Welcome to the How to catch snapper detailed breakdown from FishingMad. Snapper is an iconic fish species around Melbourne and Port Phillip Bay & Western Port prime locations to catch a big red. The unpredictable nature of snapper fishing has local boat ramps jam-packed during peak season. Like all forms of fishing, there are no guarantees when targeting snapper, however, consistently strategies are a recipe for success. For snapper, it’s all about being prepared and this article will ensure you’re using the right gear, tying the right rigs, using the right baits or lures, fishing the right times, and having a basic understanding of how to use your sounder to find snapper. Let’s have a look at each one of those key areas in more detail.


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Watch the video below which shows Alan from FishingMad catching some big local reds.

When is snapper season in Victoria and Melbourne?

In Victoria, the annual Snapper run from October to February. They are often best targeted at Dawn/Dusk and on tide changes. There will be subtle differences in snapper movement patterns in our bays. For example, we often see Snapper entering the top end of Western Port before Port Phillip Bay. 

Snapper Seasons

The snapper season locally starts around October and finishes after March. The big reds migrate inshore during this time of year because water temperatures have increased providing ideal spawning conditions. Dawn and dusk are generally considered the best times to be on the water. If you’re fishing in the morning it’s a good idea to start early and have your baits out before sunrise. Often, you’ll get a short window of frantic chaos and then nothing for hours, which is the frustrating nature of snapper fishing.

Peak snapper season is when water temperatures are between 15 and 18 degrees. Above and below those temperatures can make catching challenging and you can expect some empty-handed sessions on the water. Many seasoned anglers will attest that optimal conditions are either sunrise or sundown near the change of tide and after some windy days. These conditions will have snapper in an aggressive feeding mood.

How to catch snapper in Port Phillip Bay and Western Port

You can certainly catch snapper whilst land-based fishing but you will need to be prepared to put in long hours. It is very rewarding when you catch a good size snapper by land. For most, you can’t beat having your own boat, kayak or jetski and heading inshore or offshore. Traditional snapper fishing meant anchoring up in a known location or trusty GPS mark, then spreading out some rods, berleying up, and waiting in anticipation for one of the rods to buckle. If you didn’t get a bite, then you might consider moving to another spot and repeating the same process.

To maximise catch rates use your marine electronics and try to find schools of snapper on your sounder. You can either do this in a familiar location or if you need help finding snapper then become a FishingMad Member as we detail regular fishing reports, locations and GPS marks for you. As the image shows below your looking for bunches of fish packed tight generally holding the bottom. The arch shapes will be the signs that they are snapper. If you find a school of snapper in an aggressive mood they’ll take just about any bait or soft plastic.

School of snapper located in 9 meters deep in Port Phillip Bay

Snapper Arches

However, thanks to technological advancements much of that has changed. Local anglers are using their high-tech sounders to search for snapper, fishing where the fish are. Sounders on the market are more advanced and affordable than ever before and anglers are taking advantage of this improved technology to locate schools of fish. Once the fish are located under the boat just drop your baits or work your plastics right on top of them. Below is a video showing how we used our sounder to find a huge school of pinkie snapper in Port Phillip Bay.

Watch the video below of Alan from FishingMad targeting snapper from Princes Pier Port Melbourne

Fishing gear to target snapper

Fishing rods for snapper

There are many snapper rods in the market these days. These are usually split into 2 categories BAIT rods and LURE rods. The bait rods on the market vary greatly in price so you can buy something suitable for your available budget. Generally, they all have several characteristics in common. Length between 7-8 feet and weight class between 4-8 kilos are the most common. Years past we would have seen heavier outfits than 4-7 kilo but we’re seeing a trend of anglers fishing even lighter now. These bait rods usually have a flexible tip so you can easily see bites and inquiries. Snapper Fishing Tips Melbourne.

Recommended snapper bait rods include

  • Shimano revolution741 6-8 kg
  • Atomic Arrowz 8-16lb
  • Ugly Stik Snapper Classic 4-7 kg
  • Shimano Terez ML 15-40lb
  • Penn Regiment Black Ops II SP721ML
  • Shakespeare ugly sticks
  • Daiwa Saltist
  • Shimano Raiders
  • Wilson Live Fibre
  • Daiwa Beefstick
  • Savage Gear 1DFR 5-8kg

There are plenty of alternative options to match your budget.

Lure rods for snapper, on the other hand, are generally quite stiff. These are classified as Fast action or Extra fast action which is particularly important so you can set the hooks properly as snapper have quite strong mouths.  This is also helpful so you can feel bites and inquiries whilst working a soft plastic, working lures, jigging micro jigs, blades or octopus jigs, and other options. Picking a snapper rod for this application all comes down to personal preference. Some choose for lighter 3-5 kilo rods and others go heavier up to 5-10 kilo. I like to flick 4 inches and 5-inch jerk shads when sounding up snapper. I find that my 4-7 kilo 6 foot 10 lengths spin outfit works great for this type of fishing.

Recommended snapper lure rods include

  • Megabass Destroyer P5 6’11” Landsat 4-12lb
  • Daiwa TD Commander 722MLXS LONGBOLT 3-6kg
  • Shimano Zodias 20ZOD270M 5-10lbs
  • Daiwa TD Zero TD ZERO 702MLS 3-6 kg
  • Shimano Anarchy 21AN6102SPM 3-6 kg
  • Samaki Zing III SZG3-702SML 6-12 lbs
  • J Loomis NRX
  • Shimano revolution
  • Daiwa Saltist
  • Millerods Beast Buster
  • Shimano revolution
  • Abu Garcia Veritas 4
  • Savage Gear Black
  • Daiwa TB Black
  • Shimano Jewel
  • Daiwa TD Hyper

There are plenty of alternative options to match your budget.

Fishing reels for snapper

There are many awesome reels for snapper on the market and it’s very easy to blow your budget with excitement. Most snapper reels used are either 4000 or 5000 sizes. You can go smaller with a 3000 which is becoming more popular or larger up to 6000. It’s personal preference but again 4000 is generally the most commonly used size. These reels come either as a standard reel or bait runners. The advantage of a bait runnier reel is having the line in free spool mode when a snapper takes the bait so it doesn’t feel any resistance. This allowing the snapper to run freely until you start to reel and lock the gear into place.

Recommended snapper reels include

  • Shimano Sustain
  • Shimano Stradic SW & FL
  • Daiwa Certate SW
  • Penn Slammer III & IV
  • Savage Gear SG8
  • Shimano Saragosa SW
  • Daiwa Caldia
  • Shimano Vanford
  • Daiwa Saltist LT
  • Shimano Twin Power
  • Penn Battle
  • Daiwa TD Black
  • Savage Gear Stealth
  • Shimano Socorro
  • Daiwa Sol III

Watch Alan from FishingMad use his sounder to find big schools of pinky snapper

Fishing line for snapper

When bait fishing most will spool their snapper reels with monofilament line. This is a great way to keep the costs low and monofilament has stretch which is really useful when fishing with baits. You would select a line strength ranging from 15 pounds through to 30 pounds. Most of our bait snapper reels have a 25-pound line on them which has been ample. If your fishing areas with reefs or structures then you may want to consider going a little heavier.

When fishing with lures we would recommend using braid. This is because braid doesn’t stretch and allows you to be in constant contact with your lure at all times. Braid is sensitive and you will feel every bite and enquiry. When using braid for lures and soft plastics we would attach about 1-rod length of quality fluorocarbon leader that is between 20 and 40 pounds. This will provide increased flexibility and make the line harder for fish to see. You can attach your braid to a leader using an FG knot,  Double Uni knot or improved Albright. You can watch fishing knot tutorials here. With braid choose a line strength ranging from 15 pounds to 30 pounds. Again If you are fishing areas with reefs or structures then you may want to consider going a little heavier.

In recent years I have been using a 7 foot 6-inch rod that 4-7 kilo class with a 4000 size reel spooled with 20-pound monofilament and finished with a 40-pound leader.

Snapper rigs setup and buying pre-made snapper rigs

My go-to snapper rig for Port Phillip Bay and Western Port is size 5/0 or 6/0 snelled suicide hooks, allowing me to present a full pilchard, silver whiting or squid head. I have one very small sinker inside the leader or unweighted and a small lumo bead that sits on top of the hooks. Using 1 to 1.5 meters of quality 40, 50 or 60 fluorocarbon leader separated by a strong barrel swivel.

You may also need to use an ezi rig when fishing in high tidal waters. This will allow you to quickly change sinkers when the tide strength changes. You can also choose to use single hooks instead of snelled for half-pilchards or squid rings. You can also use premade snapper snelled snatchers and paternoster rigs which are convenient to use and generally made fit for purpose with quality components.

Watch a detailed step-by-step video tutorial on how to create your own DIY snapper rigs.


Best Baits to catch Snapper

Snapper are opportunistic feeders and when they are in an aggressive mood they happily take a whole range of different baits. Fresh baits are generally much more effective than frozen baits that have been sitting in your freezer for months. Our best bait recommendations include pilchard, silver whiting, squid, salmon, garfish, snook and mackerel. Raw chicken is also an excellent choice when targeting pinkies ( juvenile Snapper ).

The best way to present baits is on a snell rig with 2 x 5/0 circle hooks, or you can use a very small running sinker to a single hook and also use paternoster rigs. The rig choice will be dependent on where you are fishing and the conditions such as tidal strength. Where possible fish with as little weight or even unweighted. Baits such as pilchard and silver whiting work great in this method in Port Phillip Bay and Western Port. When land-based you’ll need a heavy sinker to cast out as far as you can. You can go with single hooks or snelled hook setups which are a great choice allowing 2 hooks to securely hold onto the bait for better presentation and better hook-up rates.

Bait Choices

Recommended bait options include

  • Pilchards ( full or half )
  • Silver whiting
  • Squid Rings or squid head
  • Garfish
  • Mackerel
  • Mullet
  • Scad
  • Salmon

Take a variety of baits out with you then load up with whatever is getting hits that day. Fresh baits should be preferred over frozen baits if possible just something to keep in mind. Take the time to rig up your baits properly, perfect bait presentation can be the key to increased strike rates. You want to ensure that the bait looks natural and that the hooks are properly exposed so strikes turn into hookups.

Check out this video on how to properly rig a pilchard or silver whiting on a double snelled rig for snapper.

Snapper fishing with Soft plastics

Soft plastics are great choices for targeting snapper. 3, 4 and 5 inch soft plastics are great choices. And even 7 inch if fishing offshore. The soft plastics can be jerk shads, worm imitations, minnow imitations, curl tails, grubz, prawn imitations and paddle tails. Just mix up the colours some days nice bright colours work the next day natural baitfish colours work. Snapper will also take a range of Blades and Vibes and Octo jigs.

This type of fishing will work best when you can use your sounder to find schools of snapper. Most are between 4 and 7 inches in size generally coupled with a ½ or ¼ ounce jig head. Pinkies are great to target with 3 inch and 4-inch soft plastics generally coupled with a 1/6 and 1/8 ounce jig head. I was amazed a few years ago to catch an 8-kilo snapper using a 2.5-inch grub in motor oil whilst targeting smaller estuary fish in 5 meters deep water.

Soft Plastics

There are some great options available on the market including

  • Berkley gulp turtleback worm
  • Munroes 3.75-inch paddle tails
  • Keitech Easy Shiners
  • Berkley 5-inch Jerk Shads
  • Savage Gear Fat Curl tails
  • Daiwa Bait junkie 4-inch grubs
  • Zman slim Swimz
  • Berkley Crazy Legs Shads
  • Gulp 3-inch minnow
  • Dawia Bait Junkie paddle tail minnow
  • Zman GrubZ
  • Daiwa Baitjunkie 5 inch jerk shads
  • Squidges biotough grub
  • Zman StreakZ
  • Halco Paddle Prawn

It’s important to rig your soft plastics correctly by picking the right size and weight jig head but to also ensure the soft plastics go onto the jig head correctly. This will ensure the swimming action of the soft plastic is at an optimal level.

Watch the following video on how to properly rig soft plastics

Using your Sounders to find snapper

We have conducted a fish finder review 2022 which takes a deep dive look at some of the new sounders on the market. I marvel at the advancements in fish finder technology. New sounders with improved sonar, chirp technology, and side and down scan. In fact, many seasoned anglers would argue that sounders have become the most important tool when snapper fishing. Spending the majority of their time staring at the sounder looking for schools of fish indicated by arches, bait balls, drop-offs, reefs, and structures. Then fish where the fish are. Snapper that is feeding generally holds the bottom so keep that in mind when exploring. Today’s sounders come in a vast range of budgets, sizes and capabilities. Some known brands will include Simrad, Garmin, Lowrance, Furuno & Hummingbird. All should be professionally installed by your local marine mechanic who can ensure the transducer has been installed correctly.

To give you an idea of how large the range is Lowrance/Simrad has the following options available starting from entry-level to high end in their range. Hook reveal, Elite FS, HDS Live, Simrad Go, Evo3S. starting from $450 all the way through to $7,500. You can also review our shared GPS fishing marks to get you started on known snapper grounds to try. I have found that my fishing techniques have changed becoming more in Intune with the information that the sounder is continually providing. Snapper Fishing Tips Melbourne


Those fishing with bait will understand that a berely trail is very important. This is to bring fish into the area and get them in a feeding mood. You can achieve this in several different ways. One method is to simply cut off chunks of pilchards or berley pellets and throw a scattered handful around the boat every 10 minutes. This is often referred to as chumming.

You can also buy berley cages that you can tie onto your boat or some boats have berely cages pre-made attached to the boat. You can fill these with berley bombs which you can buy from your local tackle store. Or you can create your own using cut-up pilchards, Tuna oil, Berley pellets or for those looking for an option that’s easy and less smelly you can buy premade snapper berley pellets and simply throw out a handful around your boat regularly. Some options work better than others but it’s an important step that should not be overlooked. Berey can be purchased from many stores such as BCF berley.

Kayak Fishing Snapper

How to catch snapper when Kayak fishing around Melbourne

Kayak fishing is growing in popularity and one of the best species to catch in a kayak around Victoria is snapper. Either flicking soft plastics or drowning baits. You will need a decent kayak to target snapper generally venture into waters beyond 5 meters deep. Most of the snapper I have caught on my kayak has been between 5 meters and 8 meters deep. When I first started targeting snapper on my kayak I was doing so with my light spin rod but got busted off multiple times. Therefire these days I’m fishing with a 3-6 kilo rod coupled with a 3000 size reel. That reel is spooled with a thin diameter 15-20 pound braid. Finished with 15 pound leader. I find this to be a good match of lightness, finesse and toughness to handle a good size red.

Sounders on your kayak provide you with the depth, and water temperature and guide you when you’re near fish. Something as simple as a Lowrance Hook Reveal is still a good starting point. It’s an entry-level system that’s very affordable and will let you know when you’re passing a school of snapper or pinkies. Then you can work your way up the scale to sounders.

Have a look at this video of Fishing Mad targeting snapper by kayak this season.

Snapper hot spots around Melbourne

How to catch snapper around Melbourne then look no further than the following locations

  • Black Rock
  • Ricketts Point
  • Mornington
  • Corio Bay
  • Port Melbourne
  • Williamstown
  • Werribee
  • the stick
  • P2
  • T14
  • T18 markers
  • Spoil grounds
  • Fawkner beacon

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