We’ve all been in the frustrating position of losing multiple lures to structure we are trying to fish. Aside from the general annoyance of repeatedly retying leaders, it can quickly become an expensive prospect. Another reason to avoid snagging is that fish hanging tight to the snag you’re fishing may become disturbed from the commotion of trying to remove a stuck lure. It’s worth mentioning here that losing lures is something that is not always avoidable, as there are many situations where you must get your lures right into nasty snaggy territory to induce a bite from fish holding tight in said structure. It can sometimes be frustrating walking that fine line when targeting snag dwelling fish, but if that’s where the fish are, you must present your lures as such. In addition to this, there are certainly things you can do to reduce lure loss, while still presenting your lures in the desired area.
Exactly how you approach snag fishing varies across species and particular scenarios, but good lure control is a simple way you can avoid donating gear to timber. It can pay to fish lures, especially soft plastics “gently” when passing through structure. This allows you to feel the structure as you bump through it, and hopefully avoid getting hung up. Gently bumping lures through structure also increases your chance to dislodge any lure that does become stuck, as hooks tend not to become buried too deeply.
As I’ve mentioned previously, no one technique fits all species, so I will use structure holding barramundi as an example here. The first step in a typical approach is to give yourself a good mental visualisation of the structure you are fishing, which often requires multiple passes with side scan to effectively assess. Once visualised, position the boat in a suitable spot, where casts will intercept the holding fish while avoiding the bulk of the structure. Obviously, it’s also necessary to keep the current in mind, as it will affect the path of you lure. I like to fish these snag dwellers by placing my first cast just away from where I think the outside of the structure is, slowly getting closer cast by cast until I either draw a bite or bump the snag. If fish are active, they may come well away from the snag to take your lure, though putting the lure exactly where the fish are holding is still the highest percentage play when it comes to drawing a bite.
In very snaggy country such as thick, stand-up timber, weedless rigs can be a useful option, but are far from perfect at avoiding snags. There are also other things to keep in my when using these rigs. Firstly, fish can be more difficult to hook than they would be with conventional rigs. This can depend on the hook size and exposure, and firmness and shape of the soft plastic. Another major factor to consider with weedless hooks is that the shape tends to make them weaker and easier to bend than conventional jig heads, which can obviously result in lost fish. Keep this in mind when going toe to toe with big fish in tight country! Despite this, the weedless nature can allow valuable casts at very difficult to target fish, and potentially be the difference between catching a fish or not.
Snag fishing for barramundi (along with other species) is definitely a game of trade-offs. While there are ways to minimise gear loss, being afraid to lose lures will limit your success. Effectively putting lures in front of fish will result in more bites, structure dwelling or not. It pays to fish snags patiently and with a plan in mind to get the most out of your valuable casts. You will encounter plenty of situations with trophy fish residing deep in structure, where a well-placed lure can easily draw that one bite you need!