How to Fish

Barracuda Surface Iron

The Long Beach Grand Prix was held last weekend and we all know what that means. What’s that? You don’t know what that means? It means that the barracuda are going to start biting soon. It may take a month or more for them to show up en masse, but they will start trickling into the counts soon.

In preparation of the season, I took a quick trip to Sav-On Tackle to restock my surface iron collection. I had planned on only picking up a handful of jigs, but as I stood before the multi-colored wall of awesomeness, I found myself unable to control my reaching hand and grasping fingers. A thoughtful employee eventually brought me a basket, which I set on the counter, and with both hands free to consume — I lost all control.

“Ah, this one looks good…” I thought, grabbing a handful.

“Hey, I might need some of these…” I mumbled to myself while clearing an entire peg into the pile.

Picking up my basket, I noticed the plastic bulging out at the bottom from the weight of my purchases. So, rather than risking a basket blowout on my way to the register, I decided to put three jigs back on the wall and called it good.

I’m not going to tell you how much I spent on jigs, but I will say that I was completely disgusted with my lack of self-control.

Ever wonder why manufacturers offer so many different jig colors? It’s to entice guys like me to spend way too much money on jigs that we really don’t need. You don’t need all of those jigs to get bit, all you need is a single jig stick and a small handful of jigs to cover 95 percent of the fishing circumstances that you are going to encounter.

I’ve gone through a lot of trial and error over the years to find the right jig stick to fish barracuda. What I’ve settled on is a medium-weight 9-foot jig stick, like a Calstar 900M Graphiter or a Rainshadow RCJB-106MH, matched with a Shimano Trinidad 16 Narrow and 50-pound Spectra with a 3-foot 40-pound fluorocarbon leader. This combo is a far cry from the classic surface iron set up of a 10-foot rod matched with a Newell 338 and 40-pound mono that has always been considered the standard for barracuda fishing.

The biggest advantage of this set up is its versatility. It may not cast a Salas 7X as far as a 10-foot jig stick will, but the barracuda aren’t always willing to bite a 7X. Sometimes they want a smaller jig like a Tady C or even a tiny Tady AA light. Have you ever tried casting a AA light with a big jig stick? I have and the results are almost comical. The fish would have to be biting pretty good to eat a jig that lands 20 feet from the boat.

Now that we’ve got a combo that will throw a variety of jig sizes, let’s take a look at how to choose the best size and color jig for a particular day. The majority of a barracuda’s diet is made up of three things — anchovies, sardines and squid. So the trick is to pick a jig that best represents whatever they happen to be eating.

The easiest way to decide what jig to tie on at the beginning of a trip is to take a look in the bait tank and see what the chum looks like. If the boat has a tank of anchovies, tie on a jig that resembles an anchovy. The same holds true for sardines. Boats rarely target barracuda with tanks of squid, but if the fish are feeding on squid (like they often do at Catalina in the spring), tie on something that looks squid-ish.

Now lets break down the particular sizes and colors of jigs that you’ll need. Anchovy sized jigs range from a Tady C or Salas J-Pot down to a Tady AA light. There are a bunch of different styles and brands, so fish whichever you like, but look for ones in that size range. As far as colors go, anchovies typically have a dark back and light belly. You’ll want to use jigs with high color contrast like black with green and white or black with purple and white (or just plain old black and white).

When attempting to mimic a sardine, you’ll want to use larger jigs (although a C sized jig will still work). My favorites are the Tady 45 and Salas 7X. Since sardines don’t usually have as much color contrast as anchovies, I’ve found that subtler color combinations seem to work better. The best color combo I’ve found is mint and white. This color outperforms every other color that I’ve used, so it is usually the first color I’ll try.

If the fish are on squid, they’ll usually bite both large and small jigs, so you’ll have to experiment to find out what size they want on that day. Tackle stores are chock full of jigs painted to look like squid, but I’ve found that these colors don’t work as well as the good old scrambled egg pattern (brown, yellow and white).

Choosing the jigs is the easy part of becoming a surface-iron fisherman, but don’t worry, I’ll walk you through the process step by step. Keep an eye out for more articles focusing on different presentations and retrieves to use when fishing barracuda. If you’re new to fishing with a surface iron, I would suggest taking advantage of the slow fishing by heading over to a local park or marina and practicing your casting.

Barracuda Surface Iron

Erik Landesfeind
Erik Landesfeind is BD's Southern California Editor and has over 30 years of experience saltwater fishing for a range of species in both California an...