My Favorite Striped Bass Coffee Mug. . .
Ever wished you could start every day with a striped bass? The phrase “it’s the little things” comes to mind. Pictured below you’ll find my favorite coffee mug. The design impressions camp mugs are a great size to hold that jumbo cup of coffee each morning. If I’m staring down a long day of writing or implementing code for the website this mug is my “go-to”. It doesn’t hurt that this one sports a picture of a striped bass – more than enough fodder for the inevitable daydreaming I’ll go on during breaks in the work. This is truly a “feel good” coffee mug. Obviously coffee doesn’t need much help to be “feel good” but the combination of a hot cup of joe in this mug definitely brightens the day. See for yourself:
Saltwater Edge Tackle and Tactics: Atlantic Bonito
Atlantic Bonito are typically the first of the “ocean speedsters” to arrive in the waters of Southern New England each year. Usually arriving somewhere between mid-July and mid-August the fast and tasty bones offer an exciting change of pace to the striped bass fishing that consumed the first half of the season. They are a great gamefish on both light spin and fly gear. This Primer is intended to make your time on the water more effective by helping you determine your tackle needs and provide a review proven tactics. Buckle up for some of the most exciting fishing of the year!
The spin fisherman will need a good quality light tackle rod that will throw lures in the range of ½ to 1 ½ ounces. Your reel must have a smooth drag as it will be tested. The choice of line and leader is where it gets interesting because you have a tremendous amount of choices. In simple terms with monofilament there is the benefit of reduced cost and inherent stretch so when the fish surges as they often do your connections have built in shock resistance. Braids offer a number of distinct advantages most importantly a positive impact on casting distance which is a distinct advantage with this fast moving target; but also strength to diameter ratio which will help the line cut through the water during a bonito’s drag melting run. There is also the classification of “super lines” some of which are specifically optimized for spinning reels utilizing multiple stands of a super strong material which is then fused together to create a “uni-filiment” (think dental floss). These innovations are the engineers answer to the fisherman’s desire for maximum casting distance; a big plus for shore bound angler especially. As for leaders, many anglers feel the sharp eyed bonito give good reason to upgrade to fluorocarbon leaders in the 8 -12 lb range.
Here are recommendations from the Saltwater Edge staff and some of the Ocean State’s top guides for their preferred set up and a couple of their “go to” lures and flies.
Captain Eric Thomas (teezer77.com)
St Croix Avid 8ft (length helps with distance)with Shimano Spheros 4000 spooled 20lb PowerPro Slick 8 20lb line (casts a mile) with a 4 foot 12 lb SeaGuar fluorocarbon leader with no swivels (bones can be picky).
Captain Corey Pietraszek (plugnplaycharters.com)
G Loomis 7ft LR844 with Spheros 4000 (smooth and affordable) spooled with 14lb Fireline. “Go To” lures Deadly Dick 1L with Silver or Blue tape and the Rebel Jumpin Minnow with only a 1/0 VMC 9626 as tail hook (top water bonito are a blast!)
The bonito is an excellent fish to target with the fly rod and is one of the highlights of the season. Because the common baits are small like silversides, young of the year herring and sand eels they can be very well imitated with flies. Most anglers use a fast action 8 or 9 weight rod (8 is better if you can handle it) with 200 yards of backing. The reel should have a top notch drag system. For the 8 weight use sinking 300 grain lines and for the 9 use 350 grain attaching a short leader/tippet of about 5 feet in overall length. A simple three foot butt section of 30 lb mono and a 15lb fluorocarbon tippet will provide the stiffness to allow your cast to unfurl. Sinking lines get the fly in the feeding zone instantly, load the rod quickly, and they can punch through the wind and chop much most efficiently. Use the non-slip loop knot to attach the fly as it allows for a more natural movement as opposed to the straight and stiff clinch knot. Despite the teeth that bonito have cutoffs are uncommon and in addition these fish can be leader shy so it’s wise to take advantage of both the abrasion resistance and
underwater transparency provided by fluorocarbon tippets.
Captain Jim Barr (skinnywaterchartersri.com)
For flies Jim likes sparse Hi-Tie Clousers on 1/0 Mustad long shank hooks in chartruse and white with a good mix of flash, very light tan and olive over white
Like any gamefish different tactics will produce on different days. Generally, the first hot stable weather of a July “Bermuda High” should get the water temps to 70 degrees and party started in Southern New England. You want to target clear, moving water with some structure to focus the bait; reefs and steep drop offs for example. Bones prefer clean and a rainy spell will sometimesmove them out until clarity returns.
Bonito and it’s larger relative the false albacore “feed with speed” preferring to feed inline while charging through the bait versus a bluefish for example which will spin to hammer a plug they failed to chomp on the first pass. There is a debate about retrieve speed. Some like to “rip” the lure or fly across the surface to stimulate a strike. Be sure to maintain a speed where you are “connected” to your offering (easier said than done with fly gear). It’s a common mistake to reel so fast that the lure skips across the surface and setting the hook is more difficult. The other school advocates a slow retrieve that leaves your lure/fly in the strike zone longer. Toss a weighted Bunny Fly or jig into the school and let it fall through the bait. It is “easy pickins” for a tiny tuna to nail the apparently stunned bait on the drop. Best
advice is to vary your retrieve between the two extremes.
- It is far more effective to study the movements and try to establish a pattern than to “run and gun” For example there are some “hot spots” above the reef in Watch Hill and the bonito utilizing the structure below commonly “pop” in two or three locations with this information you can position the boat so you are ready.
- Fish the water you have identified regardless if you see breaking fish at the moment as the surface feeders are the “tip of the iceberg” and most of the feeding is 3-4 feet below the fray. Blind casting can be extremely effective when fish appear to be unwilling to “stay on top”.
- When you come upon breaking fish try to position the boat upwind or
- up current of the school and shut off the motor.
- Try to lead the fish by 3-4 feet allowing them to see and then take
- your offering
- On bright days the bones seem to prefer long slender jigs like Deadly Dicks, Swedish Pimples and Po Jee’s
- On overcast days and early morning try white soft plastics and Bunny flies
- Brighter lures and flies in dense bait balls
- We hope this Tackle and Tactics Primer is helps you move you up the learning curve with this challenging gamefish. Once you have landed a bonito then question becomes “How should you prepare it?” All I can say is
- are in for another treat!
If you have any feedback or want more information please contact email@example.com or call 401-842-0062
It must seem preposterous to suggest that something as simple as the rising and falling of a wave can unearth the clues to the feeding habits of striped bass. That is only if you believe that a striper’s behavior is unpredictable. With their broad shoulders and powerful tails, stripers are built for short bursts of speed. They are opportunistic feeders with tendencies to take the easiest way to find a meal but, unpredictable? It is my opinion that they are not. You show up a day after you hammered the fish, same tide, same plugs, and same area. Even the wind is the same, well, almost. Instead of a moderate southerly, now it is coming from the northwest but other than that everything is the same. Hey, with a wind in your back you can cast another 50 yards further. You even notice the presence of same bait fish in the water as you did yesterday but the fish are not responding. Now your mind is spinning trying to come up with an answer that would justify your curiosity.” Did the bait slingers clean out the bar overnight? Did the fish migrate westward or eastward? Is it possible for a change so drastic to occur without an apparent reason?
Let’s examine the facts
Stripers are not built for speed like a tuna so chasing down a meal is out of the question. What they are built for is short, strong bursts of speed, propelled by their powerful, broad tails. Akin to a basketball player who looks for an opening as he dribbles at the top of the key and then explodes inside the paint with a burst of speed that often surprises the defense. Now, this same player would probably be left in the dust after 20 yards in a race with a sprinter but then again he is not conditioned for an enduring speedy run. Neither are the stripers. Instead of giving chase they stalk and ambush. They lay in hiding, or cruise the beach waiting for a “perfect” moment to strike at prey. What is a perfect moment? A time that could be best described as a precise time when the least amount of energy will be expanded in order to capture a meal. Unlike us humans who cannot seem to let a Mr. Softy truck pass by without picking up a treat, stripers feed in a more orderly manner. They only eat enough to sustain their growth, probably the main reason why we never see an overweight striper. So the question becomes, under what conditions do stripers find themselves in the most advantageous position to fill their bellies, yet expand the least amount of energy while doing so? In my opinion, the one thing that affords them this opportunity and is more important than moon phase, cloud cover or even the presence of bait fish along the ocean front is foamy, delicious white water. Seems like a pompous statement to make, doesn’t it? Some water being tossed around by wind being more important than the availability of food? The answer is yes! Onshore winds puts things in motion on the bottom of the ocean and the transformation that takes place bellow the surface is astounding even if it’s not visible to a naked eye.
Although having some bait fish present in the surf is desirable there is no need to fret when they are not around. Under flat water conditions the ocean bottom is not exactly brimming with activity. The crabs, sand worm and sand fleas bury themselves in the sand as soon as they sense danger in close proximity, in this case a hungry fish. Stripers themselves become inactive and move into the deeper water .In addition, a lack of wave action becomes an issue as stripers are known to prefer some “cover” over their heads when cruising shallow waters. Now add to this scenario an onshore wind and this same stretch of beach that moments ago looked like a dead zone is suddenly teeming with life. Onshore breezes push the water onto the shallow sandbars that usually run parallel to the shore. This strong rush of water has nowhere to go but up until it crests, fold into itself and rolls toward the shore with white, milky residue forming behind the wave. This turbulence shifts sand on the bottom exposing the crustaceans who buried themselves to hide from predators. They become a victim of a powerful surge of water, getting tossed around inside a rolling wave. Voila! An easy meal for the striper who is cruising effortlessly through the same turbulence picking at this smorgasbord at will. As you can see the presence of bait fish is not a requirement for fish to become active if the water conditions are right. Right about now I can hear the wheels spinning in the heads of those who have been conditioned to “find bait and you’ll find fish” approach. “Crabs, shrimps”, they’ll say “give me sand eels, peanuts, mullet”. Not necessary, would be my reply. Think about it besides those few glorious weeks in the fall when bait is so thick you can almost walk on water the striper’s diet consists mainly of crustaceans like crab and sand fleas on the open beaches. In has been my experience over the years when cleaning fish that there are at least three times as many crustaceans in its stomach than bait fish.By now I hopefully convinced you that white water on the open beach is akin to the straw that shakes the drink and that large quantities of bait fish are not a necessary requirement for success. But what does happen when you throw little oily suckers in the mix? An absolute mayhem usually but not in the way you might think. Just because the beach is loaded with bait and white water is rolling does not mean that you can just pick any stretch of a beach and start nailing fish at will. Actually, it’s quite the opposite. Few guys positioned on a particular piece of structure will do a bail job while most others will have to be satisfied with a fish or two
I would hate to be a mullet….
During past mullet runs (which usually occur in mid September after a first strong cold front) I often observed stripers slashing through the schools along the open beach and then regroup. A scattering of mullet that went airborne trying to escape the predators are taking the same route as they too regroup into dense schools looking for safety in numbers. You could follow these schools westward down the beach and hope that you pick a few fish along the way or you could use the ambush approach the stripers are fond of to using to ambush them. Talking about turning tables! Even though the mullet schools can be dense and large in size; the striper still has to chase them down to eat them. These are not crippled or sickly bait fish but healthy specimens hoping for a long journey down the coast to their wintering grounds. Mullet travel along the beach front in the trough between beach and a sandbar, usually reachable with a short cast. What I like to do is to find a sandbar that curves toward the beach and in the best possible scenario, runs into the beach.
While the mullet (or any other bait fish) often travel unmolested to this point once they hit the turbulent white water on the shallow sandbar all hell breaks loose. Stripers who let the bait fish swim to this point unencumbered are slashing through the turbulent white water with ease while the mullets are getting tossed around like socks in the dryer. If an onshore breeze does not exist, there is no white water. If there is no white water, the bait fish moves over the shallow sandbar undisturbed, and the stripers? They go feed in a different location, a place were a current will bring them a meal like behind a bridge abutment or an inlet jetty rip. So white water is the key that brings it all together, the prey and the predators. Bait fish cannot navigate these turbulent, churning waters without some difficulties and at some point during the wave rolling sequence it will find itself helplessly at the mercy of predators. At which point the stripers will move in for the kill. What? You thought just because you have white water you can now cast at will and as far as you want you will catch fish? Oh no! The ability to cast and place a lure at certain places during a wave sequence is what this is all about. This is the most important part, the essence of white water fishing.
We are not done…..yet
So now we place ourselves in the prime location, we got bait rolling in the wash and an onshore breeze is creating some nice rollers. Now comes the hard part. To put yourself in the right position you did not need any skill, just your eyes to find the opportunity that is now presented in front of you. Now you will need to put it all together in order to increase your success rate exponentially and please do not think I am making this statement lightly. Once the “white water “light went on inside my head it never went off. It has affected everything I’ve done since that day; the way I look at water in front of me to the way I work a lure. Any lure!
Some ground rules…..
<div >First rule of fishing white water is to never, ever cast your lure or a leadhead in front of a folding wave. This is considered a cardinal sin for two reasons. If you place your offering in front of the wave, the rushing water will collapse on the lure and you will momentarily loose contact with your lure. The second reason is that all the action is taking place on the “backside” of the wave. I often observe stripers fins cruising in the milky white residue left in a wake of a folding wave. Stripers are fond of trailing the wave and when it collapses they move in with precision. They cruise the foam for a few seconds looking for any crustaceans that were lifted off the bottom or any bait fish that was tossed by the force of white water and is now momentary stunned in the foam. This extremely coordinated feeding lasts a very short time. Perhaps, twenty seconds at most in each wave sequence. So in order to cash in your lure must be placed in the right location with precision. When using a metal lip, popping plug or another top water lure I will time my cast so that my lure will land behind the wave as it folds.
If you wait until the wave crashes and then you make a cast your plug will land in the prime real estate too late as the foam will already start to dissipate.
Trust me on this. I still remember a recent morning when I fished under less than ideal white water conditions due to the lack of wind. I possibly made more than a few hundred casts with Troublemaker Surfsters yet I only hooked up when my lure landed in the white water behind a decent roller. All the other casts with a Surfster or a Danny in the same area were ignored. Back to white water. Once the lure lands in the foam keep it there as long as possible. When using poppers or a pencil popper I like to finesse the lure over the top of an incoming wave just enough to keep in contact than regain solid contact and work the lure over that milky foam like it is the Promised Land. Under most conditions you can work this little patch of very productive water on the multiple incoming waves on a single cast. In the rough water I will opt for working the same area by going “under” the foam with needlefish and bucktails with the same principal approach but a slightly different retrieve. The cast again should be placed behind the wave and slack picked up as soon as possible. You have to time the incoming wave as it will lift your lure up in the water column. Just before this happens I like to pick up the speed of my retrieve but then almost immediately after regaining contact with the lure (which is now on the backside of the wave) I’ll slow it to a crawl and keep it in the foam behind the wave. I’ll do this on every consecutive wave as it rolls toward the shore. Almost all the hits will come as the bucktail or a needlefish is wallowing in the foam behind the wave. With a bucktail I might at times speed up the lure and try to keep it behind the single wave all the way to the shore or for the better part of it.
Day or night…..
This kind of fishing produces equally well in daytime or in the hours of darkness. The difference is that during low light conditions we must rely on our rod to telegraph what our lure is doing instead of visual contact. This is not as hard as it seems especially with bucktails and needlefish. Metal lips (by the way, my favorite lure for this type of fishing) are a bit trickier until you get a “feel” for what the lure is doing “out there” but they can be mastered fairly quickly.
Casting experience not required
When I say white water I don’t mean that foaming wave three casts away rolling off the offshore sandbar. I am talking about that last stretch of foamy water before it hits the lip of the beach. I know it seems kind of ludicrous to make a cast of 30 yards when we all have this gear that can cast a 100 yards but that’s were the action is. Making the longest cast possible, when fishing white water, is counter productive as you are wasting valuable time and your rotator cuff. Precision counts more than distance so what you want to do is make an accurate cast and then use your index finger to “break” the cast so it lands in the desired part of the wave.
If a googan like me can exploit this very rewarding patch of foam, I am sure some of you with better analytical skills, when it comes to reading the water, will be able to make great catches. In any case, find good beach structure, pray for onshore winds and work the white water. It might take a little time to get this concept to take but I will guarantee you that once it takes hold you will never be able to look at rolling waves towards the shore the same way again.
And that’s a good thing………
Congratulations and Welcome!
If you’re reading this article it’s a safe bet that you’ve decided to pursue the truly gratifying endeavor of Saltwater Angling. You’ll be joining the ranks of many other anglers who just like yourself were once new to the sport. Take heart! You’re embarking on a very exciting path of discovery, and you have found the perfect place to begin your journey. Here you will find everything you need to make your time on the water more satisfying.
This article’s goal is not to teach you everything there is to know about fishing. The best anglers NEVER stop learning and are the better for it. Instead this article will walk you through the basic steps of getting ready for and going on your first fishing expedition. You’ll find much practical advice that will help you to avoid some common pitfalls and have a successful outing. Here’s a list of the basic topics covered in this article:
- Selecting Your Gear
- Choosing a Rod
- Choosing a Reel
- Spooling Up
- What Lures Should You Have?
- Other Fishing Essentials
- Choosing Where To Go
- Preparing For Your Trip
- How To Fish 101
- Post Trip
So let’s get started!
Selecting Your Gear
Any task is much easier to complete, and perform well, if one has the correct tools. Fishing is no different. Quality equipment (that does not necessarily mean expensive) will go a long way towards a quality experience on the water. So let’s begin where your digits end and get a rod in your hands! The main factors to consider when choosing a rod are rod length and line/lure rating.
The length of the rod will be determined by where you fish. Those fishing from a boat generally opt for shorter rods (Less than 8 ft) which are easier to maneuver in the confines of a boat. The surf fisherman will generally go w/ a longer rod (8 to 11 ft) for added casting distance. Rods are also rated as to how heavy an offering you can throw. There are what we’ll call general purpose rods that will have a wider range (say 1-5 ounces) and other “specialty rods” for lack of a better term that will be rated for a smaller weight range on either end of the spectrum (1/2 oz – 2 oz or 3 to 6 oz for example). Just find a rod of length and rating to suit the type of angling you THINK you’ll be doing. It pays to have a first rod that can throw a WIDE RANGE of lures and/or bait since you are just beginning and may want to try many types of lures. Now let’s move on to the fishing reel. The reel will be selected to match your rod. For that reason there will be a few important factors to consider: size of the reel and durability.
The size & weight should “balance” well with your rod. Try various reels on the rod and see which one feels best. Remember, you may be wielding this rod for hours on end so it should feel comfortable and not be so heavy that you’ll quickly tire out. Durability is paramount. The saltwater environment is EXTREMELY HARSH and can quickly take a toll on your gear. Make sure to choose a reel that is designed to be fished in and around the saltwater and rocks. Now you have your rod & reel combo it’s time to put line on the reel. Seems like a simple task until you realize there are literally thousands of choices of line. All these choices will basically be divided in two groups: Braid and Monofilament (or Mono). Think of mono as one long continuous strand and braid as multiple fibers literally “braided” together for added strength. The debate of braid vs. mono is heated but here are the basic advantages of each:
- Stronger at the same diameter
- You can fit more on your spool
- Dramatically improves casting distance
- Increases ability to “feel” lure and set the hook
- Better shock absorption
- Better Abrasion Resistance (Important in the Rocks)
- Much less expensive
- More manageable (less tangles)
Everyone should probably try both at one point or another, with that said mono may be a better option for a true beginner. You’ll probably make a few mistakes like snagging on the bottom or getting wrapped around a lobster pot in the beginning. Using mono will be much less expensive and allow you to really appreciate the difference when you do eventually try fishing braid. Whichever line you do end up choosing you’ll need to attach it to your spool via an “arbor knot” (try googling this phrase for instructions) and reel it onto your spool. Pay close attention to do this in a manner that avoids twisting the line. If possible have a tackle shop spool your reel on a line winder for best results. Rigging Now you’re ready to rig up. That basically means you’ll be attaching a leader to your running line. A basic rig that will take you far goes as follows:
- Line gets attached to your spool then
- A barrel swivel is attached to your line
- Then a piece of leader material is attached to the barrel swivel
- And a snap or clip is attached to the end of the leader
- Lures or hooks are then attached to the snap or clip
You can also use specialized knots in place of the barrel swivel or snap. Whole books have been written on the subject of rigging. Basically the use of a leader allows you some luxuries while fishing (like being able to grab the leader while landing a fish). A general leader using 30-50 lb. Mono or fluorocarbon material with a barrel swivel on one end and a snap or clip on the other is a great place to start and a setup still employed by many experienced anglers.
Choosing Lures Now what will you be putting on the end of that leader? Walk into any tackle shop and you could quickly become overwhelmed with the sheer quantity of choices and opinions available on the subject. Here are a few basic proven types that will get you started:
- Bucktail Jigs
- Casting Swimmers
- Soft Plastics
- Polaris Poppers
- Metal Lipped Swimmers (Danny Plugs)
- Pencil Poppers
- Plastic Swimmers
Now if you’ll be using bait you’ll need strong hooks and possibly sinkers designed for the task. The Gamakatsu live bait hooks are a good choice when fishing bait.
Other Fishing Essentials
If you were to take your new outfit out the door of the tackle shop and go fishing you’d soon realize the need for other essential pieces of gear. These items really are vital to the success of each trip. Some essential “must-have” items include:
- Pliers w/ cutters (For cutting fishing line and removing hooks from fish)
- Pliers Sheath & Lanyard (So pliers will always be handy & within reach)
- Korkers or other Metal-Studded foot wear (To keep you from slipping on rocks)
- A surf or boat bag (For keeping your lures and equipment in)
- Waders or a wetsuit (To help you get out to where the fish are)
- Wading Belt (To Hang Your Pliers from)
- Appropriate Water-Proof or Foul-Weather Gear (Keep you dry and happy)
- Light(s) (For fishinng in low-light and at night time)
- A Hook Hone or File (Dull hooks don’t catch fish)
- A large bin of some sort to transport all your gear.
While it is possible to go fishing w/o these items, your safety, success and ultimately enjoyment of the time you spend on the water will increase DRAMATICLY with each item. You’ll find a lot of interesting info on these and other products in the SWE online store. Choosing a spot Congratulations! Now you are completely equipped and ready to go fishing.
So where do you go? Well there are many ways to determine where your next trip will take you. One way is to begin by asking other fishermen. But BE CAREFUL! Anglers are notorious for keeping their best spots secret or being very vague. You do well to take advice w/ a grain of salt. Soon you’ll be able to begin building a network of contacts with which you can trade intel, but since you are new to fishing, and don’t have much experience to offer to others just yet, you’ll do much better by learning the type of water to look for and the best time to fish it. This information is available in various books or by paying for a local guide to take you fishing. Another good place to start is at the tackle shop where you purchased your gear. These people want you to catch fish as they know that will make you want to spend your hard earned $$$.
Once you find info about the types of spots and situations that produce (Points, deep water near shore, drop offs, reefs, outflows, etc.) There are a few online tools that can really help. One is Google Earth which is an amazing tool for finding new and interesting spots to fish. Windows live local’s birds eye view is really INCREDIBLE if available for your area. The NOAA online chart viewer is also a huge help with determining water depth in a specific area. Don’t just chase, but rather, make your own reports and feel the satisfaction of finding a new spot on your own and watching it produce. Be mindful of the influence of the tide. A spot may very well fish VERY differently depending on the stage of the tide and/or the direction of the wind. You’ll do very well if you keep a journal of conditions and results for all your fishing trips as this historic data will be priceless in planning future trips.
Having chosen your spot make sure you’re fully prepared:
- Rods should be rigged and ready
- Additional leaders should be tied in case yours breaks or get’s frayed
- All hooks should be sharpened and lures arranged in an orderly manner
- Before leaving check & re-check all gear is present and accounted for
- Finally, give your spouse/significant other a kiss and whatever else you’ve gotten them (movie-rental, flowers, jewelry, etc.) to make up for your absence.
A Few Fishing Tips
So you’ve got all your gear and you’re in your spot, now what?! Well we won’t even attempt to outline the countless ways or methods you can employ rather we’ll provide a list of a few guidelines to go by.
- Watch the water looking for current and structure
- Cast to these areas
- Be mindful of snags and avoid them
- Use lures or bait that effectively fish different depths of the water column Proceed w/ caution in unfamiliar spots
- If prospecting new water fan your casts to cover as wide a range of spots as possible focusing on areas with signs of good structure.
- Keep moving, and keep engaged. Fish will inevitably show when you least expect them.
Look intently for patterns to develop and keep learning.
These are just a few REALLY BASIC suggestions designed to encourage you to go out there with some direction and purpose. Hopefully you can stay engaged and not become discouraged quickly. Once you decide to return home the fishing experience has not ended. One of the most productive parts of your outing waits at home. Productive Post Trip Habits It’s good to look at your after trip habits as preparation for your very next trip. Gear should be cared for. This means hosing your gear down w/ fresh water and following manufacturer instructions for reel care. Leaving your gear ready for the next use will allow you to pick up and go at a moments notice.
The other extremely useful habit is to log your results along w/ the date, time, conditions and location(s) of your outing. As you accumulate this data from various trips patterns will emerge that will help you pick the most productive times and spots to fish.
Well hopefully this little piece helps out some beginning anglers and has made you excited about fishing. See you out there on the water!
September is a time of transition. Beaches officially close, beach gear goes back in the garage or closet, the kids go back to school, it gets darker earlier and earlier, the leaves on the trees begin to change and the tell tale cool winds of fall start to blow. This transition also profoundly affects our fishery too. Most of the fish in our local waters start their movement southward or out into deep, deep waters. This all bodes well for fisherman though because with this movement comes binge feeding. September IS the time to be on the water. Along with excellent fishing, the hot, humid days of summer are gone replaced with cool, brilliant blue sky days and even cooler star filled nights. It is a wonderful time to be fishing and just to be on the water. There is also a sense of urgency that comes over us fishermen this month. September is the beginning of the end. We all should get out as much as possible because Christmas shopping time will be here soon and now is the time to fish. And fish HARD! The following is what is in store for us this coming month. And, before getting into specifics, I would like to introduce yet another new feature in my monthly report. Every month from now on will have a Tip of the Month. Hopefully, the info will be interesting as well as helpful, particularly for the novice fisherman out there. Now, let’s look at the ninth month:
Look for good to excellent fishing this month. Things really get going by about the second week of the month. The all important mullet run usually starts up around the first moon of the month. So start looking for this bait fish in the wash near the 4th. Hopefully it will be as strong as in recent years. Expect the mullet to be around until mid October. Believe me, plug and artificial fishing for stripers can be super when this big bodied bait fish is around. I like to use the both plastic and wooden swimmers which imitate the mullet. The 7inch REDFIN, BOMBER and HANDCARVED LURE work well as do the “Danny” and “Junior” type wooden swimmers from BEACHMASTER, TATTOO, AFTERHOURS, BIGFISH and others will take some serious bass. When the mullet are running stripers seem to hit plugs harder so expect bone jarring strikes. Live and rigged eels also work well and are highly recommended in September. Look for strong mullet runs around the Westport river in Massachusetts and the Narrow River, the Charlestown, Quonny, and Weekapaug Breachways. The inlets themselves are productive as are the areas immediately adjacent to them. For example, the Fresh Pond Rocks just east of the Ouonny breachway can be excellent at this time of year. So can this month’s SPOT OF THE MONTH:
SPOT OF THE MONTH: FIRST ROCK
LOCATION: Narragansett, Rhode Island
DIRECTIONS: Locate Ocean Road in Narragansett and head south. Find Monahan’s dock which is about ¼ of a mile from the infamous “ Towers” on Ocean Rd. Pull in Monahan’s and find a parking spot. Monahan’s is a small peninsula with a medium sized parking lot and a boat launching ramp on the right or north side, and a large cove on the south side. Get suited up and walk towards this cove and follow the rocky shoreline south to the first point to the south. That is First Rock. It’s only a short walk from the parking area. BEST CONDITIONS: High dropping tide and a south west wind. Fish can be taken on all conditions though and the only reason I would not fish this spot is if the wind was howling out of the north east. BEST LURES/BAIT: Live or rigged eels, 3/4 oz. white bucktail jigs, wooden medium to deep running metal lip swimmers, and 5 and 7 inch Redfins or Bombers.
COMMENTS: First Rock is very consistent in the month of September. If you surf fish here a lot this month you will catch a pile of bass. Don’t expect monsters though as First Rock is a “schoolie “ spot. Occasionally, you will hook a decent striper, say something in the twenties, but the average bass will be a couple of inches either side of legal. But, there will be many of them this size if you put in your time. First Rock is one of those places that you can count on for a fish or two after a long night of skunkings at other places. So why not give it a try this month. You will not be disappointed.
Moreover, talking about spots to fish this fall, I would highly recommend that you stick to 4 or 5 proven areas over the next 2 ½ months. Chasing week or older fishing reports will drive you crazy as will driving around from spot to spot trying to cover the entire State of Massachusetts or R.I. and will probably cost you a lot of time and result in fewer bass. Look for consistent action at notable autumn producers even if they are well known and if you know no others. Most think places like Pt. Judith, the Charlestown Breach way and the like are crowed in the fall but you would be surprised. Try to fish during weekday nights and mornings. I bet you will have the place to yourself most of the time and surely there will be fish. If you have a good repertoire’ of places to fish, pick out the 4 or 5 that have been good to you in the past and hit them hard. They will probably continue to make you happy. This is what I do. I have a couple of prime locales in Westport, Little Compton, and Gansett that I hit routinely. I forget about all else unless I get good intel that fish are somewhere else. Otherwise I stick to my plan and I usually catch my share. Why not try doing the same if you don’t have a fall strategy for ‘09. While you are out pounding the surf, why not try this trick to land more fish which is my somewhat clever lead in for
TIP OF THE MONTH-
About 30 years ago when sand eels were ever present, there was a new lure which took the surf fishing community by storm. Surprisingly it was made in England but caught New England stripers when nothing else would. It was called the Red Gill sand eel. It came in three sizes and was made out of rubber. The lure was light so some enterprising surf guys fished them as droppers so as to get them into the strike zone. That is they tied them to a barrel swivel on a short 40 or 50 pound test leader and then tied another main leader to the same snap and attached a larger heavier plug or eel, live or rigged, to the business end of that leader. The heavy plug or eel was cast out and the Red Gill dangled 3 feet in front of the main offering. Surf men felt this whole rig looked as if a big fish ( plug/eel) was chasing a smaller bait fish (Red Gill) as it came through the water. This method started on the Cape in the late 70’s and was deadly on bass of all sizes. Most used the small(4”) or the medium (6”) size and most bass up to 50 pounds hit the teaser. Double headers were not uncommon. I, like everyone else, fished with this rig for about 10 years and did very, very well with it. Then the sand eel population dwindled and the teaser/plug combo died out. I put it on the shelf and didn’t take it off until this season. I did so because of the amazing amount of small sand eels along the R.I. coastline all year. In June, July and August about half of the bass I took were on the Red Gill teaser. I had the best success with the 4 inch model in all white or all black colors. It is amazing just how productive these things can be. I intend to use them for the rest of the season. I particular found them deadly when used in conjunction with a 1 oz , 1 ½ oz or 2oz. Handcarved (aka Blue Shark) Lure. Give them a try. They also work well when there is other types of small bait present too.
Boat bass fisherman have a lot to look forward to in September also. The coastlines of Mass. and R.I. are extremely productive as are the islands of Nantucket, the Vineyard, Cuttyhunk, and Block Island. Don’t forget Fishers of the coast of Connecticut too. All are suspect and time is the only thing that prevents most from fishing them all. If you can find menhaden schools and put a few in the live well, you can count on automatic stripers no matter where you chose to fish them. Live eels drifted in the numerous rips around the aforementioned island will also account for some monster September bass. Also, casting live eels into the stones is another tried and true autumn method. And, if you want to get lazy, try trolling frames (umbrella rigs) on lead core or wire. This will account for many, many fish. No matter what your poison, this is THE month to get in your boat and go. The weather is somewhat predictable and not quite as harsh as October and November. You can fish in comfort and catch as many bass as you can in the following months .
This species will be much more “visible” this month. Look for more blitzes as bait, birds and blues will be seen all over the waters of our area. Boaters should have no trouble finding such encounters and will no doubt catch all the blues they want. Surf fisherman will also get in on some of this great action but with a little less frequency. If you fish the surf during the day, keep those big poppers handy as well as the 2 to 3 oz. metal ready as distance casting may be necessary to reach feeding blues. Fishing snotty weather days will also increase a surf fishermen’s chances of finding all out blitzes. Finally, look for some of the biggest blues of the year to be boated and landed this month and next.
This is also the month to concentrate your efforts on these species both in and off shore. Inshore, Albies are more of a sure thing though showing up all along our coast. A very good place to look for them if you are a small boater or a surf fisherman is around the West Wall area of East Matunuck, Rhode Island. False albacore show up here with some predictability in the morning and late afternoon. There is usually plenty of bait in the area and along the wall itself. Drift along the wall or in the gap with your craft or walk and cast the break wall. I really like a hard southwest wind to push the feed into the wall and create some white water. That seems to be the best recipe for action in this locale. I am a surf fisherman and fish for these speedsters every season. I have had my best luck with the #1 Deadly Dick spoon with fluorescent green tape on it. Or the wooden egg float with a streamer fly attached with 20 pound fluorocarbon. The Rebel jumping minnow in bone color is another top albie producer for me. Blind casting the wall is productive as casting towards breaking fish. Also, this is a great spot to use fly gear for them. I would use at least a 9 weight outfit. One last note; use fluorocarbon leaders! Other good albie surf spots include the Weekapaug Breachway in Westerly, Black point, Hazard and Newton Aves. in Narragansett and the mouth of the Westport River in Massachusetts. If you are boating, try Block Island’s New Harbor inlet. False albacore and bonito can be caught together there.
Look for summer flounder action to quickly diminish this month slowing to a halt by mid month. If you want one or two last shots at these flatties, fish deeper waters and with the same fluke rigs I described last month. Right now, there is some good fishing in 70 feet of water off the Pt. Judith lighthouse. There is one good thing though about Sept. fluke, they tend to be on the big side. SCUP: Scup fishing continues to be good to excellent in September. Why not take the kids out, either by shore or boat, and have some fun. The weather is beautiful and there will be some great action with this species. Sizes will be bigger also. Now is that time to get that 2 to 3 pounder!
Blackfishing really gets rolling in September. Look for increased numbers and sizes as this month progresses. Crabs, particular fiddlers if you can get them, really work well on early fall tautog. These fish offer both the surf and boatman plenty of action. BLUEFIN TUNA: I am really out of my league here but I have to at least mention that this most exciting species should be plentiful and ready for action this month. Fish between 50 and 200 pounds will be available south of Block Island , Stellwagon Bank (off Cape Cod) and in Cape Cod bay. Hopefully, they will show up inshore like they did a few years back. A lot of guys now are using spinning gear for this fish for maximum fun. 30 to 100pound class spinning outfits are showing up in tackle shops all over the R.I./Mass area. Big Van Staal, Shimano, and more affordable Fin-nor spinning reels are being matched with said rods. Most tuna guys are loading up these reels with 50, 65, and 80 pound braid and going hunting. And most whom I have spoken to say that tangling with a mid sized Bluefin on spinning tackle is the ultimate sport fishing challenge. Many of these guys have given up striper fishing for these most challenging fish.
That’s the scoop for next month. Hopefully I covered everything and we’ll all catch a bunch of fish this coming month. Good luck and see you in October, Steve McKenna.
AUGUST ‘09 FISHING REPORT:
Traditionally, saltwater fishing in the month of August can be good to excellent for some species and downright terrible for others. The month of August also sees some new species of fish come on the scene around our waters. Also, the eighth month dishes out some hot, humid and thunder-stormy weather which can make fishing unpleasant and somewhat dangerous at times. As a surf fisherman, I do not look forward to this month because stripers seem to disappear and trudging around in waders, even light weight breathable ones, is a chore. Also in August, bugs appear to ubiquitous, and even with the appropriate sprays and juices, it is difficult to have a bite free, comfortable fishing trip. On a positive and personal note, I like August because I and wife, Sheila, travel to Nantucket Island for our annual vacation. If you have never been, Nantucket is an enchanting place to spend a few days in the summer months or anytime of the year for that matter. The bass fishing is also pretty good out there, even in August. We have been going for many years now and I always bring my gear, of course. Even in August, I have managed a few stripers after dark on each trip. One time I caught bass to 25 pounds at Smith‘s point on the southwest side of the Island. Bluefish are also plentiful at this time of the year. Sheila doesn’t mind and I usually just go for a few hours on one night of the vacation. This August our trip to Nantucket will be extra special though as it will be our honeymoon.
In addition, I will start something new in this August fishing report. Beginning this month I will include a “spot of the month” for surf/boat striped bass and will continue it each month while this fish remain available around these parts. It will be specific but concise and is purely meant to be educational. I am excited about this new feature and I hope all of you will enjoy it. With that said, let’s take a look at what August ‘09 has in store for us.
STRIPED BASS -
Oh boy, it’s August. This month’s fishing possibilities for stripers does not conjure up great memories of blitzing fish or 20’s and 30’s in the cooler. Bass fishing in August, particularly from the beach, is historically S-L-O-W! It seems that you really have to put in a lot of time this month and be a little lucky to consistently put fish on the beach this month. I personally have never done well this month. And it wasn’t for lack of trying. Yes, I have had a few memorable August nights but they have been few and far between. There are a few things; however, that you can do though to help you catch a few more fish this month. Number one; put in your time. There is no substitute for time on the water. It WILL be your best teacher no matter what month you fish. Number two; try to fish in spots that have deep or deeper water close to shore. Apparently, big bass spend their daytime hours sulking in cooler, deeper water waiting for dark to invade shallow waters to feed. That seems to be correct as daytime striper fishing near shore from the surf in August is just about a waste of time. Number three; surf fish after dark. Dusk and dawn are a related second choice in the 8th month. Number four; use live eels. Rigged eels are a second choice and I know you are tired of hearing it, but if you want to use artificials this month, try the 9 inch black Slug-go. I have taken A LOT of stripers in August on this artificial. I still believe it is almost as good as a live eel and better than a rigged eel. If you want to use other artificials in August, do so if there is a lot of white water and/or current. Number five; fish all northeast storms. Nothing excites moody, sulking August bass like a good ole’ nor’easter. Occasionally we get one in August and if we do in the next 30 days drop everything and go fishing. You won’t be disappointed. Surf fishing, even during the day, during a full blown August storm can be outstanding. Number six; fish around the new month in August which is the 20th. The four days before and after that date will account for a few more fish if you hit it hard. I would forget fishing near and on the full moon this month particularly if it’s clear and windless. By all means go during this period if there are opposite conditions. Number seven; fish ocean waters. Narragansett Bay and other backwaters are not as good this month. The ocean is colder and provides a better more comfortable environment for stripers. That’s where you should be fishing. BTW, I consider the mouth of Narragansett Bay as the open ocean. The waters around Jamestown, western Newport, Saunderstown and eastern Narragansett can be good in August.
SPOT OF THE MONTH – AUGUST ’09
SPOT - Swimming Hole, aka “the swimming pool” because of the shoreline remnants of a concrete swimming pool which was destroyed in a past hurricane.
LOCATION - Narragansett, Rhode Island
DIRECTIONS - find Ocean road in Narragansett, R.I. Follow this road south until you see Bass rock road on your left. It is about a mile south of the infamous Hazard Avenue and part of the same shoreline. Take a left on that road and follow to a small parking area on the left. Follow the dirt path to the water and take a left or walk north. Follow shoreline for a ¼ of a mile until you see a large rock. On the north side of this enormous rock there is a cove. In the middle of this cove you will see a reef awash in the middle of said cove about a cast and a half off the beach. That’s the Swimming hole. Fish directly in front of this reef, fanning your casts in front of and to the right of the reef and into the cove.
GEAR - 9 or 10 foot medium to heavy conventional or spinning rod with a reel capable of holding 250 yards of 20 pound mono or 50 pound braided line. Use at least a 50 pound mono or fluorocarbon shock leader. Waders with studded soles are necessary.
CONDITIONS - the best time to fish here is during the hot months of July and August is after dark. I always liked the Swimming Hole around high water on a southwest wind. There is always some white water around the reef and very deep water on the ocean side of the reef. This is a very consistent spot for bigger bass in the middle of the summer. A 30 pounder is not unusual at this spot in August. BAIT/LURE- Live eels are prime bait. Rigged eels are also good. Try a surface swimmer or eel skin swimmer right before dark particularly if there is a lot of white water. Stay away in a hard northeast or easterly blow. This area weeds up terribly as it is east facing. Good Luck That will give you at least one good spot to fish this month I am sure you know some more.
On the other hand, boat bass fishing can be good to excellent in the month of August. I would also suggest that boat fisherman stay in ocean waters and stay out of Narragansett Bay if you want to be productive. South of the “bridges” is where you want to start fishing. BTW, as of this writing (7-27-09) boat and surf fishing is RED HOT at Block Island. Big, big fish are being boated all around the Island. My tackle shop has weighed in stripers up the 55 pounds in the last week, all taken from the “Island”. Live eels drifted on 4 foot leaders and egg sinkers are the weapon of choice. Night or day. Mike Laptew, the diving fisherman, told me he was diving the “Block” last week and saw more big stripers than he has ever seen. He also commented that there are tons and tons of large sand eels around the “Island”. Hopefully that fast fishing will continue into August. Even without this excellent report, B.I. Is always worth a shot in the 8th month. Closer to home, Brenton reef off Newport is always a good bet in August as are the Watch Hill reefs. Live eels drifted deep will catch for sure as will free lined or three-wayed live bunker or yo-yoed fresh dead in all of the aforementioned areas. If trolling is your thing, try tube and a worm on lead core or wire or an umbrella rig. The latter being a good fish finder. Another great summer method that boaters use to lure big summer bass is to live line small scup. Catch some scup and put them in your live well. Find a fishy looking area and put one of the scup on a 6/0 “J” hook or a 3 or 4/0 treble. Clip the tail fin before sending the scup to the bottom. This will limit his ability to swim and make it easier for the bass to catch him. Catch ‘em up and keep the faith. The fall will be here shortly!
BLUEFISH - Two days ago I heard a very positive report on Rhode Island bluefish. Capt Jimmy White told me that the mid bay (Narragansett Bay) was loaded with small to medium blues, particularly around Patience and Prudence Island. From the surf, blue fishing has been slow. I think I have caught 6 total this season. Almost every surf guy I talk to has a similar score. Boat guys on the other hand are caching a few more but these are incidental catches- caught by mistake while fishing for stripers. I would look for a few more blues this month and even more in September and October. Blues were never my favorite fish to catch so it’s pretty hard to get excited about them. I would say that if you want to catch them from a boat look for the tell tale birds diving and wheeling. More often than not, blues will be under them. Look for this activity to happen more often by month’s end. And even more in September. From shore, if you want blue use fresh chunks on the bottom or cast live eel after dark around ocean side beaches. If there is a self-respecting blue dog around, you’ll know all about it.
BONITO - It has been a hit or miss season for bonito, with a few anglers scoring a lot of fish, but many usual haunts for these speedsters have been vacant. You can wait for a report but as always the best bet is to get out and look for them. Standard offerings such as the Deadly Dick always work, but don’t forget small topwaters such as the Jumpin Minnow. FALSE ALBACORE- This exciting species is due about mid to late month and I personally cannot wait. I have been chasing these fish since I retired as I have more time now to fish during the day from shore. I usually start looking for the around the West Wall in Pt. Judith. This is one of the premier places to find and catch them. Casting to the entire ocean side of the wall, one may find them anywhere along the wall. A lot of times they are out towards the end or near the “fish trap”. Like bonito, false albacore can be fussy when they first arrive in our waters but soon “turn on” and are fairly easy to catch, or hook I should say. As stated, the West wall i8s a super spot for them. Use shiny, slim spoons like the Deadly Dick # 1 model with green on it. Streamer flies like Ken Abrames patterns work well towed behind a wooden float. Pop the float on retrieve and this will attract the little tuna. They will quickly see the streamer 2 feet back on the fluorocarbon leader. This is a great way to get them if you don’t have fly tackle or it is blowing too hard to cast a 9 weight. BTW, the West wall fishes best when the wind is coming from the southwest, the harder the better. This wind along with some bait which there always seems to be along the wall during August, offers ideal conditions to catch this special species. As the albies increase in numbers don’t be afraid to spread out. I have caught them on the East Wall, Black point, Hazard Avenue, the mouth of the Narrow River and even Bonnet Shores point. In a boat, I would employ the same techniques. A boat offers much more mobility which is key when targeting these fish. They move fast and sometimes the shore bound fisherman can’t keep up. It is more of a wait for the fish when surf fishing for false albacore. In a boat, go get them. FLUKE- Summer flounder fishing should continue to be excellent for the boat fisherman in August. Shore guys are struggling with the 21 inch limit though. Catching one is tough, 6 is just about impossible from shore. As a result, surf fisherman are looking for other species like blackfish, scup and even stripers. Boat fisherman are having no problems meeting that limit for the most part. I have spoken to a lot of boat fluke fisherman and they say fishing is excellent. Look for good fishing around both the Newport and Jamestown bridges, Austin Hollow (off Beavertail), the west gap at Pt. Judith and all along the south shore of R.I. Water depth seems to be an important factor in fluking. Last report saw 40 feet as being the magic number. Big lead headed buck tails with squid, fluke belly or sea robin belly strips along with teasers of B2 Squids with squid strips and freshwater medium shiners seem to be working well when drifted and bounced along the bottom.
Tip of the month for fluking: When fluking in a boat hold one rod and keep another in the rod holder. This is called “dead sticking”. The motion of the boat rocking and drifting gives movement to the rig on the bottom and will attract and catch fish.
TAUTOG (BLACKFISH) - Believe it or not tautog fishing is pretty good right now from both boat and shore. Not many fish for this species in the summer months but those taking the time to try are doing well. Green crabs, or better yet, fiddlers if you can find them, really work on these fish. Beavertail has been producing as are the rocks around Bonnet Point and Narragansett proper. SCUP- Scup continue to please throughout the summer. A lot of big scup are being taken. I personally weighed in two over 2 pounds last week and a bounce close to the 2 pound mark. There was a tournament last week apparently. The bay as well as outside have been producing. From shore, try the end of the West wall or East wall. Use small bits of clams or squid on small hooks for the best results. This is a great species to introduce to your kids. They are plentiful and easy to catch- two things which children love. Take care and see you in September, Steve McKenna
Summer Tactics: Rock Gardens – Tom Keer
Saltwater fishing undergoes a similar and predictable pattern every year. There are some variations in time, but they are subtle and insignificant for any wade fisherman. With March, April and May Full Moons, the herring and alewives move into river systems and estuaries to spawn. After the long winter, most fly rodders head to estuaries with freshwater origins to catch the striped bass that follow them in. We put a lot of miles on our boots, and catch them in those places for a month or two. Then, we need to move on to the next act. Hit the rock gardens.
Where the ocean meets the uplands and fields is where you’ll ultimately find lots of rocks. Short handle is this: take the crashing sea that drops against a field, subtract the land, trees, roots, grass, cow pies, split rail fences, what’s left? You get rocks. In Colonial times, a farmer would take those rocks and stack them in neat piles on his property line to identify his land. Along the ocean, these same rocks drop into the water, usually somewhere near a beach, a river, or a cliff. The current pushes them around and around, sand gets pulled away from them, and after a period of time you get a bunch of ‘em in the same area. Rocks gardens are magical spots for fishermen. And while a Colonial farmer would identify his land with them, an angler would use them to earmark his striper turf.
Most of the time, rock gardens are interspersed with sand and boulders. I think of the area along Deep Hole, or the eastern end of Point Judith to Scarborough Beach. I think of the Narrow River, and I think of parts of Narragansett. Then there is the area surrounding Little Compton. Across the sound and on Block Island there are Pots and Kettles and Black Rock. Buzzards Bay is nothing but rock gardens, and they all are considered to be the epitome of striper water. Many areas along the northeast do not have rock gardens, and we New Englanders should consider ourselves fortunate indeed.
Rock gardens are some of the first areas of the season to hold fish. Think of Carpenter’s Bar and Deep Hole. For whatever reason, this rock garden is among the first spot to find striped bass every year. The fish will hold for a while and then filter around to other areas. As spring rolls into summer the bass move out of the estuaries looking for food and begin to hang out more regularly in rock gardens. The water always seems to stay just a bit cooler around the rocks. You might need to change your approach and fish them at night, but after the bass arrive in the spring, you’ll be hard pressed not to find them in a rock garden throughout the year.
Floating, sink tip or intermediate lines are the best bet for fishing rock gardens. A floating line is perfect for drifting a fly in and around the structure, or for swinging a streamer along the edge. Depending on what stage of the tide the fish move in to your rocks, you may find a need to get your fly a bit deeper. Sink tip or intermediate lines work better than weighted flies, for the flies snag on kelp and the stones blunt hook points. A sink tip offers line control and depth where you need it, towards the tip. A Roll Cast Pick Up is an easy cast for repositioning your fly, and mending is simple. Anglers who favor a progressive sink select an intermediate line. By adjusting the amount of time you allow your line to sink you can ride your fly just above the rocks, and swim it naturally in the water column. Make sure you bring a hook hone to keep your points razor sharp, and buff the point frequently.
For flies you’ll certainly want smaller patterns to imitate the common baitfish. Silversides, sandeels, maybe dead drifting some crabs. But you’ll also want some really, really big flies that suspend in the water column and move naturally. Could be a popper or a slider, but I prefer a big flatwing like a Razzle Dazzle or a long Eel Punt. Big fish can like big bait, but they can also feed on small bait, so bring along some Ray’s Fly, Flatwings, Sure Things, and Bullrakers. Rig ‘em as a dropper and hang on to your hat; just make sure the big flatwing is the point fly (or last fly) on your leader. A 5-turn Surgeon’s Knot offers 100% breaking strength, and if you leave a long tag end you can tie your dropper on in seconds.
Some anglers will walk out to the largest rock and climb aboard. The extra height gives them a casting edge. If they wade too deep (we are all guilty as charged for wanting to get a little further out), it’s easy for a fly or line to hit the water on the backcast, thereby reducing distance. The one problem with climbing on a rock to get a better cast is when you start catching fish and forget that the tide has come in. Jumping down off the rock into water deeper than the tops of your waders is a problem.
But with fishing there are no problems, only solutions. So, it makes better sense to use a rod that is a bit longer than the standard nine footer. A rod in the over 10 foot length helps you to keep your line high on your back cast as well as to properly swim your fly in and around the rocks. If you change locations and wind up on an adjoining sandy beach, so much the better. The extra length will work there as well, too. It will help you mend and control your line, swing flies, and lift fish to keep them from running foul and breaking you off.
Wading sometimes can be an issue, particularly on a flood tide with a strong current. Korkers are a must for adding traction on the rocks. Wading belts are a must. The best way to stay dry when the tide splashes around the rocks is to place your wading jacket over your waders and then to put your wading belt on the outside of your jacket. When a wave crashes against you the water runs on the outside of your boots and you stay dry.
Heavier monofilament and fluorocarbon are best bets. As your leaders rake across the rocks, some of which may have barnacles, you’ll find you lose fish due to abrasion. Tippets of 20, 25, or 30 pound test will stand up to nicks and cuts. Get in the regular habit of running your fingers down the leader and check the fly’s point at the same time. You’ll land more fish.
Landing fish in rock gardens has its unique challenges. The added length of a 10-½ foot rod really comes into play here to keep lines and leaders off the rocks and barnacles. You’ll also want to control the fish’s head to keep him from running under the long strands of kelp that are around the rock gardens. If a fish does run underneath the kelp or sulks in the rocks, you need to get him moving before he breaks you off. Pull back on your rod so the line is tight, and pluck the line like a guitar. The vibrations bother the fish and will get him moving. Most of the times there is a sandy stretch adjacent to the rock gardens. Steer your fish in the direction of the deeper water near those beaches, and you’ll be able to get them in quicker. And in the event that you want to climb on a rock and do battle with the beast (or just stay out longer), then trade in your waders for a Farmer John wetsuit bottom. They’ll keep you warm and safe.
The jagged coastline of Southern New England offers numerous opportunities to find big bass during the summer. Granted, you generally will have to deal with the striper on his terms, but your chances of a memorable fish are significantly improved in rock gardens.
What does it take to catch big Stripers in the surf? Many people complain of their big fish drought. They catch plenty of schoolie size fish but that all elusive wall-hanger seems like the impossible dream. It’s not! But it does take some planning and sacrifice. What follows is my take on what it means to hunt for big bass.
The first rule in the big fish game for a surfcaster is to fish at night. This is an absolute must if you want to up the odds. Large Stripers don’t get big by being careless. Instinctively they have learned that the cover of darkness affords safety and prime forage opportunity in the shallows of the surfcaster’s world. Its not that these large bass do not feed during the day but they will do it in deep water and without a boat at your disposal you’re going to have to wait for night to fall before they will venture into the shallows to pursue pray. Mature Striped bass don’t take the risk that their small offspring take. Remember these fish are predators and stalk their prey just like any other predator does. They are wild animals and eons of evolution have taught them when it’s safe to roam the surf.
Big Bait= Big fish Let me ask you all this, would you rather have a steak or eat a bunch of hors devours until you fill up? Big fish are not “lazy” they are smart and realize the less energy they have to expend to get their fill the better. You’re not going to see 40pound bass chasing silversides all night to fill the tank! They would much prefer to suck up a 1 pound lobster and be done with it. Leave all the small stuff at home. The live eel is a deadly tool you can use to score a hefty Striper. Fresh bait such as squid or bunker chunks are also a great way to get your trophy. Think of the saying “meat, it’s What’s for dinner” This is the theme you should keep in mind. Another highly effective method is Chumming and this will work anyplace you have a rip close to shore, try this some night on an out going tide at your favorite fishing hole with a bucket of fresh chopped squid or some clam bellies and see how deadly effective it is!
Plugs are great but the truth is on average they will not account for the majority of big fish caught, why? I think there is a learning curve with plug fishing that many anglers just don’t seem to have the patience for it takes time to hone your skills as a plug fisherman and sticking with it is the only path to success making that plug come “alive” takes practice and patience. If it is Plugs you fancy, my suggestion would be to stock the plug bag with proven big fish choices. It’s hard to beat a slow rolling Danny in calm to moderate sea’s at night and at daybreak so stock a couple in your bag. As for color choice I lean towards the basic all black or all white color schemes on all the plugs I use, they have never let me down. Second on my list would be the Darter plug especially if your fishing some type of moving water (and you should be) these plugs get a great bite and dig down into the zone! Needlefish are another good choice especially in rough water and wind conditions, nothing else will sail out to a target like a needlefish plug in a heavy headwind. Lastly, never leave home without a good assortment of bucktail jigs sizes ½ ounce to 4 ounce to cover a wide variety of conditions. On many occasions throughout many years of surf fishing the bucktail jig has saved the day or night!
The mindset As hard as it may be, learn when to walk away from small fish and don’t get caught up in the numbers game. School bass are fun but they won’t win you any awards. You’re hunting for the elusive trophy that comes once in a lifetime. Wouldn’t you rather fish for a few hours and land one 40lb fish verses 20 fish that were 18 inches? You know my answer! It’s not easy, you’re going to lose sleep and put in a lot of hours pursuing your goal but as with anything in life, hard work always pays off. And when that big fish is finally laying on the beach you will have a feeling of accomplishment like no other. Time is your greatest asset, the more time you put in on the water the better your chances are. Confidence! One of the most important aspects of Surf fishing is in your own mind! It makes a huge difference in your success if you venture out with confidence that you will be successful this applies to every cast you make! Always fish like that next cast will bring in the fish of a lifetime! Whether you are plug or bait fishing always have confidence that what’s on the end of your line is going to work or else you simply will not fish it right! So believe in yourself! It goes a long way
Fish Smart I was fortunate in 2005 to win my share of tourneys in RISAA.How did I do it? In all fishing there is some luck, however, I know my water and stick to it. Don’t make the mistake of running all over the place and chasing fish reports, you will never become proficient that way. Learn a few spots intimately and stick with them. It may take years but its worth it, learn the ins and outs of your chosen spot at every tide stage and wind condition, keep notes as to when you caught fish and what the tide and wind was. Is there a certain boulder you always have success at? Do the solitary large fish use this boulder as cover to stalk prey consistently? Does the area your fishing have lobster pots, if it does that means lobster, and bass love lobster. Structure, you want structure and lots of it! Stripers love their structure. Consult maps, look for deep water pockets near shore with structure nearby, look even closer at those maps and study the currents, envision which way a fish will up to feed and present your offering accordingly. Don’t scoff at low tide, sometimes you can only reach the prime spot at low water. I have a few places where I can only fish on a moon low tide cycle and when it comes the fishing is always good because I can reach an area I can’t at other tide stages. As you can see there is a lot to unravel but as time goes by the secrets of a spot begin to open up to you. The rule of fishing 2 hours before or 2 hours after high tide means nothing to me, tide only matters as it relates to a certain spot. You will have more success if you relate tide to spot rather than fish generalities of tide. Don’t be under gunned! I see this a lot, guys fishing with tackle way to light for a good size bass. They just about cry when they get smoked by a decent fish. Let this be a lesson to anyone hunting big fish, light tackle should be left at home. These large fish are fighting for their life in a field of boulders, you need muscle to get them out in a hurry. These fisherman think they are being sporting, let me tell you a 40lb fish even on heavy tackle is no picnic. I want substance behind me when that fish of a lifetime strikes! Make sure all your gear is in tip top condition, line fresh, hooks sharp, drag working smoothly. For big fish you need to dot all your I’s and cross all your T’s !
In closing I Think anyone has the potential to be a good bass fisherman, it all boils down to how bad you want it. Some people are happy with just getting out and having a tight line regardless of the size of the fish, I respect that and understand it. I am trying to reach those here that want more. Those who long for a large bass in the surf and keep coming up short. If it’s a big fish you want you have to commit to the pursuit of that goal and stick with it! So called “sharpies” are the guys who put in their time and don’t chase fish reports but rather make there own news. What separates the best from the rest can be summed up in one word: commitment! And the willingness to forgo the easy and tackle the hard. Good luck! And let me know when you land that trophy!
The bucktail jig is indisputably one of the most productive artificial lures ever designed. For this reason all military survival kits include at least one jig in case of a stranding at sea. I personally have caught everything from walleye to tuna on bucktails and always carry a range of colors, sizes, and profiles. However, as with all popular artificials many an individual has put their spin on things unnecessarily confusing a relatively simple subject. As a passionate fan of bucktails I have been asked by The Saltwater Edge to try and unweave some of the confusion. There are a great variety of fishing situations and ways to utilize bucktails. In this article we will first describe the basic situations and how one would use a bucktail in these areas. We’ll follow with short discussions on color, the pork/plastic/plain dilemma and the difference between the Rip Splitter and Jetty Caster Andrus series. We’ll be touching on the basics, but for a more in-depth discussion of all tactics both from shore and boat refer to “Fishing with Bucktails” by Doc Muller (available through The Saltwater Edge). As a final note of introduction let me say that amongst all the various styles and brands of bucktails I have tried, Andrus Bucktails have consistently stood out for their consistency of product, availability, and perhaps most importantly, productivity.
Open Sand Beaches
There are two important factors to consider when fishing bucktails at open sand beaches: the first being how quickly the bottom drops off and the second being the amount of fishable structure (i.e. sandbars). On true sand beaches (little or no other structure) the main factor to consider is water depth. This will determine what size bucktail you will need to get down. Many sand beaches have patches or extensive areas of rocky bottom. Such locations are better fished by the methods we’ll discuss later for rocky shores of glacial origin. Whatever the combination of depth and structure I focus on using one of three sizes. The lightest will be the 1oz which I use when either the bait present is very small, when the bottom is excessively shallow, or when I am focusing on thoroughly fishing the white water close to shore that often occurs during the summer migration of sandbars onto the shoreline. Increasing in size I use 1 1/2oz. bucktails when covering water searching for fish. These bucktails allow for a longer cast while still light enough to fish effectively right to your feet. The largest I’ll regularly use on sand beaches are 2oz. and are the “go-to” in my favorite conditions…rough and windy. Heavier bucktails are useful when fish are feeding far from shore and not responding to tins. While these three sizes will cover the majority of open sand beach situations, bucktails from 1/2 – 2 ½ oz all have their moments be it a match-the-hatch situation or an issue of punching that few extra feet through the wind. Whatever the size my retrieve from the sand beach remains the same, slow as possible while keeping the bucktail near but not on the bottom combined with a sharp but small twitch every 4-5 cranks of the handle. When using heavier bucktails I’ll start the retrieve as soon as the bucktail hits the water. If using a lighter bucktail or fishing a deep hole I will allow the bucktail to touch bottom before starting the retrieve.
Rocky Shoreline (Glacially Created)
Great fishing can be had on the rocky shorelines made up of rounded pieces of stone which are remnants of the Glacial melting after the last ice age. Some of these areas consist of rocks of many sizes (some as large a mid-size vehicles), existing together. A second type of rocky shoreline area consists of rocks from baseball to bowling ball in size. Finally, come the many spots that fall somewhere in the middle. All three are equally effective locations but require a different approach. When confronted with the first situation, consisting of rocks of different sizes in relatively shallow water (less than 15’ deep), I use one bucktail: the 3/4oz. with 7/0 hook Jetty Caster. This jig is often light enough to swim right over the top of some serious boulders while maintaining the hook size necessary to land a slob. Locations similar to this where such a bucktail shines include most of the South Shore rocks in Montauk, Squibnocket on the Vineyard, and the various reefs off the Elizabethan Islands.
For the often very shallow sloping locations where the rocks are more consistent in size the key factor is not so much depth as the combination of wind, current and wave action. The idea here is to cast as far as possible while remaining able to keep the bucktail from making all but the occasional contact with the bottom. A classic example of such a location is the fabled North and False bars of Montauk. Here stable weather means 1 1/4oz. Rip Splitters. Once weather moves in creating some swell and increased current many people opt for the 1 1/2oz Jetty Caster and as much as 2oz. Jetty Caster when a hard NE or equivalent wind is blowing in your face. The third situation is by far the most common one experienced by surfcasters. Water depth ranging in depth can require two different bucktails even if you’re only moving a few feet. An example of such a location is Pt. Judith, Rhode Island, where a very North Bar like bottom is interspersed with the occasional large boulder. One can either risk losing a few more 1 1/4oz bucktails than normal to fish more effectively or fish smaller jigs such as ¾oz. and 1oz. Jetty Casters for a more affordable excursion. Personally I risk a few jigs and try to save money by making an extra effort to recall and avoid snags. Here is where knowing the water will really pay off. I would not really recommend increasing to more than 1 1/2oz bucktails as the winds make it harder to control the path of the bucktail and avoid snags. Rocky Shoreline (Bedrock) When discussing fishing bedrock structure we are referring to Mainland rock structures that are stationary or part of the earth’s actual surface. This type of structure occurs mostly in Maine and in RI but also in parts of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. The main issue here is that within 100 yards one can encounter entirely different depths and structure. The deep troughs, shallow reefs, ledges and more are all excellent bucktailing water but require completely different approaches. Since there are often drastic rises and drops in the bottom I do not recommend long casts which will more than likely result in a snagged lure. Instead I focus on the water within a few feet of where I am standing, water that due to the nature of bedrock areas is often quite deep. Here the idea is to float bucktails right in the white water much as one would use a Hab’s needlefish. The current will cause the lure to dance enticingly providing all the action necessary. The angler needs only to ensure a slow progression through the water and hopefully right in front of a bass’s lips. I like to fish as light as possible in this situation with the ¾ Jetty Casters being my “go-to” unless wind becomes an issue causing me to move up to a 1 1/2oz with no preference between Jetty Casters and Rip Splitters.
Whether they are sandy or rocky, points are almost always fish magnets. While all can be fished in the manner dictated by the bottom-structure it is important to note that due to the increased current anglers are able to fish bucktails as much as an extra half ounce or more than could be fished in a similar location without the current. This allows one to cover more water while keeping the bucktail near the rocks, something especially important when fish hunker down to escape the current.
By discussing inlets we open up a whole new world of bucktailing opportunities. At times inlets can concentrate and hold large populations of, and sometimes very large fish. While size and bottom make-up may vary, there are two main types. The first are inlets from naturally flowing rivers. Short of a few behemoths such as the Hudson, Connecticut, and Merrimack rivers most are less then 100 yards wide, have a main channel and sandbars at the mouth. During periods of slower current or when fishing the shallow water on top of sand and sediment deposits I use small bucktails such as the 1 1/4oz Rip Splitter and swim them as if fishing a shallow sandy beach of little or no wave action. When targeting fish in the channels I use the same approach as one would use for any of the man made inlets from New Jersey to the Cape Cod Canal. With all locations the two primary spots where fish will hold are the center of the channel and the edge of the channel. Bucktails (such as the Andrus Big-Eye) will range in weight from 2-6oz and up during strong canal tides. Of course during slack tide almost no weight will reach the bottom however, it is rare for fish to respond well to bucktails during this time. For most places other then the Canal 2-3oz is ideal. Once rigged, I’ll make two types of casts. The first is a short cast often no more then 10-15 feet out and a few feet up current. Most often used on the inlet side of jetties or other steeply dropping man made shoreline the objective is catch fish holding to vertical or near vertical structure by swimming a bucktail right along the edge. The second cast is a long cast up current enough so that the bucktail can reach the bottom before sweeping down current of your location as once this happens your bucktail will be swept up out of the strike zone. In either case it is important to note that due to the current these fish are hunkered behind rocks and in order to catch these fish your bucktail needs to be on the bottom, a tactic that will lead to snags. As it is so important to keep your bucktail in the strike zone the typical swimming retrieve we previously used is not ideal. Instead we “jig” in these situations. This involves keeping a semi taught line and either aggressively or softly lifting and dropping the bucktail to the bottom. On a perfect cast the jig will hit the bottom just as it is passing directly in front of you, then be moved by lifting the rod from 3am to 1am before dropping the tip until the bucktail again makes contact with the bottom. This will generally allow one to fish about 10-20 yards of the bottom. The length of drift can be increased by free-spooling an extra 15 yards and then restarting the jigging process. However, while this may result in a few extra fish it often results in significantly more snagged bucktails. It is best to vary between aggressive and slow jigging until one finds what the fish are responding to.
You can’t go wrong with white. In fact the only situation where I find color to be a real issue is when jigging in inlets and specifically the Cape Cod Canal. The issue is that during times of little or small-sized bait larger stripers will resort to feeding on the crabs and lobsters hiding among the rocks. Here I use the classic merlot or black cherry color and aggressive jigging, the idea being to imitate the fleeing response of lobsters. Otherwise the color alternatives of chartreuse and yellow are of rare importance but can perform better when water clarity is an issue. I feel that in any situation a white bucktail is such a generic offering that it can be construed as whatever a fish desires. Pork/Plastic/None of the Above While this is a frequently debated topic I will say that nothing has ever out-produced pork in my experience. That being said no matter which color bucktail I’m throwing I’ll only use two color pork rinds: white and white over red. White is my preference in calm weather and more importantly calm water while I’ll choose red in every other instance. As far as style each has its moment. The smallest are the #51 bass strips which are ideal when fishing bucktails from ½-1oz. As bucktails increase in size from an ounce to 1 1/2oz I prefer #240 styles and then finally on anything upwards of 1 1/4oz my favorite style is the #70 with its shape lending itself well to swimming a bucktail in current. As far as using bucktails without rind the only two reasons I go this rout are when bait is truly small and the addition of even a #51 creates too large a profile or when the additional resistance from the pork prevents me from contacting the bottom when jigging. Jetty Casters vs. Rip Splitters Likely one of the most confusing aspects when purchasing bucktails is the nature of this difference. Outwardly it appears that the only difference is the shape of the head and the color of the thread used to wrap the hair to the head. These differences are of little importance as the real difference which we are concerned with is how much hair is tied on the body. The Jetty Caster series is tied with significantly more hair, resulting in a jig that rides much higher in the water column then an identically weighted Rip Splitter series. This translates into being able to fish a Jetty Caster a half ounce or heavier than one could use in the Rip Splitter series. This results in a longer cast and better holding power in heavy current and seas. On the other hand, when attempting to fish deeper water (especially when strong currents are involved) the Rip Splitter series are preferred as they cut through the current much more effectively to reach the fish.
There are many, many different varieties of plugs that surfcasters use when chasing striped bass. Top water baits, minnow swimmers, metal lips, darters, etc. They all have their time and place when applied in the right location during the right conditions. Most plugs have a seductive “wiggle” that catches bass almost as well as they catch fishermen. For many years on the beach if a plug didn’t “swim well” it didn’t sell well. That theory applied to much of the striper coast until the emergence of the “Needlefish Plug.”
The needlefish type plug has been around since the late 1950s (Boone), but it wasn’t until the early 1980s that they started to become popular along the northeast coast from New Jersey to Cape Cod. It was during this time period that surfcasters began to use three different brands of needlefish plugs. These initial needlefish plugs produced by Boone, Classic and Linesider, can best be described as a straight painted piece of wood that came through the water like a “pencil with hooks.” Because of this “lack of a wiggle” they initially turned off many casters at the time (including me). But at the same time some surf casters “in the know” were quietly racking up incredible scores of striped bass on them, especially when sand eels were the prevalent forage and conditions dictated using the needlefish plug.
These early needlefish, although very effective, also had some major problems. They were poorly constructed by most of today’s plug building standards. They all used a screw-eye construction to attach treble hooks. These screw-eyes proved no match for the heavy bass that were prevalent on the beach at the time. Large bass, when hooked, pulled the screw-eyes right out of the wooden needlefish. Many anglers, including some of my friends, lost the bass of their dreams to these early models.
As word began to spread along the beach about needlefish plugs and their effectiveness other plug makers got involved in the game. One such person was master plug builder Donny Musso of Long Island, owner of Super Strike Lures. Donny got wind of the needlefish through a friend that fished the Nantucket surf. Donny’s friend implored him to make a “beefier” needlefish that could stand up to the bass. In 1983 Donny designed a unique wooden needlefish that was tapered on both ends. He built it using a “wire-thru” construction. Some of the barrel swivels Donny used on the initial models failed on the big bass but Donny quickly modified the swivels using a larger and stronger size. These improved models were put to the ultimate test on the cow bass that swam in Cape Cod and Block (Needlefish) Island waters. They passed with flying colors and produced phenomenal numbers of bass without failing. Donny Musso deserves full credit as the builder who “revolutionized” the Needlefish plug. His wood needlefish design was then converted to a plastic model in 1984 with no loss of effectiveness.
As needlefish popularity began to “snowball” other plug makers jumped into its path. Al Gagliarduci introduced his wooden version called the Gags Needlefish in 1984. The Gags Needlefish came with a thru-wire construction which allowed the thru-wire to rotate within the plug thus giving anglers one more weapon to counteract the treble hook straightening leverage that big bass often used when hooked. After overcoming an initial “peeling paint” problem the Gags Needlefish became one of the hottest plugs on Block Island.
By the fall of 1984 needlefish plugs were the hottest plug on the coast. They were a hot commodity and tackle store shelves were quickly emptied of any that were delivered. In 1984 Gibbs came out with a screw-eye model needlefish which was well received but still had the problem screw-eyes. It only took Gibbs one season to come out with an improved thru-wire model which was in full production by 1986. So by 1986 you had thru-wire needlefish plugs being turned out by Super Strike, Gags, Gibbs, and Spofford Lures of Martha’s Vineyard. All were quality products and many surf casters owe the fish of their dreams to these plugs.
There is no longer a shortage of needlefish in today’s plug market. Just about every plug maker makes a version of the needlefish. They vary in shape and size, come in wood or plastic, and have various applications for just about every set of conditions a surf caster may encounter. Along with the original four improved needlefish (Super Strike, Gibbs, Spofford, and the recently re-introduced Gags), you have Habs, Afterhours, Salty Bugger, Stetzko, and a myriad of others. In fact there are so many different needlefish an angler would be hard pressed to find room for all of them in his surf bag. So how would one decide which needlefish to purchase? Trial and error will cost you more than a few bucks, especially when you take various color patterns into consideration. I’ve been asked to try and help the novice caster make a decision. First off – I’ve been fishing needlefish plugs since the early 1980s when they became the rage of the coast so I have a great deal of experience. There are ALWAYS a few needlefish in my surf bag. I have fished almost every brand of needlefish plug since there inception in a multitude of conditions. Most needlefish plugs are “sinkers” for lack of a better word, they sink when they hit the water but glide toward the surface upon retrieve. On or close to the surface is how “most” casters fish them. Some needles come to the surface by barely turning the reel handle (such as the Gibbs and Gag’s). Other needles (such as the Musso Super Strike and Habs) will work mid-level water depths or close to the bottom depending on whether the caster lets it sink and how fast it’s retrieved. So far I’ve only used one needlefish that was a true “floater” and it is a homemade plug built by a friend of mine. I’m sure there are other floaters because just about every basement plug maker builds needlefish nowadays. So a needlefish can basically be called a surface skimmer that can at times be effectively fished in deeper water.
What I’ve learned:
Needlefish are very versatile plugs and it would be a mistake to set “hard and fast” rules on how to fish them. Just as in any type of surf fishing there are so many variables involved that may affect your decision on which needlefish to use. They include water depth, water clarity, current, surf conditions, time of year, type of bait present, wind speed and direction, etc. How I use needlefish on the Cape doesn’t necessarily work when I’m casting on Block Island. What works when the wind is screaming onshore may not work in flat water (or maybe it will). So, I have my “preferred” methods of using needlefish for every location I fish, depending on the conditions. But I always tell those who will listen to my general rules that bass don’t read – so be flexible in your methods. For example – I don’t know how many times I’ve heard casters say they won’t cast a needlefish because there are no sand eels around – big mistake. Needlefish plugs can be extremely effective even when there isn’t a sand eel on the beach for miles. They can work when the forage is squid, bunker, silversides, whatever. A big key when using needlefish plugs is confidence. Once you get over the fact that a needlefish plug doesn’t need to do a lot in the water (as in “wiggle”) you will gain confidence. Fish it high or low, night or day, light or dark pattern, they all work when the time is right and it’s up to the caster to figure that out. Another key is being versatile – being versatile and adapting to changing environments on the beach while casting needlefish will allow you to uncover the mysteries of the plug. After all, isn’t learning the most satisfying part of surf casting? It is for me.
So, which needlefish do I use and when?
The best needle for use in flat or calm surf. Retrieve it very slowly, don’t worry it stays right on top creating a V-wake that bass home in on. The Gibbs is the closest model to a floater.
Colors: Solid Black, Fluorescent Lime Green
Musso Super Strike Needlefish:
Retrieve slow to moderately fast, skipping on occasion, even at night. I’m convinced this needlefish creates a unique sound when retrieved and because of this it often takes fish when other needles won’t. Can be effective in all conditions and because of its plastic construction (which is less buoyant) it often shines in very rough water. Can be very effective in rips. If you can’t seem to catch on a Super Strike Needle try fishing it fast and skip it across the surface on occasion. I also use the Super Strike needle in conditions when most would use a popper.
Colors: Neon Pink, Neon Green, Solid Black, and Black/Purple
The best casting needlefish, it will reach that offshore bar that other needles won’t. It works great in rough or calm conditions. A most versatile plug and all sizes and patterns can be effective.
Colors: Chartreuse, Fluorescent Green, Pink, and Black
Good all around needlefish. I’m still experimenting with the new models made last season (2005) and I’m just as impressed with them as the older models from the 1980s. The large 9 inch model in Copper was the most consistent producer for me in 2005.
Tony Stetzko Needlfish:
I fish many other needlefish brands and they all catch at certain times. I personally witnessed the effectiveness of the large size Stetzko Pink Needle in the hands of its creator. I went through my bag of needles trying to duplicate his success – the closest I came was with the Gag’s 9″ Copper Needle – but Tony still smoked me that particular night with his own creation.
Was it the type of needlefish or the fisherman using it? Nothing wrong with being humbled by Tony Stetzko, I’m just one of many in that club. Just remember, success is relative and everyone has their own opinions based on their experiences. Others may tell you different and it would behoove any surf caster to pay attention to other opinions. You now have some of my general rules for using various needlefish plugs and all that I mentioned have a great track record for taking trophy stripers from the beach. But as I stated before: striped bass don’t read my general rules. So always be flexible when casting the beach.