Happy New Year – may 2015 be a source of health, happiness and lots of big fish for you!
Fishing Big Plugs
Most of you know that making and fishing big plugs is my passion. For our many newer members…I have been fishing big plugs since the early 1980s. At that time, there were a lot of big bunker schools around in Rhode Island and bigger plugs made by builders such as Gibbs and Atom were the norm. But soon the bunker got netted and main bait got smaller along with the plugs. So, I fished live eels for many years. In 2004 I wanted to return to plug fishing because I had less time to spend on the water and wanted to maximize my time. I felt bigger plugs were the way to take the smaller fish out of the equation, but had a heck of a time finding them. So I started making my own. For me, this has worked just fine. Yes, I purposely catch fewer fish, but they’ve been bigger and my fishing experience has been consistently more satisfying.
When I say “big plugs” I mean 8″ or more — with good girth, 4 oz. and up. For the past 6 years, I have fished nothing smaller than my Giant pike at 8″, 4 oz. In fact, for the past few years, the first plug out of my bag is a SLIM Troller at 10″, 7 oz. Second plug out for a calm night is a Sand Pike XL (eel skin) 10″, 6-1/2 oz. I move back and forth between the Troller, Sand Pike XL, and the Giant depending on conditions and how the fish are responding.
Since 2004, when I first started making my big pikies, I have fished no other plugs. In June, 2005 I took 5 Giants in different colors to Block. This was the first time they would see saltwater. My first fish came completely out of the water and somersaulted with the plug in its mouth. It was a 17 pounder, not huge but a keeper. My two buddies caught plenty of fish on their needlefish that trip, but nothing bigger than 27″. One did catch two keepers – only when I gave him one of my Giants. I caught keepers on all five colors that trip. They were all between 15 and 20 lbs. I never fished those plugs again, I just made more. In 2011, I caught a 51 lb. beauty off the coast of Rhode Island. There are exceptions to “Big Bait, Big Fish” but these plugs have consistently performed for me.
As much as I like to see a big fish hit on or near the surface (Yes! You can see the splash at night!), I feel the really big fish stay on or near the bottom. That was my thinking in building my deep divers. These plugs float at rest and swim down on a fast retrieve; then, slow the retrieve down and they swim at that depth. Stop the retrieve and they slowly float up. My surface plugs swim down to 6 ft., medium divers to 10 ft., and my deep divers to 15 ft. and deeper. The Troller, trolled on mono at 1 mph, will swim down to 15ft on its own. Many of the bigger fish caught on my pikes have come on the divers. So a big bait on or near the bottom is pretty attractive to a big fish.
Smaller fish are quick and will get to a smaller plug before the bigger fish. I don’t think bigger fish are lazy, I think they are very careful and that is why they got bigger. The big girls (30 lbs. and up) will eat any size food, but I think they prefer bigger bait. The really big fish (50+ lbs.) are usually loners and you probably won’t find them in a school of smaller fish. If I am fishing a good spot and not getting hits, I will wait it out. But if my buddy starts catching smaller fish, I will move. Same size fish tend to school together.
It takes commitment to fish bigger plugs. Some guys take a few cast don’t catch anything and drop down to a small plug in which they have confidence. Others only fish big plugs around bunker schools – a mistake in my book. There is always big bait around — lobster, porgy, snapper blues, sea robins, blackfish and squid, to name just a few – if there is smaller bait it will attract bigger bait. So you don’t have to limit your big plugs for bunker schools.
If you are fishing bigger plugs for the first time start off slow. Don’t jump right to a 10″ 7oz plug. Start with a SLIM or a Giant, catch some fish and gain some confidence. If you get into a school of bigger fish, take a shot with the 10″ plug. You can always drop back, but the change to an even bigger plug may get you an even bigger fish. Patience is important when you’re targeting bigger fish — you need to be able to go without getting a hit when smaller fish are around.
By the way, the new light weight rods made by CTS and Century make casting big plugs a breeze.
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