Surfcasterâ€™s Paradise... Located 12 miles off the Massachusetts coast. 1 hour boat trip from historic New Bedford MA.
May Until EarlyOctober Mid
1864 For reservations or brochures call
Or visit us online at cuttyhunkfishingclub-bb.com
She is kind and very beautif
ful. But she can be so cruel... Hemingway
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Surfcasterâ€™ s Journal Issue #16 Nov 2012 12-Video Vault 14-Geared Up 29-Beach To Table - Chase 39-The Rod Corner - Caruso 45-Plugaholics Anonymous - Anderson 57-For The Love Of It - Paoline 65-The Hunt - Albano 73-Fly Fishing Update - Papciak 81-Bunker Copies - McKenna 97-Fred Zier Interview - Pintauro 111-Live Eel Chronicles - Hromin 130-El Salvador - Chia Zeng Juang 141-The Art Of Trespass - Albano 151-Modifying Korkers - Walls 163-Josh Cooper Lamiglas Interview 170-Contributors editor in chief head photographer/has power no internet: Zeno Hromin art director/has gas needs love: Tommy Corrigan head copy editor: Roger Martin boss of the head copy editor: Marie Martin
Frank Pintauro R.I.P.
rod guru: Lou Caruso executive chef: Andrew Chase lathe master: Dave Anderson fly guru: John Papciak man in the north: Steve McKenna n.k.o.t.b.: Al Albano cover photo: Zeno Hromin back cover drawing: Chris Koutsis
advertising and other inquiries firstname.lastname@example.org Surfcaster's Journal is published bi-monthly by Surfcasting LLC. Publisher reserves the right to accept or reject any advertising submitted for publication. Surfcasting LLC and Surfcaster's Journal assume no responsibility for errors made except to republish in future issue any advertisement having an error. Use of this material without express written permission of Surfcasting LLC and Surfcaster's Journal is strictly prohibited.
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The Moon Pulled Up An Acre of Bass: A Flyrodder's Odyssey By Peter Kaminsky There is no shortage of ink on Montauk, but this one caught our eye from the very moment it appeared in local book stores. The sight of a fly fisherman casting in knee-deep water, “up front,” with the lighthouse in the background - and not another soul to be seen? Too good to be true, but lucky for us, we didn’t choose this book by its cover. If you didn’t pick this up in its first printing in 2002, a very recent Montauk South Side blitz reminded us that this story does have staying power. In fact, a week ago we observed many of the same characters highlighted in the book are still very much in the game. The game? Author Peter Kaminsky does something that most us can only dream about – he takes the month of October off - yep, the whole friggin month - to fish and play on the east end of Long Island. This book is a diary of that dream vacation, as he recounts everything from subtle changes in the weather to the sometimes dysfunctional ways of certain fly fishing guides who circle the point like mosquitoes each fall as they try not to piss off too many surfcasters (or each other). The close-minded hard-core surfcaster might have a hard time relating to Kaminsky, as one day begins at 7am with the procurement of sandwiches, and fishing ends promptly when the sun fades to the west. The rest will be entertained, and even enlightened by his observations and writing style.
The book frames the fall run at Montauk Point with a comparison to the Serengeti, with a migration below the surface of epic proportions. Kaminsky argues that the migration of bait and gamefish around the point might be the greatest on earth, and we are in no position to refute this. The “Odyssey” actually begins on September 17 and finds Kaminsky bound for Springs, in East Hampton. Many readers here opt for hard-core digs that generally include a slide-on camper, or even the back of an SUV. Kaminsky’s choice is a guest house, with a hard-core kitchen used by a professional chef. Some may wince at the fly fishing stories, but few can argue that Kaminsky knows how to “do it up right,” as the chef’s kitchen is put to good use with meticulously prepared meals at the end of the day (the author also has written for Food and Wine). At some point the reader might discover that the local fly guides’ culture is not that different from that of the Montauk surfcaster. As one guide puts it, “If you step outside the guide circle and see these little yentas...talking about each other...they take it so damn seriously.” You will see this book for what it really is: unique perspectives on a topic many of you know very well, superbly written, with an extra helping of pure entertainment.
Lemire's Lures We know many of you are foaming at the mouth thinking about last yearâ€™s epic sand eel bite. In many places along the striper surf, the bite was so intense and long lasting, that many surfcasters fished into January with great results. Yes, we know that tins with tubes from quality manufacturers like A.O.K. Tackle and Charlie Graves Lures are dynamite for those daytime sand eel blitzes. And so are needlefish lures. Both feature long, slender profiles and both are great imitators of the sand eels found in our waters. And although many surfcasters use tins with regularity on the sandy beaches, the ones that use needlefish are in the minority. We find this to be a big mistake! We like metal lures a lot, in fact it's the only type of lure we can cast more than 30 yards (Hey we never said we were good at this, just persistent.) But we like needlefish lures even more. Here are a few reasons why. They are generally wider in profile and they are easier to work over the boulder fields by using a slow retrieve. And unlike most surfcasters that have adopted this notion that needlefish imitate only sand eels, we believe that needlefish can be good imitators of many baitfish species in our waters.
The longer needlefish in seven to nine inch size are very effective when used when sand eels and regular eels are around. They are also effective when larger bait, such as needlefish, tinker mackerel, sardines and many others are to be found. We used Lemire's Needlefish lures quite a bit last year and we have to tell you that they will be a great addition to your surf bag. They are good casters and feature a great finish and premium hardware. We particularly liked the 8 inch, 2 ounce Junior Needle which has accounted for some good fish for us in Montauk and Cuttyhunk over the last few years. And we have heard about great catches on this plug along the legendary Block Island shore, which is not surprising at all, considering Al Lemire, the maker of Lemire's Lures works and lives on Block Island for a good part of the season. Give them a twirl and you will see why Lemire's Plugworks lures are gaining more fans each season.
Ultimate Surf Belt We were wondering if our eyes were deceiving us on a Memorial Day weekend in Montauk Point, New York, the self proclaimed Surf Fishing Capital of the World. Yes, we expected crowded conditions and yes we even expected to see a few newcomers to the sport take their maiden dunking from the slippery rocks that dot the shore. What we didn't expect to see was so many surfcasters not wearing surf belts with their waders! We can only tell you what we know from our personal experience. That experience tells us to never, ever set foot in the water, onto a rock or in a marsh without a belt encircling around our ever-expanding waistline. Surf belts serve two purposes. First, and most important, it stops the water from filling your waders should you fall into the surfâ€Ś. and fall you will! The surf belt should always be worn over your jacket and waders and tightly cinched. Second, the belt also serves as a great place to attach your gripper tool, pliers, camera, pork rind, small lure bag, bottle of water and yes, even that peanut butter sandwich your grandma made for you. So why do so many chose to fish without one? We can only guess it's because they never drove a hundred miles naked on the highway like one of our friends did when he got soaked far away from home, and did not have any dry clothes to change into. We are sure he drove the speed limit and not a mile faster because being asked to "step out of a car" would have been challenging to say the least for him and the police officer. There are many belts on the market today and we like a lot of them including Commando, MAK, Rock Hopper and many others. But we heard a lot of chatter about a surf belt with name "Ultimate Surf Belt" made on Long Island, NY by a local sharpie, Steve Knapik. At first we were put off by the name because everything we ever tried that was called ultimate something-or-other eventually proved to be average at best, but after using Steve's Ultimate Surf Belt, we are starting to think that the name fits the product. We'll be brief but to the point. To put it simply, what this belt is, is what a lot of belts on the market are not. It's made out of stiff Scuba Belting and will fit most two inch sheaths, attachments, D-rings or other contraptions we use on our belts.
The star of this belt is the 304 Stainless Steel compression spring dive buckle. Holy crap, do we like this buckle! First, the 304 Stainless Steel resists corrosion. Second, itâ€™s spring loaded so when you load up on Bush Baked Beans before your fishing trip, the buckle will expand along with your flatulence. We are not kidding about this! This buckle actually expands and contacts slightly which means you will never be uncomfortable on a rock again. The portion that goes through the buckle and the area immediately after the buckle both feature stitched Velcro. What does this mean? It means that once you attach your belt, even before you close the buckle, the threaded part of the belt folds up to the attached Velcro on the opposite side. So if you are standing on a rock and need to adjust the belt, all you do it open the buckle and adjust it, but your belt is still attached via Velcro. Trust us, we lost our share of belts over the years and even worst, we broke our share of flimsy, plastic buckles. We can almost guarantee that if you use the Ultimate Surf Belt as itâ€™s designed to be used, your chance of losing your belt are slim to none. So stop using crappy belts with plastic buckles to carry your ultra expensive pliers, and your even more expensive digital cameras. There are a lot of good belts out there, but the Ultimate Surf Belt website should definitely be one of the first places you visit when you are doing your research.
Pelican Tracker 2140 Night Light Quick, tell us what is the most important component of your surf fishing gear? Your fancy reel? Your super-duper nanoresin graphite stick? Your "my balls are wet every time I get in the water above my hips" leaky waders? Or is it your "I lost half of my studs every tide" cleats? All those things might be important but without a good light, you won't be able to see when your fancy reels spews oil all over your waders. Or when a bluefish runs between your feet and buries a hook in your calf. And of course, without a light you will never notice that you failed to thread your $50- a-100 yard spool of braid through not one but two guides on your rod. Sadly, all these things have happened to us at one time or another. But dealing with an equipment failure is one thing. Having to deal with it on a dark night without a reliable light is a whole other story. So tell us, when are you going to stop buying those cheapy $9.99 flashlights that last you until you get a good dunking? You spent good dough on your rod, reel, braided line, fancy waders, belt and boots. Heck, those titanium pliers on your belt cost more than the yearly per capita earnings of Somalia's gold diggers. Yet when it comes to flashlights, you say to yourself, "they will fail anyway so why spend a lot of money". We will let you in on a little secret. If you keep buying junk, you will own junk. And no, you don't have to spend a fortune to own a dependable flashlight. First, stop looking at those â€œMade in Kazakhstanâ€? lights that are on the checkout counter at Home Depot. Second, buy flashlights from people who make diving equipment. Those dudes know what you are dealing with.
They know the abuse you put your equipment through. We have gone through at least twenty or thirty lights in the last 10 years. Most of them failed sooner or later. Then we bought a light from Pelican. Tracker 2140 to be exact. Three seasons under the belt, swimming and getting pounded by waves and the light still operates flawlessly. These dudes are world leaders in waterproof cases, lights, and backpacks. Basically any time you need to keep a product dry under water and functioning, their website should be the first place you look. And they have enough waterproof lights to make your head spin. So buy your next light from Pelican and stop worrying about your lightâ€™s performance and durability.
Montauk Rocks How many fly fishing movies have you seen on YouTube? Action, travel, documentaries, you name it, you probably watched it. Heck, if you are like us, you watch anything that involves fish, water and feet planted on terra firma. Yes, like most of you, we feel that boats are for sissies! So you'll agree with us that there are hundreds, if not thousands of great fly fishing movies out there, beautifully edited and superbly filmed. Now that we’ve established that, tell us how many surf fishing movies have you watched? No, not the getdizzy-watching GoPro-on-your-head videos. And definitely not the ones that have more transitions and special effects than your cousin’s Bar Mitzvah video! What we want to know is how many creative, artistic, great sounding and all around quality surf fishing movies have you seen? Go ahead, go to YouTube and search....and search….and search. Truth is that we never really had anything to call our own. Are the fly fishing dudes hipper and more creative than us? Do you really want us to answer that? When we heard that NY photographer Rich Siberry was making a movie in 2008 about Montauk Point surfcasting, we were elated. When we saw a trailer in 2009 we could barely contain our excitement. Finally, just a few weeks ago we managed to get our grubby little hands on a preview copy. Five years in the making, and an hour and twenty minutes long, Montauk Rocks is finally ready for debut this holiday season. Since we dabble a bit in video ourselves, we were floored by a few things. First, the sound is absolutely pristine. Rich filled us in that it was mixed by a professional audio technician. We liked his shooting style quite a bit, from composition to framing of those interviewed, it has a polished, professional look. Basically opposite of all the videos we have done over the years. Ok, ok, you don't care about the technical part of Montauk Rocks, you want to know what it is about. It has to do with Montauk! There are rocks everywhere...and of course, surfcasters!
Montauk Rocks is a documentary film about surf fishing at Montauk Point, NY. It starts off with a history lesson about the town and its humble beginnings, from the 1938 hurricane that destroyed the town to the Fisherman Special LIRR train that used to bring hoards of anglers to the party boat fleet. Then the real stars of the documentary make an appearance. Well known anglers like Gary "Toad" Stevens , Paul "Skisher" Melnyk, Van Staal's Craig Cantelmo, Jack Yee and many other locals and regulars talk about what makes surf fishing at Montauk Point unlike any other place in the world. You will get a kick out of Melnyk's antics, you will be invited to witness huge stripers being dragged out of the surf. It's a movie about a place that is punishing like no others, where rocks are slippery and the surf shows no mercy on those who challenge its power. There are no dudes here wearing Columbia shirts and loafers. This is combat fishing practiced by hardened men that look more like they are out on parole than Hampton trendsetters. We can definitely see Montauk Rocks becoming the most requested gift this holiday season.
Century Sling Shot In recent years surfcasters have had a lot to be thankful for. New lures with incredible lifelike finishes are available in every tackle shop. Quality wooden lures, once impossibly hard to find, have almost saturated the market. And after some fits and starts over the years, the market for high performance rods is exploding in popularity. If we can only get the ASMFC to wake up and tighten the regulations on our beloved striped bass whose numbers are dropping precipitously! Maybe then we could put all these tools to better use. New rods, more than any product in recent years, have become status symbols on the striper coast. These rods embrace new technologies like nano resin, carbon fibers, autoclave and many more things we neither understand nor have the desire to learn. These have been adopted by those who need to have the newest thing first. You know, the surfcasting version of trailblazers. At first they were laughed at for using two piece rods. In the minds of internet sharpies, this was a dead giveaway for a googan. Oh my, how times have changed! Fast track two years later and many of those who thumbed their noses at two piece rods, now proudly carry them and sing their praises. The only thing we wonder is why it took them so long to see the light? These new rods from manufacturers like St Croix, Century, CTS and recently Lamiglas are taking the surfcasting world by storm. This is due in part to a very smart grass-root marketing effort by these companies, especially the newcomers like Century and CTS. But don't be fooled, marketing can only take you so far. You still need a great product! We learned through personal experience, that once we started using these rods, there was no turning back. Recently we were in the market for what we would call a "big water" stick. We were looking for an 11 foot rod that would punch big plugs into the wind. A rod which could sling a big, bad rigged eel with ease yet we did not want a broom stick which would exhaust us in a hurry. Since we are absolutely unqualified for performing tasks more complicated than changing the hooks on our lures, we went in search of advice, to our Rod Guru, Lou Caruso, from Lou's Custom Rods in Babylon, NY. We dumped a few hundred pounds of live eels on his front lawn and told him we were not picking them up until he came up with a big water rod. Unfortunately for us, Lou had just finished a rod he thought would be perfect for our needs and we spent the rest of the day rolling in slime catching those eels!
What was Lou's suggestion for us? An 11 foot Century Sling Shot rated 2 to 5 ounces. Century calls these the most advanced line of rods in the world. At first we were a little surprised at just how light this rod felt. Would we really be able to punch a rigged eel during sloppy conditions? Can you really hammer a 3 ounce bottle plug into a hard wind? We knew that Sling Shots had the reputation of being able to cast a plug a mile but we had never held one in our hands before. This rod not only met our expectations but exceeded them by a wide margin. This is a medium-fast action blank that recovers very fast during a cast which helps drive your plug a long, long way. Some plugs we cast went so far we never saw where they landed. Of course, it would have helped if we had not snapped the line on our Zebco spincast reel. Darn it, we need to get ourselves one of those fancy reels from China! All kidding aside we found that the Century Sling Shot SS 1327 rated for 2 to 5 ounces to be right on the money. We drove a 3.5 ounce Yo-Zuri Surface cruiser with so much authority that people in Bermuda launched an official protest with the US consulate. Just like we experienced with CTS and St Croixâ€™s two piece rods, not once did we feel that by using these, we were in any way giving up sensitivity, power, distance or comfort. In fact, on more than one occasion we picked up our buddy's rods by accident and felt like we needed an old-timerâ€™s pair of oil skin waders to use their sticks. If you are looking for a good all-around rod for tossing medium and big lures, we think you should give Century a look. They also have a whole range of rods in the Sling Shot series that vary in size and ratings. We are sure that you will find something to your liking. And if you don't, hey, some companies still make bamboo rods for those who are a little behind in the surfcasting curriculum.
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I put this recipe on my restaurant’s menu five years ago because I liked it, not because I thought it would be popular. Of course, it’s become one of those items you just can’t remove for fear of a massive revolt. How cool is that? Only one problem, it’s expensive! There isn’t any local herring fishery so we buy North Sea herring which is a great product but comes from far away, with all the associated costs. As recreational fisher-people, you have a great resource (for now, at least) right in your back-yard. They’re fun, they’re tasty and they’re free! Herring is very perishable which is why pickling is such a popular way to prepare it. The herring I buy comes packed in a strong brine to preserve it. This needs to be soaked to remove the excess salt before using it in any preparation. Besides preservation, the salting gives a beautifully firm texture to the fillets. If I use freshly caught herring, I actually like to salt them overnight to achieve some of the same firmness.
Pickled Herring 2 lbs fresh herring fillets, salted overnight and then rinsed or 2 lbs salted herring fillets, soaked for at least 12 hours (changing water twice) to remove excess salt 1 ½ cup white wine vinegar 3 cups water 2 cups sugar salt, to taste (depends on how salty your herring is) 1tablespoon black peppercorns, lightly crushed 2 teaspons allspice berries, lightly crushed ½ white onion, sliced 1 small carrot, sliced thinly 3-4 bay leaves Fresh dill, few sprigs Place all ingredients except dill in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Let cool until lukewarm and pour over soaked herring. Add dill sprigs. Let marinate a day or so and then taste to see if it’s ready. This is a mild pickle so we usually let it go two days before using it.
Pickled Herring in Sour Cream 2 lbs pickled herring fillets, cut on the diagonal into 3/8â€? thin strips 2 cups sour cream 1 1/3 cups dijon mustard 1 cup sugar black pepper, freshly ground, to taste 1tablespoon red onion, finely grated 1 bunch dill, finely chopped salt, to taste white wine vinegar, to taste (2 tablespoons approximately) Mix all ingredients except herring and taste. It should be spicy, sweet and tangy. Add salt according to how salty your herring is. Mix in herring and let sit at least an hour or two. Serve with good, sour dark or rye bread.
We love to add pickled red onions and extra chopped dill on top. Pickled Red Onions 4 large red onions, sliced 1/8 inch thick, rings separated 2 cups sugar 2 cups white wine vinegar 2 cinnamon sticks 1ablespoon black peppercorns 1 dried hot chile pepper, broken 2 tablespoons salt Place all ingredients except onions in a non-reactive saucepan and bring to a boil. Place onions in a non-reactive bowl just large enough to hold them and pour over the boiling marinade. Cover with plastic wrap and let cool. These onions are best eaten at least one day after making them. You could also make pickled beets by pouring the marinade over sliced cooked beets (in this case, replace the cinnamon sticks with one tablespoon caraway seed).
G e t O u t T h e r e a n d F i s h !
d e n i h c a m n o i s i c e r P , s s a r b d i l o s m o r f . d e t a l p e m o r h nc e h t T S A C T U O l l i w s e r u l r u O H C T A C T U O d n a . g a b r u o y n i n i t y n a
AOKT ACKLE. COM
Your fishing partner since 1986. O L D S AY B R O O K . C O N N E C T I C U T . 8 6 0 . 3 8 8 . 2 2 8 3
When we first started the magazine I did an article on rod durability. Well after what I have witnessed over the last month I thought it prudent to revisit the subject. I have seen rods from Lamiglas, St Croix, CTS and Century broken. Some from defects but the bulk of the breaks from user error, weather by neglect, or mistake or the split second decision of a fish to make a last run. In the instance of one of the rods a bucktail became snagged on a bass, even if the bass was lying in the road. (Thatâ€™s a story already told and caught on video). What you may not have noticed is that when the bucktail became dislodged and almost took the ownerâ€™s head off, it also bounced off the rod as it whizzed by at about fifty miles per hour causing permanent damage. Had the owner not continued to fish that day he would have probably forgotten all about the incident and blamed the rod collapsing on a defect. Instead, when he went back to fish later that day, the rod folded in half. In another instance, a fisherman was fishing on a rock in a blitz. He was real careful not to lift his fish on the rock using the rod as a hoist. Instead he grabbed the leader and lifted the fish. Perfect. Then the unthinkable, as he gets another fish close to his rock it takes off to the left. He tries to turn it pulling sideways on the rod. Rod torqueâ€™s and the blank twists. SNAP !!!!!!
In yet another scenario, friend is fishing Block Island. He trips in the water and his line gets caught in the kelp. He is smart enough to not high stick it to pull the line free. He is above the kelp and lifts straight up. SNAP !!!!!! And the last I will cover is the fisherman that buys a particular rod. He is advised against using it on jetties. Not only does he take it on a jetty, he high sticks setting up on a bassâ€Ś. SNAP !!!!!! There are other instances of folks going way over the weight rating of a rod or screwing up on a cast, but I wonâ€™t bore you to death.
The point I’m making is that with any rod care and diligence must be taken. You cannot always prevent a break especially with the new modern blanks that are thinner and lighter then before. There is much less room for error. But you can be aware of potential problems and avoid breakage. Remember, you don’t have to actually high stick as it were. By creating an acute angle in the tip, no matter what angle the rod is at you are setting yourself up for disaster. Pick a rod suited for the type fishing you do. Also take into account the type of fisherman you are. I’m the guy that wades only at low tide and does not swim to rocks. I am not that rough on my equipment. Many tell me their fishing rod is a tool and treat it as such. When I look at the rod I want to throw up !!!!!!!! Scratched and beat to hell. But to each their own. If you break a rod, be honest with your builder on how you broke it. There was a bunch of research done on breaks a few years back with photo’s taken of each type of break. Most builders have either seen the photos or have seen enough breaks to know if the break is a defect or user error. If a rod is going to break from a defect it is usually within the first couple of outings. Be safe out there, Lou
PLUGAHOLICS ANONYMOUS plugging holes and new positions DAVE ANDERSON Don’t let me or anyone else fool you, you can buy all of the best equipment in the world and if you’re not in the right position you’re just casting. Many of us get caught up in the toils of looking the part. Do you need five Van Staals and three Zee Baas’s and two of every color Beachmaster Danny? Truth is, they ain’t worth 40 cents if they’re not doing what they’re intended to do. I had someone make a snide comment the other day about my Lami 1201M, my workhorse rod, the cork tape on the handle is worn through and I fixed it by wrapping an 8-inch section with hockey tape—good enough for me. But I heard the comment, “Oh, looks like that rod has gotten some use!” The tone suggesting that I should have it fixed. The fact of the matter is that the rod still works and it doesn’t matter what it looks like when it’s bucking under the strain of a big bass. I just nodded though and said, “Yup.”
When I say being in the right position makes all the difference, I’m not talking about having a good spot to go to, I’m talking about spots within the spot—places that are tailored to swim a certain plug through, places that allow you to reach fishy water and, just so you know, these perches cannot be determined by how comfortable they are to stand on! Finding these places will have a lot to do with your knowledge of plugs and then it becomes a game of concentration—matching the plugs to the spots and then tweaking as weather and surf conditions change. I was fishing a spot a few weeks ago that I’ve fished regularly for the better part of eight years and I found a whole new world within this tried and true spot. It all happened because I was watching a hard west wind stand waves up on the point, the first thing I noted was the strength of the tide as it swept around the point, carrying weeds and foam
against the wind—of course I knew that sweep existed but when I looked seaward the wind and waves were creating a perfect scenario for me to notice something new. The waves were coming at the point from an unusual angle and as the big curling waves hurried toward the rocks I kept noticing a wide section of wave that wasn’t turning over until it came within a few yards of the rocky point. For the uninitiated, waves ‘stand up’ when they hit shallower water and the fact that these waves were not standing up in a specific spot meant that there was a jut of deeper water that cut in along one side of the point. A scenario began to unfold in my head. This ‘pocket’ of deeper water was on the downcurrent side of the point. There flanking either side of the pocket were gnarls of linebusting boulder fields, the shallows on top of the point dotted with more scattered
boulders. I felt like I could see what must be taking place below the surface with the hard sweep around the point falling off into that deeper hole. The fish would position themselves under the drop and wait for that sweep to bring food. Finding that drop-off was only a fraction of the equation. Now it was time to find a perch and decipher which plugs would work best. For positioning I wanted to be just on the shallow side of that dropoff. I could see where I wanted to be but the huge surf on this day left me guessing. A few days later I found my rock, a large ‘table top’ perfectly in line with the drop-off—near perfect positioning. I found the rock in the dark and didn’t have a hit for two hours. Just when the sun was lighting the rim of the horizon I had a blowup on a Flat-Glide needle—I chose this lure because of how well it handles a sweeping current. A few minutes later I had a hard take on the same lure, the fish came unbuttoned almost immediately but before I could twitch the lure again I was tight to a very heavy fish. The fish peeled a lot of drag on the first run, I gained a bunch back and she took more. Then the fish started coming in easily, I was sure I had her and that my new pocket was going to give up a big fish on the first try. As she neared the rocks at the edge of the hole she ran again, shorter this time and slower, but the sudden run did its job and the hook pulled free—an unprintable word echoed into the early morning surf. A few nights later the surf was up and there was a fairly bright moon above. I trudged out to my rock battling waves the whole way. The surf was tossing needles around like nothing—Beachmaster Wadd, Hab’s, loaded Super Strike—no match. I switched to a North Bar Bottle Darter but the plug was digging too deep and finding eel grass on every swing. I switched again to a Super Strike Darter with 4/0’s on it, the plug had just enough traction to hold in the waves and was not getting deep enough to get mopped out. Within three casts I was tight to a fish that went maybe 16 pounds. I was getting hits about every third cast and hooking up about every five. My friend hitting spots all around the rest of the point was fishless and hitless! I was beginning to believe in my newfound spot!
The approach I was taking here was to cast straight across the current and then let the sweep swing the lure on a slow retrieve until it was hanging tough at about 10 o’clock. Once in that 10 position I was working the lure in a very deliberate start-stop pattern, no rod tip action, just fast cranking followed by short pauses—the fish liked it! As the tide dropped more I began launching casts out to deeper water, out beyond the breaking waves, soon I had to switch back to a needle to “feel” for fish—they were still out there, the tide had just pushed them out of darter range. This is something that a lot of casters fall short on, when they get into a decent hit on a specific plug—if the bite shuts off they don’t ask why, they just keep firing that same plug while hoping for a miracle. I tied on a Super Strike Needle and made some long casts beyond the breaking waves—for a short time the fish were still there and willing to eat the needle but moved off again. Something else I had learned about this spot many years ago was that as the tide receded the fish would often move down the beach stopping at a series of deeper holes that I had found the same way I found the new one—by watching the waves. On some other nights when the fish were in tight with a rough surf, if the bite flatlined, I would move to the next hole down the beach which was deeper and the bite would kick back on and then die, move to the next hole… bam, on again. I think of this scenario like draining the water out of a farm pond, as the water levels drop, the fish are forced to occupy the deepest holes—the tide can act in the same way, particularly if there’s a lot of bait in the area and the fish don’t “want to” go off the feed. As the water level drops the fish continue to seek a comfortable depth moving wherever they have to in order to find that magic, “safe” depth.
What I’m trying to tell you is that when a hot hit falls flat, the fish don’t vaporize, they move and they usually don’t go far. This is why having “reach options” in your bag is so important. All you need to do is get that one hit and then you can work on figuring out what you can do to make them eat again. This is also why spending time scouting—even spots you think you know well—during the day is so important. Finding those deep spots where the fish are likely to spill off into will pay big dividends when you’re trying to get back in front of a school of feeding bass. Reach options are, simply put, high percentage lures that will cover a lot of water. Highpercentage means that they are plugs that draw a lot of strikes. Good examples of these are Super Strike Needles, Hab’s Needles, Super Strike Poppers, Pencil Poppers and bucktails. These can all be tossed a long distance and they get a lot of attention—don’t neglect the power of the Little Neck Popper after dark either with a slow, straight retrieve the Little Neck swims with a similar wobble to a Danny swimmer. If your reach plugs aren’t finding strikes then start knocking off your pre-scouted holes until you either find the fish or exhaust all your options, in which case the fish have just moved off or perhaps, they’ve just vaporized. See you in December.
POP Arguably the "largest Pencil Popper" around, this plug has accounted for dozens of "personal best" catches. Many Bass over 40lbs and Tuna around the world can't resist the "slashing" back and forth action. Use with a traditional rod shaking (push and pull) and reeling retrieve to mimic big Bunker.
8-1⁄2 inches • Stainless Ste • Heavy Duty • VMC® 3X Str • WolverineTM • Extra loud ra • Tough 3X cle
s, 3 oz. (90 grams) eel through-wired hangers rong PermaSteel Rust-Resistant Hooks M Triple Row split rings (270 LB Test) attles to entice strikes from wary fish ear coat finish
for the love of it. a journey into the mind of a plug builder RUSSELL “BIG ROCK” PAOLINE
After about three straight hours I noticed the blood. I probably should have been startled, but I just stared at it, paused, grabbed a shop towel, and wiped it away. You see it was only the corner of my finger I sanded off, and I was only half way done, so in my haze I didn't have time to be bothered. After all, I was sanding down epoxy sealer coat so I could shoot the first of two coats of two-part primer tonight, one small step in getting ahead of the game. It was a big order, eight dozen pieces and I was four days behind, not exactly in good condition to get an order delivered on time. When you have to hand sand ninety six pieces in one day, your mind has a lot of time to wander, but it has to get finished. Was tomorrow garbage day? Did I sign my daughter’s homework book? Did I mail out the mortgage payment? Hmmm, the light is wrong, have to readjust it, can't see at the right angle to make sure the head grind is flat and smooth...damn belt sander...must be a burr on the belt, every plug has a scratch on the head. Man I'm hungry, shit, forgot to eat dinner. Didn't I have a bag of Skittles around here somewhere? The epoxy dust did a great job mixing with the blood on my finger and sealing it up, looks kind of funny though...is this stuff carcinogenic? Nah, keep sanding dummy. A moment of clarity came when I heard light footsteps coming down into the cave. I looked up to see my baby girl’s beautiful face looking at me like I was a sideshow monkey. “Daddy, aren't you done yet, it's bed time and I haven't seen you since you picked me up from school.” I wanted to cry, I kept thinking it was Saturday. She came to me and brushed some dust off my face and lightly kissed my cheek. “Good night Dad, I love you. See you in the morning.” “Good night baby, I love you too”, was all I could say. As my heart sank in my chest I swore to myself that tomorrow from the time I pick her up from school till she goes to bed my time is hers. So I decided that a coffee run was in order as it looked like I would be up all night if I wanted to make good on my promise.
On the ride back from double D's, nursing a huge coffee and puffing on a smoke, my mind drifted back. I remembered my first plugs, the first fish caught on them, the constant evolution, brainstorming on how to make them better, then how to produce them more efficiently and quicker. My mind cut to my first show, how the knot in my stomach grew tighter and tighter as I waited for the doors to open. Was anyone going to buy these things? My God, I invested so much time and money to get this act off the ground. How could I go home with all my plugs and face my family, which had suffered my absence during this frenzied time. I so didn't know what I was getting into taking on the challenge of building 300 plugs. What the hell was I doing? The glowing ember of the cigarette brought me back to reality as it lightly kissed the inside of my fingers, sending a sharp pain signal to my brain, snapping me back. I was so tired and my hands were aching as they hadn't fully recovered from wiring ninety six plugs just two days ago. Yes I do twist and bend all my wire by hand, my back was sore and all I could smell was epoxy. Then I remembered that I sold out that first show in less than an hour! That had to be it! That explained why I am torturing my body and mind tonight!! Yup that's it!! No it isn't. I sat down and figured out mathematically once that I would have to sell a plug for eighty four dollars to adequately pay me for my time based on my current salary at my full time job. Definitely not the money.
Meanwhile, as I pulled up I noticed the house was dark. Greatâ€Ś.my wife went to bed without waiting for me to get home, a definite signal of her disapproval about my recent absence from our home life. As I eased the key in the door it hit me!! Prestige!! That was it!! Knowing that I make a good product that fishermen can rely on to do its job the way they want it to! â€œHey I just hung a slob on a BigRock! Bro, you gotta get some of them! Dude, they are the bomb!!â€? My chest swelled with pride as I savored this thought, then promptly deflated. I take pride in my work but don't base my pride on it, so another reason down. As the caffeine fought a brave battle against my lethargic state, I found myself with another piece of two twenty grit triple X sandpaper in my hand again, attempting to set the base for my artwork on these plugs. I had only about twenty plugs left to go, I might actually get through this. Deep thoughts, telling me that I have to stop stealing precious time from my family doing this, swelled inside my head. Besides it's not the healthiest past time, chemical fumes, epoxy sensitization, carcinogenic dust, solvent based paints and primers...yet I kept right on sanding. I love my family and the time I share with them so dearly, yet I continue this insane past time.
Six plugs left to go, then a first coat with the HVLP primer gun and I'm done. I can bang out the primer in about thirty minutes including cleaning the gun when I'm done. Still pondering my reasons I continue to smooth and shape the last six plugs. A good wipe down and it's time to spray. Laying on the first coat, plug after plug, the pile dwindles quickly and soon there are ninety six soldiers almost ready for battle hanging from my drying racks. As I hold back my screams when the lacquer thinner floods into the open wound on my finger, the pain clears away the cob webs. I finish my nightâ€™s work in short order. It's now 4:50am. I peel off my work clothes and slowly climb the stairs out of the cave, and steer myself right into the shower. Warm water floods my face and starts to rinse away the hard won coating of dust, and like a bolt of lightning, it hits me. The answer is right there as simple as can be. It's not the money, not the prestige, not about seeing my name hanging on a store wall. There is only one explanation for my obsession, I build plugs because I love to.
In the course of our surfcasting lives, we are often confronted with all sorts of decisions to make concerning about courtesy to our fellow surfcasters both on and off the beach. Much of this courtesy should come natural to us, for it has very much to do with how we were raised as children. But as we go through the unique experiences specific to surfcasting, we realize that there are certain things that are best done a certain way, and other things to avoid altogether. Remember, we donâ€™t have to be friends with everyone we meet on the beach, but we owe it to ourselves to maintain some form of civility and sportsmanship with each other. The following topics take a look at three specific issues/situations that routinely confront surfcasters, Beach Buggy Right of Way, Beach Buggy Headlight Protocol, and The Jetty Rotation.
The Beach Buggy Right of Way On some of the 4-wheel drive beaches on Long Island, and I assume elsewhere, there are narrow trails that only allow for the passage of one vehicle at a time. In the event that two trucks are approach each other, one driver must find a location, somewhere along the trail, to pull over to let the other vehicle pass. In these situations, it is the responsibility of the truck coming onto the beach (enroute to fishing grounds) to pull over and allow for the passage of the vehicle coming off the beach (traveling towards the beach access point). In the event of an emergency on the beach, this rule enables that vehicle coming off the beach the quickest way out. Even though fishing is perhaps the sole reason why we were born, actual real life emergencies take precedence over reaching your fishing destination. Beach Buggy Headlight Protocol The Issue: To this day, it amazes me how many surfcasters will roll right up on a surfcasting spot with their headlights blasting away. Even worse, some people actually will sit in their cars and periodically flip their headlights on, illuminating a string of casters on the beach in front of them. With all that has been said and written on this issue, it seems to have gotten worse over the years. For the sake of others along the coast, I hope itâ€™s just a localized issue here on Long Island. In any event, I think there are three things in play here. The fisherman who reads surfcaster publications is probably not the one who would actually break this courtesy rule. So, in effect, as much has been said and written about this in the past, it never reaches its target audience.
These days, car designing a dummy with doors that auto that show whatâ€™s be be on when it is da we should not be b Seriously, these con purchasing your bea Sadly, it could just b respect we surfcas product of the ever c we are living in. One thing is for sure they still tend to shu minutes (if not long blasts the water.
manufacturers are hell-bent on y-proof vehicle. You know, the kind omatically open and close, cameras ehind you, and yes, lights that must ark out. As responsible surfcasters buying cars that treat us like idiots. nsiderations need to be made when ach buggy. be a slow deterioration in the level of sters give one another…perhaps a changing (read: worsening) society
e, the fish haven’t changed. That is, ut down their feeding in the several ger) after a fresh set of headlights
A Reasonable Solution: It’s one thing to be a considerate surfcaster in your attempt not to ruin someone else’s fishing, yet quite another to drive into a boulder, or over a cliff, in so trying. Some trucks, such as my Nissan Exterra, come with a low beam setting that provides a dim light for others to see you, but does virtually nothing in terms of lighting your path, rendering them useless in this application. The blinker, however, can be the right compromise and I urge you to try it. By turning on your right or left blinker for just one or two blinks, as needed, you get a short burst of a softer light that carries for a good distance. In my truck, one “blink” will allow me to see as much as 50 feet in front of the vehicle. As I approach an area where I expect there to be other surfcasters, I shut off my main lights and simply toggle the blinker on and off, as necessary, to get me safely to my parking spot. I’m sure this may look a little silly, but I’m also certain that the guys who already have lines in the water appreciate my effort
The Jetty Rotation Over the years, I’ve had many nights on jetties where I’ve fished in great harmony with three or four other surfcasters who until that night, I’d never met. Unfortunately, I’ve also had a night or two where some crazy dude literally wanted to fight me because our lines got tangled twice. In this section, I will try to explain what a jetty rotation is and provide a few tips for novices and experts alike, so that the next time they are in “the rotation”, everyone gets the most out of the night. In most of our trips to the beach, cooperation with the fishing styles and/or methods of other surfcasters has nothing to do with our personal success. In earnest, most of us prefer it that way. However, there are certain situations where it is typical for the best fishing potential to occur at very specific locations. This condition is common to jetties, where along an entire stretch of rocks, there may be only one or two “sweet spots”. In order to fish these types of spots properly, it is often imperative to be casting from one or two particular jetty rocks. A “Jetty Rotation”, provides multiple surfcasters (usually up to 3 or 4) with a way to share these sought-after rocks and essentially trade casts, systematically presenting their lures to the sweet spot, without physically being in each other’s way and/or constantly tangling lines. The process works as a rhythm where the casters remain relatively aware of what the others are doing, and they purposely time their casts, to avoid tangling lines and/or interfering with hooked fish. If a fish is hooked, the fisherman who is “on”, indicates to the others by saying something like “I’m On” and starts moving downcurrent, passing in front of, and beneath the others, to land his fish.
Once others notice that a fish has been hooked, casts are not made until it is clear that the fisherman who is “on” has control of his fish and the fish is nearly landed. Done properly, 3 or 4 surfcasters who’ve never met each other could fish the same rock or two all night long without any issues using the Jetty Rotation and a reasonable amount of verbal communication.
If one were to take a snapshot photograph of the jetty rotation in its most preferred state, every angler in the picture would be doing something different. For instance, one fisherman would be releasing his fish, down and away from the rest of the crew. Another would be hooked up. A third angler would be waiting to lean into a cast, while the fourth guy is cleaning weed from his bucktail. However, in real life this coordination between fishermen is not always executed properly and sometimes can result in some colorful discussions, or worse. The following are some things to take into consideration when fishing in or adjacent to a Jetty Rotation: Understand that sometimes jetties are first come-first serve. If you get to a jetty and notice there is a crowded rotation going on, don’t muscle your way in there. In time, one of the guys occupying the rotation may leave. Fish elsewhere for the moment and be patient. Before casting, try to take note of what the others are using. Observe how long it takes for them to complete a cast and retrieve. In order to avoid tangles, use a similar lure and retrieve. Since we are discussing jetties, these lures are most often bucktails and soft plastics. As a general rule of thumb, if a surfcaster is not comfortable fishing bucktails and soft plastics, it is not advisable to join a jetty rotation where room is at a premium. This is akin to a novice skier on a black diamond trial crowded with experts. They are “in the way”. If you are fishing in a rotation with your fishing companion(s) and catching fish while another surfcaster is paying you the respect of keeping his distance and not catching anything, offer up a spot in the rotation. Be an ambassador of the sport. If you are sharing a tight location with other surfcasters that you don’t know, be cool. If you tangle lines, don’t assume it’s necessarily anyone’s fault. If you think a guy needs help landing a fish, offer it up. Just be a nice guy and communicate as necessary.
Ju as su W nu
ust because you may be fishing in a rotation with another caster, don’t ssume he wants to chat with you all night long. Understand that a lot of urfcasters are pretty low key guys. Just fish and let the night “develop”. Who knows? Maybe at the end of the night he’ll ask for your umber…and the next thing you know you’ll be driving him to the airport.
few fish caught or reported over that span, and I kept the fish more because I didn't think anyone would believe me. The keeper of the local B&T, Giglios, had just closed, but he was still in the back cleaning up. He was delighted to re-open the store to see the fish. I knew the fish wasn't a monster by any means, but I placed more emphasis on a respectable fish caught when nothing was around, versus a 30 or 40 when a bunch of similar fish had hit the scales over the last few tides.
RAMBLINGS I don't feel very old, but I've been surfcasting on and off since around 1975. I think the first surf-caught fish I ever weighed in - when I was finally able to dedicate much more time to surfcasting - was around 1990. It was late October and I was fishing a black bomber along the banks of the Shrewsbury River, in Sea Bright New Jersey. I remember there were very
"Good-good-good," he beamed. "You got that up at the rip?" I was honest - I confessed it was a river fish. "Well, this should give all the guys who say there's no fish a reason to get off their asses," he chuckled. "And you know, we seem to be having later and later falls. These days, the fishing doesn't really get going until November." I didn't know what he meant by "late," because my frame of reference at that point suggested late November and early December was "peak" for the NY Bight. He had four decades on me, at least, and I had no clue what the 1950s or 60s might have taught him.
But he was right. I found the local fishing that year very tough until just after Veteran's Day. I finally walked in on a mid-November adult bunker blitz with outsized bass and blues. The highlight might have been a December 3rd herring blitz, when I joined a bunch of the regulars heaving bottle plugs in an icy Northwest wind tunnel at the tip of Sandy Hook NJ. I can write this off as a NY Bight thing, but my buddies, who have been doing Montauk a lot longer than I, can count plenty of freezing nights with bass pinning herring in the shallows, sometimes for more than a couple tides. This was all happening over the days just before, and after, Thanksgiving - and beyond. What about that legendary November and December fishing on Block Island? I wasn't there, but I wish I were! But the big question is gnawing at me - why havenâ€™t these late-late fall fishing patterns repeated more recently? A different dominant strain of fish? Does the early fall mullet and white bait migration pull most of the fish out of the area sooner? Is it that there are not enough late fall baits like herring and sand eels to keep the fish around? By the time you read this, you'll be plotting how you will burn the last weeks of the season. Two weeks from now, there might even be mention of a certain fat lady. I am sure the thoughts of "late fall blitzes of years gone by" might be running through your heads, especially if you find this November as difficult as last year. Nothing will make me happier than having to eat these words right off the page. Should the bass follow herring into the shallows for an extended period of time this fall, I am sure I won't be the only one with a runny nose, chapped hands, but a huge smile. My herring and sand eel fly patterns are ready, they have been for quite some time.
Speaking of Wind Tunnels If the wind is really up, I am not opposed to fly fishing with spinning gear. I am not sure where I got the idea, but since Frank Daignault wrote about it in one of his books, I give him full credit. Many years ago I found myself fishing in a near gale at North Bar in Montauk. As hard as it blew, the fish were a long cast out, and there was no way a popper or a bottle was going to go the distance. Even a light tin was deflected back by the wind. So I resorted to "fly fishing" by putting a 3 oz bank sinker where the plug would go, and I looped in a large white deceiver as a dropper. Yes, of course it worked! Proof positive that fly fishing can be just as effective as plugging, albeit without the actual fly rod. I've seen variations on this theme, one of the more clever being a small fly tied off the rear hook of a popping plug, no doubt this was inspired with False Albacore in mind.
Back to Fly Fishing: Fly Lines and Shooting Heads Some people shy away from fly fishing the surf due to fears of limitations. Others worry about the complexity of casting and handling line. One of the main limitations is casting distance. These potential limitations had me thinking long and hard before dropping serious green on fly fishing gear for the surf. Somewhere along the way - I am not exactly sure how - I picked up on the concept of shooting heads. It clearly worked for me, because I spent most of the next 15 years flyrodding the surf with shooting heads. I quickly discovered that my casting style was compatible with shooting heads. Unless the wind was really up, I could generally throw more line with fewer false casts. And most importantly, if I were to be fishing areas with deep cuts or channels, I could easily switch the head on the beach to a fast sink. I was all thumbs at first, especially in the dark. But with a little practice, I was able to switch heads almost with my eyes closed. The real test was being able to change a head way out there on a rock at night, but here again, with a little practice, keeping an eye on the waves, I was able to work out a system. Downsides to the shooting head approach? First you need a running line that agrees with you. You might not get the cruel joke about running lines until you discover that the same running lines that allow you to really shoot are often the ones that can give you the mother of all tangles on the way out through the guides. Now throw in the "night factor" and it is easy to see why others choose a line that offers better handling than shooting abilities.
I found a compromise of sorts years ago, I think this came to me from the shop owner of the now defunct Manhattan Custom Tackle in New York City. Phil Koenig was one of the few flyrodders of that day who seemed to really understand the surf, and he was an early source for ideas on how to fish a variety of local locations and conditions. Some described him as crabby, but I often saw him light up, once I explained my specific fishing situation and the problem I was trying to solve. I remember him once clearing the counter to give me a crash course on leader composition and the bimini twist. One suggestion he offered was Elite running line, a stiff orange braid material with zero memory, and just thick enough to resist most tangles. Even when it did tangle, it was stiff enough to be untangled on the coldest and wettest of nights. Best of all, the stuff was cheap, less than $15 for 100 feet, if memory serves me. I experimented with splicing a loop into the braid so that I had a quick-change connection with the head. Others pointed out that the tarpon guys down south often improved on the spliced loop with a few drops of super glue. If it worked for tarpon, I figured, it would hold up to a bass. The only downside, if there was one, was getting use to the "bump-bump" sensation of the loop connections running through the guides, especially at night. Of course this told me exactly how much line I still had outside the tip, and it told me I was getting ready for the next cast.
Fast forward to 2012. I have my old stash, but Elite is no more. My sources tell me Cortland makes a braided mono running line, Gudebrod used to have a braided mono (but is discontinued and might be hard to find) and Scientific Anglers has a floating braided polyethylene mono shooting line that might serve as a stand-in, if my supply of Elite is further depleted. The Sci Angler product, in particular, sounds most promising, and this probably should be reviewed in a future issue of SJ. This is not to suggest the fishing industry stood still along the way. In fact, over that the past decade a number of line makers put out lines that are essentially shooting heads. They are usually called "integrated" lines or something like that. Rio Outbound / Outbound Short is one such brand, which has been reviewed in a past issue of SJ. Rio Outbound is full-length line that casts like a shooting head, with an exaggerated and compressed head, and a thin running line. All the good, but without the bumpy connections. When I first tried the 10 wt Outbound on a 10 wt fast action Sage rod, it felt so heavy that the line pulled out of my hand on the first or second false cast. I got used to it - and learned to like it so much that it stayed on my reel the rest of the year. I've since downsized to the 9 wt version of Outbound Short for the same fast action 10 wt rod. The 9 wt still feels heavy enough to load the rod quickly, far better than a comparable traditional taper 10 wt line. But I could see myself putting the 10 wt back on the spool if I want to cast very big late fall patterns, or fish in snotty conditions with tricky winds. Fly fishing might have some limitations, but we do have some options.
GOOFING OFF AT WORK WAS NEVER SO MUCH FUN
BUNKER COPIES STEVE MCKENNA
No matter what you call it, bunker, adult menhaden, moss bunker, peanuts, pogies or just dinner, the Atlantic menhaden bait fish is THE # 1 meal choice of striped bass. No doubt a few of you out there will argue this point claiming that a live eel is tops for bass or even citing springtime river herring as the striper’s favorite meal. Some might even say that the ubiquitous mackerel is king when talking about the striper’s diet or even list squid as primo when it comes to a bass’ dinner time bell. Heck, they do call stripers “squid hounds” in some areas along the coast. Striped bass are predators and opportunistic feeders and will eat just about anything that looks tasty. However, I really believe that their preference is menhaden and when I prepare to fish the surf I focus heavily on imitating this particular bait fish. I select lures that mimic it as much as possible.
I realize that some surf fisherman use the real thing, mostly chunking fresh or frozen bait and fishing on or close to the bottom. Although this is an extremely effective method for catching big stripers I prefer to fool the fish with artificial lures and scents. When I am trying to imitate adult menhaden I utilize larger lures and plugs made of wood, plastic or rubber. If smaller bunker, known as peanuts, are in the area, I will downsize my lures accordingly. Adult bunker start to filter into Rhode Island around mid-May each season. The first larger bass of the season are right behind them. Surf fishing at this time can be excellent as you might assume. About the same time, river herring are dropping out of the many estuary systems and these large baits are fair game for fresh run teen size and up striped bass. Also, the spring squid run is in full swing at this time of the year. Local waters are also loaded with silver sides waiting to spawn. There is even a springtime sand eel run. With all this bait in the water you might think that the bass have really no preference and are just looking for whatever is the easiest meal. Au contraire, the adult menhaden is still the main focus of the striped bass cruising along the waters of the RI shoreline and in Narragansett Bay. Ask any local rod and reeler who depends on bass to feed his family. When the commercial bass season opens in early June the bait of choice for just about all of the “money” fishermen is bunker. Many of these fisherman live line or slow troll live menhaden in all of the nooks and crannies along the Rhody coastline. However, most of these pin hookers prefer the deadly practice of “yo-yoing” fresh whole dead menhaden with unbelievable results. I once took an excursion with one of these sharpies a few springs ago and saw firsthand just how effective the “yoyoing” method is. We anchored up over a pile of fish in about 22 feet of water and after landing (and keeping) the obligatory five fish quota of bass over 35 inches in a matter of minutes, we proceeded to catch and release another 19 stripers in record time. It was so easy and I found it interesting that a 12 pound bass would attack and could swallow a 12 inch menhaden in no time flat.
This trip really impressed me and thoroughly reinforced my feeling about the striperâ€™s overwhelming preference for menhaden. As mentioned above, surf fishermen start using pogies at this time of the year but usually in smaller chunks. Like their boating counterparts, the shore fisherman using the freshest menhaden usually does the best. I once made the mistake of fishing near two surf guys that were casting small fresh bunker chunks into an ocean front cove in mid-June several years back. They were crushing the fish and I couldnâ€™t get a hit even after trying all my tricks. Fortunately, most of the time when I fish the beach these bait guys arenâ€™t near me and I am able to fish in peace.
Each season, when I start trying to fool stripers that are chasing menhaden in the middle of May, I immediately switch my surf fishing to after dark. This way I have a better shot at a larger fish. Plus after the sun goes down it’s easier to convince a big striper that my fake lure is a juicy menhaden that is good to eat. At this time of the season, I use larger lures which will hopefully resemble the adult bunker in the area. Lead headed buck tail jigs are a staple in the springtime and most of my early season daytime bass come on a ½ oz. white buck tail with a plastic twister tail. When I start looking for larger fish after dark I just bump up the size of my jigs and change the trailer. I find that 1 oz. to 2 oz. white jigs with white or red and white pork rind work very well I think because they offer the larger profile of a menhaden or the like. For buck tails I find that there are many out there for the surf fisherman to buy but for my money the Andrus Jetty Caster has always produced for me season after season. Jetty casters have more hair (buck tail) than most jigs of similar weight so they offer a larger profile of a bigger bait fish like the bunker. I couple this jig with Uncle Josh pork rind in #70 or 57-S sizes. On occasion, I use another jiglike artificial to mimic the large menhaden bait fish. It is the rubber shad. I employ these larger rubber lures when I fish deep water inlets. I fish one in particular in Narragansett and I’ve caught a few real nice fish on the Tsunami 7 and 9 inch models. I fish these babies at the lower end of the dropping tide when the current slows so I can really cover the bottom structure of the inlet. They weigh up to 5 or 6 oz. and are not fun to cast. Heavy tackle is really needed to cast and fish them correctly. This is why I don’t fish them much because I prefer to fish with much lighter tackle. But if you can get these baits out into the inlet current they will sink like a stone and get to the bottom quickly and hopefully get in the face of a big striper. I’ve also used them at the Cape Cod Canal where they are a staple artificial because they are perfect for the Canal’s deep fast moving water.
The next type of artificial that I really like to use when I want to convince a bass that he or she is going to eat a live menhaden is a wooden metal lip swimmer, particularly the surface type. I love casting a 2 Âź to 3 Â˝ oz. Danny type plug into productive looking white water and slowly reeling it back to shore. When a bass of 20 pounds or better decides that your plug is breakfast, what follows keeps me going back time after time. A large bass hitting a surface swimmer is an experience that all fishermen should experience. I start fishing surface metal lips in the spring about the second week of May and use them through to the late fall. In the spring I use them by day and night. During the summer and early fall they are primarily a dusk/dawn/night time lure and in mid to late fall they return to double day/night time duty.
There are so many good metal lips out there, I could easily list one hundred. Safe to say that a good wooden, metal lip surface swimmer should be well constructed and the hooks should not foul when cast. More importantly a productive surface swimmer should swim alluringly on the surface in a rolling snake like motion from beginning to end. This is important because that seductive surface action closely mimics a lot of baitfish particularly the menhaden. I am also convinced that a striper doesnâ€™t get a real good look at a surface plug which is swimming along with half its body above the surface. Add darkness and a little roiled water and Mr. Striper starts salivating when he sees this plug! Moreover, I really like the jointed eely when it comes to faking out stripers looking for a big meal like a menhaden. It is just another wooden metal that is segmented and larger than the average danny type plug.
It also called a jointed danny because it resembles that particular plug. This plug has better action and a much larger profile. When a jointed eely or danny is tuned to swim on the surface I cannot think of a better artificial for stripers that are looking for a bigger meal. Over the years I think I have taken most of my really big bass on this type of plug. I prefer basic colors on both my straight and jointed dannies. White, yellow, brown and (light) green or parrot are tops during the day. While black, burple, yellow and parrot work well after dark. Bunker colored plugs are great looking and will work too but in my opinion are they are more psychological and are not absolutely necessary when trying to fake out a bass feeding on menhaden. I think action and size are more critical. Beachmaster and RM Smith make some of my favorite dannies, jointed dannies and jointed eely type plugs. Another trick that I use with swimming plugs is to add a few drops of menhaden oil or other fish oil attractants to the barrel swivel area and to the bottom or top of the plug. You would be amazed at the slick the plug leaves in its wake with just a few drops of this stuff. I think that the addition of scent can only help when trying to convince a bass that your piece of wood is a tasty morsel. I use scent attractant on all my lures except lead headed buck tails. I refrain from dosing them because the oil stains the white hair. I have found all of the liquid or stick attractants I’ve used over the years work well. I guess if you had to tie me down I’d say I like Mike’s, Bio Edge and Tournament Master. Mike’s is the most concentrated and stays on the plug the longest. Just one or two drops smeared on the plug will do the trick.
Another surface type artificial plug which closely resembles a large menhaden is a pencil popper, Pencils are strictly a daytime plug and work well on big bass on the prowl for bunker. I don’t use pencil popper a lot because I rather use a surface swimmer like a danny. However I can attest that pencils cast better and a surf caster can cover some serious distance when using them. As a result, pencils take some of the largest surf bass of the season. Spring time around Mother’s day is the time to start loading a few into the daytime bag. They come in all sizes from ½ oz. to well over 4 oz. and basically have the same side to side slapping the water that drives stripers crazy. This action must be generated by the surf angler by rhythmic bounces of the rod tip. It becomes work after a while but these plugs dancing along the surface definitely look like big bait in trouble thrashing around on the surface. This commotion draws in stripers like no other lure I know. There are basically two types of pencils, the regular and the “Canal Special” type. The latter has an altered bottom which is purposely cut flat to make it easier to use and more effective in moving (current) water. It was designed specifically for the Cape Cod Canal. I prefer the “Canal Special” version because it is much easier to work. Once the angler starts working this plug it takes a lot less effort to get it up vertically and dancing frantically on the surface. The surf fisherman will appreciate the “Canal Special” after only a few minutes of fishing this type of popper. Almost every wooden plug maker, big time or small, turns out some sort of pencil and there are even several companies that make them out of plastic. Almost all will catch. I have a few favorites which include the Canal Specials made by Gibbs, Guppy and Beachmaster as well as a plastic version made by Yozuri called the Surface Cruiser.
Another surface plug that demands attention when discussing bunker imitation is the “Doc”. This plastic plug was developed for freshwater Muskie and looks like a Zara Spook that ate its Wheaties sprinkled with steroid powder. At nine inches long and over three ounces, the best model is bone-colored and has no other discernible features. It is the plug’s large profile and its action, or should I say the action imparted by the surf angler fishing it, is why the plug works so well. The Doc casts like a potato chip though and is best used from a boat where long casts are not required. However, it does work amazingly well on stripers. I’ve seen large bass swim over each other trying to eat it. The Doc’s long side to side “spook” like movement drives bass of all sizes crazy but its giant size seems to attract some of the largest fish around. If I fished during the day more often I would not go to the surf without a bone colored Doc in my bag.
Subsurface swimming plugs should also be considered when pursuing large bass that are focusing on bunker. I generally start using this type of artificial lure towards mid to the end of May and I mostly fish them around low light and definitely after dark. I have found them to be ineffective by day and I absolutely prefer the other lures mentioned in this article for daytime action. I think if a surf fisherman wants to copy a large menhaden it is a good idea to select a larger subsurface swimmer, the largest his tackle will handle. There are many, many plugs out there that swim under the surface that will imitate these coveted bait fish. Some will swim shallow while others will go deep. Please consult the packaging or the manufacturer before choosing the right subsurface swimmer for you. I think a good starting point would be to buy (and carry) one of each plug which will run at the following depths; shallow (2 feet to just under the surface), mid –level (2 to 4 feet) and deep (4 plus feet).
This will allow you to cover most of the water a surf fisherman encounters. Menhaden don’t just swim on or near the surface and a good bass fisherman must be able to not only “match the hatch” but “match the depth” if they want to be successful. Believe me, if bass are feeding on bunker eight feet down in an inlet they may not be attracted to something swimming on the surface no matter how alluring it is. That’s why lead headed buck tail jigs and rubber shads are so, so effective. If I had to pick one subsurface swimmer to mimic an adult bunker and to cover some varied depths it would be an Atom 40 type plug. The original which is no longer available was responsible for numerous big bass. It was and is presently a staple in most surf fisherman’s bags. I think it was the iconic New York surf fisherman, Jack Frech, who said if he could only carry two plugs for stripers one of them would be an Atom 40. Named by the late Bob Pond, owner of original Atom lures, this plug offers a large profile at 8 inches long and 3 plus ounces in weight. It can be tuned, by bending the line tie down or up in slight increments, to run shallow bulging the surface or deeper to perhaps 4 plus feet (depending on maker’s specification).
The “40” is a wonderful plug, and like the “Doc”, it has a penchant for luring the biggest bass in the neighborhood. I know that many out there don’t fish the Atom 40 because it’s not as popular these days. I would say to those fishermen please give it a try. When you see how productive it is I bet you’ll be carrying it every time out like I do. Many plug makers produce the Atom 40 because of its history of catching big bass so you should be able to find them with a little searching. Beachmaster, After Hours and Lordship are three good ones that I cast. Similar to the surface swimmers I like basic colors in the 40 too. My favorite color though is blue cloud which was one of Atom’s original colors I think. I throw this plug from the end of May until I think the big fish are gone sometime in middle to late November. If you‘d like some other suggestions for subsurface plugs that will catch bass hunting down bunker I’d highly recommend the largest Gaines Maverick swimmer, the 7 inch Red fin and the 17a Bomber in straight and jointed models. All three have a penchant for taking larger bass keyed in on bunker. They also work so well I think because they mimic a variety of bait. Therefore, I would not hesitate to use them at any time. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that any one of these three plastic swimmers is generally the first plug out of my bag. I would modify all three, though, before making a cast. The Maverick needs a hook and split ring overhaul as does the Red fin and the Bomber. The stock stuff is OK but I would hold my breath and have a case of the “should haves” if I hooked something over 30 pounds on any one of them right out of the package. Replacing the hooks and the splits gives you at least a better than average shot at landing a very large fish. I would also weight the Red fin with approximately 11 ccs of water to give it a little more versatility. Other than that they are easy to use, just cast them into fishy looking water and reel slowly. I love the bone color and the Red fin and Bomber thankfully come in that shade. Black/silver, blue/silver smokey joe and burple are other colors that I would consider when selecting one of these plastic plugs.
Lastly, there is one other subsurface artificial lure that I would recommend using when I think big menhaden are around and that is the darter plug. The wood version of this particular plug is not as easy to find these days as most lure manufacturers don’t want to attempt this tricky plug, but the big wooden darter is certainly worth searching for. We all know that some lures just work better than most others and the darter is one of those plugs. When I am attempting to imitate adult bunker I like to use the larger version of this lure say 2 ½ to 3 ½ oz. 7 inch size. Its large profile and seductive side to side, darting action drives bass nuts and they are forced to hit it before it gets out of range. Luckily, Super Strike lures in New York makes a beauty and it is made out of plastic. It is very easy to find and reasonable on the wallet. If you’d like to try other productive darters pick up a couple of Beachmaster 3 oz. models. Constructed from wood and much tougher to find as they are only made sporadically, they are tops and you’ll be hard pressed to find a better wooden one. My all -time favorite though is another wooden model made by master plug man Donnie Musso. His 3 oz., 2 ¼ and 2 oz. models are plain out and out fish catchers. It’s too bad that they are not readily available (not made anymore) but if you are lucky enough to come across one or two, buy them no matter what the cost.
Large darters in white, yellow, yellow/white, black, burple, gold and parrot work wonders on big bass when bunker are around. I like to fish darters in inlets particularly in the fall of the year when everything is migrating. Migrating menhaden hide in inlets overnight and bass come looking for them. I can think of no better artificial than the darter to catch these inlet bass. Just a few nights ago one of my good buddies had a 44 pounder on a gold and white Super Strike while fishing an infamous Rhode Island breachway. Jamail told me that just before he caught this monster he foul hooked a couple of mid-sized bunker that where falling out of the inlet on a dropping tide. He told me that he checked his bag for something that would closely copy this bait and decided on the gold darter. He clipped it to his snap and on the next cast he hooked up to the best fish of his season. Darters are not just a fall plug. They will start taking bass as soon as they go on â€œthe night feedâ€? sometime in May and catch premium bass all season long.
As you read this article the last menhaden and stripers of the season will be streaming past my area (RI) migrating south for the winter. I will be out there over the next couple of weeks making my last surf fishing trips of the 2012 season. And, I know that as long as there are bunker around I will have the opportunity to catch some stripers, and for sure I will be stocking my surf bag with a few choice bunker copies.
BELL BOY LURES
Late 1930’s Aluminum Popper made by Fred for his use in the surf at Rockaway Point.
By Frank Pintauro As I write this article, Ken Burns’ World War II documentary “The War” is receiving critical praise for capturing the “voice” of a generation that is losing 1,000 veterans a day. Burns’ program reminds me why it is important for us to continue to work hard to chronicle the first-person experiences of our earliest surf fishing pioneers before we lose their stories to time. Fred Zier (soon to be 87 years old) has been designing and producing surf and off-shore lures for more than 65 years!
If not for a chance encounter with one of our prior articles on early New York striper pioneers in the LONG ISLAND FISHERMAN, Fred’s story would have surely fallen through the cracks. Fred is a master craftsman and an incredibly humble person. We are thrilled to introduce his story to our readers. Frank Pintauro:
So Fred, can you give me some background on yourself?
Fred Zier: I was born in Brooklyn in 1922, lived in Elmont and moved to Malverne in 1956. FP: You started fishing at a young age, right? FZ: We had a summer house in Rockaway Point and we lived about five bungalows from the Fort Tilden jetty. That’s where we lived for forty-four years. That’s where I started fishing when I was 16 years old. I used the old Calcutta rods and then I went to Tonkin cane rods and after that, Conlin and then Siloflex. Now I am using Lamiglas. FP: When and why did you start making surf lures? FZ: Well, there was nothing out there to buy for salt water. In 1936 we were using clothes pins with tails on them and believe it or not they worked. But as a kid I worked in my father’s machine shop, and after the service I built my own machine shop….in my spare time I started designing some lures to fish with.
The Aluminum Popper was produced in three parts and was filled with water to control the weight needed to cast it depending on surf conditions.
FP: So you were fishing in the late 30’s and when the War came you stopped? FZ: Yes. I was in the Sea Bees for 3 ½ years and I was based all over the world and I was at D-Day in Okinawa. We invaded the South End of the peninsula by the sugar factories where the Marines were dropped and it was hell there! FP: When did you get out? FZ: I came back in December of 1945 and in 1946 I joined my father’s machine shop in Ridgewood, Brooklyn. I lived at my parent’s house and got married the following year…..we built a plant in Elmont and we stayed there until ’56 when we moved to Malverne.
FP: When did you start making/designing lures? FZ: I started pre- World War II. FP: Was that experimental Aluminum one you showed me one of the first? FZ: I tried that one in 1938. I would fill it with water to give it more weight. The only trouble was it was made out of aluminum and the salt water ate it up. But you could cast it like a bullet, so it did have its advantages. FP: So you came back from World War II and started making lures right away? FZ: Yes, I started making the ones in the boxes in 1946. The very first ones were called BELL BUOY LURES. The guys in the tackle shops wanted a name on them and the best I could do was buy the boxes and rubber stamp them. SPINDRIFT came later. I named them SPINDRIFT because that was the name of the top of the wave that blew off. I thought it was a fancy name. FP: What was fishing like in the ‘40’s? FZ: Right after the war we would catch 30 and 40-pounders and then never get another hit for two months and then just like that we’d bang them again for three weeks straight. I think the biggest one I ever caught was 42 pounds. Because we owned the bungalow I never really had to fish many other spots. I tried Montauk a few times and did OK but it was great at Rockaway Point. In fact, I was trying for kingfish with my brother-in-law one day and caught a 92-pound Thresher shark! That was amazing! It looked like a giant shadow in the surf.
Offshore trolling lures for tuna, marlin and swordfish include an experimental pop tail. Fred produced these for Stalker and Rybovich Boat Works among others.
FP: What tackle shops were you selling to? FZ: I did a lot of business with Beckmann’s. I made him the surf lures and the off-shore stuff. I would just bring him the lures and he would put them in plastic bags on the shelves. I also made lures for Voerringer’s, he owned an old time tackle store. He was located underneath the EL on Myrtle Avenue in Brooklyn…..Gleevy was the other tackle shop I sold to. FP: There’s a box here marked Douglas Sportswear! What was that? FZ: Oh, that was the name of my business that built textile machinery. We built and manufactured machines and the division that manufactured the machine we called Douglas Sportswear.
FP: What materials did you use for the lures? FZ: The wooden lures were all kiln-dried red cedar. I bought the wood from a lumber yard in Brooklyn and he had a huge assortment of dowels that I brought up. FP: How did you paint your lures? Anything inspire you? FZ: My wife had some lace lying around in the basement and so I used some one day and laid it over the plug and spray painted it and thatâ€™s how I got my first scale-colored luresâ€Ś.the plates on a lot of my swimmers were inspired by the Pflueger mustang. I wound up making up my own paint box alsoâ€Ś But Creek Chub Darters, Shakespeare Wobblers were baits that intrigued me and I used them as a guide to design my own baits. FP: How long did you make lures? FZ: I made them all the time really because I fished with the guys on the beach. I made them for guys in the Gateway and Farragaut Clubs whenever they asked for some.I made them strictly on my own, I never advertised. I had dyes and good parts made in the machine shop to make the job easy. If someone asked me for a lure I would ask them if they had an idea of what they wanted and sometimes I drew up the plans for the lure and sometime they would give me a lure as a sample. After I made the lure I would go down to Rockaway Point and test how the piece swam. I would make corrections all the time until I was convinced it looked just like a fish.
Fred surf casting the Rockaways in the 1940â€™s.
Long time World War II surf fishing buddies Bill Woodruffe (l.) and Fred Zier (r.) have been fishing together for more than 50 years.
Box and printing block for Spindrift Lures produced for only a short time.
Fredâ€™s earliest packaging was created at the request of tackle Fantastic mint popper with carved eyes in the earliest Bell shop dealers who felt it would help them move off the shelf Buoy Lures box. faster.
An incredible mom and pop operation! Fred designed, turned, rigged, painted and boxed it all with help from his family. This swimmer is a cross between a 700 pikie and a Pfleuger Mustang.
Fredâ€™s poppers are a cross between Creek Chubâ€™s Snook and Husky Plunkers. Fred fixed a metal blade to the belly as an added fish attractor.
Fred’s darters were inspired by the Creek Chub Spin Darter and the Gibbs 2 ½ oz. darter. While all of Fred’s lures are rare, the darters are the rarest of all.
A sampling of the styles that dominated F inspired a lot of his designs.
Fredâ€™s surf lure production. Creek Chub
Fred built his own paint box so he had no problem experimenting with a variety of styles. His paint jobs held up well despite the hardships of salt water fishing.
A grouping of Fred’s boxes, swimmers, poppers and darters from the late 1940’s/early 1950’s. This find is responsible for finally bringing Fred’s body of work to light.
FP: What did you make the most? FZ: Probably poppers, darters and metal-lipped swimmers. FP: When did you start with the off-shore lures? FZ: I started getting into the off-shore lures in 1969 or 1970. The jetty was getting impossible to fish…it was nothing but a sand bar and I had my first boat made. We had sold the bungalow. Once I had the boat, I tried the off-shore stuff and when I saw what I had to buy to fish with I knew I could make it, so I set up a paint booth and we made lures for everyone. I sold Darenberg’s and Star Island in Montauk a lot of baits…….I also made baits for Stalker for ten years. FP: When did you become ZZZ lures? FZ: I had my old partner, Reif, who died about 6 years ago, but my sons always helped with the boxes and the boxing, so SPINDRIFT became ZZZ lures and that seemed like the right name for the company. It was a real family affair and even my wife was doing the bookkeeping. FP: Fred, thanks so much. We’re so happy that you got a chance to tell your story.
This is an excerpt from Zeno Hromin's new book, HOOKED, Fishing stories from the Surf Live Eel Chronicles I am not sure when my dislike for live eels began. It certainly is not something that I carried over from my childhood days. Heck, I spent many nights laying and picking up long lines with a thousand hooks, by hand, with my late grandfather at the helm of our small boat. All in search of giant eels! This all happened in Croatia where I grew up as a child. My grandfather and I would drop the baited long line hooks over the wrecks which big eels loved to call home and we caught plenty. Getting them off the long line and into the boat was the difficult part. Eels are considered an ultimate delicacy where I come from. Used to make a "brodetto" (fish stew) with lots of leeks, potatoes and vegetables, they provided my family with many a tasty holiday meal. Yes, I said holiday, because their delicious meat was not wasted on just any old weekday meal. Unfortunately, bringing these eels into the boat proved to be more of an effort than they may have been worth.
These were large eels, some weighing ten pounds or more. They live in holes in the wrecks and getting them to eat a squid or sardine on a hook was never a problem. Getting them out of the hole after they hooked themselves often proved to be almost an impossible task. I can still see the face full of revulsion and frustration that my grandfather often displayed when pulling a long line after letting it soak for a few hours over a wreck. Every other hook or so would be solidly stuck in the wreck. Since we used extremely thick leaders, they would not break that easily. Often the long line would have to be tied to a wooden cleat on the stern. He would then kick the boat into gear and break the leader. Many of the leaders came to the boat lacking hooks, frayed as if they had been put through a shredder. Most of the eels we lost, gained their freedom right at the boat. Some of them would spin on the leader for hours while the long line was soaking. They would chafe the leaders badly but the leader would still hold. Once they felt the presence of the boat they would gather their remaining strength and that was usually enough to cause the leader to break. The darn slime did not help either! We never used any kind of net to land a fish. In fact, I don't think I had ever seen a fishing net until I came to this country and started to fish on the party boats. Instead we used a gaff that was made out of an old broom handle and three rusty shark hooks. Trying to gaff a giant eel is an adventure in itself, as the gaff hooks often fail to connect with the slimy and slippery eel. A failed attempt would succeed only in enraging the hooked eel even more, which of course usually resulted in a parted line! Yet, I remained hopelessly in love with fishing for eels. There was a sense of adventure and challenge all rolled into one, as we tried to get one into the boat. Or maybe I enjoyed it so much because I had visions of the brodetto in a deep warm bowl, accompanied by some bread, hot from the oven.
My love for eels came to a halt when I took up surfcasting on the beaches of Long Island. I had taught myself to speak English and this helped me obtain the knowledge that had been beyond my reach before I could speak the language. I couldn't believe how much I could learn from reading the books written by William “Doc" Muller. I marveled that someone could actually put all this information in print. Holy smokes, they would probably stone you to death for that if you did the same thing where I had come from. Granted, I couldn't tell a darter from a drachma or a popper from a poplar. I couldn't tell you why you would use a fishing rod instead of wrapping monofilament around a beer can! I couldn't comprehend why you would bother using a lure when you could use bait. Let's just say that the word "sport" was never associated with "fishing" during my youth. After going through some unfortunate experiences which were described in detail in my first book "The Art of Surfcasting with Lures," I finally started to understand what the heck “Doc” was talking about in his books. It was like someone revealed a magical well from which all surfcasters could drink in order to understand how to catch more fish. I was stunned that one man could have so much knowledge about fishing. I wondered why the American people hadn’t elected him president or given him the Nobel Prize. One thing that was evident from reading his books and many other writings during my early years in this sport was that eels were often the most productive way to catch a big fish. And there was nothing I wanted to do more than catch a big fish. Heck, I thought, “I am 20 years old now! By the time I am 30 I'll have a ton of big fish under my belt.” Let me tell you something. I am 40 now as I write this. Not only have I not fulfilled this prophecy, but some days I really think I am going backwards. Especially on those days when I snap off a few lures that cost more than my first fishing rod and reel.
Armed with a dozen eels, you could find me prowling the sandy beaches of Jones Beach State Park on almost a daily basis. Unfortunately the "casting and retrieving like a lure" part totally went over my head. Not only that but this went against my beliefs. I fished with bait all my life, either with or without a sinker, but I always let my bait stay motionless, giving the fish a chance to find it. Why one would cast and retrieve an eel was just beyond my comprehension. Of course, I did learn the hard way eventually. Clumps of eel slime and tangled body parts wrapped around the main line told me I was doing something wrong. Surely no species, never mind the object of my desire, the mighty striper, was going to eat an eel that drowned itself by twisting its body around the leader until it expired. Someone told me to whack their tails and break their spine and that did slow them down somewhat. I even caught my first "keeper" which in those days was a very respectable 36 inches, on an eel with a broken spine attached to a sinker. I changed my ways over the years, mostly as a result of joining the High Hill Striper Club of which Doc Muller was a member! Just being in the presence of Roger Martin, Doc Muller, Fred Schwab and many others was infectious. These guys not only caught fish but for the most part they caught them on lures! I started to employ lures more often, although I have to admit, my infatuation with bait is something that has stayed with me to this day.
Over the years I learned how to work a lure effectively and I also struggled to improve my chunking game. I hung on every word of legendary Al Bentsen and learned how to rig eels like a pro. I overcame my fear of darkness and even learned how to float in my wetsuit to reach the far rocks. Nor'easters became the things I anticipated with glee instead of fearing them. Darkness that the new moon brings became a welcome friend. My comfort level has increased and my confidence runs pretty darn high...until I see a live eel. Then I fold like a cheap suit. Now, don't assume that I haven't given live eels an honest try. I set up an eel tank at home and kept a few dozen swimming around in it at all times. I even painted the tank black so the eels would not lose their color. I tried fishing them with drails, with just a hook, with sinkers on the bottom, and with coffee stirrers jammed into their bodies through their mouths to keep them from tangling. There weren't many things I haven't tried with eels and yet I failed miserably at all of them. Sometimes I wonder how this was possible. Have I ever even considered that the legend of how productive a live eel can be is just that, a legend? Not at all. I am enamored by rigged eels and as you'll read in other chapters, with good reason. Al Bentsen was often asked what was the difference between fishing with lures in comparison to fishing with rigged eels? His answer remained the same over the years, â€œAbout twenty pounds.â€? Believe me when I tell you that he wasn't exaggerating either. Taking all this into account, live eels should be even more productive than rigged ones and especially the ones that were tangled to death around my sinker, right? For most people, the answer to that question is unequivocally, yes. For yours truly however, live eels have been a cause of a lot of things: embarrassment, frustration and utter failure, everything but the big fish they promise to deliver. I knocked over a bucket
full of eels in my truck once. I found eleven eels out of the dozen that I had purchased. After searching high and low I came to the conclusion that the tackle store that sold me the eels shorted me one. I held that belief until about a week later when I opened my truck’s door on a humid sunny day and almost passed out from the putrid smell. Number twelve was in there all right, probably swelled up from the heat and exploded from within. But where was it? In the last place I would have looked, underneath the truck carpeting. There was a time when I actually did hook a big fish on a live eel. Too bad it dragged my rod and reel into the ocean when I spiked the rod to relieve myself. Of course, the nights when bluefish made all my live eels look like cigar butts are a legend unto themselves. It doesn't matter where I fished, what moon period, tide, sand or rocky beach, early or late in the season. It doesn't matter if the moon was bright, waves were low or wind was at my back. As soon as I cast that live eel into the ocean, there was an excellent chance that bluefish would chomp it with gusto within the first few casts. It happened every time and trust me, I am not exaggerating! It got so bad that I feared that if I cast my eel into the Hudson River, a bluefish would swim upstream to eat it. Yet for whatever reason, my luck with rigged eels has been much better and yes, they have taken oversized fish on many occasions. Eventually I lost my desire to bother with live snakes. But every once in awhile, I get sucked back in and every time that happens I fail miserably. But you knew that, didn't you? A few years ago, my good friend Rob and I embarked on our first trip to the legendary shores of Cuttyhunk, Massachusetts. I'll readily admit that we were clueless going there. Yes, I’d had a few phone conversations with those who had fished there before and I’d even been fortunate to read a few articles about the place but as with any other fishing destination I've ever fished, I needed to get my feet wet to get a "feel" for the place. The first few nights we bounced around a few spots and caught some small fish in
the process. We genuinely thought we were doing well. In fact, Rob landed his personal best right under the club one night on a yellow Danny metal lip swimmer. I, on the other hand, had only a few small fish to show for my efforts but then again, it was my first time there. We felt pretty good about ourselves until our last day arrived. As we woke up in the Cuttyhunk Fishing Club, we heard a ruckus outside our window. We peeked outside only to see a crowd gathered on the lawn and gesturing excitedly. Inside the circle of men lay four beautiful, oversized stripers. We both bolted out of our beds and rushed outside to offer congratulations and of course, to get some information from the lucky anglers. They were closemouthed as they took off their wetsuits and hung them out to dry. I waited for the crowd to disburse before I approached one of the fellows whom I knew. James Sylvester comes from a long line of surfcasters. Iâ€™d come to know of him from a great fishing website www.striped-bass.com and he was gracious enough to let me use one of his pictures in my book. I knew that his crew had reached the end of their stay on the island. They were going to be departing on the afternoon ferry. I was hoping that their departure would bring down their guard and they would share some information about their success of the previous night.
I avoided talking or asking about specific locations where these fish were caught if for no other reason than because I hate it when I am asked the same thing. Instead we chatted about how the action had progressed through the tide, what was the most productive tide period and what did the fish prefer: lures or eels. When he told me that they could not get as much as a bump on lures it was as if he had nailed a dagger right through my heart. I don't mind walking for miles over the rocks! I don't care about downpours, soft sand or peeing in my wetsuit! But when he told me all the fish were caught on eels he might as well have told me they caught them on Banjo minnows, because I canâ€™t catch fish on either one! Thoughts raced through my head as I tried to think of any lure in my bag that would serve as a good imitation of an eel. James has been around for awhile and he knew what I was thinking. Fortunately he put me out of my misery quickly. "Nothing on swimmers, needlefish or even Slug-go's. Nothing, nada, zilch. All they wanted was eels." In a moment of ultimate weakness, with my knees buckling and a cold sweat running down my spine I asked: "Do you have any eels I can buy?" He knew it was coming. Cuttyhunk is the type of island to which you bring everything you can possibly need and then some. There are no tackle stores there to buy the stuff you forgot, no internet connection to order something to be delivered the next day and definitely no live eels. He said that he only had small eels left which they didn't use (I should have known this!) but since we were friends he did not want my money. But trading a plug for the eels? Now that he was open to. In those days I bought more lures than any sane man should. Why? I have no idea. Most of them are still sitting in boxes in my basement.
I'll leave it up to my kids, after I am dead to decipher what the hell was going through my head. For all my infatuation with wooden lures over those years, for all my yearning over crazy colors, today I find that 90% of lures in my bag are plastic and have Super Strike stamped into them. Funny how life works, huh? So I traded Jim a brand new Danny lure for three eels that, if you put them together, wouldn't be as long as one of those that I use for eel skin lures today. Then again, “beggars can't be choosers.” Rob just shook his head and walked away. I am not certain if he ever had fished a live eel before. In fact, I still don't know to this day. I've never asked him about it. That goes to show you how relevant live eels are, given the way we fish. I couldn't wait for sunset to arrive. It was our last night on the island and I wanted to make the best of the little time we had. I had a pretty good sense where Jim and his crew caught the fish but I also knew they had fished later in the tide so I decided to head to southwest point first and work my way back. Rob and I made the long walk on a winding, mosquito infested path quicker than usual. Isn't it funny how seeing someone else’s success can light a fire under your ass? We got there at sunset and waded to our respective rocks. Since this was our exploratory trip to a foreign place we did not bring our wetsuits, something that would help us tremendously in the following years. This night we waded over bubble weed covered rocks that did their best to wrap their tentacles around our reels. After a few casts with pencil poppers, we set upon using darters and needlefish lures. It blows my mind that people in this part of the Northeast do not employ darters more. Every year we make this trip and just about every trip we have a night when we just absolutely crush fish on darters. Not only darters, but in recent years we've caught good fish on bottle darters too.
For some reason, many who fish this part of the Northeast tend to think that darters don't work here. Is the current moving at a good clip? Is the water not too deep? Then the darter will work, trust me! Even after seeing my buddy Tommy crush good size stripers right underneath the club at sunset while others watched from a cliff like vultures, they still were unconvinced that they should carry one in their bags. What do they say: “You can lead a horse to the water but you can't make it drink?” In this case, this old proverb fit perfectly. We picked up a few small fish on needlefish and a couple in the teens on darters. The vision of their success last night and dreams of big stripers roaming the island got the best of me. I just had to cast a live eel and see if any of those giants were there. I clipped the snap off my leader and tied an eel hook on it. You can tell this was not part of my game as every good eel fisherman comes prepared with pre-tied hooks and leaders. You just don't see a guy tying on a hook while standing on a rock in a middle of the night! Then again, I never claimed I was bright or even good, just persistent! Since I did not have a mesh eel bag, I stuck the eels in a large Ziploc bag. I poked a few holes in it and stuck it behind the lures in my bag. I struggled to grab one of the eels by the head. When I did, it managed to wiggle out of my grip immediately. Finally I got my hook under one eel’s chin and out through the eye. The other two were stored back into my bag while this one was wiggling insanely on the leader. "Calm down," I said to myself, "you can do this." I lowered the rod tip behind me and swung it forward with force. Half way through the motion of casting, the rod lost its load and blood rained down on me from the heavens. Okay, I am exaggerating but only to illustrate how dumb I can be at times. Instead of lobbing the eel into the water, I used the same power cast as I do when using a lure. Unfortunately, the force created on the cast was strong enough to blow the eel's head into pieces as it tore away from the hook. I cursed under my breath at my own stupidity as
I looked to see Rob still having a ball catching fish on his darter. Again I took the Ziploc bag out of my surf bag and tried to grab one of the remaining two eels and get a hook under its chin. I managed to grab one and it immediately tried to wrap its tail around my wrist which freaked me out. Remember, I don't do this often! I let go of the darn eel which fell into the water right next to the rock I stood on. The curse words that I screamed are not suitable for this article so I will spare you the details. I was down to my last eel. I'll be darned if this one is either getting away or blowing up on the cast. Instead of trying to grab its head in the slimy bag, I hooked it under its chin right through the Ziploc bag. Then I pushed the hook point out of his eye and pulled on the eel, ripping it out of the bag. The Ziploc went back into the surf bag as the eel was franticly trying to wrap
around the leader without much success. This time I made a much softer cast, kind of a cross between lobbing a bunker chunk and the power cast I employ with lures. You can imagine that a shoestring eel when cast like this, does not travel very far. It barely made a ripple on the water's surface before it disappeared underneath. I exhaled with a mix of relief and frustration. James is probably unpacking his truck and laughing his butt off. But wait, something doesn't feel right! The eel was getting very active all of a sudden and even I knew that it usually meant that a striper was about to inhale it. I felt two short bumps and I lowered my rod tip to the water, waiting for the line to come tight. Lord, how I hated this "bow to the cow" routine. I wanted to cross its eyes so bad I could taste it. Line was moving away from me, one more second, line is tight...now! I wasn't used to setting the hook from this angle as my body is usually erect and not bent forwards. I swung the rod with all my might over my head but felt nothing but air. My body, which had braced for the pull of a hooked striper just a moment ago was now trying to overcompensate to keep me on the rock, but it was too late! My equilibrium had already shifted backwards and I flew off the rock butt first into the water. Or I should say, "what looked like water." Only when I felt a sharp pain between my shoulder blades did I know that water was not what I should be concerned with. The jagged rocks that lay in the water behind me were doing a number on me. The pain, although short in duration, was intense, as a barnacle encrusted rock cut into my jacket and dug into my skin. I could feel the water rushing through the newfound hole in my jacket and running down my spine. I quickly jumped to my feet and started to retrieve my line. On the end of the line there was a leader. On the end of the leader there was a hook. On the end of the hook there was no eel. Another disastrous experience, another win for the mighty eel!
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CHIA ZENG JUANG
The alarm clock started to do its job at 4:30 AM. The night before, I had gone to bed a little late. I stayed up to make sure that all the tackle was in perfect condition so no mistakes would occur on the fishing battlefield. The crew consisted of my father Juang, my little brother Chia Houg, and me, Chia Zeng Juang. At 5:30 AM we boarded the boat in Jiquilisco Bay and set sail. At 6:30 AM we arrived at the beach we had targeted for our surf fishing adventure. The water was not dirty but it wasnâ€™t crystal clear either. The waves were pretty large, the sky was a little cloudy, and the mullet were all over the place! I was so excited as I realized that we were going to have a great fishing day.
On my first cast, I hooked a large snook on a Super Strike Popper. The snook’s strike was violent and the fight was epic! It kept jumping in those big waves and I prayed that the fish would stay hooked on the popper! When I finally was able to land it, the snook weighed 32 lbs! Right after I released him, my dad hooked a snook of his own that weighed 20lbs. While he was fighting his fish, I cast again and hooked another 30+lb snook! We had a double! Right after they were released, my dad hooked another snook. While he was fighting that fish, I was retrieving my SS Popper when I saw a crest come out of the water right behind my popper. It was moving right and left, right and left, and a couple of seconds later, boom!!! An explosion in the water! A roosterfish had taken the popper! Line started to peel off my reel at an incredible speed. The rod bent in a way I have never seen it bend before. Within a few seconds, on its first run, the rooster took out almost all my line. I put more pressure on the fish increasing the drag on the reel. I felt that the rod was about to break! After about 40 minutes, I had worked the fish in close to the shore and I could see its crest out of the water! I thought that I had it beat. I took out the boga scale and tried to grab my line. When I did this, he started to peel line again like I had just hooked him! This happened three to four times more until he wasted his last piece of energy and a wave helped me bring him to shore. Finally a monster landed! I took a couple of pictures and I put him back to the water! The fishing continued with a couple of smaller roosters and 3 more huge snook in the 28-32 lb range. The fishing trip ended at about 10:30AM. We were exhausted. I don’t think we had an ounce of energy left in our bodies! Watching fish chase a lure at high speed, watching the water explode when the fish takes the popper, having a roosterfish almost burn out your reel….these are things that every surf fisherman has to experience!
To have this unique experience, you have to be in a unique place. There is such a place right in the middle of Central America where the people are friendly and always ready to help, the food is delicious, and the tropical weather and geography is perfect for fishing! El Salvador has a population of 6.3 million people with two million living in or near the capital. Unfortunately the media has painted El Salvador as a very violent and dangerous place. Like any other place in the world, there are places you should avoid. Salvadorians are very friendly, welcoming people and they are always happy to help. As far as traditional food, the most popular dish is the pupusa. These are made from “harina” which is like cornmeal. It's basically a thick tortilla with cheese and red beans inside. The weather in El Salvador is tropical. There are only two seasons: the rainy season and the dry season. The best season to fish is the dry season! It starts in the middle of November and runs to April. The best surf fishing takes place in December and January. That’s when the water is clear, tons of mullet and sardines are found close to shore in the waves, and snook, cuberas, and roosters are on a feeding frenzy! The rainy season starts in May and lasts until October. In the rainy season, especially in May, the rains flood the rivers. At the river mouths, as the water rushes into the ocean, baitfish gather and snook are able to enter the rivers to lay their eggs. This is when huge snook can be caught. There is only one important catch. The water is very muddy after a rain and this makes it difficult to catch these trophies. Year round you will find that the thermometer will always be between 70-100 degrees Fahrenheit no matter what season it is.
El Salvador is located in the middle of Central America. The best place to surf fish is on the Pacific side. There is a wide variety of shore terrain. Some areas are rocky beaches which are perfect spots to target big cubera snapper. In other areas we will find river mouths and finally there are sandy beaches and bays that are perfect for targeting roosterfish. Surf fishing can be done 24/7 since you can catch mostly anything during the day. During the night you can fish with plugs targeting big snook and snappers. If you try live bait, you can catch big sharks. Roosterfish and jacks are usually caught during the day since they mostly use their vision to target their prey. In order to target big fish in the surf you will need to have two sets of equipment. You should bring a light tackle outfit as well as heavier tackle that will enable you to make long casts. The light tackle should consist of a rod between 6 1/2 and 8 feet maximum, able to throw lures weighing
from 1/2 to 1 1/2oz. Preferably the rod should have a fast action tip. The reel should be spooled with 12 lb test mono with a capacity of least 200yards. The long range tackle should be a rod between 10 and 13 feet in length able to cast lures 2-5 oz. The reel should be spooled with 30-40lb test braid or 17lb test mono on a high retrieve speed reel with at least 300yards capacity.
The light tackle is to target snook mostly. They feed very close to shore and you won't need more power than that to land a world record! Snook can be caught on many different lures. They like top water plugs at sunrise and sunset and they can be caught on jigs all day long. In my opinion, the most effective baits for snook are live minnows. The long range equipment is to target powerful fish such as rooster fish, jacks, barracudas, and cuberas. The reelâ€™s speed on the retrieve will be the critical factor. Roosters and jacks are high speed chasers, therefore they will be triggered to strike with high speed top water lures. The most productive lure for roosterfish and jacks at high speed retrieves is the Super Strike Little Neck Popper 2 3/8 oz. On the other hand, to target cuberas, snooks, and barracudas, reel speed has to be medium and it helps if you reel with a combination of twitches or pops.
As far as hotels, transportation and guides, El Salvador is a small country. You can travel from border to border in 5 hours. The best hotels will be in the capital, San Salvador. It is located about 1.5 hours from the nearest beaches like: La Libertad, Costa del Sol, or Barra de Santiago. Jiquilisco is about 2.5 hours from the capital and there are two great places to stay that can be arranged by CZ Fishing Tours. This company has all-inclusive surf fishing tours (ATV’S, bungalows, food, and transportation) or you can custom make your trip which means: surf fishing tours combined with offshore fishing or inshore fishing that you book. At most of the fishing spots in Costa delSol, Barra de Santiago, Los cobanos, La Libertad, etc, you will park your car a one or two minute walk from the fishing spot. The average cost for a hotel is about $150 a night. To really go “on the cheap”, you can rent an “hamaca” (hammock) for $1 a night in some places in La Libertad. In conclusion, if you want to have a unique surf fishing experience, El Salvador offers the place, weather, and fish. You will need to add tackle, desire, and passion to have a trip of a lifetime!
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THEOFART TRESPASS AL ALBANO
As compared to the pioneers of our sport, today’s surfcaster is faced with a myriad of obstacles when it comes to accessing the surf to ply his craft. Housing developments, parking restrictions, Federal protection for piping plovers and 4-wheel drive access restrictions all have contributed to the reality that, nowadays, surf fishermen, in many areas, only have access to a fraction of the shoreline as compared to what was available just thirty or forty years ago. In general we, as fishermen, have had to accept this gross injustice because there is only so much our advocacy organizations can do to stave off the slow choke hold that civilization has had on access to our shorelines. In some areas, access has become so limited that some form of trespass has become a necessary evil if one expects to have a reasonable chance of catching fish with any consistency. In response to this harsh reality, some surfcasters (myself included) have devised a few nifty ways to find ourselves in some very fishy water by “bending” the rules a bit. Through our adventures, we’ve learned what areas can be accessed without much concern for finding trouble. On the flip side, we’ve also discovered areas where we must either utilize extreme caution, or perhaps avoid all-together. In some of these, albeit in very rare instances, we’ve paid the price (literally) to obtain this valuable information. What information we’ve amassed has been hard-fought, trial and error type of stuff that I obviously cannot divulge in specifics. But I can tell you that it truly has been an adventure and also a heck of a lot of fun! The following is a description of a couple of the tactics, namely the “Grab and Go” and the “Sob Note”, which we employ during the season.
The “Grab and Go” Sometimes the very act of being spotted, while getting into or out of our vehicles, can provide an easy opportunity for a potential “hater” to ask us to leave a location and/or tell us “you can’t fish here”. By minimizing the duration of this vulnerability, we can easily avoid this disaster. Use the “Grab and Go!” This maneuver is best practiced in situations where we have obtained a somewhat legitimate place to park, but access to the actual surf is, let’s say, “questionable.” To properly perform the “Grab and Go”, you pull your buggy off the road, in a safe area (for instance, a 7-11 parking lot) prior to reaching your final parking location and get completely dressed in your fishing attire (waders/wetsuit, korkers, light, belt, bag, etc.). In addition, all plugs must be organized in your bag, and pork rinds and soft plastics stowed in their proper pouches. Any eels must be bagged and ready to roll. Lastly, rods are readied and the roof rack is unlocked. Now, when you arrive at your parking spot, you simply get out of the buggy, grab your rod and go. There is no talking; and walking is done at a brisk pace until we reach some form of cover.
The Sob Note A sob note is written and placed on the dashboard of your buggy when you must park in locations that: A) you know are loaded with fish, yet B) only offer restricted parking (i.e. Residents Only). The typical Sob Note reads something like “didn’t realize I needed pass…will only be here for a few hours”. This tactic is usually good for a one-time use only. Many of these locations have the same officers patrolling them every night. As such, if you score fish on the first outing and have any intention of trying it again, it can’t hurt to have your buddy drive. If that’s not feasible, you may change your note to read something like “Found out wife cheating on me, needed to get out of the house. Please don’t ticket.” If the officer has any compassion, or a sense of humor, you are in! I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that, when possible, we use 100 percent legal methods to pursue our fishing areas. This includes buying State, County and Town permits, even though plovers and beach erosion typically shut many beaches down for large chunks of the season. This also includes walks of up to two miles, using a canoe to paddle to certain areas, and even taking taxis to get into hot spots. It’s always great to notice the look on the taxi drivers face when he rolls up to pick up two or three guys decked out in full surfcaster regalia, armed with one-piece 11’ rods. While I’m on the subject, I can’t help but mention the awkward situation on the way home, when every cab driver invariably asks the question: “How’d you guys do?” After exchanging glancing looks with one another, it’s customary for one of us to provide what has become the textbook response, that is, “pretty slow…few small fish”. I hate lying, but I love being a surfcaster more…
Entitlement Over time, the art of sneaking in and out of hot fishing spots provides a certain liberating feeling that is difficult to describe. I’m fairly certain that it involves the fact that when we fish some of these areas, we feel like we are “getting one over” on the many people who, for one reason or another, want to keep us away from these “holy” grounds. I also think it has something to do with the fact that no person or government should be allowed to keep responsible, tax paying citizens of this country from fishing the shores of our saltwater bodies. We are all aware of the law that allows us to fish the shoreline (below the mean high water level), but we must first be able to reach the shoreline, and that is where the challenge lies. We are not littering, we are not being loud, we are not being destructive to the shoreline and we generally aren’t even keeping any fish! In short, we are not treading on anyone, and as a result, nobody should be treading on us!
Drawbacks What is that they say about playing with fire? From my experience with this game of stealth, a careful fisherman can go long periods of time walking away unscathed (i.e. no fines, no tickets, etc.). However, every so often, it is inevitable that a careless detail will go overlooked, or perhaps we will run into a renegade police officer that has no sympathy for our cause. These instances can be downright heartbreaking as costs for parking tickets are no longer a slap on the wrist and trespassing (in certain villages and towns) is looked on more seriously than murder! If confronted by an officer of the law, my only advice is to be as respectful as humanly possible. The truth is, most of them are good folks who honestly don’t want to ruin your night. Very often, they will kindly ask you to leave and that is good enough. Unfortunately however, the other truth is that some of them are “evil human beings” whose fathers never took them fishing! From my experience, by arguing with these types, you are essentially digging your own grave. For what its worth, these latter types are more common in places where the property taxes are through the roof, and men fish for stripers from boats. The Future It is my belief that the future of surf access is what we make of it. We all must continue to fight for access, both individually and along with the groups that tirelessly fight for us to hold onto what we have, and, with any luck, obtain more of it. Hopefully, over the years, we can reverse the trend of decreasing access and start being welcomed by the non-fishing public. In the meantime, you will find me getting changed in 7/11 parking lots, leaving notes about my cheating wife on my car and hopefully hoisting up a few nice fish along the way.
Have you ever been out on a rock and doubted how well your Korkers would perform? How about walking the South Side of Montauk and doing more sliding off the rocks than walking over them? In my opinion, with the original studded soles installed, you will be severely under-gunned while standing out on a rock and facing a good swell. Granted the studs may be fine when there are calm seas or you are in a protected area. If you are facing big surf with slimy, weedy rocks you will have your work cut out for you to keep yourself from floating when you mean to be standing. This is where a little modification goes a long way. Donâ€™t get me wrong, Korkers are a very successful company and do put out some decent products. If you are fishing a rocky river in the Adirondacks, the boots will really perform well. They just cannot hold up to what we put them through in the big, bass holding, rocky landscapes that we fish when the waves and weather are at their absolute worst. Korkers are not built for surfcasters, plain and simple. A few years ago is when I realized something needed to be done when my K- 1100 sandals were not holding up as I needed them to. First off, the laces always came untied so I needed to keep a few rolls of duct tape with me at all times. How annoying is that? Second, the studs on them would wear down to the nub within a few weeks and be essentially useless. This could lead to a dangerous situation that nobody wants to be in. Even after replacing the push-in studs, that tiny contact patch on each one wasnâ€™t really all that great at holding you to the rocks, carbide tipped or not. I then started wet-suiting and was sick of the extra weight of boots and sandals so I bought myself a pair of Korkers Cross Currents with the interchangeable Omnitrax soles. I soon realized that while they were more comfortable and lighter, there were a total of 14 useless little studs.
Well, I didnâ€™t realize that at first. After a couple of trips with them, I realized that I needed something more. I was (to borrow a term) deeeeeeeep on the South Side of Montauk. There was a pretty good swell with a south wind blowing stiffly on shore. I finally got out to where I wanted to be and attempted to get up on a rock. Now, I am not the largest guy around but I can hold my own against the weather, for the most part. I figured that these waves were nothing to be very worried about. I clamber up on the rock, scrape away some weed, get my bearings and start casting. Then the sets start rolling in. I braced for them and was good for the moment. A few larger sets rolled in and I found myself sliding backwards. Not falling but sliding on flat feet. The waves were pushing my feet backwards because I had no grip at all from my Korkers. That is when I knew I had to find a new option. This is where my idea came from. I needed to modify my boots so I could have a bit more grip and peace of mind when braving the elements.
In order to modify them you need just a drill, a 5/32â€? bit, a Phillips bit, a ratchet and a socket to fit the nuts. A Dremel tool may also be helpful as well as Sharpie marker to map out where your studs will be placed. I took off the original studded soles and grabbed the set of plain lug rubber soles that had come with my set of Cross Currents. You could use the felt soles as well if you prefer. Using the Sharpie, I planned on where to drill holes through the sole. Please keep in mind that you will have to leave enough room between them for the screw heads on top and the washers on the bottom.
I started drilling on the bottom side near the toe so I wouldn't get too close to the toe edge where it slips into the boot, I then drilled out the holes on the heel. Be careful where you drill on the heel as you do not want to drill through the thread that holds the rubber strap on. After this I went through the orange side so I could better gauge where the screws would be placed after mapping it out with the marker.
I drilled a total of 25 holes on each sole. Make sure you focus on where your highest wear spots are and put some extra holes in that area. Check your old Korkers for where the studs are most worn out. After drilling I used a Dremel to clean up the plastic around the hole. I used Round head screws so I chamfered the edges of the sole so the screw-head would sit down in the sole a little bit. I would suggest using Truss Head screws as opposed to round head as they are flatter and a tad wider.
Be careful not to chamfer too much or the screw head will pull through when tightened. You may have to re-drill the holes to remove some melted plastic from them when you ground away the flash from drilling and chamfered them. Drilling from the sole side is easiest on the second pass. The hardware you will need: ● 10-24 x 3/4” Stainless Steel Truss Head Phillips screws (with the Truss Head you avoid the chamfering step). The thickness of the felt soles may be a little different from the rubber soles so adjust accordingly with the length. ● 10-24 Stainless Steel Nylock nuts ● #10 Stainless Steel washers or #10 11/16" wide Stainless Steel washers. You can vary between these sizes depending on the space between screws. The 11/16" wide will obviously give you better coverage though. I purchased my hardware from both McMaster-Carr (online) and Fastenal. If you have a Fastenal near you I would suggest go to them. They had everything in stock each time I went there and you save on shipping. If they don’t have it they can get it fairly quickly for you.
Now that you have drilled and cleaned the holes, push the screws through the holes from the orange side. There is no need for washers here as the plastic is certainly stiff enough to bear the load. Then place washers and nuts on each screw Using a drill with a Phillips head bit and a ratchet and socket, tighten each screw down. The torque setting on my DeWalt cordless drill was set at 7 to avoid pulling the heads through and destroying the soles. When they are all tight you can install the soles on the boots. Forget about the cheap little key they give you. Use instead, a stout wide flathead screwdriver. The key will still work if you want to bring it out on the beach with you, just in case, but the screwdriver is easier at the truck. The addition of the screws seems to stiffen up the soles a bit. After some use the soles will loosen up somewhat I have also done this modification and not be so stiff but not by much. It will not affect on my K-1100 sandals. There is no your walking though since your weight will be need for any extra drilling as these distributed across all of those studs. have an adequate number of studs.
Since these have push in studs I would suggest coating each stud heavily in WD-40 to get them unstuck. These are not the easiest to pull out especially after much use. The sand and rust really get jammed up in there. If you can find a Brad puller, that would work. I didn’t have one so I heated a cheap, heavy flat screwdriver and bent an angle into the tip. I then cut a V notch out (I love Dremels). You may have to pound a bit from the top with a punch then pull from the bottom. Be careful as this is not all that easy and stabbing yourself is quite possible. I think you can figure out how I know about stabbing yourself! Your screwdriver will eventually break so have another on hand as well as some pliers. I cleaned each hole with a small Dremel bit. You may need to clean up each hole first but you should not have to drill. You can use the same hardware as above. For the sandals though, you will need washers on both sides so buy twice as many washers as nuts and bolts. The washers will need to be the Stainless Steel #10 11/16” to make sure they do not pull through. One modification you can do to any wading boot (except that ridiculous BOA system) and the K-1100’s is replace the laces with 550 Paracord. If you tie it tightly enough it will not untie itself, therefore there is no need for duct tape. This is especially true when you tie it when it is dry and it gets wet. It swells a bit and is sometimes difficult to even untie, especially with frozen fingers. At least you know you won’t lose a boot. I am not familiar with the later styles of Korkers with the interchangeable soles so I am not sure if this method will work. I know the K-500 sandals have screw in studs so the method may be different but with a little ingenuity you can accomplish anything. We surfcasters do quite a bit of that.
The first time you wear these out on the rocks you are not going to believe it. You may think that they actually grip too well like you can almost walk straight up the rocks under the Light. You can’t (and don’t try) but it feels like it. The studs will wear in a little bit but they won’t wear out for quite some time. I still have the original screws in my boots for over a year and most of my fishing is done on rocks. I have not yet had to replace any nor are any worn down enough to replace. I still get the grip where I need it and can still shred weeds no matter how thick. I shouldn’t really say that, as I haven’t been up to RI and tested them on the insane bubble weed yet but I am sure they will perform flawlessly.
This is a cheap and easy way to enhance your grip while walking on rocks and an excellent way to boost the safety of your walks and swims out to the far out rocks where you need to be. For somewhere around twenty dollars you can have piece of mind when hauling yourself up on that rock in the dead of night on the far edge of a point next to a deep cove. One less thing to worry about when searching for that once in a lifetime cow!
inside the anglers studio
JOSH COOPER LAMIGLAS
Lamiglas rods and surf fishing go together like peanut butter and jelly. You can have one without another but you really need to put them together to see what everyone is talking about. And theyâ€™ve been talking about this combination for a long, long time. Naturally we were intrigued when Lamiglas recently replaced their Super Surf series with a new line called Infinity. We went right to the top and interrogated Josh Cooper, Product Manager at Lamiglas.
Hello Josh. Please fill us in on your duties at Lamiglas I started at a tackle shop in Portland Oregon when I was 18 and worked there for a few years. While working retail I had a schedule that allowed me to fish five or more days a week. I then I came to work for Lamiglas in 2002 to run the factory retail shop. Shortly after that they had me take over the customer service/warranty department. I ran this department for a few years and then I was given the opportunity to be the northwest factory sales representative, covering Oregon, Washington, and Idaho. I did this for 4 years. Then about 4 years ago I had the chance to move into the Rod Designer position that I had wanted for some time. I grew up with a Dad who was a machinist and I learned the technical side of things early, so this was a good fit for me. I was just recently promoted to Product Manager. My main duties as Product Manager/Rod Designer are researching fisheries and producing new products that meet our customer/fishermenâ€™s needs. The blank design part of the job is by far the most difficult part but this is also the favorite part of my job. Other duties are: selecting components from different manufacturers, gathering technical information from our field staff and our sales team, testing product to find failure limitations and field testing products. How does it feel to carry such a big burden on your shoulders? After all, we surfcasters are constantly looking in the Lamiglas direction for innovation and new products that help us cast further, with lighter rods, stronger components? It must be a viscous cycle for a rod designer to come up with a new concept only to be asked "Whatâ€™s next?â€?
Surf casters are a different breed when it comes to expectations. This is a good thing and a bad thing. I have to say they make you dig deep when it comes to innovation. With so many good custom builders in the surf industry there are a lot of opinions on how a rod should look and perform. This makes pleasing the masses a challenge, but also very rewarding when you get it right. We have a good amount of brand loyalty but we’ll never rest on our laurels. The Posey’s are always pushing us to have innovative products and source out cutting edge components and materials. You said it perfectly, “it’s a viscous cycle.” We will introduce a new product at ICAST, and then on the second day everyone wants to know what we are offering next year.
The in-house testing usually consists of checking for the desired action, flexing blanks at different angles to the point of failure, and then casting different weights to check weight ratings. The field testing is done by both us factory guys, and our field staff. I rely on our field staff a lot, and their insight is extremely important. We would How do you test your new products? not be able to produce the products we do Do you fly a whole crew to Bora Bora for today without them. Our field staff guys put a week, in which case, where do we sign our rods through the paces and give feedback accordingly. up?
A good field staff guy is hard to find. Many guys have a tendency to tell you what they think you want to hear and that does not help. (Those guys do not stick around). Field staffers help select components, handle design, and help in rating the rods, but they do not design blanks. Therefore I still have to fish the fishery myself to fully understand the needs and wants of the angler. The end product still has to be a blend of what the anglerâ€™s needs and wants are and what our factory can produce, all at a price the angler can afford. Staffers help with all of that.
Before we discuss what is new, I am sure many of our readers wanted to know what happened to their beloved Super Surf rods. The Super Surf series was widely popular for quite a few years and are great rods. As we expanded the offerings in other series the sales started to shrink in the Super Surf series. During this time we started testing 3Mâ€™s Powerlux material which presented us with two options, either keep offering the SS rods and introduce a more expensive rod with the Powerlux material or have the rods made with Powerlux material replace the SS series and find a way to keep the price down where the SS rods were. This was going to be a challenge as the 3M material is very expensive, but after looking at the SS blank patterns we found ways to cut the labor in the building process that actually yielded a better blank, making it possible to offer the new blanks at a similar price to the SS series. After testing the new Infinity Surf rods it was a no brainer, Super Surfs had to go.
Oh, the new Infinity! The greatest thing since falafel. Fill us in why these rods are different than anything Lamiglas has developed for surfcasters before. Just be gentle, we get confused by big words. For years, rod companies have been looking at new and better fibers to increase the strength, stiffness, or durability of rod blanks. But no one really looked much at the resin systems, or when they did, not many improvements were found. Then 3M showed up with Powerlux. Without getting into all the technical details, basically the resin is being
reinforced by nano silica particles that help stop micro buckling on the compression side. If you go to the 3m website, it has all the technical info. In the end, you get a blank that is amazingly strong for its weight. With the Infinity, we decided to start with 2pc blanks that are a 1/3 -2/3 split, the tip being longer than the butt. This gives us the ability to have a blank that feels like a one piece, and because the ferrule is not in the middle of the blank, we can have a longer overlap of the sections. This creates more friction and helps stop the tip section from twisting or moving during casting. And yes, I know this is not an original idea, it is just a really good one. I HATE FERRULES but after fishing these 1/3-2/3 rods I do not really know why anyone would want a one piece. That being said, I am just finishing up one piece versions of the infinity blanks so we did not leave the hardcore one piece guys out. All these blanks are faster than most other surf blanks we offer, but still load surprisingly smoothly and easily. I think these are what many of our customers have been waiting for.
It's good to hear that Infinity will be available in a one piece configuration. We noticed at the recent show that Infinity features a very different type of grip on the handle. Did this come to you in a dream sequence after a night of binge drinking or is there a method to your madness? Ha! I can’t say there wasn’t drinking involved but I will say it was not me doing it. I’m not one of those guys who think all great ideas have to be mine. That handle was (with permission) borrowed from Paul “Paco” Ernandez of Paco's Fishing Rods, a custom rod builder and Pro Staffer of ours. He sent me a few different handle ideas and we found this one to be perfect, the best blend of grip, comfort, and durability. This handle really was all Paco. In fact he even loaned us the materials to run the first few batches of rods until our order of components showed up. Not everyone wants or can afford the newest super-duper invention from your man cave. You recently did some updating to your Tri Flex series. Fill us in. Yeah, you’re right, not everyone wants, or even needs the higher performance style blanks. The Triflex rods were always held back a little by the components we had on them. They had overbuilt guides, and not quite enough of them, in an effort to try to keep the price down. So last year we decided to upgrade the components. We went with Fuji, BSVAG, Alconite Guides and we also put the same handle on them that we put on the new Infinity Surf series. Finally the blanks got the components they deserve.
This would not be a real interview if we did not ask about one blank that many of us feel is the best all around blank ever produced by any manufacturer, your GSB series. We like to say that those rods do not do anything great but they do everything well. That is not meant as a knock but instead praise for a rod which can be used in so many applications, under so many conditions that our mind spins just thinking about it. We always said, if you can only afford one rod which you want to make your "do-it-all" stick there is no better candidate than the GBS series. Are you surprised just how popular those rods still are? Are there any changes in store for GSB? I would hate to think of the lynch mob that would come for me if I did anything to the GSB blanks. I am an avid hunter so I would say the GSB blanks are the 30/06 for the surf. The 30/06 isn’t a brush gun unless you need it to be, and it’s not a long range rifle unless you need it to be. The same goes for the GSB series, it is everything you need, not always what you want. It will do what you need when you need it. I’m not that surprised the GSB’s are still successful. I think there will always be a certain number of “wise” fishermen who realize the need for the GSB style blanks. However the Graphite Surf and Jetty rods (that use the GSB blanks) did get a guide upgrade in 2011 (to Fuji, BSVAG, Alconite, guides) the first significant change in quite a few years.
Roger Martin has fished the rocky beaches of Rhode Island, plowed through soft sand on Cape Cod beaches and navigated the treacherous rocks of Montauk. But most of the time, you'll find him close to home, on the sandy beaches or the back bay marshes of Long Island’s south shore. Over the last half century he has written numerous articles, authored a chapter in William Muller's book “The Secrets of Surf Fishing at Night” and given many presentations on the subject of surf fishing. He was taught how to rig eels by his friend, the late Al Bentsen, and has passed this knowledge on to many others. Roger and his wife Marie are co-editors of the Surfcaster's Journal and they are the ones who labor over our sloppy writing, bad grammar and terrible pronunciation errors. For that alone they should be saluted . Zeno Hromin is the author of two recent bestselling books, “The Art of Surfcasting with Lures” and “The Hunt for Big Stripers.” He is a budding angling photographer who has won numerous awards for his camera skills. He is one of the founders of the Surfcaster's Journal and a frequent contributor to the Surfcaster's Journal Blog. You can get more information about Zeno on his website www.zenohromin.com Email him at email@example.com Lou Caruso is a long time member of the Farragut Striper Club, Surfcaster's Journal official "Rod Guru" and one of the most well regarded custom rod builders on Long Island, NY. His web site is www.louscustomrods.com Tommy Corrigan is an insanely driven, ridiculously talented dude who designs the Surfcaster's Journal magazine from his head. No guidelines, no drafts and no boxes into which to plug articles. Everything that you see is the result of late night inspirations on those nights when his better half makes him stay home. When he manages to sneak out you will probably find him on a local beach, plying his craft. His talents are vast and range from music CD cover designs, to posters, books and tshirts. Don't be surprised if the design on the shirt you or your kid is wearing was created by our design guru. You can send him an Email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Dave Anderson is an editor of â€œThe Fisherman Magazineâ€?, New England edition. You have probably read many of the articles on surf fishing he has written over the years for that magazine and other publications. What you probably did not know was that Dave is also a well respected plug builder who creates exceptional lures under the name Surf Asylum. You can receive his newsletter by dropping him a line at email@example.com Andrew Chase is a renowned chef and a passionate surfcaster. He is equally comfortable around the stove as he is casting his lures for stripers. Along with his partner, he is a proprietor of Cafe Katja located at 79 Orchard Street in New York City. It's a great place to grab a beer and sample some authentic Austrian cuisine. No pretentiousness here or sky high prices, just an intimate neighborhood watering hole with exceptional food. Chef Andrew might be behind the bar or serving food on any given night but as soon as the lights go off you will find him on his favorite rocks casting into the darkness, looking to catch his own dinner. For more information about Cafe Katja please visit http://cafekatja.com John Papciak is a well known New York surfcaster who is equally comfortable with a fly rod or a surf rod. John is one of the most fearless surfcasters of this generation and one of the rare anglers who fish from the far rocks with a fly rod. As much as we all admire his fearlessness when swimming to the rocks in the middle of the night, we are even more impressed with his conservation ethic. He was one of the people involved in the Bring Back Big Bass campaign in recent years and he has been always on the forefront of the conservation movement among the surf fishing community. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org Frank Pintauro is an avid vintage surf fishing lure collector and the author of many articles on classic lures and lure makers. Frank's work has been published in The Fisherman magazine and Fishing and Hunting Collectibles Magazine among others. He is considered the leading authority on the authenticity of vintage surf fishing lures and their origins.
Russ "Big Rock" Paoline is a well respected New Jersey lure builder whose creations are some of the most sought after lures on the market today. He creates his lures in small batches, one at a time and the quality and attention to detail are evident on each lure he makes. Russ has been a fixture on New Jersey beaches for many years but don't be surprised if you run into him at Montauk, NY or even Cuttyhunk, MA. In fact, Cuttyhunk is where we met him for the first time. A mountain of a man in every sense of the word, Russ is imposing figure in the night surf but have no worries, he is one of the nicest person you’ll ever have the pleasure of meeting. Steve McKenna is one of New England’s most respected anglers of the past few decades. His humble persona and lack of an oversized ego, which is often found among surfcasters of his caliber, make him one of the most liked surfcasters walking the beach today. Based in Rhode Island, Steve has found success not only at home but in most places he has visited: Cuttyhunk, Block Island or Cape Cod. Put a rod in the man's hand, stand back, watch and learn. Steve has written numerous articles over the years for many Northeast publications including a chapter in Zeno Hromin's book, “The Hunt for Big Stripers.”
Al Albano is a well respected surfcaster who is often present on the beaches of eastern Long Island but rarely seen. He has a knack for getting on a bite and even a better knack for keeping the bite to himself. Al has won numerous awards over the years for his prowess in the surf as a member of the High Hill Striper Club. Chia Zeng Juang is well known angler from El Salvador. He pursues giant snook and big roosterfish with abandon, often with Super Strike Little Neck Poppers Frank Walls is an avid surf fisherman and homebrewer. He is the NY chapter President of Stripercoast Surfcasters and deeply involved in the conservation and regulation regarding Striped Bass. As a liaison between Stripercoast and the NYCRF, he has gone to bat for all NY fishermen on issues from coastal access to fisheries management. You can visit the club website at StripercoastSurfcasters.us or contact him directly at Frank@StripercoastSurfcasters.us