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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
A lead weight can be added on to the front of the Egi if needed.
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.
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.
Notice the cloth of the Egi torn by the sharp beak of the squids.
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.
This squid attacked an Egi with an abalone shell sticker.
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 – don’t forget the retractable gaff if you’re Eging land-based!
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.
Assortment of specialized lines, leaders and accessories for Eging
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.
Double handles are easier to grab on when working jigs aggressively.
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.
Specialized Eging snaps
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.
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.
Eging enthusiasts at Changi Boardwalk
Kelongs and jetties are convenient places to catch squid, especially for ladies and children
A cluster of rocks – one of the productive areas at Changi Boardwalk
Pulau Berhala, off Pahang, Malaysia is a popular Eging hotspot
There are many techniques that can be employed to work the jigs. Here, Jimmy shares two basic and effective techniques:
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.
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.
Calvin displays his catch from Changi Boardwalk
JIMMY’S EGING TIPS:
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