Snapper Fishing in the Shallows with Soft Plastics by Peter Kaye

Snapper Fishing in the Shallows

Hi there, I’ve decide to write this article on snapper fishing in the shallows to try and help out the fellow fisherman.

Falling in love with lure fishing some 5 years ago I have been on a steep learning curve since and expect will continue for a long time to come. I have been lucky enough to learn from some great fishermen along the way as well.

Catching snapper in the shallows doesn’t take a big boat and lots of fuel, and can be achieved quite easily in a small boat or kayak. Snapper can be caught regularly pretty much all year round, but I will clarify, I’m not talking the big 9-10kg Trophy Knobby, although it is possible.

Sunrise Snapper Fishing Gold

Sunrise Snapper Fishing Gold

Whilst I would love to catch the Trophy fish this article is more suited to the budget minded fisherman with a small boat. Whether you love catching fish for the table like me or for the sport, you can chase 35-70+cm snapper in quite skinny water. My best fish was 73cm on 6lb line in 2ft of water, and boy did it provide some excitement for me, and definitely up there with one of the most memorable catches I’ve had.

I’ve seen people go out and use lures for 5-10min catch nothing and profess that these things are [email protected]& and don’t work, but the same people will sit there all day and catch nothing on bait. If you want to catch fish on lures leave the bait at home. Anybody that says lures don’t work is in the wrong spot or doing it incorrectly!!!!!

I hope this article gives you some insight into the plastic fishing world.

What Gear?

Snapper Gear

Snapper Gear

When it comes to gear you can spend a little or a lot, and for me I have leaned more towards the later and have seen the benefits. Everybody has their own budget to work with and all I can advise is buy the best gear you can afford. Talk to a good tackle shop in your general area they tend to be a lot more knowledgeable than your BCF type stores, and have a far better range in higher end type rods, reels, lines and lures.

Also by frequenting the same store you can build a good relationship with the staff which can lead to friendships, tips, spots and yes even discounts and extra service. Show the independent store some loyalty and they will usually return the favor.

When targeting snapper solely in the shallows I tend to arm myself with 2-3 or even 4 rods all rigged the same with maybe a slight difference in line class. If you get busted off during a hot bite (which can only last 15-30 minutes sometimes) you just put that rod down and grab another pre rigged and start fishing straight away.

Now the brand battle will always rage on, be it Daiwa, Shimano, Penn or various other brands out there. They all make different ranges of rods to suit different budgets. And you generally get what you pay for, me well I’m a bit of a Daiwa fan, but do have other brands in my collection.

Listed below are some things I think are important in your gear.

The Hunter or the Prey?

The Hunter or the Prey?

What Rods

Lightweight graphite rods, built for casting light weights, are very strong and reduce fatigue when pumping out cast after cast. Something around 2.3m is ideal as it will pump out a nice long cast with a light plastic and still short enough to manage the fish boat side. 4-8lb to 8-12lb class rods are ideal and very versatile in other forms of fishing.

What Reels

Also lightweight to reduce fatigue, but more importantly a smooth drag system which will enable you to fight big fish on light lines. Something in the 2500 range is ideal and can be useful for other types of fishing.

What Line

I generally use between 6-10lb braid as a main line, again spend a little more money on your braid and you will see benefits. 10lb braid for instance comes in different thicknesses and this is the area that is important.

Lighter thinner lines will cast further which equates to putting your lure in front of the fish from further away before they get spooked.

Look after your gear and it will look after you. There is plenty of info on reel maintenance on the Internet or check out your local Tackle Store.

My absolute favorite combo is the Daiwa Interline 762 MLFS matched up with a Caldia 2500 and spooled with 8lb castaway and 10lb leader. FG braid to leader knot as this is the smoothest and strongest leader knot out there.

The Interline has no guides and the line runs through the middle of the rod, this almost completely cuts out wind knots in fine braid and gives an excellent distance cast. I absolutely love this rod and I am astonished at the fish it has landed.

What Lures

Z Man Motor Oil

Z Man Motor Oil

Plastics, plastics, plastics, thousands of them flooding the market, and yes they all work in the right hands, and everybody has their own favorite. Hell even hard bodies work in the shallows and can be a lot of fun too.

Having said that, I’m only going to talk about one type of plastic that is my favorite, this lure alone has seen hundreds of snapper come over the sides of my boat, and has converted many of my mates to using them as well.

Z Man 2.5 GrubZ in Motor Oil rigged on a TT 1/8oz 1/0 XH (extra hard) jig head. This is all I use in shallow snapper fishing, I’ve tried heaps and this to me is my stand out plastic/jig head combo.

The Motor Oil color is a UV color which glows under a UV light, now I don’t think the fish see this bright green plastic glowing under the water, but I do believe it stands out to them.
The other advantages to this plastic is it is buoyant, combine that with the light jig head and curltail, this lure works even when sitting on the bottom. It will actually sit head down with its tail fluttering around looking like a baitfish foraging on the bottom. I noticed this by accident more than once whilst talking to a mate with the lure just sitting on the bottom, then BANG a fish hits it sometimes 30secs at rest on the bottom.

They are very durable as well, and I’ve often had the same lure on for a couple of days, and will hold up to frequent tailor attacks. The only way you lose these things is from snags, bust offs or bite offs.


Solid Snapper

Solid Snapper

Well being a Brissie local I can only tell you about local fishing. But I can tell you that Snapper regularly reside in the shallows pretty much all year round. Now I’m not about to give away my hot spots, but I will tell you that I have caught them all the way from Victoria point to Bribie Island. What I will tell you is that with a bit of patience and a bit of research you can more than likely find a spot of your own to catch Snapper in.

Shallow weed beds and shallow reefs are good places to start looking. Typically dawn and dusk are the prime times to catch snapper, but I have caught 50+cm specimens in 1m of water in the middle of the day. The biggest secret to catching them is go somewhere quiet, and by this I mean fish somewhere nobody else is.

These snapper are everywhere in the shallows you just need to be quiet. I’ve often been in the middle of a hot bite and a boat or Jet Ski comes flying past my drift line and shuts the whole session down.

Finding your own spot can be very rewarding in more ways than one and the biggest benefit is the learning experience. There are many ways to find spots, and one of my favourites is to drive around in the middle of the day at low tide with a pair of polarised sunglasses on. The calmer and clearer the weather the better it is. Look for structure or weedbeds out of the water or submerged, mark them on your sounder and come back early in the morning or late afternoon and try them out.

Look at the way tides hit structure and areas and think like a fish. Check out Google maps, this can be very helpful. Make notes of when you catch fish and when you don’t and pretty soon you will find patterns.


Mates & Snapper Fishing

Mates & Snapper Fishing

I like the early morning, and this means really early, especially in summer. I also like to get there before first light, which gives me time to work out my drift and get my gear ready. Once I have my spot picked out I like to pull up very short of my mark and just watch the direction I’m drifting, if the tide or wind is pushing me a certain direction. Make a note of this and try and imagine that line drifting past the area you want to fish.

Have your knots tied and plastics rigged the night before!!! Many times I’ve been out fishing with mates and they are still trying to rig up in the low light while I’m already getting stuck into the fish!

Long casts with light lures is the secret and all the time being very quiet. I only ever use light line and light lures as this gives me good casting distance and the lures slowly flutter down to the bottom.

There are several techniques for retrieval, my favourite being let the lure hit the bottom and then slow twitches and hops all the way back to the boat. Whilst I mainly target the fish further away it always pays to work it back to the boat. I’m not sure whether they follow it back or are sometimes right under the boat but you can regularly pick up fish right under the boat.
Mix up your retrieves if you’re not getting hits, and even let your lure sit on the bottom for a while. On the good days you don’t even get a chance to put the bail arm over and boom your on.

Now snapper are not really dirty fighters in my opinion so the light lines are great to catch them on, this is where a smooth drag is very important. The sheer speed these things hit sometimes is enough to snap your line if your drag is too tight. When I’m on my A game I can tell the size of the fish to the centimeter by the way it pulls drag.

Another point to note is that when they get hooked in the shallows they run straight to the deeper water, which often means them running straight for the boat and out the other side. This is when you need to be on your feet as you need to be winding like a demon until they hit the other side of your boat and then start peeling of the drag.

I must say I’ve lost a fair share of big fish this way but it is great fun and leaves you wondering what might be down there. Always try and cast in front of your drift to where the fish are feeding peacefully.

Regularly I’ve landed my bag of snapper, used $2 in petrol and 1 plastic and jig head in under an hour and go and look for other species.


Moreton Bay Snapper

Moreton Bay Snapper

Quiet, quiet, quiet and more quiet. I cannot stress enough about being super quiet during a drift through shallow areas where snapper feed. The difference can be going home with a feed, if you’re like me and love fresh fish, or going home fish less. You may still catch snapper whilst making noise, but in my experience the larger more experienced fish are the first ones to be spooked and the undersized ones are the last to flee. The aim is to drift up on them whilst making no noise and catch them whilst they are relaxed and feeding in the skinny water.

Believe me when they are relaxed they will not hesitate hitting your lure and hitting it hard.
I love my 4.1 Polycraft boat for this reason it is super quiet and very stable. Glass boats and kayaks are good as well. Tinnies are a little noisier than the previous boats, but things can be done to lessen the noise.

Laying old carpet or foam against the hull can deaden the sound of feet and equipment on the floor, it also can muffle the sound of waves and chop hitting the hull which I have noticed is quite loud compared to the Polycraft or glass boats.

You could also build a casting deck and cover it in marine carpet. Electric motors can be an awesome tool for fishing the shallows but not essential. Even the sound of your electric motor running can spook snapper in the shallows but this can vary in different conditions, particularly on glassed out still days when there is no wave action to mask the sound of the electric a bit.

I generally only use mine to correct my drift a little, but if you find a school of feeding snapper they can really pay dividends, just hit your spot lock button and cast at your target. You can bag out in a half hour sometimes.

If you’re out fishing with a mate try and stress to them the importance of not dragging tackle boxes, stomping around the boat, dropping gear and banging around as this will surely scare them away.

Here’s hoping you all get onto a few whether it be with your mates, missus, kids or on your own. It is a great way to fish and heaps of fun



Special Thanks….

Tackle Land would like to say a special thank you to Peter Kaye for taking the time to share his hard earned knowledge with us all.

Snapper fishing can be hard for some fisho’s at the best of times, so hopefully the information that Peter has shared will make it just a little easier for you to firstly land that Snapper and secondlyease some of those frustrations!

Thanks again Pete!

Maintain the Passion

17 thoughts on “Snapper Fishing in the Shallows with Soft Plastics by Peter Kaye

    • Mark says:

      Joel, we are glad that Peter’s artical has helped you out! Let us know how you go and if you have any techniques you would like to share.

  1. Indra fardian says:

    Nice article… I live in indonesia and love fishing from the shore, mostly i caught are from snapper, perch ( i guess) and this give more information how to fish snapper, i just have one question beside grubs what other lures we can use to fish inshore fish like snapper

    • Mark says:

      Hi Indra, Most Curl Tails in the soft plastic or a hard body which dives 2-3 meters should do the trick, generally a suspending will do best as you stay in the strike zone longer.

  2. Lors from Redcliffe says:

    A good read and accurate. While I’ve never caught a single fish on a lure in my 30 years of fishing, half pillies work very well too and rigged properly you can even make the bait perform like an injured fish -easy pickings, though it does draw the darts which will strip your hook clean in seconds. The biggest part of this article for me is FG KNOT and STEALTH. HOLY MOLY STEALTH!!!!! X1000000. EMPHASIS ON STEALTH!!! I fish from a kayak and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve facepalmed because some fool in a boat has either dropped anchor near me or gone racing past 30 metres away in a tinny. The fish just scatter. Might as well pack up and go home. As for how reefs and currents work, if a current is heading south, pull up QUIETLY AND STAY QUIET north of tall structure (any structure 2m+ in height). QUIETLY anchor 20 metres north of the structure and drift bait or lures into very close proximity. Consider the depth your lure or bait sits at. While snapper will bite at any depth they prefer feeding near the bottom which is why Peter Kaye’s bottom bouncing technique is so productive. At structure currents push deep water up and bait schools sit at mid-top water level in front on the structure. You’ll find the big pelagics sitting under those schools. Look for bait schools with movement in them. They’re being pushed around. Schools just sitting around feel safe and cosy – not entirely likely that there are predators nearby. Good luck and tight lines. RESPECT THOSE BEING STEALTH BY EXERCISING IT YOURSELF TOO. THAT MEANS BEING QUIET IN YOUR BOAT AS WELL AS KEEPING YOUR BOAT QUIET IN THE WATER TOO. Cheers. I hope this compliments Peters article.

    • Mark says:

      Lors, thank you so much for adding in some of your valuable experiences, Stealth is indeed the key you great catches!

  3. Rod Winkler says:

    Just wanted to mention catch and release, just because you can catch your bag doesn’t mean you have to kill em all, just take enough for a fresh feed and release some for next time, cheers all.

    • Mark says:

      Thanks for your feedback Rod, you are right about taking what you need. We are finding more and more people are either tagging and releasing or just releasing there fish.

  4. Le Roy says:

    Great article, I’ve just recently started soft baiting here in NZ and I have a question on which direction to cast. I have my drogue/sea anchor tied behind the boat which is a few metres behind the engine. Will I cast my soft bait behind the boat or should I cast towards the front of the boat? Cheers.

    • Mark says:

      Hi Le Roy, I would normally cast up current and allow the plastic to sink while coming back to the boat. Otherwise you can put on a larger weighted jig head to maximise the time on the bottom.

  5. Daniel Whiting says:

    Thank you so much Peter, this honestly is a awesome article! I live in thornlands so Moreton bay is my goto, I’ve been targeting snapper for about two months now and have had no luck. Thanks to you Peter I now know why, I’ve been very much the opposite of stealth and anchored in loud areas. Im in a tinny however I will try deaden. I really appreciate that you’ve taken the time out of your day to help rookies like me I wish I could repay you. Cheers

    • Mark says:

      Daniel, hearing that you have caught fish from techniques you picked up in Pete’s artical is thanks enough! Well done and I know Pete will be chuffed to hear how well you have done!!

  6. Clint says:

    Hi there very good post i do alot of plastic
    Fishing im northbrizzy an fish the pine river
    Bribie an sunnycoast . Just want to ask when you fish bribie for snapper are you south of the bridge or up in the passage thanks clint

    • Mark says:

      Hi Clint, Snapper can be found either side of the Bridge, we have even caught them at the mouth of the canals!

    • Mark says:

      Hope you got some sound advice from the artical Kenneth, Peter has put a lot of his experiences out there for those that love a challenge!

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