Big Fish Mentality – Bill Nolan
Big Fish Mentality – Bill Nolan
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!