A couple of things stand out for me about the stormy night I caught my “51”. It has changed me, hopefully, in positive ways. I know I can still get my hat on although I admit it is a little tighter. I smile a lot more and am always looking to help little old ladies cross the street even though I am getting up there myself.
Anyway, back to fishing. I am even more committed to making and fishing bigger plugs (if that is possible)! Most fishermen would agree that the 8” 4oz. Giant Pike I used to catch my big fish is a big plug, but it is the smallest plug I normally use to target that lone big fish that is foraging for a big meal. My fish had a pound-and-a-quarter lobster in her stomach!
Many writers say that big water brings out the bigger fish and I couldn’t agree more. The conditions “that” night could not have gotten much worse but I could still fish the Surface Giant Pike because they will dive deep enough to hold in big waves.
All of my pikes are excellent in extreme conditions for three reasons. First, I belly weight them to better hold in the big waves and in the undertow a storm can create. Second, they have a larger profile to show up in rough conditions and attract the larger fish. And third, the dive/Z lips on my pikes let you swim them down under big waves and then float up after the waves goes by. Even at night you can feel a big wave approaching your plug because of the sudden pull on the pike the wave makes as it comes from behind.
Wind is always a factor in stormy weather. It is no secret that metal lips are poor casters. The lip acts as a sail and catches the wind. Because my pikes are heavier, they cast well in most conditions. Even in a cross wind, the pike will dig in and you will have less bow in your line, thus a better connection to the plug. I use my Deep and Medium Diving pikes to get a little more distance in a head or cross wind because they are heavier than the Surface Giant – along with the belly weight, they also have a slug of lead in the head. My pikes cast tail first for the most part, but the divers will rotate in a cross wind because of the weighted head. You may have to back off the cast a little to prevent this.
What Equipment Do You Need?
To hunt big fish in big water you need to be loaded for bear. The rods, reels and lines I talk about here have worked well for me. Though invited, I’m not affiliated with any company or pro-staff. I just want to give you an unbiased report of the tackle I use. I have my favorites because they perform above and beyond.
In calm conditions on a sandy beach, you can get away with a 9-foot rod and a light line. Using that same outfit in the rocks or in rough conditions, you could see the fish of a lifetime swim away with your plug. I recommend the 10-12 foot CTS or Century graphite rods because they are both powerful yet lightweight.
I was using my 12’ Century SPOD Rod (rated 2 to 6 oz.) when I caught my 50. I was well up the rocks that night because of the big waves rolling in. That gave me the angle to keep the fish up in the waves and let them bring her in. I could have done this with any long rod. But then she felt the shallow water and dug in. This is when the power of the Century kicked in. I was able to hold her to a standstill until the next wave knocked her off balance. If she had gotten her head and started taking line, I have no doubt that she would have taken me around one of the 2 rocks sticking out of the water. These rocks bookend the tough I was fighting her in and she would have easily broken me off. The last, most challenging test for the rod was at the end of the fight. I needed to get her over a large flat rock that was slanted at a 45 degree angle away from me. I just needed to slide her up and over that rock and I would be able to get to her. With the big waves it was just too deep on the far side of the rock. I timed the waves and I had her to the top of the rock 4 times. I was reluctant to put too much pressure on the rod and get her over because she was so big. As she was sliding down the rock the 4th time I could see the plug on the outside of her mouth and it did not look too secure. I knew I was running out of time. I decided to go for it. The 5th time I got her to the top of the rock, I just horsed it over using the rod. The Century rod had no problem getting that fish over the top and she was mine. I am still amazed by the power of both my Century and CTS rods given how light weight they are. I can comfortably cast my plugs on these rods all night even given their size. As age 60 approaches, these lightweight rods with plenty or power came around just in time for me!
Another important piece of equipment is a quality reel. I use true left-handed versions of ZeeBaas ZX25 and VanStaal 250. Both reels are waterproof and have reliable drags. To throw big plugs you need a tight drag so it doesn’t slip on the cast. Both reels can be fished bailless. The ZeeBaas is smoother and can be self-maintained.
I fish a 50 lb. abrasion resistant leader, seaguar fluorocarbon, a little more expensive, but it has held up well for me in the rocks. As for braid, I have just switched from 50 lb. braid to 30 lb. Fireline original fused. It is braid-like but not a true braid and holds up better in the rocks. I tie it direct to my pikes with an un-improved cinch knot. I use 3 to 4 winds for the knot. It is a simple knot with a 95% breaking strength and I have used it without mishap for years. It is important to draw the knot down tight using a little saliva for lubricant. The knot should look uniform, and if it doesn’t look right I will tie it again.
I have always used a swivel to connect my running line to the leader. The tip tops and upper guided on both my Century and CTS rods are narrow and could be easily damaged if I reeled the swivel through them. I have always been careful not to do that, but back in Sept. I was at the Lighthouse on Montauk Point just swimming a SLIM Troller during the day when I hooked a 15 lb. bass. I was way up the rocks because of the big waves rolling in. A tourist walking by offered to hold my rod while I climbed down the rocks to get the fish. He thought he was being helpful by reeling in my slack line as I climbed back up the rocks with the fish. Before I could stop him he reeled the swivel through the tip-top.
Fortunately, he didn’t do any damage but I figured it was time to do something different. I now use a uni-to-uni knot to connect my running line to leader. Now, with a new knot and a new line, I was concerned about the strength of both. After fishing in extreme conditions and catching the 50 I feel more confident. But what really convinced me is an incident that happened a few weeks later.
I was retrieving a Giant Pike surface in a strong current. I ended up snagging something pretty close to the rock I was on. No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t free the plug. The beauty of a wetsuit is that you can go after your plug. The plug ended up hooked on a discarded lobster pot line. I worked my way to the plug and I realized the water was 6 ft. deep exactly. (I knew this because I am 6’ 1” and I could keep my mouth above water if I walked on my tip-toes.) I worked my way to the plug guided by the line – in a strong current that kept sweeping me off my feet. I ended up swaying back and forth in the current several times while I held onto my line and regained my footing. Two things came to mind, my Giant Pike was along the bottom in 6 ft. of water. Granted it was a strong current. The second was the strength of my set up. I am 183 lbs without wetsuit and equipment, so even with the buoyancy of the water there was a lot of weight hanging off my fishing line. Needless to say I am pretty comfortable with what I can hold on that set up!
Finally, I have compiled a list of equipment and tackle I use and where you can find it!
Order Now for Spring!
This is your last chance to place an order for plugs in time to get them before the season. Order by January 31 and get them by April 1 (no kidding). I will accept orders after January 31 but can’t guarantee they will be done by the start of the season. Between the orders I’ve gotten so far and my upcoming shows, I will have little to no inventory on my site for awhile.
I also have a few pretty cool T-shirts available. One is “Save an Eel, Fish a Pikie” and the other is a BWL logo shirt. I have a limited supply, but if enough people are interested I can re-order.
Other Good Stuff
BigWaterLures is now on Facebook. I will be posting pictures and stories, but my main source of information on both plugs and fishing will be my website and newsletters. Speaking of newsletters, it is now possible to browse past newsletters. Be sure to bookmark this page for easy access.
Don’t forget Surf Day, Feb 25 at Brookdale Community College, 765 Newman Springs Rd., Lincroft, NJ. Not only will I be selling plugs, I’ll be giving a mini-seminar on How to Win the Battle for Big Fish. It’s scheduled for 1:15pm-2pm.
Just a reminder – I now use firstname.lastname@example.org as my only email address. I always answer questions and acknowledge orders pretty quickly, so if you have e-mailed me and I have not responded within two days I did not get it.