This past January, my newsletter focused on fishing strategies from Maine to Montauk. Judging from the feedback, these were valuable articles. This month, 3 New Jersey fishermen, Russ Sommers, Bob Mirynowski and Dante Soriente, share their BWL stories. Once again, you may learn something new and maybe even be inspired to add a BWL to your bag.
Also, at the end of this newsletter, be sure to get the details on my upcoming show on the Cape. This will be my last show of the Spring season.
I was first introduced to BWL in 2006-2007. It was love at first sight. Growing up in Jersey, I had no shortage of awesome quality metal lips, but almost all were 6″ (or smaller) surface swimmers and all bright colors. I saw Gary’s Giant Blackfish and I was in – I began carrying that plug in my bag immediately.
My first experience with it was fishing a bunker blitz on an open beach. The bite had died, the ocean eased back into tranquility and the sun began to set. I snapped on my new Pikie and launched it to the east, near the front of a broken jetty about 30 yards off the beach. Within a few casts, I was into a mid-20 pound bass. That night, I fished about a dozen different places and caught fish at about half – all of which were on that Giant Pikie.
One bass in particular stands out. I was retrieving the plug through a submerged jetty front and I thought I got hung up solid, then the rock I snagged took a hard turn east. When I landed this bass, I was astounded to see the Pikie wedged in its mouth sideways, with the back treble in the lip and the plug lip wedged in the gill rakes. That fish hit the scales at 34 pounds. Remember, it was my first time fishing the plug.
Since then, I’ve added 2-3 plugs per year in different sizes and colors to my arsenal. I carry a BWL 90% of the time or more I am bassing. I’ve caught on Gary’s plugs in big booming surf, on flat calm nights and on every bait migration from big bunker to rain bait. On a trip to Long Island’s South Shore, bass were gorging themselves on juvenile rain fish and guys were losing their minds seeing these bass in gaffing range that just wouldn’t eat. Forty guys might have pulled 5 fish over a 30 minute period. I clipped on a BWL White Pearl Surface Giant and equaled the fish count of the rest of the beach. Everyone else was trying to mimic a tiny baitfish in a sea of tiny baitfish while the Giant represented a substantial “one-stop shopping” meal – and the fish paid notice.
BWL plugs are good with every part of the water column. If your goal is to catch big bass consistently, BWL’s need to be in your arsenal. Period.
I bought my first GRS pike at our Asbury Park Fishing Club show when Gary first started attending in 2007. They certainly stood out, being both large and beautifully finished! I had to try them and started with a Bunker Medium Diver. The Spring bunker blitzes were becoming circus-like affairs and I was afraid to risk losing one during the ruckus. So, I started throwing pikes after the blitz passed and the crowds thinned. The Giant Surface and Medium Divers generally raise stragglers during these times.
However, my go-to plug is the Eel Skin SLIM pike. I’ve gone to Block every Spring since 2002 and caught lots of bass to 20 lbs. But once I discovered the Eel Skin SLIM, I never left for the beach without one in my bag. The large profile and slow rolling action combined with the Eel Skin’s undulating tail looks so seductive. It has consistently caught larger bass than my other plugs, including a 24-pounder that blasted my Eel Skin 5 feet in front of my rock in 8 feet of water while fishing SE point, and a 26-pound bass I caught last Spring in a nasty Nor’easter on a west side cove where the rest of our party went fishless.
This spring, on Gary’s recommendation, I plan to try the Eel Skin Sandpike XL in the boulder fields of Cuttyhunk where I’ll be exploring for the first time. I usually throw a custom 11’ CTS Vapor Trail with a VS 250 spooled with 30 lb. original fused fireline and a 60 lb. flouro leader with a TA clip. This set up allows me to toss these heavy plugs all night without fatigue, and the Vapor Trail’s power and parabolic action loads and launches the Giant Pikes – and even Trollers – with relative ease.
I remember the day I met Gary and saw his plugs like it was yesterday. I had taken a trip to Surf Day in 2011 to check out a new rod company, CTS, which I’d heard so much about and met Gary by chance. Anyone who knows me understands my fascination with CTS rods, so you can plainly see why walking over to Gary’s booth right after was the best and worst thing! The plugs that I caught sight of were absolutely beautiful so I asked “What do you use them for?” and “What rod are you throwing these with?” The dry sense of humor just shot out, “Striped bass. As for the rod, I haven’t found one yet.” Having just come off CTS, I knew Gary would love these rods. Long story short, he bought 2 on the spot and I went home with half dozen pikies – having no idea what I was going to do with them, but the art work was pure eye candy.
A few days later, Gary invited my friend John and I to Cuttyhunk with him and a few of his buddies. This was my first time to the island and I was in awe of the scenery and hungry to fish. I quickly learned that there hadn’t been a fish caught in 3 nights…and, well that was all about to change. Before I ever cast a line I always recon the area – it’s as much fun as the actual fishing and gives me the opportunity to get familiar with the area. I came back and started packing my bag for the night, never overlooking the smallest detail. (This alone is one of the biggest advantages in my fishing game.) I packed 3 Bill Norman 7’’ custom made lures (a school bus, a grey shad and an all-black) as well as a BWL Junior in Olive Bunker, a BWL Giant in White Pearl, 2 Beach Master Danny’s in white and black, and a white/pink hue and all-yellow North Bar bottle darter.
Now, because I am honest, I brought the 2 BWL plugs solely out of respect for Gary, I had no plans to use them, as even his Junior intimidated me. So off we go, past a beautiful cove with a nice rip off the end, which I know is prime bass fishing territory. I call out, “Hey guys, this looks great.” But Gary said “No good, let’s keep going.” A half mile down shore, Gary’s friends, Mike and Tommy, hop into the water and start swimming out to a rock. Needless to say, I was a little intimidated to jump in and swim water that I had never seen in daylight! I throw my first cast with a white BM Danny behind a rock with a nice eddy coming off the left side. I took 3 cranks and FISH ON! The looks on their faces were of utter disbelief! How can this guy do this in minutes and we haven’t gotten a bite in 3 nights? I quickly worked in this 18 lb fish, released her and pushed on another 100 yards.
But action was slow so I headed back to that first cut that I had seen on the way in. I had noticed earlier in my recon that there were small crabs and spearing in the wash, and though I hadn’t seen signs of large bait, I figured anytime there is a rock around there is potential for prey of all sizes. John and I waded out to the rip. I clipped on an all-yellow North Bar and came tight in the current. I took 2 cranks and I’m jolted! The fish took off and I just knew this fish was nicer than the 2 I’d caught earlier. At the time, I was fishing an 11 Vapor Trail 2 piece 3-6oz stick. The rod was doubled over and after a 5 minute battle, I landed a 28 lb. bass, took great pictures and sent her off.
I decided to switch off to smaller profile baits due to all the small bait around. For the next 3 hours, I had fish on every few casts and landed 2 dozen or so ranging from 24-40 inches. Just before dawn, I strapped on the BWL Junior Bunker to see what the plug could do. Third cast I was tight and released a 15 lb. fish and landed 2 others before the sun rose that morning. Even though those fish weren’t large, the experience gave me the confidence to throw larger plugs. We all know 99% of plugging is confidence, and if you don’t have confidence with a plug you might as well not even throw it.
The following night, my bag was packed with 4 BWL swimmers, 2 Juniors and 2 SLIM Giants. My goal was to gain more confidence each night with the big wood. That night the bite was slower but I still managed to land 8 bass on Gary’s plugs and a few fish spread among the 4 other plugs I carried.
The following Spring, a group of us met up in Block. By this point, I had all the confidence that I needed in these plugs and always traveled with a few in each color and size. On Block, all the plugs I fished were Giants and Medium Divers in White Pearl, Olive Bunker and the hottest color, Purple Pearl . I would crank fast, get it to hit the bottom and it would just get inhaled. More than anything, I was surprised that these 32-inch fish were just inhaling these larger plugs. This trip really put a different perspective on my trust in GRS plugs. A few weeks later, my friend Pete and I flat out wore out the 15-25 lb bass on Custom Porgy Giants and the plugs held up well. I currently have 3 dozen GRS plugs in rotation!
For the upcoming season, I’ve promised Gary that I would land a 40-50 lb bass on one of his plugs. I also promise that if this happens he can bet that he is getting a call in the middle of the night as payback from a few years back when he called me crying with joy in the dead of night over his 50 lb+ catch.
And, finally, to end this correctly, not only do these plugs look great and catch fish, but the owner of the company is a first-class gentleman and I am proud to call him my friend. My last word of advice, if you don’t have any GRs plugs, makes it a point to get a few.
Saltwater Lure Collectors Club Show, Bourne MA
I’ll be exhibiting and selling plugs at Saltwater Lure Collectors 5th Annual Club Show on Sat., May 3, 2014 from 8am to 2pm. Please come to buy or just say ‘hello.’ The show takes place at the Trowbridge Tavern & Canal Club, 100 Trowbridge Rd., Bourne, MA.
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