by Lee Brake
Over the last two weeks Lee Brake has covered jerk shads and curl tails. This week we are looking at two more top-notch deepwater soft plastic options, the squid and shrimp imitation.
Lee Brake with a nice trout that took an Atomic Prong on a Berkley Elevator Head in over 40m of water. - Deepwater Jigs III: Shrimp and Squid
I'll admit that I don't use these two plastic options offshore as much as I should. Both offer a lot of advantages when it comes to deepwater jigging and both possess outstanding attributes that allow you to target particular species effectively. Let's look at shrimp first.
Shrimp softies have come a long way in recent years and thankfully have also increased in size, thus maximizing their offshore appeal. For a long time the humble shrimp or prawn was the lure used solely by creek fishers chasing jacks, barra and flathead. Most offshore anglers ignore prawns completely, even bait fishers. I'm not sure why this is the case; big, cooked – yes cooked – prawns are probably the most effective trout bait I've ever used! Heck, I've been on charter operations where I've used the lunch time seafood buffet to catch a trio of fat trout. After the second fish all the other punters stopped eating their prawns as well!
The other clincher for shrimp imitations is the stomach contents of many big shoal-dwelling predators I've filleted. Big cobia, trout, reds and fingermark almost always have mantis shrimp in their stomachs (Mantis Shrimp). These deepwater stomatopods are not an easily acquired bait, but they can be imitated with softies.
Lures like the Atomic 4' Prong are ideal and when fished with small hops and slow lifts very close to the bottom they are readily attacked by most reef dwellers.
Red throat emperor love prawn lures and will hit them hard. This fish took a 4" Atomic Prawn. - Deepwater Jigs III: Shrimp and Squid
In fact, they are one of those softies that fishes very effectively when allowed to drag over a shoal on the drift. This means that you can fish another lure while leaving one in the rod holder. Other very useful prawn/shrimp imitations include the Gulp 4' Shrimp and 3' Crabby and the Zman Scented ShrimpZ 4'. As a general rule of thumb when working these plastics, look at the appendages. If they have long, dangly arms and nippers, then slow your action right down and let them create their own action as they waggle in the current; however, if the lure is more streamline like the Gulp Shrimp then use more rod action and try flicking the plastic up off the bottom.
The Zman ShrimpZ is an underutilised offshore plastic. Twitched seductively along reef drop-offs or over deep shoals it is a top mantis shrimp imitation. - Deepwater Jigs III: Shrimp and Squid
Jighead choice is very important and you really want a weight that maximizes the action of the plastic. Think finesse and keep the head as light as you can get away with. You need just enough weight to get you to the bottom and after that it doesn't matter if you lose contact at intervals. An injured prawn will be swept along by the current to a degree, so it all adds to the imitation.
Squid softies are somewhat similar to the appendage-endowed shrimp softies in that they provide their own action with little need for angler-driven movement. The Berkley Gulp Squid Vicious is the offering that immediately comes to mind because of its action-packed and deeply scented design. The Squid's three flowing tentacles do all the work with this softy, making it the ideal slow-action lure. You can rig it on a jighead or off a paternoster rig and with both options all that is required is a slow lift and drop with the rod to impart an action akin to a patrolling squid (often the rise and fall of the boat does this for you).
Jamie Evans is a huge fan of the Squid Vicious and uses it for deepwater red fishing with great success. - Deepwater Jigs III: Shrimp and Squid
Personally, I like the unimpeded action of the Berkley Elevator jigheads with the Squid. These heads have a split-ring connecting head and hook to allow for maximum lure motion.
The downside to the Squid Vicious (SQ) is its appetising nature. Little fish love eating the tentacles and I've experienced quite a few clean-picked SQ's in my time. My advice is to use these as an exploratory lure when jigging new spots or in deep water where big reds, fingermark and nannygai roam. Also, if you feel a pick, crank it up and away and then drop it down again. Hopefully this will deter the picker and grab the attention of something larger.
The Squid Vicious has proven to be very effective over deepwater marks. This jew took one at night. - Deepwater Jigs III: Shrimp and Squid
Both squid and shrimp plastics are likely to be 'mouthed' rather than smashed, so you need to be ready to feed an enquiring fish some line upon feeling an initial enquiry to encourage a clean take. A finesse-style combo is also ideal. A longer graphite rod between six and seven foot with a soft, responsive tip is perfect and will help the fish to hook themselves, but make sure you still have at least eight kilo in the backbone, as fish like trout will brick you repeatedly otherwise.
Pickers love the Squid Vicious and will nip at the tentacles. - Deepwater Jigs III: Shrimp and Squid
Both these plastic types are must-have lures in your arsenal. Four inch prawn plastics are my lure of choice in reef lagoons when tempting red throat and sweetlip at night and can lead to hours of enjoyment, and the squid is my favourite static lure. By this I mean it's often the lure I put down and then mount in the rod holder while I drift with a curl tail or jerkshad. Just don't be surprised if you strike a double hook-up!
Fish hard and stay safe.