The Squidgy Slick Rig is omnipresent amongst barra impoundment anglers and the range of sizes, colours and weights see this lure used everywhere from the shallow flats out to the deepest basins.
I’ll admit to loving the 110mm version, largely thanks to Jason Wilhelm showing me a few tricks on how to get the best from the lure and some spectacular success. I tend not to fiddle too much with lures though because I believe they were built for a purpose by people who know more about fish and fishing than I do.
But, more switched on anglers love changing up their lures and they often find themselves fiddling with their soft plastics to develop an edge. Most of this development is driven by the harsh competitive nature of the tournament scene and it will be no surprise to many that names like Jason Wilhelm, Cy and Kerrin Taylor and Alan McNamara are at the forefront of this phase of change.
The Squidgy Slick Rig in its original form comes in seven sizes, 65mm, 80mm, 100mm, 110mm, 130mm, 170mm and a massive 190mm unit. Barra impoundment anglers tend to concentrate on three main sizes, 100mm, 110mm and 130mm so we’ll just look at these.
After three or so years on the market, Squidgy co-designer Kaj Busch kept being told about the need for a lighter lure to get into shallow and weedy bays and flats. Anglers everywhere were trimming the Original weight down by half and fishing the lighter versions with great success. After a few months of redesign, Bushy and Starlo released the Slick Rig Pro Light versions. The Pro Light Slick Rigs are 45% lighter than the Originals and come in 110mm and 130mm only (at the moment!). Better yet, the weighted hooks of the Original and the Pro Light were interchangeable so anglers could fish their favourite colour from either range in deeper or shallower water.
For about two months anglers were happy with the new choices and barra were being caught on both models and all colours. But then some tough bites with ultra-shallow barra were experienced and fish began to wise-up to the quickly swum Slick Rig. So the inventive started inventing and the array of modifications that have come out, specifically concerning the Squidgy Slick Rig are staggering.
I have taken the time to interview a few of the leaders in the modification game. They all openly admit that the Slick Rig in its original and Pro Range forms will catch fish, but in the heat of battle when they really need something ultra-specific, they all know they can modify up their Slick Rigs and still catch fish after fish.
One of the first modifications made to any Slick Rig came about by anglers needing to slow down their retrieves. When impoundment barra are heavily fished or shut down, sometimes it’s necessary to almost finesse them into biting. This can be achieved by slowing down your retrieve. But Slick Rigs do need a fair retrieve to get the tail pulsing and the body rolling in that enticing way, so how do you achieve a slower presentation without losing the in-built action of the lure?
This method of making the tail of Slick Rig work at slower retrieve speeds is the easiest one to make in the field. Jason Wilhelm showed me this alteration on a winter’s day at Monduran for Slick Rigs, but people like Adam Royter and Matt Fraser have been doing tail slices on plastics with other brands for years.
Simply fold over the tail so the bottom of the tail is stretched and the top of the tail is curled up. Make a straight cut with a pair of sharp scissors on the bottom side of the tail wrist. You can cut this as shallow or as deep as you want, but remember the deeper the cut the less plastic there is between the body and the tail, but the more action at slow speeds you will get.
You can do this while the lure is rigged and you’re fishing and the need to slow things down arises. Simplicity at its best.
This is one that quite frankly caught my attention because I was wondering who the hell would think of doing this. It is believed one of the Gold Coast’s better lure anglers Kelvin Williams first starting boiling Slick Rigs to make them suppler when he was fishing for mulloway. This innovation then spread through the fishing grapevine, ending at the shooting of the 2008 series of AFC. As AFC was filmed a month before the ABT BARRA tour, the success AFC anglers had on boiled Slick Rigs was embraced.
During the BARRA tour of 2008, a lot of anglers took to boiling their Slick Rigs before use to soften up the entire plastic. Although they didn’t invent the method, Cy and Kerrin Taylor are strong advocates of the boil your Slick Rig method and they both used it successfully during AFC and the 2008 BARRA tour.
“Boiling Slick Rigs is an innovative way of getting better movement through the water on low speed retrieves. The high temperatures make the plastics softer and give them a more natural roll and tail beat,” said Cy Taylor when I interviewed him.
“The softness also makes the plastic feel more natural in a barramundi’s mouth, so when they bite the lure, they may think it’s real for a tiny bit longer, allowing more time to set the hook,” added brother Kerrin.
“To boil Slick Rigs, use an old pot – not your cooking pot – and, boil them for about five minutes. The plastics will soften up and be able to swim as slow as a snail moving - well maybe not that slow!” finished Cy.
Both Cy and Kerrin also said that this can be used on other plastics too, but you had to be prepared to risk the life of a few until you found the right boiling time, much like a soft boiled egg.
Jason Wilhelm and Alan McNamara used this modification (and other modifications) to make the most of a shallow water, small barra bite at Teemburra Dam in the 2008 BARRA Tour. Jason ultimately won the event with a swag of shallow water fish and acknowledges the fat tail for extra action developed by Alan as part of the successful modifications, the other being the addition of a stinger hook (more on that later).
The magic mod was to add an oval-shaped plastic disc to the tail of the Slick Rig to increase the tail’s surface area. This extra surface area allows the lure to swim at much slower speeds and still attract cranky barra to bite.
“Alan bought this method to the BARRA tour and at Teemburra Dam we used is to great effect with barra holding right up close to the bank in all sorts of drowned foliage,” said Jason.
“Alan and I would cast almost onto the bank and work the Slick Rigs back to the boat as slow as we possibly could waiting for the tell-tail peck on the line,” finished Jason.
When fishing ultra-shallow points and weed-filled bays, anglers also found that the Slick Rig Pro weight was just a touch too heavy, so it was once again out with the pliers and side cutters to trim off some extra lead from the weighted hook.
As Slick Rigs allow the removal of the hook easily, trimming the weight in field is a very easy alteration to make as you do not need to cut through the plastic to get at the lead weight. Jason Wilhelm says that it’s important to maintain the balance of the lead on the lure though.
“Make sure when taking weight from a Slick Rig jig head that you leave the lead bulb at the very front of the jig head,” said Jason.
“This bulb is critical to the Slick Rig’s stability as it fills the nose cone of the plastic and defines the way the lure body rolls.
“Just cut pieces out starting from the rear of the jig head until you get close to the bulb. If you require any more trimming then I suggest a file is your best bet because if you cut off too much the lead will crack at the bulb and fall off completely rendering the jighead useless.
“Make sure you take an equal amount of lead from either side of the lead so the lure is still balanced in the water,” recommended Jason.
“If you trim only from one side the lure will tend to swim on its side a little and this is exaggerated at slower speeds,” finished Jason.
One thing anglers are all concerned about is missed strikes. With plastics it is very easy to miss more bites than you set and we have all dreamed about a Slick Rig with 300 hook points bristling from it so that even if a barra sniffs at the lure it is going to get hooked.
And in some modified Rigs this is not far from what the lure actually looks like.
“I believe the Taylor brothers were the first anglers to use stingers with any real success,” said Jason Wilhlem. “Their porcupine rig that gave them some great victories in 2006 was an absolute gem, as well as being the catalyst for many mods that we see today; some of which have exceeded everyone’s expectations.
“Some of these, including a few of Les Reibelt’s modifications need to be seen to be believed, and are mostly way ahead of their time,” finished Jason.
The trick to adding stinger hooks, whether they are underneath or on top of the lure, is to make sure you do not impact greatly on the lure’s action. Here are some of the better arrangement of extra hooks on Slick Rigs I have come across.
Cy and Kerrin Taylor used this belly hook method to help them overcome a disappointing number of lost fish at Teemburra Dam behind Mackay.
“This modification is one of the best for improving the hook-up rate on Slick Rig Lights,” said Kerrin.
“Just before the 2006 BARRA tour we starting using a treble hook under the belly and it’s helped us to land fish in BARRA tournaments ever since,” said an excited Cy.
“At the 2008 Teemburra Dam BARRA event we lost a big number of fish as we weren’t using the treble hook. We used them in the next round at Peter Faust Dam and our catch rate improved hugely,” said Kerrin.
To rig a treble hook underneath your Slick Rig get some 60lb nylon coated wire, two crimping sleeves and a treble hook such as an Owner ST66 size 2. Then, place a sleeve over the wire and insert the end of the wire back into the sleeve so you’ve got a small loop. This loop should just fit over the eyelet of the Slick Rig. Then, crimp the sleeve hard.
At the other end of the wire, you want the treble to just stick out of the plastic near the last belly flap. So, measure how much wire you need, put a sleeve on and then the treble. Lead the wire back into the sleeve and crimp it down firmly.
Once the treble rig is made, take the internal Slick Rig hook out of the plastic and stick the wire eyelet up through the last belly flap. Then, connect the wire eyelet over the internal Slick Rig hook eyelet and reinsert the internal Slick Rig hook into the plastic.
“This treble has saved many great barramundi from escaping in tournaments including several over 117cm with just one treble point connected in the side of the mouth when landed and is something every angler should consider if they are missing fish on the strike or the fish are falling off during the fight,” said Cy.
As a lot of barra impoundment anglers cut their fishing teeth on Australian bass it is a natural progression that these anglers transferred some of their rigging techniques over to barra lures.
One such transfer is the addition of a swinging stinger hook to the weighted hook supplied with the Slick Rig.
This is perhaps the simplest way to attach an extra hook to a Slick Rig as all you need is an appropriate stinger hook and a small piece of plastic. The method is to put the stinger hook’s eye over the point of the lure’s hook and then push a small circle of plastic (commonly from a milk bottle or similar, over the lure’s hook to keep the stinger hook from coming off. This stinger hook swings freely and sits on top of the lure without impeding the tail’s action and increasing the number of hook points exposed to any striking fish.
This is a direct lift from the stinger hook set up employed by anglers fishing for bass with spinnerbaits, so it’s not new, just beefed up to cope with 30kg impoundment barra.
Jason Wilhelm developed a stinger hook set up that is easy to set up in the field and is yet to let him down. While researching his own stinger set up Jason had wire rigs fail him so is cautious in their use and recommends you know how to use crimping tools if you go down this road.
“I use #3 Yo Zuri Hawaiian rings to attach stingers,” said Jason.
“The beauty of this method is that it takes a few seconds to add or remove in the field, and at this stage I have had no failures. It’s simple but effective. There are cheaper clips on the market but I wouldn’t recommend using them,” said Jason.
To add the Hawaiian ring take out the jighead and run the ring over the hook shank. Then insert the jighead and push the ring through underbelly of the Slick Rig. Attach the treble, commonly an Owner ST66 treble, and you’re ready to fish.
So there you have it, a list of possible alterations you can make to the hugely successful Slick Rig range when chasing barra.
Keep in mind that you can make one or more of these alterations to your Slick Rig. For example you could pop on a plastic disc to the tail, add a belly hook stinger, boil the Slick Rig, lighten the lead weight and even trim the tail wrist. That will make for one super slow presenting Slick Rig. It’s not far from the successful formula concocted by Jason Wilhelm and Alan McNamara at Teemburra Dam.
Lastly Jason said that full weight 100mm and 110mm Slick Rigs work far better at speed than the Pro Range Slicks. Pro Range Slicks will blow out and roll to the side under differing speed variations and cadence, so like any other lure on the market, keep in mind there is a time and a place for each presentation.
Conversely slow presentations will require Pro Range Slick Rigs, or at least your own weight modifications to be able to slow down your plastic enough to provoke lethargic fish into biting. It’s hard to define and time on the water is your best friend here.
But if all else fails and altering your Slick Rig is not for you, fish them as they come and you’ll still catch plenty of fish.
I love that people are tinkering and building a better wheel, but I also love that a standard, plain old Slick Rig in drop bear colour will catch barra after barra if you simply chuck it out and wind it in.Reads: 9263