Compared with solar and wind energy, wave energy is a kind of renewable resource which is enormous and still under development. In order to utilize the wave energy, various types of wave energy converters (WECs) have been proposed and studied. And oscillating-body WEC is widely used for offshore deployment. For this type of WEC, the oscillating motion of the floater is converted into electricity by the power take off (PTO) system, which is usually mathematically simplified as a linear spring and a damper. The linear PTO system is characteristic of frequency-dependent response and the energy absorption is less powerful for off resonance conditions. Thus a nonlinear snap through PTO system consisting of two symmetrically oblique springs and a linear damper is applied. A nonlinear parameter γ is defined as the ratio of half of the horizontal distance between the two oblique springs to the original length of both springs. JONSWAP spectrum is utilized to generate the time series of irregular waves. Time domain method is used to establish the motion equation of the oscillating-body WEC in irregular waves. And state space model is applied to replace the convolution term in the time domain motion equation. Based on the established motion equation, the motion response of both the linear and nonlinear WEC is numerically calculated using 4th Runge–Kutta method, after which the captured power can be obtained. Then the influences of wave parameters such as peak frequency, significant wave height, damping coefficient of the PTO system and the nonlinear parameter γ on the power capture performance of the nonlinear WEC is discussed in detail. Results show that compared with linear PTO system, the nonlinear snap through PTO system can increase the power captured by the oscillating body WEC in irregular waves.