Float Baiting For Snapper
Float baiting or float lining for snapper is without a doubt my favorite way to fish offshore. It is very productive and relatively inexpensive compared to other forms of offshore fishing. Float baiting is a way of presenting the bait or lure to the fish so that it appears as natural as possible. The bait or lure is rigged in a way that allows it to drift slowly towards the fish and because the fish see and feel minimal resistance, more often than not they will snap at your offering before it reaches the bottom. The bigger, more educated and better quality fish usually sit up off the bottom whereas the juvenile fish and other ooglies (better known as rubbish fish) tend to sit on the bottom. The best part about float lining is that it accounts for most of the quality fish that end up in the esky. Because of its natural presentation, all species of fish fall victim to this style of fishing. A day chasing snapper on the floatline could mean a day with an esky full of mixed reef fish and pelagics. When it comes to fishing, you can only catch what is around. Floating for snapper nowadays is a very popular way to fish and you will not see a boat heading offshore without some sort of floatline rig or outfit. Most times, float baiting can mean the difference between coming home empty-handed and depressed or coming home with what anglers like to call “bagged out” which means reaching the bag limit on all the fish species caught on that particular day.
The best locations to float bait for snapper are areas that consist of hard reef, drop-offs, pinnacles, ledges, shipwrecks and areas of weed and broken reef. Snapper like to hang around these areas for its abundance of food and protection from both predators and current. Using your GPS, navigate to your saved waypoint or to locate a new area to fish. Begin a trial drift to determine current and wind direction and speed. Once this is established, simply drive up-current of the strike zone and begin fishing. Repeat the process once you have drifted over the strike zone and get no more bites. Fishing at anchor is much the same. Locate the fish, mark the spot on the plotter or GPS, drive up-current of the strike zone, anchor up and fish back towards the strike zone. Although not essential, berleying is highly recommended as this will help to bring the fish on the bite. When berleying, it is important to ’match the hatch’ which means that if your fishing with pilchards, squid and other baitfish, then make sure your berley mixture also contains these ingredients. It makes little sense in berleying and luring the snapper with prawns when you are baiting up and trying to catch them on pilchards and squid.
The technique used for float baiting snapper depends on the chosen gear. On overhead gear, simply engage the free-spool and allow the line to peel off the reel. You need to keep your thumb on the spool to control the speed at which the line comes off the reel and avoid any overruns. Snapper will usually hit the bait during its descent so you will need to pay close attention. When you get hit, the angler will certainly know about it because the fish will usually swallow and take off with the bait. When you sense this, use your thumb to apply pressure on the line and raise the rod to set the hook. You then need to immediately disengage the free-spool by returning the lever drag back to strike where you can now fight the fish. On spin gear, if you are drifting you will need to cast out as far as you can as the same direction of the drift towards the strike zone. If anchored, the technique is to cast up-current of the strike zone and the bait is allowed to drift back towards the fish. Trial and error will help you pinpoint exactly where to cast and locate the fish. Once the cast is made, leave the bail arm open and pay out some line. As a general rule of thumb, pay out about half the depth of the water you are fishing in. When this is done, close the bail arm and engage the bait runner by flicking up the bait runner switch. There is a part at the bottom of the reel where you can adjust the bait runners drag pressure. You need to let out a few metres of line every few minutes to try and find the fish and provoke a strike. Wind in and re-cast if you don’t get a bite in about 10 minutes. An important point to remember here is if you’re using circle hooks, do not strike at the fish. When the fish goes for a run, simply lower the rod and allow it to load up. Then with a couple of turns of the reel, the fish should be hooked and the angler can play in the fish with the usual pump and wind action.
As stated earlier, the tackle required for offshore float baiting is relatively inexpensive. You don’t need top-of-the-line gear but you do need the right gear. With reel selection, the angler can choose between spin or overhead. Overhead reels are more popular but both fish equally as well. And because float lining requires the angler to hold the rod for most of the day, it only makes sense to choose a reel that is light. Ideally, it should hold about 300m of 20-30lb mono-filament line and have about 10kg of drag pressure. On overhead reels, both lever and star drags are fine. Most anglers prefer the lever drag for their versatility in other offshore fishing applications and some think they are stronger and smoother than the star drags. Some overhead reels also come with a level-wind system which automatically lays line evenly on the spool upon retrieving line. It is a very useful and well thought-out feature however some believe this dramatically reduces the overall power of the reel. Recommended overhead reels for float lining snapper offshore include the best-selling Shimano TLD’s, tyrnos, Penn senators and the Okuma catalinas. For spin reels, look no further than the bait runner style reels. This reel features one main drag set on top of the reel and a secondary bait runner drag on the bottom of the reel. The whole purpose of the bait runner feature allows the fish to take off and eat the bait with little or no resistance. Recommended bait runner style spin reels include the complete Shimano bait runner series of reels and the Okuma salina.
Other recommended gear for float baiting snapper
Rods – 7ft 10-24kg Wilson live fibre, Shakespeare ugly stik, Shimano bluewater series, Silstar
Line – 20-30lb mono-filament in Schneider, Platypus, Surecatch
Leader – 30-40lb Penn 10x, Surecatch
Hooks – 4/0-8/0 octopus in Gamakatsu, Owner and Daiichi, Mustad big red, big gun and demon circle
Other terminal gear – ball sinkers size 0-10, 50lb crane swivels
The most common rig for float baiting snapper is a simple ball sinker straight onto the hook on the main line. Refrain from using braid as braid floats whereas mono-filament line sinks. 20-30lb mono is perfect for float baiting. Too light will mean more bust-offs and too heavy will cause too much resistance and less bites. Sinker size will vary depending on depth and current. You only need enough weight to get your bait on or near the bottom. On days with little or no current, the sinker can be removed completely with only the hook and bait at the end of the line. Hooks should be either ganged or snooded with two hooks for extra insurance in case of breaks off. The other rig used is the standard running sinker rig which consists of a ball sinker on the main line followed by a swivel. A leader is then attached to the other end of the swivel followed by your hook at the other end of the leader. Anglers that opt for this rig like the use of a heavier leader for its abrasion resistance against the snappers teeth or when the line rubs against reef and other structure.
Recommended float baiting videos
Amberjack reef, Gold coast snapper, Barwon banks snapper, Float baiting snapper, Caloundra wide, Float baiting snapper – Caloundra 12 mile.
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