How To: Advanced Squidding
There’s much more to catching squid than belting out a $2 jig and hoping for the best. Noted squid fiend ADAM ROYTER details the latest in Japanese scents, rods and techniques.
CALAMARI – it’s one of our favourite seafoods but if you ask a non-angler where it comes from or what it looked like before it was cooked, you’d probably die laughing before you got a straight answer.
Catching squid has gone from a laidback exercise conducted mainly by “New Australians” to a huge industry involving all manner of style-specific tackle. From old mate catching snapper bait with a $2 jig to your fully fledged Egi master with more moves then Michael Jackson used to have, squidding offers it all.
This strange saltwater mollusc is now one of the most popular recreational targets in the sea. And why shouldn’t it be? Squid are good on the chew, make great bait and are awesome fun to catch!
The humble calamari squid, of which the family of species is some 300 strong, are members of the class Cephalopoda and are also close relatives of the cuttlefish and octopus. Squid, like cuttlefish and unlike octopus, have eight arms and two tentacles. It’s these two tentacles that are of most interest to anglers, for a variety of reasons.
A squid’s arms are set to the head section in pairs and are bilaterally symmetrical; the two long “grabbing” tentacles are used for exactly that, grabbing prey with lightening fast speed. The squid can also use the “clubs” on the end of the tentacles (where the suckers are) to smell things that they are about to eat or are unsure of.
Squid have exceptional eye sight. Using a lens and retina very similar to our own, the squid’s ability to distinguish various amounts of light is second to none. Interestingly, they’re colour blind. As far as science can tell they have no colour receptor cones in their retinas. Monochromatic vision, which is black, white and all shades of gray in between, is, however, no problem for our sepia squirting friends. They’re also able to see particular levels of ultra violet light and are the kings of picking up on moving bioluminescence. Bio what? Bioluminescence or “living light”. Most people know this as phosphorescence but phosphorescence is actually a process of energy absorption and release. Nothing to do with living plankton at all. A lot of what the squid eats glows in the dark. The baitfish, shrimp and prawns that squid devour eat a good amount of glowing zooplankton which can make their thin walled bellies glow. Glowing food, glowing squid jigs. You get the drift.
Without doubt the squid’s favourite part of your jig is the metallic foils that are under the pantyhose type cloth. The foil emits different wave lengths of light in various amounts and strengths, depending on its colour. It also changes the amount of available ultra violet light that your jig will emit. If you look at the underside of a squid jig you will (in most cases) see this foil section. Choosing a different coloured foil can dramatically change your catch rate. This is not to say that the squid is ignoring the beautiful paint job on your lures. They definitely see them and sometimes this is the catalyst for your jig out fishing all others. It really is a matter of getting the mix of these two elements – colour and foil – right.
Scenting your Jig
Scent has become a big part of catching squid. It allows you to tempt and capture a squid that was otherwise shut down, full of food or in full spawn mode. Japanese squid jig manufacturers discovered that by adding scent to their jigs they were able to increase their catches by up to 50 per cent.
Having smelling receptors on the ends of a squid’s grabbing tentacles makes a lot of sense, if you think about it. Squid use these two very extendable tentacles to reach more than three times the length of their bodies to grab food. If it turns out not to be food but instead foe, then their head and mantle (containing all the working bits) are far enough away not to be whacked. If you watch squid feed, it’s evident that they use this “what are you?” approach with club tentacles extended as they move in on a jig they are unsure of. Obviously they can see it but what they really want to do now is smell it.
Scenting your jigs is easy. Keeping your jigs looking and smelling good is not. There are some things you should put on your jig and other things you shouldn’t. If you’re like me and appreciate your jigs and like to keep them in good order then you shouldn’t smoosh a pilchard into your jig to scent it. Just the same as you shouldn’t dip or pour tuna oil on them. It’s not that this won’t work – because it does – but your jigs will start to suffer further down the track. Picture a heap of blowies trying to carry your jig away! Or the oiled up one was a lovely light green but is now poo brown, sticky and has carpet fluff on it. Yuk!
There are some specific squid jig scents now available. After spending some time with Takayoshi Orimoto, the design chief of Marukyu’s squid lure division, I now know the importance of having the right scents to apply to my jigs. A jig without scent is only attractive to the squid by sight. That would be fine if the squid had no sense of smell but they do. According to Mr Orimoto, they have fantastic smelling abilities. When they’re shut down and not on the chew having a properly scented jig can make a huge difference. Through thousands of hours of field and tank testing, a favoured taste and smell was designed by the tech people at Marukyu’s Fish League factory in Japan. Once they had what they considered to be the right formula, they, with the help of the National Fisheries Research Institute, slapped it into a couple of aerosol cans, added glowing power to one and ultra violet power to the other and called them Egimax and Glomax. I’ve used every syrup, sauce, paste, pen and spray, both man-made and otherwise, and I stand here to say that there is no better thing to put on your jigs than these Fish League sprays.
All the scientific stuff is nice but at the end of the day if something works, it just works and that’s all that matters!
Also new is a “scented” jig from Berkely. The boffins at Berkley Japan have spent the past year working on this new jig. What’s so new? It’s got PowerBait under the cloth. That’s right, kids – this jig is a real stinker! With a hard plastic inner, then the thin membrane of PowerBait and then cloth, the crew at Berkley have managed to make a squid jig that smells like squid food. More info in New Products on p152.
Not enough fishos take the time to size their jigs to a particular situation. Most have a favourite size and that’s what they stick too. This is not the way to go. Changing your jig size is as important to catching squid as it is to the fly fisherman changing the size of his mayfly pattern to fool a wary trout. When there are only small squid about, you find these small cephalopods are a lot more enthusiastic about a small jig then a big one. They feel threatened by a big jig. If they bite it, will it bite them back?
A very different approach is sometimes necessary for large squid. Imagine you were a big old squid lying up on your reef with your chromatophores electric with colour changing camouflage. You’d just spent the best part of an hour getting into position and letting all your prey items gather back onto the reef. It took you so long to get into the best position to attack, you’re not going to make a move on something that’s not worth it. Meaning a small jig. Like most predators, big squid will eat big baits (in this case, jigs) because they need to maximise their food energy.
Having a range of jig sizes is a very important part of catching squid. Rather than cast, cast, cast nothing, move on, you should have changed not only colour but size in that one spot before moving.
The size of the jig also plays a big part on how far it casts and how fast it sinks. Here’s a sink rate chart to help you work out what’s what.
2.5 – 4 sec per 1m
3.0 – 3 sec per 1m
3.5 – 3.2 sec per 1m
4.0 – 3 sec per 1m
4.5 – 2.7 sec per 1m
How to retrieve a jig is one of the most common questions asked by newcomers to squidding. The best thing about retrieves is there’s no rule book, just a few guide lines and techniques.
Soft Lift: This is one of the most common. It involves lifting the rod tip at a slow to medium pace 90 degrees with a quick stop in the middle. It’s really two motions made very gently. This is great for when the squid are timid or wary.
Straight Hit: As the name suggest you need to hit the jig, hard! Double, single or triple – take your pick. You’ll need an amount of slack line between your rod tip and when the jig comes tight to it. Your rod tip must contact the jig at speed. This is very similar to a soft plastic retrieve and is one of the favoured retrieves by the Japanese.
Walk the Dog: Most of you would be familiar with this. It’s a matter of coming in contact with the jig in successive hits while winding up the slack. Great retrieve for shallow water
Long Draw: The long draw is another simple one. With your tip on the water, you lift straight up till the tip is above your head. Wind up the slack and watch the line. Another good retrieve for shut-down squid.
The thin nose of the more modern style jigs allows the jig to move side to side, making it appear more lifelike rather than just tracking in a straight line. This is something to look for when you’re buying jigs. Also keep an eye out for jigs that have a more pronounced belly. This will drive them more towards the surface instead of coming directly back at you. This aspect of a jig will keep it in the strike zone for more of the retrieve. To find out which jigs are “high lift” jigs you’ll either need to be able to read Japanese or go to a very good tackle shop.
Allowing a jig to sit on the bottom is a crucial part of the retrieve. It gives the squid time to assess the situation and move in for the kill. It is also one of the best ways to get your jig snagged. Using good quality Japanese designed jigs will reduce your bottom snagging by up to 80 per cent because of the meticulous way they weight the jig to swim. A good jig will sit on the bottom with its tail in the air, well off the bottom structure.
Squid-specific lines, leaders, rods, reels, iki spikes, jig cleaners, scents, jig boxes, tackle bags and even clothing are starting to make their way into tackle stores and into our waiting hands. Obviously all of the above is not necessary but some of it is.
Working from the jig back you have leader material. Fluorocarbon is a must in clear water situation and the lighter the better. Try 4, 6 and 8 pound and keep in mind the thinner the line, the more bites you’ll get.
To get the most action out of your jigs your main line must be polyethylene (braid). This line floats and helps to tip the nose of your jig upwards, creating a great looking swim action and keeping it in the strike zone.
Egi rods are now available in Australia. Egi roughly translated from the Japanese means “squid lure” and that’s what these rods are designed to cast. They have very specific actions, grip lengths and guides. The action of the Egi rod is very specific. It’s unlike a soft plastic rod which tends to fast or extra fast action. They are stiff tipped for imparting action to the jig and are quite parabolic for tackling lunging squid without ripping the spikes out. The grips are longer then you might think they need to be but quite a few of the retrieve techniques work better if you grip the butt. Jigs are much heavier and more water resistant than, say, a soft plastic so you can’t always retrieve with one hand.
The guides that are mostly used are Fuji Low Riders. These space-age looking guides are designed to take the rotating loops that are formed as the line comes off the spool of a threadline reel and “choke” them into a straight line directly after the first stripper guide. This allows minimal line/guide “touching” which lowers resistance and aids in a much more efficient cast. This funky system is finished off at the pointy end by anti-tangle tip guides and tip top.
Reels designed for squidding aren’t that much different to what you would normally use in this fishing situation. The only differences of note are that they would normally be selected for having large spool IDs for tangle free, long distance casting and would have a pimped up handle for a bit of extra comfort. Also if you’re lucky, they might offer a handle stem stand for land based squidders so you don’t scratch your pride and joy.
There are many jigs on today’s market. Some good and some are rubbish. By far the easiest way to tell the quality is either by making sure that it’s made in Japan or by checking the price. Nine times out of 10 it will be both. Good jigs cost between $20 and $40 and are worth their weight in gold. There is no substitute for a jig that swims well, looks the goods, has great spikes and just straight up catches the hell out of them!!
If I could only use one jig for the rest of my life it would be size 3, have high carbon steel spikes, be dressed with red foil flashing and probably have blue eyes. I just like those blue eyes …
All this probably doesn’t matter to the squid but it sure makes me feel better.
Get out there and get inked!