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SURF FISHING BY BOAT
By Rich Johnson
I received all sorts of phone calls telling me of the phenomenal action that took place yesterday for weakfish and bass along the local beaches using diamond jigs, so I was very excited and anticipated a good trip today. Leaving the slip I knew it was going to be breezy and the crisp fall air stung my face, having not gotten used to the fall weather from a long, extended Indian summer. As I cleared the inlet I was greeted by a cold northwesterly wind of 20 knots and not a bird in sight. As the saying goes, I should have been here yesterday.
I proceeded to scout the area for any signs of life such as birds, bait or surface breaking fish. Nothing! I was marking bait on the fish finder, but not much in the way of game fish. This is the exact scenario and reason why I carry an extra surf bag with surf fishing plugs on the boat. With the northerly winds, I can pull the boat up to the beach and put the bow of the boat on the beach, drifting off with the winds, as I cast away my worries and actually surf fish from the boat.
While bass and blues migrate east to west along the open beaches, if the weather stays relatively calm, these predacious critters will hover the surf line before colder temperatures or bait patterns send them into the 35 to 60-foot line where those dragging wire score best. Those with boats still in the water can score big time while plugging the surf line from their fishing platforms as bass and blues make raids on the beach from outer sandbars.
TACKLE. Youll want to use conventional tackle and if youre not accustomed to casting such tackle, get used to it! This type of fishing with big plugs begs for conventional tackle, because the drag systems and the power of conventional tackle are whats needed to play powerful game fish this time of year. A medium to heavy rod from seven to eight-foot that can handle lines up to 25 or 30-pound test will suffice best. The conventional reel I use is an Ambassedeur 7000 and I use Berkley Big Game 25-pound test line. If you insist on spinning tackle thats your choice, but dont blame me f you lose the fish of a lifetime!
LURES. I prefer the large metal lip swimmers like the Atom 40 and Atom Junior. These are very slow swimmers and tease bass and blues into a frenzy with ferocious strikes you cant imagine if youve never seen one before! These plugs swim with a seductive wide waddle that drives bass and blues wild! Other metal lip favorites of mine are the Bob Hahn plugs in blue sparkle or the one-ounce Danny swimmers and Beachmaster Cowboys of juniors..
Poppers work well too, such as the Super-Strike Little Neck or Storm Chug Bug work wonders for high visual effects when fish strike and have long been a favorite in my bag. White or blue tends to be the best choice in one or two-ounce models.
BOAT POSITIONING. This is the most critical element of this type fishing, all of course depending on sea conditions. When plugging a beach from the boat, it pays to have a fishing buddy with you for best results. This allows one to position the boat while the other fishes, then you can switch off. Safety is the key factor in this fishing and sailing with two is better than fishing alone in the unpredictable fall. Use common sense when you approach a beach for safetys sake. Northerly winds of a gentle nature make boat positioning safest and easiest, but gentle souwesterlys are also a good choice.
When plugging the beach, you want to position yourself behind the surf line far enough not to spook fish on the move, but close enough to make your cast right up on the beach. Look for sandbars or the cuts between them for predators' easy access to the surf line. When you find a sand bar, you want to make sure there is a deep trough running along the beach on the other side of it. Position yourself on the back side of the bar and start throwing!
Just as a surfcaster throws his plug beyond the waves, retrieving it through the wave face and into the wash, youll want to cast right into the wash and retrieve the plug back through the waves into deeper water. Having surf fished for nearly 20 years, Ive found most strikes come from just behind the swelling wave and into the wash. However, from the boat you find most strikes come from the area behind the back side of the wave, right up to the side of your boat.
Sulking Fish. Usually, theres no hesitation from the fish when plugging this way. They either want it or they dont and for the most part they do. The action can be fast and furious with exciting topwater strikes and explosive results. Youll also notice bass or blues following your plug right to the boat without striking. When this happens there are few things you can do to induce a strike from curious fish.
First off, use the stop and go retrieve. As you notice the fish following from a distance, stop and start the plug several times. If no take, make each time you pause the plug a little longer in duration. This is usually enough to get them to open their mouth. Secondly, speed up the retrieve as the fish gets closer to the lure, exciting the predator into striking. If this doesnt work, try slowing the plug down on the follow so the fish thinks hes making up lost ground quickly. This can get quick results for exciting up close action. The key to success in fishing is to experiment and try different things, including different methods of retrieving you plugs.
With all this in mind, I was able to score bass to 42 inches and blues to 15 pounds, turning what could have been a nothing trips into