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Australian fishing writer and TV presenter Steve ‘Starlo’ Starling concludes his two-part overview of modern soft plastic fishing with an insightful look at the sometimes vexing question of choosing the best soft plastics for any given angling scenario.

In the previous issue of “Fish On!” magazine, I offered my thoughts on why modern soft plastics are such effective fish-catchers in an extremely broad range of angling environments and on so many different target species, in both salt and freshwater. I also provided some observations about the seemingly small differences in rigging and presentation of soft plastic lures that can have a profound influence on catch rates. This time, in the concluding instalment of my two-part special, I want to look at a subject that seems to cause great anxiety amongst many anglers: Choosing the best plastic to use in a given scenario.

In the course of my travels, I talk to lots of anglers. Some I encounter on the water, or meet at seminars and shows. Others I chat with via the various pages on Facebook that I run or help to administer (especially the StarloFishing, Fishingscool and Squidgy Soft Plastics pages), or through my blogs at www.starlofishing.me Still more send their letters or emails via the various magazines I write for. A lot of these anglers are keen to expand their knowledge of soft plastic fishing, and are struggling with aspects of that art. One question tends to dominate the requests for advice that I receive in this area. Almost without fail, that query begins with the words: “What’s the best soft plastic to use for…?”

The rest of that sentence almost always contains a species of fish and a precise location: What’s the best soft plastic for catching Barramundi in the Northern Territory’s Daly River? What’s the best choice for Coral Trout out on Queensland’s Great Barrier Reef? What’s the best softie to jig for Ebek off the Malaysian coast? What should I choose when chasing Toman in a Thai lake? Or Peacock Bass in a freshwater reservoir? And so on it goes…

Jo Starling caught this lovely golden trevally in Australian waters on a Phosphorus coloured Squidgy Shad.

I can’t help smiling at some of these questions. Anglers clearly have their favourite fishing spots and species, and many seem to expect that the fish they chase in these places will behave differently to those living down the road, around the bend or across the border. Generally speaking, this is not the case. To give you an example, I’ve caught introduced Redfin Perch in the New England rivers of north western New South Wales here in Australia, and also in the very “Old England” rivers around the historical university city of Cambridge, in Great Britain (where they’re simply known as Perch). Not too surprisingly, these fish looked the same, behaved similarly and happily ate identical lures in both locations, literally a world apart. The same could be said of Peacock Bass in their Amazonian home waters or a Singaporean reservoir…

Rather than asking me (or someone else) to nominate the best soft plastic for catching Barramundi in the Daly, an angler would be much better off seeking advice and opinion regarding the optimum approaches for targeting Barra in big, tidal rivers with lots of current flow and slightly discoloured water. That way, the answers they received would be applicable across a whole range of waterways featuring similar target species and conditions.

The message I’m trying to convey is a simple one: Fish are fish, and a particular species will behave in a very similar way when presented with a particular habitat type, season, degree of water clarity and set of food sources, regardless of its precise geographic location. This is a great thing to know, because it means that once we sort out some effective guidelines for one place and time, we can apply them in the future whenever we encounter similar conditions, even if we’re a long, long way from home. That’s a useful lesson to learn.

A big cod or grouper comes to the boat after hitting a jigged plastic.

PICKING FAVOURITES
It still surprises me how daunted some anglers are at the prospect of making that initial choice, tying on that first lure and actually beginning to fish. It seems that the entire process genuinely freaks some folks out! They open their tackle box, scan its contents with a confused, worried expression, sit in an agony of tangled indecision for several minutes, then turn desperately to look for someone to direct their burning question to: “What should I use?”

If you truly have absolutely no idea where to start, take the plunge and make a guess! Tie something on, give it a swim and see if the fish show any interest. If they don’t, change your lure and try again. Or try something that has worked for you before, perhaps even an old favourite.

In reality, your approach rarely needs to be blind. You should at least have an idea of what lives in the waterway and what some of the most important food sources are likely to be. This basic knowledge is a big help in making your initial selection. If it’s a stocked Barramundi lake in Queensland, renowned for producing metre-plus bruisers and boiling with hand-sized Bony Bream (Herring), it doesn’t make a lot of sense to kick off with a 5 cm long worm or grub imitation! Conversely, if it’s a gin clear jungle stream with a good population of small to middling Sebarau, it will most likely be counterproductive to tie on a 15 or 20 cm long lure.

Engage your basic common sense and begin by pruning down at least the size selection process. If you’re chasing big fish that you suspect are eating big things, then choose a biggish lure. If you’re after smaller fish that you think are eating tiny food, pick a little lure.

While you’re at it, at least have a think about roughly matching the shape, colour and swimming action of those likely food items. Fly fishers call this thought process “matching the hatch” and it’s one of the most important steps in successful lure selection.

Be willing, however, to accept that you might be wrong… It happens! Just occasionally those big Barra, surrounded by all of those chunky Bony Bream and beefy Mullet, might actually be dining on a prolific year class of juvenile Rainbow Fish half the size of your little finger.

What I’m trying to tell you is that nothing and no one can give you better feedback on your lure choices than the fish themselves. Let them tell you what they want and, when they do, make sure you’re listening!

Coral trout love a jigged Squidgy!

THE COLOUR QUESTION
The next most common question I field after the perennial “what’s the best lure for…?” is “what’s the best colour for…?”.

In my opinion, far too many anglers expend far too much time and energy agonizing over the lure colour issue. Yes, sometimes it’s important. Occasionally it’s absolutely critical. But I’ll let you in on a little secret: Most of the time the actual colour of your lure is far, far less important than its size, action and running depth. And that’s exactly where I usually rate colour in the lure selection process… Behind size, action and running depth. Yet I’m so rarely asked “what’s the best depth to target this fish at?” or “what sort of speed and lure action do they like?”. Instead, most anglers seem to believe that if they’re told the magic colour to use, success will instantly be theirs. If only fishing were really so simple!

Once again, matching the hatch is a very good place to start. If the little baitfish showering out of the water in fear where you’re fishing look to be silvery with a darker back, why not choose a silvery lure with a darker back to begin with?

If no obvious food sources are present and you’re not sure what the fish are actually eating, look at the water itself. Is it clear or dirty? And if it’s somewhere in between those extremes, is it green-tinged, brownish or tannin-stained? Whatever it is, the little critters living in it are likely to be wearing a roughly similar hue. So if it’s greenish, go for a green lure. If it’s tea-like, choose a red or brown plastic. Again, this is just a starting point. The tick of approval (or otherwise) will come from the true experts on this issue: the fish themselves. In other words, if your first choice draws a blank, try something else.

As a final word on colour selection, there’s a rule of thumb I’ve used for many years that usually stands me in pretty good stead. It goes something like this: If the water is gin clear, use subdued, natural tones. If it’s a bit dirtier, use something a little brighter. If it’s very discoloured, go for vivid, fluorescent tones. If it’s absolutely filthy, try black or purple… or bait… or go home! And finally, if you’re fishing companion is catching fish and you’re not, switch to exactly what he’s using!

Starlo with a big golden snapper or fingermark taken while jigging a Squidgy Shad in 40 metres of water off Darwin.

ACCEPTING REJECTION
As a final word on lure choice, try to accept that you won’t always get it right. While they’re not particularly bright, fish can be surprisingly fickle critters. Their “moods” (for want of a better term) constantly change, as does their behaviour and their choice of food. Sometimes they simply stop feeding altogether for lengthy periods (perhaps a lot of the time, for things like impoundment Barra or big Murray Cod here in Australia). When they do, the smartest lure choices in the world may still leave you with a limp line and a straight rod. After all, as has been said many times, if we were always successful, this wonderful sport of ours would be called “catching”, not “fishing”, and I’d imagine that we’d soon grow bored with it.

So, don’t be afraid of the lure selection process. Dive in (metaphorically speaking!) and have a try. Start by narrowing the parameters of size, depth, action and colour (in about that order) and making some educated guesses, then test your hypotheses. Sometimes you’ll find the right answers. Sometimes you won’t. And sometimes there is no right answer… That’s fishing!

Follow Starlo on his blog: http://www.starlofishing.me
and on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/StarloFishing

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Well-known Australian fishing writer and TV presenter Steve ‘Starlo’ Starling has spent the past decade and a half refining his techniques for using soft plastic lures, as well as helping to design an entire range of these deadly fish-catching weapons. In this series, he shares some of his valuable insights and tips on how to get the most out of fishing with soft plastics.

In my opinion, soft plastic lures have been one of the biggest game changers in fishing since the arrival of monofilament nylon line and fibreglass rods totally transformed the face of our sport during the late 1950s and early ’60s.

Actually, if you want to get technical about it, soft lures have been around at least as long as those other two trend-setting by-products of the plastic revolution that swept the globe after World War Two. However, outside of North America, soft plastic fishing lures didn’t really catch on with the mainstream angling populous of many countries until the mid to late 1990s. Since then, they’ve certainly made up for lost time!

Starlo with a big barramundi from the floodplains of the Finniss River, near Darwin. It fell for a weedless or Texan-rigged Squidgy Pro Mongrel lure.

In Australia, where I live, the soft plastic boom is now into its eleventh or twelfth straight year and shows no sign of slowing down. In fact, more and more devotees discover this form of fishing each season, constantly swelling the ranks of soft lure converts. I believe a similar trend is evident throughout South East Asia, although it seems that many anglers in this region are yet to fully embrace the potential of these life-like lures in both salt and fresh water.

Over this same period, I’ve been fortunate enough to become intimately involved with the development of an entire brand of soft plastics, jig heads and other accessories that are designed and made specifically for the Australian market. The Squidgy range was conceived by myself and my good friend, Kaj ‘Bushy’ Busch, at the beginning of the new millennium, before finally being launched early in 2002. This year marks Squidgy’s tenth birthday, and I’m pleased to report that the brand is still going strong. Squidgies remain the soft plastic market leader in my home country, as well as gradually developing a following amongst fans much further afield in Asia, Africa, Europe and even the Americas. It would be fair to say that in just a decade, Squidgies have changed the way millions of people go fishing!

However, as effective and relatively easy to use as soft plastics are, there are some anglers who still fail to fully capitalise on the fish-catching effectiveness of these lures. Here in Australia, Bushy, myself and the rest of the Squidgy team (part of the Shimano Australia organisation) have addressed this issue by undertaking a rigorous, ongoing education campaign consisting of magazine features, books, instructional videos, DVDs, television segments and public seminars all aimed at raising awareness and understanding about fishing with soft plastics. My aim in this series for “Fish On!” is to share some of that educational process and information with you in the hope of improving your results and raising your fishing enjoyment levels!

The Texan-style weedless or snag-proof rigging of soft plastics is revolutionising fishing for species like barramundi in weedy waters and will work well on the likes of snakehead or toman, too! Here, the nose of the Squidgy Mongrel has torn away from the wide-gaped worm hook during the battle.

WHY THEY WORK
Make no mistake, soft plastic lures are absolutely deadly fish-catching weapons in even halfway experienced hands. It’s interesting to look at exactly why they are so successful and why, on many occasions, plastics can actually out-fish hard-bodied lures and even live baits.

As a material for lure making, soft plastic (usually a PVC-based plastisol) has a lot going for it. This material can be used to create almost any size, shape and colour that can be imagined by the human mind. Soft plastics also look and feel more realistic than any other form of artificial lure. Because they are so lifelike, these artificial baits extend the boundaries of lure fishing. Fish that may only be marginally interested in eating something made from hard plastic or metal can regularly be fooled into eating a softie — often with a high degree of enthusiasm!

The addition of scents and flavours to soft plastic lures can enhance their performance even further, inducing fish to hang onto them longer and thus making it much easier for anglers to hook those fish. No wonder plastics are proving to be so popular and effective!

In addition to feeling more life-like than hard lures, soft plastics can also be made to appear extremely real and edible to a predatory fish. For example, many creatures that fish prey on have some form of semi-transparency or translucency, and this is very easy to achieve with soft plastic.

Known as spangled emperor in Australia, this tropical and sub-tropical snapper is another common catch on soft plastics. This specimen hit a Squidgy Shad in the White Lightning colouration.

Colour can also be an important factor at times (although perhaps not quite as critical in many instances as a lot of anglers seem to believe). Soft plastics can be made in almost any arrangement of colours and colour patterns, with or without the see-through translucency already described.

Flash is another attack response trigger and many of the prey items fish hunt have various degrees of flash. It’s fairly easy to add flash to a soft plastic lure by including some metallic glitter in the plastisol mix, or placing a thin metallic foil sheet inside the lure when it is being poured and moulded.

Then there’s shape and action. As I mentioned, the shapes of soft plastics are limited only by the human imagination, and a plastic’s swimming action is dictated by this shape and also by the hardness or softness of the plastisol formula used. As well as making the lure look alive, a swimming action gives off vibrations that fish can detect via their lateral lines and other sensory capabilities. This helps explain why lures (including soft plastics) can still attract fish in very dirty water or on the darkest of nights.

MODULAR SYSTEM
So, we have a few clues now as to why soft plastics are so attractive to fish. Basically it’s because they can be made to look, move, feel, smell and even taste like something edible. The other wonderful thing about good soft plastics is that they form part of an extremely versatile and adaptable ‘modular’ system. An angler can mix, match, adjust and fine tune their rigging methods, jig head or sinker weight selection, hook sizes, tail colours, patterns, tackle, lines, leaders, knots and presentation strategies to really make their soft plastics perform.

It may sound like a big call, but soft plastic lures often do out-fish fresh baits and even live baits! How can this be? The answer is simple: because you can cover lots of water far more effectively with a soft plastic than you can with most natural baits. In many ways, softies are like re-usable, store-able, cast-able live baits that can be presented anywhere between the surface and the sea bed and, unlike real live baits, you don’t need aerated holding tanks or floating cages to keep them alive in!

The bottom line is that soft plastics imitate prey items better than just about any other form of lure or fly, and because you can fine tune the modular system and cover water effectively with them (both laterally and vertically), you can show your plastics to a lot of fish in the course of a day’s fishing. That equates to improved catch rates… and heaps more fun!

However, there are a few tricks to getting the best from soft plastics that will dramatically improve your catch rates when using these wonderful lures, and that’s the area I want to devote the rest of this feature to.

One of the Lethrinid species of tropical snapper or sweetlip. Most tropical reef fish are absolute suckers for soft plastics.

FINE TUNING
I still meet plenty of hopeful anglers every year who are struggling to catch fish on soft plastics, despite having given these lures a good try. Most of these people have suitable equipment and a fair idea about lure selection and rigging, but are just doing one or two seemingly small things the wrong way. Believe it or not, these tiny things can mean the difference between catching a reasonable number of fish and hooking almost none.

Many of these small errors occur during the rigging stage involved in matching a soft plastic tail to a jig head or hook, and the rest arise once the lure is in the water and being manipulated to (hopefully) appeal to a predatory fish. So, let’s start with rigging:

In our part of the world (Australia and South East Asia), the most common, and often the most effective, way to place a plastic tail on a standard jig head is to rig it up in a manner the Americans would call ‘Texposed’ (a combination of the words ‘Texas’ and ‘exposed’). In other words; to push the hook point into the nose of the soft plastic and feed the rubber tail around the hook bend before bringing the point out on the mid-line of the plastic’s back. The result is the standard soft plastic set up we are most familiar with.

As simple as this rig sounds (and it is pretty simple), it’s critically important to get it exactly right. One of the most common causes of poor fishing results with plastics is incorrectly or sloppily rigged tails. Bent, twisted and off-centre tails simply don’t swim properly. They often spin in the water, looking unnatural and potentially causing line twist. However, even tails that are only a fraction out of whack and which lay over their sides slightly when pulled through the water or don’t quite wriggle right can often put sharp-eyed fish species, particularly in hard-fished waters.

Following a couple of simple steps every time you rig a tail on a jig head will really help to avoid these hassles and although these steps probably add an average of 20 or 30 seconds to the rigging of each soft plastic, that extra time pays real dividends in terms of fish caught. Here’s how to do it:

Start by laying the jig you’ve chosen to use alongside the tail, with the nose or front of the soft plastic level with the back of the jig head. Carefully note exactly where the bend of the jig hook comes to on the back (top) of the plastic tail. This will be the exit spot for the hook point as you rig. You can even mark this point, if you wish, using a marker pen, but usually there’s some feature on the plastic tail itself you can use as a reference guide (a coloured stripe, a spot or scale, a letter of the maker’s name, a moulded fin or whatever).

Next, push the point of the jig hook into the front of the soft plastic lure, right in the centre of its head or nose. Thread the soft plastic lure onto and around the hook bend (just as you’d feed a prawn or a worm onto a bait hook), so that the point of the hook exits the back of the plastic exactly on the centre line and at that point you noted earlier, or as close to it as possible. Snug the nose of the plastic up against the back of the jig head, and you’re in business… It’s really that easy. Having said that, I should stress that you can also easily make a mess of this procedure. Take the time to get it right.

If your lure looks neat and straight on the jig and the hook point emerges smack on the centre line of the plastic’s back (or within a millimetre or two of it), you’ve done it properly. On the other hand, if the finished package looks in any way suspect, as in slightly crooked, bent, skewed or bunched up—rig it again! Seriously, it’s worth the effort, as getting this right can potentially make a huge difference to your catch rates.

No matter how good everything looks, you should never cast a rigged soft plastic and begin fishing with before dropping it in the water on a short length of line at your feet or beside the boat and pulling it along for a metre or so to check its action. Do this every time you rig a plastic. If the lure swims straight and looks good on this test run, the tail wobbles or kicks enticingly, and the whole package looks like something that might actually be alive, then you’ve rigged it properly and you can start fishing. But if anything looks the slightest bit odd, lift the lure out of the water and tweak it. This could be as simple as twisting the tail ever so slightly on the hook, or pulling on it to straighten it, or it might involve removing the plastic from the jig completely and starting again. Whatever needs to be done, do it!

When you’re absolutely satisfied that the plastic is rigged correctly, you can start fishing…

One way traffic!

PRESENTATION STRATEGIES
One of the first things I so often find myself having to teach newcomers to plastic fishing is to slow down! Many of them, particularly people with a long history of using hard plastic, timber or metal lures, work or retrieve their soft plastics much too quickly. Remember, soft plastics look, feel and even smell or taste like real food, so you don’t need to rely on speed to create an effective deception.

The other key difference between soft plastics and most hard lures emerges when you stop cranking or trolling a soft plastic and let it simply sink down through the water under its own weight or that of a jig head. Unlike so many other artificial offerings, softies continue to swim and ‘work’ when sinking, or even when just hanging in the water (especially if there’s some current). This is a vitally important factor to understand. In fact, it’s so important that we’ve coined a term for it. We don’t talk about letting your plastic sink or drop. We talk instead, about letting it ‘swim down’. It’s a perfect description of what happens. Weighted soft plastics don’t just sink, they swim down.

The next key point to take on board is the fact that many fish will eat your plastic more willingly while it is swimming down in this manner than they will when you are retrieving it, lifting it with the rod or dragging it behind a moving boat. In fact, in some fisheries and on certain species, the vast majority of strikes, takes or bites will occur while the lure is swimming down through the water column. Please read that previous sentence again, because it just might be one of the most important in this feature! If you understand and accept this truth, you are well on your way to becoming a more successful soft plastic fisher.

There are so many more tips and tricks I would love to share with you about successful soft plastic fishing, but I’ve run out of space for now! Never fear, this series will continue in future editions of “Fish On!”, and meanwhile, you can always visit my on-line blog at www.starlofishing.me to learn more.

Until next time, Tight Lines!

Follow Starlo on his blog: http://www.starlofishing.me
and on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/StarloFishing

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StormStorm Lures has long been seen as a whacky, unorthodox, all-American lure brand with funky and eye-catching taglines in their ads. Of late, anglers in our region may have noticed some subtle Japanese influences in Storm’s newer lure and metal jig designs. In this exclusive interview, FiSH On! Magazine speaks with Mr Hiroshi Takahashi – the man behind Storm’s offerings such as the Basho Frog, Flutterstick Minnow 4cm, Thunder Barra, Gomoku, Gomame and Thunder Jigs.


What exactly is the job scope of a Lure Designer?
Actually I don’t consider myself a lure designer. I suppose I’m more of a ‘Producer’ for lures as my job is not only limited to purely designing lures. Most lure designers come up with their designs based on their own fishing needs and conditions. My approach is a little bit different. I obtain feedback from regional product development teams on their end-user needs and then analyze their market conditions and fishing situations. With this information, I work with my team to design lure prototypes and propose them to the regional teams. Sometimes I do design, test and promote these lure prototypes myself. That’s the reason why I say I’m not solely a lure designer but more of a Producer that overlooks the entire process independent of a specific product.

How long have you been in the fishing tackle industry?
I’d say about 10 years.

Have you always been working in the tackle industry?
I actually started out in show business working on television and commercial films as an assistant producer in France for 4 years and about 1 year running my own company producing Japanese manga and animation for the French market.

What made you decide to enter the fishing tackle industry?
I was born in Tokyo and like many boys my age back then, I was influenced by the Japanese manga “Tsurikichi Sanpei” which tells of the adventures of a boy and his love for fishing. Unlike those living in the countryside, it was extremely difficult to go fishing when you’re living in the heart of Tokyo. So being able to go fishing was like a dream come true for me.

Later on, I moved to France where I pursued a career in show business. We’d normally get 2 weeks off in between preparations for commercial film shoots so that’s when I got more time to go fishing. Deep inside, I had a desire to get involved in the fishing tackle industry. I established relationships with folks from Daiwa and occasionally did some field-testing for some of their products. At that time, lure fishing was still not very popular in France and therefore, I saw an opportunity to venture into this market. I began making contact with many Japanese lure manufacturers. After countless letters, faxes and phone calls, only one person responded – it was Seiji Kato-san of Lucky Craft. It was an opportunity to distribute Lucky Craft lures in France. It wasn’t easy selling premium Japanese lures in the beginning. The price of a Lucky Craft lure was about twice the price of a Rapala lure in France. It was almost impossible to sell such expensive lures! One famous tackle shop owner in Paris mentioned that no one had ever succeeded in selling a hardbait at a higher price than Rapala at that time. Meanwhile, I still did a bit of work with Japanese manga publishers to translate their work into French.

My first breakthrough was the introduction of Lucky Craft Sammy. Back then in 1994, nobody knew what a ‘dog-walk’ lure was. It quickly became a big hit. I subsequently brought in a lot of high-end Japanese products into the French market after gaining experience in promoting Japanese lures.

How did you end up in the design and development of lures?
I joined Lucky Craft three years later as President of Lucky Craft Europe. It was then that I had the opportunity to get involved with product development at Lucky Craft. The LC Wander was one of the several projects I was involved with. I subsequently left Lucky Craft a few years later to join Sensas, a company renowned for their groundbait. By then, Seiji Kato had already left Lucky Craft and founded Jackall Bros. Sensas saw the potential in the artificial lure market for Europe and so I was asked to help them create a new lure brand. Thus, with the collaboration of Seiji Kato at Jackall Bros, Illex Lures was born and I became the designer for Illex’s Scream Series range.

What motivated you to work with Storm Lures?
Although being a very large company, Sensas / Illex was still very much focused on the European market. I am a person who loves challenges and I wanted to be exposed to the fishing needs of a worldwide market. Storm is an international brand that is known worldwide and so I felt it was a good opportunity.

Where do you seek inspiration for your lure designs?
For lure eye shapes and designs, I look to the automotive industry. If you have noticed, the headlamps of older cars are usually round or squarish. These days, the trend is to go for more stylish or even aggressive designs. With that said, I constantly strive to look out for new ideas and looks to incorporate them into lure designs. My lure designs do not have a specific trademark style or identity. Each region may have different requirements and therefore I will design the lures according to the needs and requirements. For example, when I was asked to design the Storm Thunder Barra for Australian Barramundi fishing, I needed to fish the terrain and understand the need of the anglers there before proceeding with the design. Most importantly, my lures must be practical to the needs of the angler. It must be properly balanced, aerodynamically shaped to cast well and able to create the action intended to catch the target fish. The appearance of the lure is a personal thing and each designer would have his own style. Some people prefer realistic eyes while some prefer conceptual eye designs. I would say if 80% of anglers like my design, I would consider it as a ‘good design’. If only 10% of anglers like a design that I consider as ‘good’, then I would have failed.

Can you briefly share what is the process of developing a lure?
Usually it starts off with requests from regional sales teams to meet a specific market need. I then propose a design and develop prototypes for field-testers to assess and provide feedback. When a design is approved, the lure mould is then created for mass production.

How do ensure your lure designs are effective on the water before mass production?
I personally test the prototypes myself apart from sending samples to field testers. Moulding is very expensive and I take personal responsibility to ensure that the final design is up to expectation prior to mass production. I take pride in my work so even if field-testers are OK with the proposed design, I would still verify and ensure that the designs are indeed good enough to meet the requirements. Field-tester feedback is very important and if the field-testers are not stringent enough, the lack of proper feedback can result in a poor quality product after production. I enjoy working very closely with the Japan sales teams as their quality expectations are very high.

Are there specific characteristics that take precedence over others in a lure’s design? (e.g. buoyancy, action, swimming depth, etc.)
It depends on the type of lure. For example, castability is key for the Japanese seabass lure market. If I can have a lure that can cast 10% further from the competition, I would have 80% of the market share. Each lure is unique and will have different key characteristics depending on the market segment requirement. Occasionally I do get quite difficult requirements (for example, a tiny lure that can cast 200m and stay afloat!). While I try my best to achieve all the requirements, very often I will need to discuss with stakeholders to see which characteristic has a higher priority. But I would say lure aerodynamics is very important as it influences casting and swimming action. I am continually learning about aerodynamics from the aviation industry.

Some lure manufacturers individually test their lures for quality assurance. Are Storm lures individually tested to ensure they swim straight out of the box?
All lipped hardbait lures are individually tank tested in the factory. Even the Storm Live Kickin’ Minnow is tank-tested piece by piece.

Storm Gomame

Storm Gomame Jig

I assume metal lures for jigging would be designed and tested differently from conventional swimming lures. How do you test the action of these metal lures and jigs?

Metal lure design is not as complicated as compared to hardbait lures. There are many considerations in hardbait manufacturing: composition of materials, buoyancy, lip angle and aerodynamics. The important factor for metal jigs is balance. What is the required presentation? Is the jig is weighted at the head, centre-weighted, or tail-weighted? For example, when designing the Japanese Gomoku concept jigs, I was given all the parameters such as expected type of line, snap and swivel used and how many metres the jig needed to flutter before plummeting straight down. The Japanese have a very clear idea of the requirements of the expected jig action. In this case, the jig had to flutter for 3 metres before dropping straight down. Initial tests are done in a deep pool but field-tests are still performed in Japan. The water is very clear and the field-testers can see for themselves if the jig action is in accordance to the required specifications.

In your opinion, is colour important in lure design?
Colour is definitely important but preference is purely a personal thing. For me, fluorescent pink is my favourite colour especially for PVC lures. When people ask me for a lure colour recommendation, I’d say pink! What happens very often is that the person would take the pink coloured lure to the cashier only to turn back and pick up a natural-looking pattern instead. Some who have the budget would buy both pink and the natural-looking pattern! Basically what I’m trying to say is that the angler himself must believe in the colour of choice. The more he uses it, the higher the chances of getting a fish.

Out of all the lures you’ve designed and produced, which lure do you feel is your best design or production to date?
My best lure is the next one. I’m never satisfied with any of my past lure designs. The day I am satisfied, I will retire from my job.

What keeps you awake at night (in terms of lure design)?
Not having any innovative ideas. I want to be able to continually create new products and designs. The good thing is that I love input and feedback from people and that is where I get ideas from time to time.

Are there any words of wisdom that you’d wish to share with fellow lure anglers?
Don’t ponder on why you didn’t get a bite but think about what you did when you got a bite. To improve oneself in lure fishing, one must always ask “WHY?” What did I do to trigger a strike or bite? You will then understand how a fish thinks and improve your skills as a lure angler.

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Are the fish beyond reach from shore? Or are they in too shallow waters to reach by motorboat? Grab your oars, life-jacket, fishing gear and hop aboard! Jack Lai of Kayak Project Singapore is about to bring us into the world of kayak fishing in Singapore.

Enjoying the serene moment before the “battle” begins

It’s 7am in the morning and you are already out on the water with your kayak. Your kayak glides along the waves stealthily, not unlike a predator closing in on its prey. You rig up your trusted and battle-hardened lure. Solitude in the vastness of the ocean heightens your every sense. You can hear every splash. You can see every swirl. At that moment, a fish grabs your lure and takes off, your reel drag screaming in retaliation as the fish tows your kayak. After a short triumphant fight, your adversary lays on your kayak, defeated but still alive. A quick photo and the fish is released to fight another day. You lick your lips in anticipation of the next big one. Welcome to the world of kayak fishing.

Both different forms of fishing sharing the spotlight.

Years ago, the popularity of kayak fishing in Singapore was probably somewhere between mud wrestling and base-jumping. Thanks to the many pioneers here, kayak fishing is no longer a venture into the unknown. We are no longer looked upon as being crazy for heading out to the ocean with a 9-foot piece of plastic and a paddle. We are now getting smiles and waves from the boaters sharing the ocean with us.

So if we are not crazy, why then do we kayak and fish? If you ask ten of us, you will probably get ten different answers. I will attempt to narrow down to a few obvious reasons. Each form of fishing has its own allure, be it pond fishing, surf casting, freshwater luring. Kayak fishing is no different.

Exploring every nook and cranny with the aid of a kayak.

Fishing on a kayak means you are now able to explore different and previously unexplored territories. What was once inaccessible now becomes a short paddle away. You will be surprised how many unexplored fishing spots there are. With a kayak, you are now ready to find your own fishing haven. Some shallow waters are simply not accessible by conventional boats and your little fishing machine has no such problem. The stealthy nature of the kayak means that the fish are less likely to be spooked and more willing to take your lure or jig. There are also loads of different fishing techniques to be done on a kayak. You can lure, jig or even troll. The biggest benefit of fishing from a kayak is the ease of use and the affordability compared to owning a boat.

The satisfaction of landing a fish on a kayak cannot be discounted. I look at it as fighting the battle at the enemy’s own backyard. You are no longer fighting the fish from a jetty or a boat. You are now in their terrain, in the “hot-zone”, as they might say. The fish will take the battle to you, pulling your kayak in circles, raining blows after blows on your lure. The kayak is your most vital piece of equipment as it acts as a drag and tires the fish before it surfaces and surrenders, similar to the movie “Jaws”, where the vessel Orca attempted to drag the shark back to shore. (The boat unfortunately sank in the end. It’s probably not the best example, but you get the idea!).

Kayak fishing also brings you closer to nature for those who love a sense of adventure. No more noisy kids running around and no more lovers taking up your favourite fishing spot. It’s like watching the National Geographic Channel come to life when the occasional eagle swoops down right beside you. Heck, there are times when I expect the giant tail of a whale to come splashing out of the water! Be prepared to be awed by beautiful sights. In fact, you can even spend the night on an island if you brought along your camping gear.

Aside from fishing, from a purely practical point of view, kayaking is a good form of physical activity. There were times when we were so bushed that we could barely lift our heads to see where we were going. But no sooner after you’ve stowed your kayak back onto the car, you are already making plans with your fellow kayakers for the next trip.

Now before you run off immediately to get a kayak of your own, I’d like to share some tips gathered from the local community of kayak anglers. There are probably a thousand tips I can share here, but these are some of the more important ones:

First of all, you’ll need a kayak. A kayak is a small boat powered manually by a double bladed paddle. There are many variations but the basic models are sit on tops and sit inside kayaks.

A sit inside kayak comes with a cockpit and a seat inside the kayak. It usually comes with a skirt and you are protected from the elements. Certain kayaking techniques are required to exit and re-enter the kayak if you capsize. Meanwhile, sit on top kayaks are developed mainly for recreational activities such as fishing and diving. These kayaks feature a seat on top of the hull of the kayak. Such a design means it is easy to exit and enter the kayak but getting wet is pretty much a certainty. But if you are afraid of getting wet, then you really should look elsewhere. A sit on top kayak is by far the more popular choice for kayak fishing.

There are even kayaks propelled by pedals and which brings with it hands-free kayak fishing and all the benefits associated with it. An inflatable kayak is also a popular choice as it solves storage and transport issues. Other than the kayak itself, most anglers associate kayak fishing with loads and loads of gear. Nothing could be further from the truth. Some of us tend to bring a full inventory of gears out while some prefer to go the minimalist route and only bring the essential stuff. Personally, I like to go as light as possible for my kayak and my equipment. I prefer to use minimum effort and time in both setting up and packing up.

Safety is obviously a major concern we cannot emphasize enough. A PFD (personal floatation device) is a must. We also strongly encourage kayak anglers to go out in groups and to check the weather, wind and tide forecast before launching. Have respect for the sea. You do not want to be caught in inclement weather out there. There have been times when we have set up all our equipment on the beach only to decide against going out when we spotted dark clouds approaching. A personal rule of thumb – When it looks like it’s going to rain, it usually does.

It is also important to be constantly alert and to look out for other boats. It is often difficult for large vessels to deviate from their course. Make yourself visible. Brightly coloured PFDs, paddles and clothing will help. As always, it is advisable to notify someone else if you plan on going out alone.

It is also a personal responsibility to know your own limits. I once read that kayaking is a solo sport best done in a group. There are obviously plenty of benefits with going out in a group but you are the best judge of your own physical limitations and you should not succumb to peer pressure to carry on.

Most of us are anglers first and then kayakers… well, maybe not even a close second. It’s fine if you plan to kayak fish near the shores or banks. But if you plan to venture out to deeper waters or crossing channels, it is best to familiarize yourself with capsize and re-entry drills and the proper paddling techniques. The proper paddling techniques (or pedalling techniques for kayaks with pedals) can get you to your fishing spot faster with less effort which equates to more fishing time. Generally, sea sports clubs hold kayaking classes. Alternatively, we have a strong local community of kayak anglers so learning the ropes is not that steep a learning curve.

I hope I have done the kayak fishing community justice with this article. There is a wealth of information and advice available out there if you are looking to join in this addiction of ours. Trust me, there is no turning back once you have embraced our world.

Welcome to our world of kayak fishing.

Jack Lai runs a kayak fishing outfitter called The Kayak Project
Check out his blog at http://kayak-project-shop.blogspot.sg
Facebook: Kayak-Project SG

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Mervin Low of Hooked Kayak Fishing takes the Editor out for a half-day session to showcase the vast opportunities and advantages of fishing off a “hands-free” kayak.

Hobie Kayak

A sense of child-like excitement welled up inside of me as Mervin and Jimmy unloaded the Hobie Mirage Oasis from the car top. Of course, I was careful not to let it show, lest I embarrass myself in front of the two guys I’ve just met. Shortly after loading up the necessary fishing gear and slapping on some sunscreen, we were ready to roll, quite literally. Detachable wheels were fitted underneath the Hobie kayaks and dragged along towards the boat ramp for launch.

Dragging a Hobie Kayak

“I always advise kayak anglers to ensure their PFDs are worn at all times,” Mervin said. I patted the life-belt PFD around my waist and gave him the thumbs up.

“Good, looks like you’re well prepared!” Jimmy added.

In less than 15 minutes, we were already at our first spot. Right about 50 feet away from us, some Giant Herring were happily finning away, breaking the still surface of the water. We inched closer. Now they were even surfacing less than 10 feet away from the kayak! I was amazed at how close we could get to the fish without spooking them, thanks to the silent and stealthy approach of the kayak.

Diamond Trevally from a kayak

About 30 metres away, Jimmy was seen playing a fish. A juvenile Diamond Trevally on micro jig! Nice! The first fish of the day landed in less than half an hour after launch. Surprisingly, the open top kayak was exceptionally stable contrary to my initial assumptions. Casting a lure from one was relatively easy too. There were times it felt a little awkward casting at a target beyond a right angle but with just a few strokes of the paddle, the kayak could be easily positioned at a more favourable casting angle. That was probably the only time I saw Mervin using the paddle by the way. The Hobies were driven by the Mirage Drive, a kick paddle-like contraption that relied on us pushing our legs back and forth to move forwards. It made ‘kayaking’ quite a breeze as it freed up our hands to cast our lures without ever reaching for the oar.

Tarpon from a kayak

After successfully landing a Giant Herring, we moved off in search of another target – Tarpons! Tarpons are easily spooked at the slightest disturbance and again, I was pleasantly surprised how Mervin got us right up close to a school of them without frightening them away. There they were – schools of mixed sizes happily playing at the surface. We hooked up several fish but never landed any as the lures flung off as soon as they leaped out of the water. We didn’t care. It was fun just watching the fish swim all around us!

Landing a grouper

Grouper on kayak

The escapees must have alerted the school and they soon disappeared from the scene. Off we go for Groupers! Another advantage of fishing from a kayak is the relative ease of getting close enough to inshore rock bunds. Mervin and Jimmy were happily pulling in Grouper after Grouper from a short rock bund stretch, much to my amusement!

Strike!

The late morning breeze picked up as temperatures started to rise in tandem with the sun. We popped back to our first spot, hoping to find more Giant Herring or Trevally. I was fortunate enough to land a small Diamond Trevally with the Jigging Shad to round off the fishing session.

Diamond Trevally on kayak

Hobie - No hands!

Look Ma’, no hands!

Kayak ready to go

Mirage Drive

Hobie Oasis

I must say I was really impressed with the advantages of fishing from a kayak. The fishing results were pretty good for half a day’s fishing! Luring from a kayak certainly opens up tremendous fishing opportunities as it allows relatively easy access to places where it’s difficult to get to on foot or too shallow to enter by boat. Another advantage of fishing from a kayak is being able to sneak up quietly to unsuspecting schools of fish. It’s also a good way to lose that gut, whether by paddling or pedalling. Either way, it’s good physical exercise. There are certain considerations of owning a kayak though, with the primary reasons being storage space and portability. Then again, there are inflatable kayaks that can be folded up neatly for easy storage too!

Thanks to Mervin Low and Jimmy Ng from Hoooked Kayak Fishing, the Editor now often daydreams of owning a Hobie to go fishing in.

Hoooked

Hoooked Kayak Fishing is an exclusive dealer for Hobie kayaks in Singapore.

Check out their website at: Hoooked Kayak Fishing

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9 anglers were left adrift in the South China Sea after a tragic accident off Tanjung Sedili in September 2011. While 7 men were rescued 19 hours later, 2 still remain missing till this day. One of the survivors of the ill-fated trip, Mr PAN POH LOH, shares from his experience some suggested safety precautions to take before embarking on a trip and what should one do in the unlikely event of falling overboard or being capsized at sea – with the hope that this awareness will help to save lives.

Safety Precautions and Survival Tips At Sea

  1. Life jackets or inflatable personal floatation devices (PFDs) should be worn at all times on board a boat. Accidents happen when you least expect it. Most inflatable PFDs these days are slim and do not restrict much motion when fishing.
  2. Keep a whistle in your pocket or life jacket for attracting attention. Most life jackets and PFDs will have a whistle attached.
  3. If possible, keep a small pocket knife and a small torchlight in your pocket. Having a knife allows you to cut ropes, lines or other materials when needed. A torchlight is useful for illumination and attracting attention in the dark. A small mirror is also useful in the daytime to attract attention from a distance. All these items can be packed into a small waist pouch which you can keep by your side at all times.
  4. Keep some sweets, candy bars or chewing gum handy as these are good sources of energy in an emergency.
  5. Keep some bottles of water and packed food such as buns or biscuits in cooler boxes. Cooler boxes usually float in the water and keeping rations in them may have higher chances of ensuring some water and food supply in an emergency.
  6. It’s best to assign a person to stay awake and keep watch at all times on the boat especially at night to warn of any approaching vessels.
  7. Be aware of the boat’s direction when heading out to fishing spots. Knowing the direction of the nearest body of land will enable you to swim towards it in an emergency. Swimming towards land may increase the likelihood of being spotted by fishermen or passing boats.
  8. Should you fall into the water, do not panic – try to reach out for any large floating debris or items to cling to for floatation.
  9. Remain calm and avoid kicking, shouting and thrashing. Apart from helping you to keep afloat, relaxing will help to conserve energy.
  10. Swim towards any visible “unjam” buoys or FADs and hang on to the ropes. There is a higher possibility of being spotted by fishing boats inspecting these “unjams” or FADs.
  11. Always notify your family or loved ones where you will be fishing as well as an estimated time when you will return to shore. It is also advisable to have contacts of fellow fishing mates and their points of contact back home.
  12. Always ensure you check the weather forecast before embarking on the trip. It’s best to cancel the trip should the weather be unfavourable. Foregoing the trip deposit is nothing compared to the risks of venturing out to sea in rough weather.
  13. Do your homework and research on the boat charter for vessel reliability and safety provisions (e.g. availability of floats, life jackets, two-way radio systems, etc.).
  14. Avoid anchoring at known shipping lanes where big vessels regularly pass through. The risks of a collision are very real and no amount of fishing enjoyment should be at the expense of one’s personal safety.

It may be a worthy safety investment for anglers who frequently fish at spots far away from any mobile network connectivity to purchase a satellite phone. While the airtime rates may be steep (use them for emergencies, not chatting!), satellite phone sets are now more affordable with some units starting as low as S$880 with prepaid options. Store important numbers such as local Maritime & Port Authority contact numbers and, if in Malaysia, Maritime Rescue Co-Ordination Centres (MRCC) and Rescue Sub Centre (MSRC) contact numbers in the phone in case of emergencies or mishaps at sea.

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Will this be the future for protecting spinning reels from corrosive saltwater? FiSH On! checks out the use of ferrofluid in Daiwa’s Mag Seal technology.

Daiwa first introduced its Mag Sealed concept in its Certate line of spinning reels in 2010 and has since expanded the use of this technology to its other range of spinning reels such as the Saltiga and more recently, the new Caldia spinning reel. In its essence, the Mag Seal technology is a unique waterproofing design that involves the use of ferrofluid to form a seal to prevent water seeping into the gears via the rotor and pinion gear assembly.

In a simplified definition, ferrofluid is a liquid that quickly becomes magnetized in the presence of a magnetic field. Picture a liquid substance consisting of very fine, nanoscale particles of iron that is attracted to magnets. This ferrofluid is typically liquid in form but will quickly respond and align when it comes into close proximity of a magnetic force.

Ferrofluids were first discovered in the 1960’s at the NASA Research Center when scientists were investigating various possible methods of transferring liquid fuel in a gravity-free outer space environment. Over the years, the use of ferrofluids gradually found their commercial application in medicine, manufacturing, aerospace, instrumentation and many other sectors. In fact, ferrofluid is used in disk drive manufacturing as an effective rotating shaft seal to keep dust particles or other impurities from entering disk drives through tiny gaps around the rotating drive shafts. Similarly, Daiwa has adopted this same principle in ferrofluid sealing in its Mag Sealed concept.

As we know, saltwater is bad news for reels especially when left exposed for prolonged periods. Washing under running tapwater typically removes excess salt but minute amounts diluted with tapwater can still seep through into a reel’s gearbox. Over time, corrosion kicks in and eventually causes havoc with the gears and bearings. Water normally finds its way into a spinning reel’s gearbox via a very minute gap between the rotor and opening of the body. Strategically sealing this gap with rubber gaskets or O-rings can significantly reduce the possibility of water entry but the downside of this solution is the existence of cranking inertia. There is a sense of slight resistance when engaging the reel handle. While this is negligible when cranking under load, it is rather noticeable during free spin compared to a reel without such sealing. Constant friction also wears these seals out over time, which eventually allows water penetration into the reel’s gear works.

Mag Seal in a Certate

Mag-seal under the rotor of a Daiwa Certate
(NOTE: do not attempt to disassemble the reel on your own as the ferrofluid will leak)

Magseal

Closer look at the Mag-seal

Daiwa’s ferrofluid, which it calls Mag Oil, is used in conjunction with a magnet placed perpendicularly in the rotor frame. The magnetic flux causes the ferrofluid to ‘stick’ between the body and rotor to create a liquid barrier to seal the minute gap and prevent water entry. This clever design replaces rubber seals around the pinion assembly for waterproofing while effectively eliminating friction and allowing free, unobstructed and smooth rotor movement.

The adoption of ferrofluid by Daiwa as an effective waterproof seal is a big step forward in sportfishing tackle innovation. While this solution may not be quite cost-effective as of now to fully replace the more economical O-rings and rubber seals in other open moving parts of fishing reels, we can certainly expect to see this as a stepping-stone for future breakthroughs in tackle innovation.

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Just about anyone can catch squid with a squid jig but it is the finer points and techniques of squid luring that makes it an art in itself. FiSH On! Magazine speaks with Mr. Jimmy Eu of L.E Anglers’ House (Singapore) on the art of Eging.

Eging Underwater Shot

The Japanese have long been targeting squid on traditional squid jigs resembling prawns called “Egi”. Squid fishing with the humble Egi has since evolved in modern times into a sport for enthusiasts all over the world, incorporating specially designed tackle to maximize the thrill of the game. Likewise, the term “Egi”-ing quickly caught on to become a definitive gerund in fishing vocabulary from its Japanese equivalent, “Egingu”. While the Egi can catch all sorts of squid species, the main target for most Asian Eging enthusiasts is the Bigfin Reef Squid, also known as “Aori Ika” by the Japanese.

Eging - Squid Jigging

In my ignorance, I used to think Eging was a matter of tossing any weighted squid jig into the water and waiting for any unsuspecting cephalopod to latch on. That perception changed after I was introduced to Mr. Jimmy Eu of L.E Anglers’ House who gladly shared his experience and knowledge on the basics of Eging. His passion brought him all the way to Hong Kong in his early Eging days to learn the finer points of the sport from experienced squid anglers there.

Squid Lure Selection Squid jigs

Assortment of squid jigs or ‘Egi’


CHOOSING A SQUID JIG (EGI)

According to Jimmy, choosing the appropriate squid jig or Egi is a critical factor to Eging success. It is advisable to have a range of squid jigs of different sizes, colours and weight to suit different fishing conditions. Each location, day, time and tide may require different presentations to entice a squid to bite and therefore being armed with the appropriate jig can greatly improve your chances of success. Here are some basic pointers to choose a squid jig:

Sink Rate
Buoyancy of the jig is key. Too heavy and the jig would sink quickly in an unnatural manner. Too light and the jig would be suspended on the top of the water column far out of reach from the squid lurking at the bottom. A jig’s sink rate is measured by the number of seconds it takes to sink to a metre’s depth and is usually indicated on the product packing. However, not all manufacturers indicate this information on their products. While the ideal sinking rate may vary from location to location, Jimmy has found lures with a sink rate of approximately 4-5 seconds per metre to be productive in Singapore waters. The squid jig should be sinking head first with its tail angled at approximately 45 degrees for optimal results. Stronger currents may require a slightly heavier jig to retain a consistent sink rate and presentation compared to a similar sized jig in still waters.

Egi weighted

A lead weight can be added on to the front of the Egi if needed.

Size
Squid jig sizes are denoted by a Japanese unit of measure called “sun” (寸). A ‘sun’ is approximately 3.03cm (approximately 1.193 inches) in length. Common jig sizes range from 2.0 up to 4.5 with some manufacturers going beyond this range. Typically, 2.5 to 3.0 are preferred sizes for local Eging.

Eging Underwater

Squid on!

Finishing
There are generally two types of finishes found on squid jigs, those covered with cloth and those with a smooth finish. All things being equal, cloth-type jigs have greater resistance in water and therefore will glide and sink slower compared to jigs with a smooth finish. Smooth-type jigs have lesser resistance and therefore rip through the water quicker and sink faster. Each type has its own applications in different conditions. Squids capture their prey by extending a pair of long tentacles to grasp their victims. The tentacles then contract to draw the prey towards its mouth where a sharp beak tears off chunks of flesh to be ingested. At times, wary squid may choose to ‘touch’ their prey with their tentacles to feel its texture before attacking. Most Eging enthusiasts believe that wary squids respond positively upon feeling the cloth texture compared to a jig with a smooth surface.

Egi cloth bitten

Notice the cloth of the Egi torn by the sharp beak of the squids.

Colour
According to Jimmy, squids have monochrome vision and are unable to distinguish between colours. However, colours do appear as various shades and tones in monochrome and therefore one may find a particular coloured jig more effective than others on certain conditions. Based on his experience, Jimmy prefers natural-coloured jigs in clear water conditions and darker-coloured jigs in waters with lesser visibility. Certain jigs feature reflective foils under the cloth that refract UV light which can be appealing to squid. Some Eging enthusiasts believe that a jig’s effectiveness can be improved by adding an abalone shell sticker at the back of the jig. Besides the shiny finish, it also gives the squid an illusion of a weak spot or wound on the prey and therefore, making it an easier target.

Eging6

This squid attacked an Egi with an abalone shell sticker.

TACKLE
Jimmy advises anglers keen at trying their hand at Eging to first start off with a light lure casting setup before investing in specialty Eging tackle. It would be more feasible to consider purchasing specialty gear after a few outings, since not all may end up venturing further into the sport. One can expect to spend about S$200 for a basic Eging setup. Higher end rods and reels can cost as much as S$700 or more each.

Eging Tackle

Eging tackle – don’t forget the retractable gaff if you’re Eging land-based!

Eging Rod

Rods
Eging rods should ideally be around 7.5 to 8 feet in length with a soft, yet sensitive tip section approximately a quarter length of the blank. A soft and sensitive tip will detect the slightest tap from squid while enabling the angler to impart various actions to the jig. Due to the lack of barbs in the jig’s umbrella hooks, any slack given will allow the squid to escape. As such, the rod is kept at an angle of approximately 80 degrees and the line retrieved without lowering the rod to maintain tension upon hookup. The soft tip cushions any sudden scoot from the squid while the stiffer section of the rod provides the lifting power.

Eging Line and Leader

Assortment of specialized lines, leaders and accessories for Eging

Lines
Specialty PE lines for Eging of around 0.6 to 0.8 rating are recommended. PE lines for Eging differ from conventional braided or PE lines as these are lighter and less likely to sink in water and cause line bellying. Maintaining a straight and direct connection to the jig is imperative to feel the slightest tap of a squid. Soft fluorocarbon leaders in size 3 or 4 (approx. 12-15lb) are used due to their low light refractive properties and higher abrasion resistance. Length of leader may vary but normally 1 to 1.5m is sufficient.

Eging Line Amigo Eging Reel

Double handles are easier to grab on when working jigs aggressively.

Reel
A shallow spool reel capable of accommodating 130 – 150m of PE0.6 to 0.8 line would be ideal. 2500-sized reels such as Shimano’s Sephia or Daiwa’s Emeraldas are specially designed for Eging. These reels feature ultra-smooth bearings, shallow spool designs, fast retrieves to quickly pick up slack line and are capable of dishing out decent amounts of drag pressure. Jimmy prefers reels with double handles, as it is easier to grab hold of the handle when working the jigs aggressively.

Eging Clip

Specialized Eging snaps

Terminal Tackle
Jimmy recommends specially designed Eging snaps over conventional lure snaps. The narrower bend of the snap limits the jig’s swaying movement to give a tighter side-to-side action when twitched. The wider bend on conventional lure snaps may cause a wider swaying action that can appear unnatural to the squid.

LOCATIONS
Bigfin reef squid love rocky structure and often hide under seaweed patches. They are found on the calmer end of reefs, away from pounding waves and fast currents. In Singapore, locations such as Changi Boardwalk, Labrador Park, Punggol and Bedok Jetties are popular and convenient land-based spots for Eging enthusiasts.

Changi Boardwalk Eging2

Eging enthusiasts at Changi Boardwalk

Eging9

Kelongs and jetties are convenient places to catch squid, especially for ladies and children

Changi Boardwalk Eging

A cluster of rocks – one of the productive areas at Changi Boardwalk

Pulau Berhala

Pulau Berhala, off Pahang, Malaysia is a popular Eging hotspot

TECHNIQUE
There are many techniques that can be employed to work the jigs. Here, Jimmy shares two basic and effective techniques:

Twitching
Similar to luring, this technique involves working the lure in a tight, zigzag pattern to mimic a prawn’s movement. Snap the rod tip in a short, smooth motion and pause. The jig will move forward to one side, creating a momentary slack in the line. Repeating the motion will cause the jig to move to the other direction. The repeated twitching motion results in the jig darting left and right. ­

Eging Technique

Jimmy Eu demonstrates the whipping / ripping technique.

Whipping / Ripping
Drop the jig all the way to the bottom. Upon touching the seabed, sweep the rod tip upwards in an aggressive manner and retrieve the slack line. Repeat this process three to four times then allow the jig to sink again before repeating.

Eging3

Calvin displays his catch from Changi Boardwalk

JIMMY’S EGING TIPS:

LE Anglers' House1. Keep the jig as close to the bottom as possible to draw the squid from their hideouts near rocks and under seaweed. Chances of catching squid on the surface are usually low.

2. When bites are slow, experiment with different jig patterns and colours to find the appropriate colour tone that attracts the squid under those circumstances and conditions.

3. Once a squid is hooked, keep the line tight and do not lower or pump the rod. Keep the rod at an angle of approximately 80 degrees. Steadily retrieve the line and allow the rod tip to cushion any sudden movement of the squid in its attempt to flee.

4. Squids are attracted to light. Try to avoid full moon nights as the squids are more scattered during these periods.

5. If a squid shows interest in the jig presented but is cautious or unwilling to grab the offering, release some line and allow the jig to sink about a metre. Then close the bail arm and wait for the take.

6. It is best to let the squid expel all its ink before landing it. As a precaution, face the squid’s head away from you or your friends.

7. A landed squid will not be able to expel any ink if water has been fully ejected from its body.

Eging can be a fun activity that is suitable for both male and female, including children. Getting started is reasonably inexpensive and land-based options are convenient and safe as long as basic safety precautions are taken.

For more information, advice and specialized gear for Eging, drop by:

L.E Anglers’ House
Block 530 Bedok North Street 3
#01-634 Singapore 460530

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The idea of casting lures over shallow reef can be daunting for some. Getting those expensive lures stuck onto coral bommies or rocks is not exactly a pleasant feeling. With the proper know-how, you can minimize or even avoid that from happening and might just latch on to some nice reef fish too!

Reef

Reefs are perfect hunting grounds for predators, both pelagic and demersal. Therefore understanding the terrain and contours of a reef is advantageous as one would be able to determine likely ambush points of predators. This is especially so for rocky ridges located very near shallow reefs. A good way to read the terrain is to observe these potential spots at low tide. Some rocky ­­grounds can reveal holes, crevices and funnels during extreme low tides that otherwise would not be visible during high tides. These can be very good spots to place a lure.

Rocky area

Spanish flag

This Spanish Flag was pulled out from the cluster of half-submerged rocks above

Some reef flats are submerged all the time but in clear water, one should be able to make out the edges of coral bommies or reef structure. A good place to land a lure would be in between the bommies as these would be where predatory reef dwellers such as Coral Trout and Groupers would lie in wait to ambush their prey. The idea is to get the lure as close as possible to the bommies as these fishes rarely move far away from their hideouts to grab a bite. This is also where understanding the terrain and depth of the water is important. Knowing how deep the water is and where the likely spots are will enable you to select the appropriate lure to deploy. For example, if one were to be targeting Grouper species, it is possible to use shallow running lures at low tide and switch to deep divers as the tide rises to get close to their hideouts. The further the lures are away from their ambush points, the less chances there are of catching them.

Grouper

Snagging up lures every once in a while is a very likely occurrence but good estimation of the water depth you are casting into and understanding the running depth of your lure can drastically minimize this. It is a good idea to vary your retrieve between slow and moderate until you find a speed that produces the strikes. Understanding the behaviour of the target species will lead you to prepare the appropriate tackle for the game. Members of the Grouper family will instinctively head for the nearest rock crevice, bommie crack or snag and curl up to lodge itself in the hole upon hookup. They do not possess the endurance for a long, drawn-out battle but certainly possess extraordinary short bursts of power enough to dash for cover. As such, tackle up suitably to wrestle these dirty fighters – otherwise the battle could end up in a snag up or bust-off.

Reef grouper

Reef drop offs are another great place to chuck lures. Right at the edges of the reef or at the bottom of the drop is where demersal predators would roam while the larger pelagic predators like Barracudas and Trevally would be patrolling the upper column. Juveniles normally roam the shallows while the bigger ones usually patrol the outer reef in search of schooling baitfish. Topwater lures such as poppers and pencils can get you some nice juvenile Trevally. Do also look out for current heads & eddies which are excellent spots to cast. Waves and currents churning up the rocks or bommies kick up nutrients that are food for schooling fish and subsequently go up the chain to the apex predators.

GT from the shallow reef

Flat Rap

While you may not always catch the right timing of the feeding frenzy, there’s no harm to make a few casts into the whitewash or eddies. There could be some ‘opportunists’ that might find your lure yummy! Shallow running lures such as the Rapala X-Rap and Rapala Flat Rap from 8 to 12cm work well under such circumstances, as you would be casting right into the shallows. Deep divers may be a little bit harder to control against the pounding waves and currents with a higher possibility of snagging.

Tiny baitfish

A school of tiny rabbitfish that kicked off a feeding frenzy.

Wolf Herring on Super Skarp

Wolf Herring caught on a Storm Super Skarp metal lure

Baitfish schools are good giveaways of predator presence in a given area. Predators usually hang around not too far away from these schools, waiting for the appropriate feeding time. As such, finding the baitfish schools can up your percentage of locating these predators. It may seem impossible to locate baitfish without a fish finder when they are down deep but do look out for subtle signs of surface disturbance on the water’s surface – a sure give-away of a bait school’s presence. In such instances, it pays to ‘match the hatch’. Select a lure that has a similar profile and swimming depth as the baitfish school. The trick is to have the lure resemble the baitfish as close as possible. The oddball fish that swims out from the safety of the school in a frantic manner is more likely to get eaten. The other alternative is to use a lure that is slightly bigger than the baitfish size. This is to create the illusion of a fish trying to eat the relatively smaller baitfish, which in turn, triggers the feeding instinct of the predators.

Grouper Attacked

Don’t underestimate shallow reefs. Check out the distance we were from the shore and the teeth marks on the Grouper’s body when a much bigger Grouper grabbed on and refused to let go!

Monster hookup

A big Blacktip Shark grabs the Flat Rap and leaves Yu Hock hanging on!

Some reef casters prefer to exchange the trebles on their lures for singles. While theoretically it is less likely to snag up with one exposed point compared to three, snagging usually occurs with the lure itself getting wedged between rocks or crevices rather than the hooks latching onto rock or seaweed. As such, the advantages of singles over trebles to avoid snagging may not be overly apparent. A nice trick especially for floating crankbaits is to pause when you feel the lure bumping a rock or hard surface. Do not strike or lift your rod tip immediately. Instead, lower your rod tip and give some slack line. As long as the lure is not stuck deep inside the crack, it should slowly float upwards where you can recommence retrieval over the hazard. Should that not work, simply motor the boat towards the snag and apply pressure on the opposite direction of where your lure was headed. It is important not to lift the rod upwards or strike hard in your attempt to free the lure as by doing so only drives the lure deeper into the crack, making retrieval difficult.

Gold-spot Trevally

Casting at a submerged rock bommie produced a Gold Spot Trevally on the Rapala MaxRap.

Barracuda

Jeff with an island-cruising Barracuda

Like all forms of sea fishing, the tide certainly influences reef casting success. The best tides for casting will vary from location to location. I remember an excellent evening of reef casting on a run-off tide at Pulau Tinggi. The tide was fast ebbing and fish were aggressively hitting our lures without hesitation. As light was quickly fading, we decided to call it a day and to return the next morning with the hope of encountering the same actions. We hit the water a little too late the following morning when the tide had risen by a fair bit. We were surprised to find fishing extremely slow even though we were fishing the same patch of reef from the evening before. As such, do not rule out reef patches that seem to be unproductive. You might be surprised to find different tides and different moon phases producing different results.

Blacktip Reef Shark

A small Blacktip Reef Shark takes a bite on the Pink Candy coloured MaxRap

So the next time you chance upon a nice reef or rocky outcrop, give it a few good casts. Remember to keep your lure as close to the rocks or bommies as possible and do check out the current heads or eddies too. Sure, you might get snagged once in a while but with experience and using the right lures, you should be able to get some good fun from the reefs.

 

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A Little History…
In 2005, Forbes ranked the humble fishing hook 19th out of the 20 most important tools of all time in terms of its impact on human civilization. We might not have pondered on it but indeed, that simple tool has been the very direct connection for humans to snare fish either for consumption or sport throughout the centuries. Primitive hooks used by prehistoric man were simply shaped from wood, bone, horn, or stone which later on evolved with the use of copper and bronze around 4000 B.C. and gradually refined to the modern hook as we know today.

In fact, fishing during the Neolithic era involved lodging a sharp wedge into a fish’s throat instead of impaling a curved hook through the mouth cavity. Known as a “gorge”, this wedge was tied with a cord in the middle and covered with bait. The intent was to have the fish swallow the bait whole and in the process, snag the gorge in the fish’s throat. Now this was not a problem for the prehistoric man as fish equated to food but in modern times, this method would be almost unthinkable in catch and release fishing! As such, hook designs that minimize tissue trauma and facilitate easier release of fish are more easily available today thanks to on-going innovations from hook manufacturers.


Treble Hook Anatomy (courtesy of VMC)

Hook Anatomy
A hook in its most basic form consists of the eye, shank, point, barb and gape. The “eye” of the hook is the ring or spade end of the hook where the leader or line is fastened. In some hooks, it can be fashioned as a knob. Running from the eye towards the bend of the hook is the “shank” while the sharp end that penetrates the fish’s mouth is called the “point”. The sharp point extruding from the back of the hook’s point is called the “barb” and functions to prevent a hooked fish from unhooking itself by sliding off the bend of the hook. Sometimes also called the “gap”, the “gape” of the hook is the distance between the point of the hook and the shank.

Hook Wire Material
Hooks of today are mainly made of high carbon steel or stainless steel although some manufacturers do incorporate the use of other high-grade, composite steels such as VMC’s Vanadium®. Steel with higher carbon content is much stronger and harder. On its own, stainless steel has better corrosion resistance compared to high carbon steel but is generally more expensive. As such, they do not require further coating after being polished. To shield against corrosion, high carbon hooks are coated or plated in various finishes according to application.

In fact, some plated high carbon hooks such as those plated with tin do boast excellent corrosion resistance in saltwater. Some saltwater anglers prefer to use lightly coated high carbon hooks over stainless steel hooks as these can corrode away over time should a fish escape with a hook embedded in its mouth or throat. Recognizing the strengths and limitations of using high-carbon steel to form the wire of the hook, most manufacturers incorporate sophisticated tempering processes to maintain a balance of hardness and flexibility. High carbon hooks that are too hard can be brittle and break if pressure is placed beyond its tolerances while hooks that are too soft can straighten under similar conditions.

To further reinforce their strength and resistance at the bend, some hooks go through the process of forging which involves slightly flattening the tubular steel wire on opposing sides by compression. Forged hooks are better able to resist bending on a straight pull.

VMC_Hook_Coatings The chart above shows the various finishes used by VMC to protect their hooks against corrosion.

Platings & Coatings
To overcome the corrosive nature of high-carbon hooks, manufacturers apply a range of coatings over the hooks to match specific fishing applications in freshwater and saltwater. Bronze, tin and nickel are the common finishes used although some manufacturers add on colour varnishes or lacquers of red, blue or other interesting colours for specific applications to attract more bites from fish.

Bronze is a basic finish used for hooks as it is most economical but has a low tolerance to corrosion. Gold-coloured hooks are aesthetically pleasing and attractive to fish due to its shine, as in the case of most Sabiki rig hooks. Gold finishing is applied either by plating 24k gold or applying less expensive, lower quality materials over steel wire. Nickel plating is another widely used finish and gives hooks their silver shimmer. While these finishes offer some form of basic protection from corrosion, they are not able to withstand prolonged use in saltwater and are therefore recommended for freshwater fishing.

Black nickel is one notch up the corrosion resistance ladder and is one the most popular platings for hooks. This plating gives hooks their shiny, black colour. Tin-plating is a cost-effective method of protecting high-carbon steel hooks meant for saltwater use as they have a high level of resistance to corrosion. Some key market players such as Mustad and VMC have developed their own anti-corrosion finishes in the pursuit of the ultimate saltwater hook as seen in the former’s Z-Steel coating and VMC’s Permasteel. Both these finishes boast exceptional resilience to corrosion in saltwater.

Treble Hooks

Tin-plated Treble Hooks ready for saltwater deployment

Hook Size – What’s With The Zeros?
Hook sizes are generally determined by the width of the gap and are designated by a unique numbering system. Hook sizes with a number followed by zero increase in relation to size while hook sizes without a zero decrease in size as the number increases. For example, a size 2/0 hook is larger than a size 1/0 hook while a size 1 hook will be larger than a size 2 hook. However, certain Japanese hooks do not adopt the “zero” designation but have small to large sizes defined relative to ascending numbers. Interestingly, there is no standardization in hook sizes across manufacturers although they may adopt the same sizing convention. A size 2/0 VMC hook may not be exactly the same size as a Mustad 2/0 hook.

sebarau_lure
It is important to appropriately match the hook size to the lure to ensure optimal lure action.

Hook Strength – the ‘X’ Factor
You may have come across some hooks, particularly trebles, with markings such as ‘2X’ or ‘3X Strong’ and beyond. These markings are an indication of hook wire thickness. The higher the “X” number, the stronger the hook wire is. The “X” number denotes the shift in sizes in relation to the wire thickness of an equivalent standard hook while other dimensions remain unchanged. Therefore, a ‘1X Strong’ treble hook has the same wire thickness as its standard equivalent one size bigger and a ‘2X Strong’ treble hook has the same wire thickness as its standard equivalent two sizes bigger. For example, a ‘2X Strong’ size 3/0 hook has a wire thickness and strength equivalent of a standard 5/0 hook. Likewise, a ‘3X Strong’ size 3/0 hook has a wire thickness and strength of a standard 6/0 hook. However, like hook sizing, there is no standard classification for strength across manufacturers and as such, is a rather relative indication.

Straightened_Hook
It is best to fit on appropriate strength trebles on your lures depending on your target species to avoid disappointments. The owner of this lure found out the hard way luring Toman.

“What’s the Point?”
The point is the critical part of the hook where steel meets tissue upon penetration. Straight, conical, curved, knife or kirbed points are common designs seen in hooks although different manufacturers will also have incorporated proprietary designs with certain characteristics to optimize penetration. VMC’s Spark Point range is an example of such proprietary technology aimed at producing a point that is extremely sharp, rigid and optimized for fast and efficient penetration. To obtain their unique points, hook wires can be shaped by cutting the wire to desired angles, compressing the tip to form the point or grinding the tip. The cutting process produces a sharp point but because some metal is removed, it is not as strong compared to a compressed point. Compressed points are stronger since no metal is removed in the process. While the grinding process creates a sharp point, it also removes some metal, which results in a weaker point that is prone to bend or roll over. Some manufacturers incorporate chemical sharpening on some of their product lines as an additional step after the mechanical sharpening process. Hooks are dipped into an acid bath where the chemical reacts with the metal to smoothen out any burs on the surface and refines the point. This process results in an exceptionally sharp hook point.

Black Nickel Treble
A thinner gauge is generally easier to penetrate through a fish’s mouth cavity than one with a thicker gauge

While it is debatable which hook point is better, each design has its own application and is a matter of personal preference and fishing style. Besides point sharpness and cut, a hook’s penetrating efficiency also depends on other factors such as the type of tissue being penetrated and the gauge of the hook wire. Typically, the soft flesh on a Diamond Trevally’s lips is easier to penetrate as compared to a Sailfish’s. Likewise, a thinner gauge hook would have a better penetration than one with a significantly thicker gauge.

Barbed or Barbless?
The barb keeps a hook from being dislodged from the mouth of a hooked fish. This little protrusion is formed by cutting the hook wire to make a ‘chip’. This is a delicate process as cutting the wire too deep can reduce the strength of the hook point whereas cutting the wire too little will result in a barb that is too small and hence, defeat its intended purpose. Proponents of catch and release prefer to flatten or file off the barbs on their hooks to minimize tissue damage when de-hooking a fish for release. Some anglers are of the opinion that barbless hooks result in higher chances of fish throwing the hook. While this may be arguable, maintaining a tight line while fighting a fish can drastically reduce such occurrences as any slack in the line can give the fish an opportunity to shake off the hook with ease.

Moving Forward
It is amazing how the fishing hook has evolved and been refined throughout the ages into its current form today. I believe the evolution of hooks will not stop here. Driven by the demand for stronger, sharper hooks and increasing awareness of conservation, we can only expect to see more advancement in the years to come as newer technologies and materials are discovered and employed by industry players. Of course being anglers, we can only hope that the introduction of these new technologies and materials would not be at the expense of burning our pockets!

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