated jigs and rods hitting the market each year, the gear you can use keeps getting lighter and stronger. Micro jigging is a technique that I can see getting really popular with snapper anglers across the country. This relatively new concept emanates from SE Asia and combines small metals with ultra light tackle. It’s an excellent way to get the most out of the fish.

On a recent trip to South Australia we stumbled across a big school of reds holding over some good bottom in 25m of water. The sounder literally lit up with fish from 8m down to two metres from the bottom. The school was so thick that the unit actually gave a false bottom reading!

The current was running hard with the tide dropping quickly, so we marked the location then turned around and headed back up current back to the mark ready to drop. There’s nothing like that feeling when you know you’re about to hook up to a big red … We pulled up on top of the fish and dropped straight down into the school. It was only seconds before braid flew off our spools at high speed. It was then just a case of engaging the bail arm and we were hooked up!

Some of the fish would take quite a while to land on light tackle so you would drift a couple of hundred metres off the mark. After landing the fish we simply motored back up on the mark and dropped back into the school. This set the scene for the next couple of days, which turned out to be some of the best lure fishing I’ve ever had on big reds.

What made it even better was the gear we were using. Short lightweight jig rods, 2500 sized spin reels, 10-pound braid and small metal jigs ranging from 20-30g in weight. Put this outfit together with a big snapper on the end and it’s hard to have more fun with your fishing!

Like in most snapper locations, the larger fish were usually a morning or evening proposition and seemed to spook once a couple had been caught or lost. Early in the morning or late evening and when the fish marked up high in the water column was when the 25g metals worked best as they fluttered slowly down in the current onto the fish. As the tide slowed throughout the day the fish generally held lower in the water column and heavier octopus style Yabai jigs, knife jigs and metal blades bounced on the bottom worked much more effectively. To work the blades a high lift and drop was the most effective way to fish them, whereas the heavier ball and knife style jigs required much sharper and aggressive rip of the rod to impart action to the lures.

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Metal blades work really well on snapper but an upgrade to single hooks provides snag resistance and a much better hookset.

Jig selection is of great importance. Getting the jigs down onto the fish quickly is important, but staying in the strike zone as long as possible means more chance of a strike. If the jig is too heavy it may sink out of the strike zone too quickly and if it’s too light then it might not reach far enough.

One of the most important aspects of this type of fishing is being ready to set the hook at the first sign of a fish as plenty of times the fish would grab it and if you weren’t quick enough to strike they would drop it again and potentially spook the other fish.

Sometimes all the strikes would come in the first few seconds of the drop, high up in the water column, but at other times the jigs would make it through the school and hit the bottom where they wouldn’t attract any attention when the fish were holding higher up. It was therefore important to make high lifts with the rod to get the jig a couple off metres of the bottom and into the strike zone, or even wind the jig back up about 10m before letting it sink back down. On a few occasions, simply dropping it to the bottom and slowly winding it back in also worked. As the captain I positioned myself at the rear of the transom and watched my jig on the sounder. I could easily see exactly where my jig was, which made it easy to keep it in the strike zone.

There were other recreational boats and commercial vessels anchored and shooting lines around the small area the fish were holding. Every time one of them moved and either pulled or dropped the anchor or line the fish would scatter and move to a new location. While unfavourable for the anchored boats this worked really well for us. All we had to do was keep mobile and sound around the area to find the school. This was where the use of the sounder and GPS combo unit really came into its own.

With the down sonar and down and side imaging capability, not only could we see what was below us but also what was 40 feet out to each side of the vessel. Even if we didn’t directly drive over the school we could still sometimes mark the edge of the school because the schooled fish were providing excellent sounding returns. Then it was just a case of moving the cursor and marking the location.

At times we had periods where the fish were elusive, but you just knew that when you found the school you were going to hook in for the next half an hour so persistence was going to pay off.

Other boats were employing the same technique with plenty of success, each taking it in turns to drift over the schools of fish and hook up. It was certainly more convenient fishing than everybody just going out and anchoring up next to each other. While I’ve seen the effects of other vessels’ anchors spooking fish before, I could see it all clearly on the screen in front of me at this location.

When we hooked up, other boats would shoot over and drop their anchor next to us and as soon as they did the school would just disappear, which meant no fish for anybody.

By the end of the trip we had tried every lure in the tackle box including micro jigs, metal blades, soft plastics, octo style jigs and even lipless crankbaits – all with some success – but I’d have to say that the best fish were landed on small metal blades. While we had a few monumental bust offs we believe these were associated with other fish hitting the line as the hooked fish screamed off back through the school. We were able to land fish up to around 10kg without too many problems.  While these fish were the standout for the trip, fish as small as 30cm were lining up to eat the lures so this is not just a technique you can employ on the larger fish.

A leader of 9kg fluorocarbon was more than adequate for the tackle we were fishing.

With snapper season in full swing around southern Australia, now is the time to get out and give vertical jigging for reds a go. Don’t just pull up on your favourite mark and drop the anchor, keep on the move. Take time to sound around and look for active schools of fish and try dropping metal jigs.

When the fish are hard or your local spot is overcrowded with anchored boats, this is a great way to find your own school of fish and have some fun!

Scott Gray

Fact box: Six tips for snapper success

  1. Use your GPS/sounder to identify schools of fish and mark their location
  2. Avoid anchoring and spooking the fish
  3. Select a jig weight suited to the depth you are fishing to keep you in the strike zone
  4. If you’re not getting strikes, change your jig
  5. Don’t be afraid to fish light tackle for more hook ups
  6. Keep your motor running to be ready to move

Fact Box: The Gomoku method

STORM’S innovative and colourful Gomoku rods come in three sizes: PE 0.4-1 (4-10lb), PE 0.8-15 (8-15lb) and PE 1-3 (10-30lb). While they might initially look like a rod designed for one of the kids, with their characteristic white blanks and colourful butt sections, they are actually very strong but light jig sticks. The rods – which are available in spin or overhead configurations – were originally designed by Rapala’s Fred Goh in SE Asia for use with jigs ranging from 10g to 160g. I mainly use the lightest (green) Keiryo model for all of my light tackle snapper fishing matched to an Okuma RTX Pro 30 spin reel loaded with 10lb braid. This set up has been tested to the limit and has landed plenty of snapper to 10kg in weight, and I haven’t been able to break it yet! You can choose a rod to suit your situation with the heavier Erito (red) or Kaiten (blue) models ideal for applying more pressure to get the fish out in reefy situations.  The release of this series of rods also coincides with Storm Gomoku slim micro jigs becoming available. Take a look at the Storm Gomoku range at your local tackle shop.


This article was published in the January 2014 issue of Fishing World

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