Fishing Strategies, Maine to Montauk

Hello Surfcasters,

As you read this, I am on my way to Clinton, NJ for Demo Day, the 4th Annual Connecticut Surfcaster Association’s Surf Extravaganza & Sale. With any luck, some of you will show up and give me a shout out!

This BWL newsletter is especially interesting because you get to hear 5 surfcasters — from Maine to Montauk — share their experiences with my plugs, including strategies for all kinds of fishing conditions. You’ll find humor and inspiration – I know you’ll enjoy this read.

Rick Fraelick, Gloucester, MA
2013 was a very productive season — thanks to off-season scouting and ordering a set of very specific plugs from Gary. Here’s my story…

I have fished the same inlet for 3 years and was convinced the fish I had landed were a result of luck rather than skill. I knew fish were there because I could see and hear them, but they wouldn’t take my offerings. The tipping point for me — after 3 years of keeping a detailed log – was I had correctly pinpointed 3 or 4 nights that big fish were traveling through my spot and feeding, but I could not keep my plugs low enough in the current. Buck tails got low enough, but I wanted something that would look natural and hold for at least a short time.

I emailed Gary a very specific set of conditions and location. He took the time to learn as much as possible about the tide, bait, current and structure before making his recommendations. Based on his feedback, I ordered Deep Diving Giant Pikes in Lobster and Black Pearl. I tried to get a good feel for the action of the plugs and how best to use them during the day. The end result was personal bests on 2 separate occasions, including my first 30 and first 40 (released).

My overall experience with GRS plugs has been excellent from the ordering process through fishing. The only downside for me personally was getting over the initial fear of losing one. I overcame this by tuning the plugs, both the line tie and the lip. The 2012 offseason was the first time I ever reached out to custom plug builders and my experience with Gary was by far the best of them all. He treated me like a fishing buddy instead of a customer and really taught me how to use his plugs; the fact that I bought a few was incidental. I have since added to my GRS arsenal by purchasing Deep Diving Eel Skins and Slims. With the confidence of last season, I will also try new spots and incorporate GRS plugs into more everyday fishing scenarios.

Greg Carter, Maine Coast
I started fishing for striped bass in 1988, after the bass population had rebounded. Over the past 25 years, I’ve done most of my striper fishing with 10-12 weight fly rods, and very large baitfish and eel flies. Although I have taken quality bass on the fly, this type of fishing has its limitations. It’s especially challenging in windy and stormy conditions — times that we often choose to chase big bass.

Looking to expand my horizons and increase my chances of catching big fish, I started using a surfcasting rod about 3 years ago. This has allowed me to fish under more adverse conditions and cover more productive water than I was able to do while fly fishing. Not knowing any other surfcasters, I’ve had had to educating myself by reading books and online articles as well as by trial and error.

While I’ve had the opportunity to chase striped bass from the Gulf of Maine to Long Island Sound, 90% of the fishing I do is along the coast of southern Maine. This section of the New England coast is characterized by jagged, rocky ledges that are pounded by heavy surf and strong currents. The result of this merger of land and sea is turbulent whitewater loaded with herring, pollock, mackerel and lobsters — great striper habitat but challenging places to fish!

The big stripers arrive along the coast around mid-June once the water temperatures rise. In the large coastal rivers, many of the bigger bass take up residence along the rocky, weed-covered ledges that provide a constant supply of food, cool ocean water and quick access to deeper water. From mid-June until the southern migration in late September, I target big bass along these rocky ledges and the jetties at the river mouths. My biggest challenge has been finding large, rugged lures that will really “swim” in the heavy surf and strong currents. Even the larger plastics swimmers don’t have enough mass to get down or a wide enough profile to stand out at night in the whitewater.

About 2 seasons ago, I was introduced to GRS plugs and they are just what I needed for the places and conditions I fish. These rugged lures have BIG profiles and the metal lips dig in and allow me to swim the plugs into the most productive water. Depending on the height of the tide, I love casting Surface or Medium Giants and SLIMS just past an incoming wave, and swimming them into the wash. I have also taken nice fish by casting parallel to the shore or jetty and working the plugs along the underwater structure and through the holes. I usually vary the retrieve and some of my best fish this past season came when I paused the retrieve and let the plug and current do the work. The nose-down and side-to-side roll of these plugs really looks like a wounded baitfish headed for cover and elicits jarring strikes.

Although I’ve gotten more than a few surprised looks when other fishermen see the size of the plugs I fish, I’m after big fish and GRS plugs have dramatically increased the average size of the fish I catch. In addition, the workmanship, rugged finish, and top-notch hardware on these lures are second-to-none. This season I’m looking forward to refining my techniques and also having the opportunities to fish GRS plugs in the boulder fields of Block Island or Cuttyhunk.

Mike Fu, Cuttyhunk & Block Island
I first came across BigWaterLures at the 2006 Asbury (NJ) Fishing Show. Surfcasters around the striper coast enjoy this show because it attracts some of the premiere plug builders of our time. My brother Pete and I walked around the various tables at the show and scooped up plugs from builders like Gary2, Fixter, Cyclone and Lefty Lures. As we walked around the show, Pete noticed the BWL table and was immediately drawn in. The table was full of plugs but no one seemed to care. Pete looked and me and said “You don’t see big lures like this anymore! What do you think, Mike?” I looked at the lures and then noticed Gary looking at me. Gary wasn’t busy and he is not very shy, so he said “Hello” to us. I nodded my head and asked “Are these for trolling from the back of a boat?” Gary replied “You can fish these from the beach.” I asked Gary how much they weighed and he said “4oz”. I thought to myself “Who the hell is going to throw this giant pike from the surf???” I told him to have a nice day and I dragged my big brother away saying “those are for boats, not for beach.” Little did we know that that would not be our last encounter with Big Water Lures.

Later that season, Pete and I booked a 3-night stay at the Fishing Club on Cuttyhunk, an island off the coast of Massachusetts and we were super pumped. We met Gary in the kitchen as we were unpacking our food. We talked about fishing and Gary mentioned catching a few fish on the south side the previous night. He also mentioned his disappointment from having lost a Giant Pike that had produced for him on numerous occasions. (The only lures that Gary fishes are his BWLs!!) I felt bad that Gary lost a pike, but hey, we all lose lures; just another sacrifice to the mighty bass gods.

After dinner that night, Pete and I left the Fishing Club for a night of bass fishing. We started right in front of the club and managed a couple small fish, so we decided to continue our way south in hopes of bigger and better fish. We came upon a cove that had the kind of a nice, big flat rock that most surfcasters love, so we decided to swim out and fish from it. On the way, my brother got tangled up in bunch of fishing line and he decided to pick it up and check what was at the end of it. Turns out it was Gary’s lost plug! Pete decided to save it in his plug bag and give it back to Gary after fishing. Pete secured the plug, climbed up on the rock with me and started fishing.

An hour goes by and it seemed no bass were home, so Pete wanted to change things up and said “I’m going to give Gary’s pike a few casts.” He made an easy, soft lob due to his inexperience casting big 4oz. pikes. The plug landed with a tremendous splash not too far from our rocky perch. He started his retrieve and after 5 turns we heard this massive splash and commotion. Pete had a good fish, and it took off right away in the direction of Gay Head. Pete yelled out “I can’t stop this fish!” I told Pete to be patient but this fish was in control from the start. The fish then made a sudden change of course for a bunch of rocks on the right and brokered off. The next day we told Gary about his pike that we found and lost all in the same night. That experience taught us a lesson about “big bait, big fish”. We managed to pick up a couple of pikes from Gary’s stash for the rest of our Cutty adventure.

Ever since, anytime we are going to plug an area that holds big bait like bunker, or there is a big rocky structure, or maybe we want something that will stand out for a hungry bass, we take a few BWL pikes with us. We have caught numerous fish on them from Block Island to Cuttyhunk. My favorite is the Giant Medium Diver in Blackfish. My brother Pete has nailed tons of bass on Gary’s plugs with a 34 lb. personal best caught on a BWL Sandpike. That fish was weighed, photographed and released on Cuttyhunk.

John Sefcik, Long Island & Montauk.
Hello everyone! I’m an avid surfcaster from NYC who fishes Long Island’s North and South shores, and Montauk. In the Spring, like most guys I start out with curly-tailed leadheads or Gulp. For bait, there’s nothing better than a large sandworm on a nice mud flat to get those stripers to eat!

A few years ago, while my buddies and I were landing rats, a local sharpie told me that he was mostly using different types of BWL Bunker Slims and Giants, and was nailing 20 and 30 lbers. So, soon thereafter I acquired a few of Gary’s Bunker Slims. On a falling tide at sunset with a slow retrieve, I couldn’t believe my eyes as the big girls came up to the surface and slurped them in like candy! I didn’t realize that the bunker were coming in so early as per my yak friends! I mostly fish sunset into night and couldn’t really make out the bunker splashes. I went down to a few spots in the area in the day and saw the bunker! BINGO! After never hearing about a GRS, I’m now addicted!

I fish Gary’s lures in different ways depending where I’m fishing. In the Spring, I use my Albrid or Penn Battle on my 9ft.Lami with 14 lb. Fireline Original with a 3 ft. section of flouro, a Spro barrel swivel and tied direct. As the season progresses, I use my Legend 10′ 6” 3/4-4oz with my Penn Torque 5 with Suffix 832 with the same setup, but bump up my flouro to 50lb. Sometimes I use TA clips. I haven’t used any Divers yet because I fish a mostly shallow sticky area.

This coming year, I’m going to use the Divers and Trollers on the boat! I wanna break my first 50! I have to say that the first time I acquired one of Gary’s plugs, I was like “What the heck! These must be for collectors!” His plugs are a work of art and God knows he puts a ton of time into his passion! I cannot believe how beautiful his plugs are and how good they catch fish! Even though they look too pretty to fish, damn if I’m not gonna throw one to catch a 50 plus! Gary, you’re the man! God Bless, buddy….Big J

Tom Scallon, Cuttyhunk & Block Island
Big Water Lures have become a staple in my plug bag over the last 5 years. I like to fish them in boulder fields, over reefs and in deep coves. Of all those places, the boulder fields of Block Island and Cuttyhunk are my favorite. My reasoning is simple – there is big bait around. The boulder fields of our local waters hold tautog, scup, bergals, snappers, lobsters, crabs, etc. Usually, my strategy is to throw a SLIM Medium Diver up current and use a medium retrieve. I choose the SLIM Medium Diver because I am looking to get my plug down amongst the rocks. The resident larger baitfish hide in the rocks and that is where I want my plug to be. For color — Eel Skin, Purple Pearl, Blackfish, and Blue Pearl Mack are my favorites. The bass will come into the boulder field in search of these bigger meals. I also love fishing the plug on the edges of the boulder field, especially when I know I am fishing a seam where the moving water is bordering the slower water in the boulder field. On the quietest of nights, I like to change things up and use a Giant Surface pike. I find that the fish come to investigate the splash it makes upon landing and I often get my hits near the end of the cast.

I have also had a lot of success with BWL in rocky coves. There is one cove in particular where there is a large reef that holds bait and bass. The bass will cruise up and down the length of the cove and, often, my friends and I will get our hits right around the same time. My thinking here is that I need to get the bass’s attention as they swim by and the large profile of the BWL pike does the trick.

It is worth mentioning color selection. BWLs come in a variety of colors and patterns, most of which are natural, imitating different types of baitfish. I often fish with 2 or 3 BWL plugs in my 3-tube plug bag (I am usually wetsuiting so plug bag efficiency is key) and choosing just 2 or 3 colors out of my stash can be a challenge! I generally try to follow this rule – carry 1 plug that matches the light profile for the night (dark plugs on dark nights, light on bright nights) and carry 1 plug that matches the resident baitfish in that area. This works well and gives me the flexibility of fishing the natural colored plug come daylight. Often, I am fishing late at night through sun up and I like to have a couple of plugs in my bag that I can throw at first light.

Next Newsletter…I’ll feature similar stories from the New Jersey coast. Stay tuned!

Show Schedule Now Posted… Finally, I’ve updated my website to reflect my 2014 show schedule. Take a look.

And while you’re on my website, check out fellow plugmaker, Jason Vivona, on the action photo page. The future is here.



PERMISSION TO REPRINT: This article may be reprinted provided it appears in its entirety with the following attribution: © Copyright 2001-2011 Reprinted by permission of Gary Soldati.