Going soft on big snapper by Kaspar Lenigas

There's something very special and exciting about catching big snapper on lures. Not only are they a highly-prized catch, but they fight hard and when they grow old, some develop incredibly striking facial and body features that show us how prehistoric and tough these fish are. Being that they are a long-lived fish, they are seen as wary and smart, but it can be quite simple to outsmart and trick these big fish into eating a lure with consistency if you know how to go about it.
Even though large snapper are said to be hard to catch, every year many large snapper are caught on a variety of baits and lures, and with a little understanding of how these fish behave, it can be quite simple to find and catch large snapper - even a fish of lifetime - on a lure.
We are lucky in South East Queensland to be able to catch snapper year round, but like with all fish, numbers and sizes can fluctuate depending on the time of year. With winter here and spring approaching, there's no better time to chase these fish, as large numbers of snapper school up offshore in preparation to spawn.
When it comes to luring big snapper, there's a huge variety of lures you can use, but in my opinion if you want to catch big snapper, no lure is as effective and more versatile as soft plastics. With the simple change of a jighead, you can fish any depth of water, and soft plastics come in a huge array of sizes, colours and styles, all with different actions and scents to entice the fish.
If you think about it, soft plastic fishing for snapper is very similar to float lining, even though the plastic doesn't have the same smell as real bait.
To catch big snapper effectively on soft plastics, you'll need to persist and learn a few new techniques to control and understand where and how you are working the soft plastic. Before we get carried away and go out dropping and throwing soft plastics, we need the right gear to work soft plastics and put the brakes on these powerful reef dwellers.
When soft plastic fishing for snapper, it's key to use a spinning set up so you cast and free spool your lure with ease. When chasing snapper on soft plastics, I like to have two set ups.
The first is a 7ft 10-20lb NS Black Hole Amped spin rod, which has a 10-40g cast weight matched with a 3000 Daiwa Certate that I have spooled with 20lb braid and a 20lb flurocarbon leader. This is my finesse set up that I use in shallower water to work lighter jigheads in the 1/4-1/2oz bracket. It's still a good all-rounder to use in shallow and deep water, running up to a 1oz jighead with a 5-7inch plastics, but it lacks a little in pulling power when you hook up to a really big knobby, which needs controlling around nasty reef.
My second second set up is a 7ft 15-30lb NS Black Hole Amped spin rod with a 15-50g cast weight running a 3500HD Daiwa Certate, which I have spooled with 30lb braid and a 30lb flurocarbon leader. If I'm targeting big snapper in shallow or deep water, the 15-30lb is my go-to set up, especially when I'm casting 3/8-2oz jigheads with 7-8inch plastics. You may not catch as many smaller pan size snapper on this set up, but you will land a lot more quality fish and when that fish of a lifetime does show up, you'll have plenty of power to turn it.
On the heavier set up lighter and smaller plastics can be trickier to work, but if a big snapper is about they'll crush a plastic regardless of how you work it, as long as you can keep in contact with that lure and keep it in the strike zone.
If you purely want to catch quality snapper, the heavier set up is what you are after. Snapper can be leader shy at times, and 20-30lb leader can seem light, but as I run flurocarbon it's hard and strong enough to handle any snapper and is still finesse enough to get extra bites if snapper are wary.
If a snapper is hungry enough, it doesn't matter how heavy your leader is, as snapper don't intentionally reef you. There's probably no point in running a leader heavier then around 40lb, as if they find reef, it doesn't matter because the braid won't hold up against the reef. Even though braid isn't very abrasion resistant, it's key when fishing plastics, as you must keep in contact with the plastic at all times, feeling for the bottom or