How to choose a squid jig
I LOVE targeting squid; they’re great fun to catch, are good on the plate and even better used straight out of the water as live bait. Over the past year I’ve probably spent more time chasing southern calamari than ever before. With this increased focus came an inquisitive line of questioning that saw me better understand the multiple layers of colour, reflection and luminescence that come together to form visible combinations to suit light or water conditions, along with aggression levels in feeding squid.
I’ve pulled jigs apart, weighted them and lightened them in an attempt to alter buoyancy and sink rates. A squid jig is a lure like any other at the end of the day and understanding the characteristics of the lure and the best application for each size and colour is a key determinant of success. Squid are aggressive creatures and though never a walk in the park, they aren’t as difficult to target as many people think. The key is to buy the best quality jig you can afford and select the right colour, size, weight and style for the conditions. Read on the learn more about the specifics of squid jigs.
Base or body colour
Understanding colour starts with the body, which is that first layer that introduces colour characteristics of a squid jig. There’s more to the plastic body of a jig than meets the eye. A transparent body forms a clear base layer which allows for subtle, more natural layers of colour to be overlayed. A UV body on the other hand has enhanced visual presence in the presence of UV light, which helps in deeper water or on overcast days with an elevated UV index. The final body colour is glow which provides a luminous radiance when charged by natural or artificial light. That characteristic green glow provides illumination, which is useful when fishing in low light conditions or in dirty water.
Tape or under colour
The better quality jigs can feature a layer of tape that provides reflective or silhouetting characteristics for all times of day and light conditions. It therefore stands to reason that the tape colour you use is influenced by the amount of ambient light in the atmosphere. Dark red, purple and pink tape are suitable for low light applications (during dawn, dusk or on overcast days), whereas silver and gold provide strong reflection and can capture a squid's attention on a bright day. Rainbow coloured tape provides a combination of flash and silhouette so is a good all-rounder.
Cloth or top colour
The final visual attraction is the cloth or outermost layer. The cloth colour is generally going to be vibrant like a bright orange, or a more subdued colour such as a khaki dull green tone. The cloth colour should mirror the mood of the squid you are catching. If they are aggressive and battling one another for your jig then a vibrant colour will rile them into action. If they are more subdued or if the vibrant colours aren’t working, a toned more natural hue like a brown or olive.
Squid jigs have obscure sizing conventions to the uninitiated. They commonly range from sizes 1.6 to 4.0, but it wasn’t until I did some research that I found the sizing generally refers to the length in inches from the eye of the jig to the end of the body, just before the prongs. Weights and sink rates can vary, however the smaller jigs are commonly used in shallower estuaries while the larger jigs are used in deeper coastal waters. Another good tip for which size jig is based on time of year. Southern calamari have short life spans and will be preparing to spawn in winter, which indicates a larger jig would suit, whereas juvenile squid are more prevalent in summer and are well suited to the smaller jigs.
Altering sink rates and sink angles
Some of the cheaper jigs use too much weight or aren’t optimally balanced and so sink vertically, appearing somewhat artificial. If you do happen to have some cheaper jigs you can trim back the lead slightly to slow down the sink rate and help the jig sink more horizontally and naturally. Increasing the tail weight of the cheaper jigs by wrapping some solder near the prongs also helps to even out the sink angle. Some of the better jigs have holes in the chin weight which allow you to attach special weights to help the jig get down in deeper water or in windy conditions with a fast drift. I like to keep things simple and use a running ball sinker to the jig, and as with all sinkers I use the lightest possible weight to get down.
It pays to experiment where possible. I accidentally cut off too much of the lead from a squid jig and ended up criss-crossing a length of solder on the body to form a pattern, albeit a weighted one! Interestingly, the jig swam horizontally and was a star performer one afternoon when fishing a lengthy sea grass bed in 5 m of water.
Some jigs come with no pre-defined weight and are weighted by clipping specially designed sinkers to the nose of the jig depending on conditions. While these provide the most flexibility in terms of jig length and weight combinations, they do tend to tumble when cast long distances, causing the line to foul around the sinker and clip.
Finally, you can also use a float rig if drifting shallow weed or kelp beds out of a boat. The rig should be setup to stop the squid jig about a foot of the bottom, allowing you to stick the rod in the holder and fish it passively without snagging the bottom.
Difference in jig styles and types
The most common squid jig will have a keel shaped chin weight that makes the jig sink steadily with a head down attitude at an angle of roughly 45 degrees. These chin weighted jigs are what you’ll see most people using and are a good general purpose jig. Head weighted jigs feature a tow point on top of the jig and are forward weighted. They tend to cast better and sink faster, making them ideal for shore based jigging with more violent actions. Thinner profiled jigs lend themselves to faster jigging whereas jigs that are wide will have more buoyancy and slide from side to side with a subtle retrieve.
Finally, there are some jigs have smooth slick body without cloth. The rationale for a smooth finish is that the squid jig glides through the water with less effort, resulting in faster sink rates and better action. A smooth body jig can have a more lifelike or vibrant colour scheme, potentially providing enhanced visual appeal.
Putting it all together
Based on the above, the ideal colours for dawn or dusk would be a glow body with a red tape and a dark cloth to start off with. Gold seems to reflect well in low light so a glow body with gold tape and a brown or olive coloured cloth would also be a reasonable option. If fishing in the middle of an overcast day, a UV body with a silver tape and pink cloth would make sense. During the middle of a bright day, however, a clear body with silver or gold tape and an orange or pink cloth would also suit. It stands to reason that a rainbow tape can be substituted for any of the tapes mentioned above given its dual characteristics. If you’re fishing deeper coastal waters, in heavy currents, windy conditions or are chasing the big brutes during the cooler months, a large jig would be ideal. Conversely, the shallow kelp beds in more sheltered estuaries like my home waters of Sydney Harbour, come alive with smaller squid in the warmer months. These kingfish candies are a sucker for a small, slow sinking jig. Some of the inshore reefs I fish for kingfish and snapper have a rocky, kelpy bottom. Not surprisingly they’ll often be teeming with squid before the sun comes up, so a running ball sinker fished straight to the tow point on a lumo body jig generally comes up trumps.
Whether you’re catching them for bait or for a feed, squid are a great year round option that aren’t always easy but are well worth the effort to target.