When I set out to make my Pikes, my intent was to make a “BIG” quality plug – one that would hold up under the stress and strain of surfcasting or boating along a rocky coast, and one with sufficient size to deter smaller fish and entice larger ones. My plugs have been called “Big Fish Plugs” and lots of big beauties have been caught on them. But they are not “Magic Plugs” – trying one on guarantees you nothing. It simply gives you the means to catch a big one: nice swimming action, good visibility in rough water because of the size, and a fish-like profile. Equally important, you also have to exhibit or acquire the expertise to catch bigger fish.
I learned this first hand while fishing live eels for many years. I had success early on with eels and saw no reason why it wouldn’t continue. After all, I was fishing the “big fish” waters of Block (Island). But I got lazy, relied on my past success and stopped learning. I didn’t fish as long into the night; I didn’t pay attention to surfcasting essentials like wind and tides; I didn’t scout bait fish…and my success rate showed it: I was catching fish, at times lots of them, but they were not the big ones.
When I decided to change it up and fish pikes exclusively, I had to re-learn my game – big time. Plus, I wanted to make and sell big plugs so other fisherman could catch big fish, too. To some extent this has happened. A lot of guys have caught their personal best on my plugs. But most of the big fish have been caught by a small number of fishermen. The old 90/10 rule was all too true.
Relying on a big piece of painted wood was a challenge. In order to be successful, I had to pay attention to wind and tide, and fish later into the night and into the early morning. I also had to diligently scout bait fish.
I had always been a high-tide guy, fishing either side of high water. But over time, I realized that most of my big fish were coming at low tide. More specifically, at dead low water, around 2:30am to 3:30am. It was a time when not many fishermen were still out and the big girls came out to play. It’s a good idea to pick 4 or 5 spots good at different stages of the tide and learn them like the back of your hand. My personal best (51 pounds) came at the first spot I ever surfcasted and one which I continued to fish over the years. Knowing that spot so well lead me to that big fish!
I began to scout bait during the day so I would know where to focus my efforts at night. A couple of my best nights on Block occurred after finding bluefish on adult bunker (not a regular occurrence on the Island) during the day. I came back that same night when the area was loaded with bass wanting a big bait/plug!
I also scoured fishing reports in The Fisherman magazine, looking for any advantage. Before an October 2009 commando trip to Block, I read where a school of porgy had been hanging off the east side of the Island. Because of that report, I pushed past some smaller stripers to land at the spot where “A Fishing Night to Remember” occurred (archives BWL newsletter, 11/03/09).
Living 3 hours from the shore with limited time to fish, I’m always interested in maximizing my fishing efforts. A storm on, or just before, the new moon gets 5 stars in my book. Hard to time but worth the effort. The calm before the storm can be just as good as the beginning of the storm. But if you wait too long, the big surf dirties the water and moves the fish out of casting range.
Sometimes I just need to wet my line (as my father would say) and I just fish the conditions I encounter. I prefer at least a little chop on the water which helps to keep the fish from getting a clear view of your artificial. Yet, an eel skin on one of my pikes has also served me very well on calm nights with gin-clear water
Another tip, I use scented gel on my pikes, specifically, Atlas Mike’s Bunker Lotion in “Bunker/Menhaden.” It’s available at www.AtlasMikes.com I squeeze some gel into the hook holes and on the tied tail of my pikes. The gel stays on the plug a little longer. All of my fishing buddies have adopted this practice and now use gel religiously. If nothing else it will keep your cut VMC’s from rusting.
I also recommend you take your pikes out during the day to see how they swim in all conditions. This way you will know how they are swimming at night when you are fishing. I had one guy that took his GRS “Jointed Eel” (11 ½” 4oz.) down to his local swimming hole for a test swim. All the little kids came screaming out of the water. If there was something big enough to eat that plug, they didn’t want to be swimming with it. So test swim your pikes, but don’t scare the kids!
Finally, I may be a little fanatical, but I read virtually all books and magazines on the subject of fishing – both fresh and salt water; boat, surf, and shore fishing; and fishing philosophy and technique. I am hungry for any info that I can apply to my two passions, surf fishing and plug making. (Did I hear someone say “obsessions”?). I pull out my copy of “Reading the Water” by Robert Post every spring (a hard book to come by now). Anything by Coleman or Daignault is always worth reading. And a new source I recently learned of is the “Anglers Journal” (no website, but you can subscribe at 800-877-5207). It covers all types of fishing stories (mostly saltwater) and has beautiful photos. It is a quality magazine so check it out. And in the interest of full disclosure, they will publish an article about me and BigWaterLures in their summer addition.
The fish are moving north, I’ve a few more plugs to make, and almost time to fish!! Look for me in the Anglers Journal or on the rocks!
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