Cabin fever is setting in pretty hard recently. I'm having a blast riding my fat bike in the snow, been doing some running, and working on my Miata race car. But, nearly every night I dream of surf fishing. Today there was a major SNAFU at work, and they ended up sending us home for the day...so why not a blog post?
My favorite plugs of 2015. Disclaimer- I fish hard, but I'm not John Skinner either, and I want to make it clear I'm not trying to say these are the lures you have to have. Fishing is fishing, and the way you fish isn't going to be the way I fish.
Alright, let's start with the lure that took almost 1/2 of my fish on the season.
Due to the natures of where I fish (50% bay areas, areas sheltered from the persistent SW) and the water depth (shallow) I have found a new love in sluggos/hogys in 2015. Pictured is my top 3 producing: white sluggo, eel colored sluggo, homemade "heavy" sluggo that's about 12" and green fleck (got from A&E custom rods in NJ in a trade for some plugs). However, I caught on big white hogys (18"ers), little sluggos down to 5", giant home made ones that came in at nearly 3 ounces, double wides, slims, etc. Above is my perferred way to rig them. Unweighted, weedless, they work when the water is weedy REALLY well. I also add the little insert weights when I want to cast them into wind, maybe up to 15mph or so. I've had great success swinging these bad boys in rips, as long as they're not too crazy. I met a guy one night few years ago, and we got to chatting when the tide turned and the fishing died, and I asked him what he was throwing. He said, he only fishes sluggos and bucktails. At the time, I was judging him pretty hard- stupidly. I think you could probably catch 99.9% of fish with that combo. Further, how hard are eels pushed as the one-way ticket to cow town? Experts all agree, if you use eels you'll get fish that won't take anything else. I'd add the sluggo to that list. Several times this season- including one of my best ever- I went to the sluggo/hogy when nothing else was working, and it paid off big. As far as hogy vs sluggo, I tip my hat to the sluggo. The 9" white just seems to work a bit better then everything else- I consider it the standard to which all other brands, sizes, colors and materials are compared. But, the hogy is DEFINITELY tougher- they hold up way better. Few times I started with a sluggo, went through one on maybe a 1/2 dozen schoolies (they rip em' up), and switched to a hogy for 10+ fish. And you can get huge Hogys. Lots of ways to rig these, but I think this weedless way is the best (pictured). Get big, quality hooks- 8/0 and bigger is what I use.
These damn SP minnows. I'm not going to spend even 10 sentences on them. If you fish for striped bass, you already probably have 6 or 12 of these like I do. The two colors shown are my favorite, as I only really fish at night- one for all the time (blurple), one for when it's bright out (purple flash). I like the single siwash modification, and I always switch VMCs into my SPs. Carly will pretty much only fish with a blurple SP, over all other plugs. My only complaint is, I just don't see myself catching 30 and 40lbers on these. It ain't going to happen. But, like sluggos, they'll often work when other plugs don't. I don't even use bombers anymore (sometimes the big long shots), because these have replaced those.
Dahtahs (Darters, Zig-Zags). I've used them for a few years now, but in 2015 I had a few break through nights with Darters. They are fantastic lures, that work to imitate a lot of different baits. I think they imitate large bait fish and squid the best- especially squid. My favorite night with the a darter was Halloween night out on the outer cape. I had a slow, but fun, pick of schoolies and small keepers for 3 or 4 hours on a beach totally devoid of humans besides my occasional fishing buddy Corey. But I also had a couple very nice fish this season on the south side of the cape, and on the north shore too. I really like loading super strike darters. I mean, they're excellent as is and all you really need, but I like putting some shot in the back half- they cast better, then make a little noise, and they still swim straight. I like north bar darters in deeper areas or rips, but they don't cast as well, go deeper, and swim more vigorously vs the super strike. I really like the Tactical Anglers sub-darters as well- the hardware is top-notch, and they have the big eyes I think work great as squid imitators. AND they are tad smaller (peanut size) and much bigger (black fish, lobster size). The colors above are the best in my opinion.
My absolutely favorite lure type (of the moment, ha!)- metal lip swimmers. Specifically, I LOVE Danny style plugs. Read my Personal Best post from June- the plug I caught that nearly 48" fish on is the plug you see on the far left. Gibbs Danny. If conditions are suitable, I will always throw a danny first, before anything. Bigger the better. I caught dozens and dozens of fish on metal lips this year. Few good fish too. I like fishing these slow slow slow. I consider these, even the little ones, cull lures. They will find the bigger fish. Gibbs is great, but I like Salty's dannys too. I wish I could get my hands on some GRS swimmers, but I just can't track them down for less than $75 and that just isn't in my budget. The bigger, the better is my opinion here. I could have taken a picture of the 15 metal lips I have over 3 ounces, but I never see anyone using them, so figured I'd write up some other plugs I use maybe you'll be interested in. I really like the blurple Maine-iac lure you can see, second from the left. It swims excellent, and I caught a ton of fish on it this year- they're about $20 which is decent with the good hardware they come with. The next, I don't even know what it is (edit to say I think I remember, I believe this is a BM plug), but it's an atom style, and it caught me a few fish this year, but I want to use this style of plug even more next year. The next is an RM smith and I love these little 2oz swimmers- surface, subsurface, even dig em in deep a little if you reel fast at first. These lures, like the Maine-iac, cast pretty well- surprisingly. RM smiths are great plugs, lots of availability, but they're a little bit more $. The next is a Hook It! sloped head, little guy, I love it. It's wicked tough, the finish is incredible, the best of this group. I'm searching for more of these. Finally, the last is a little Salty metal lip "bugger". Salty's plugs are cheap for what you get- way better value than Gibbs in my opinion, and easy to get. But, simply because I'm confident in them, I use Gibbs a lot. If you're not fishing metal lips, you should. They work in a variety of places and conditions. I think they're also the easiest of the BIG lures to use and find.
Maybe one of the first lures many guys get, pencil poppers have a relgious following. I rarely fish during the day, but in 2015 I did have a little success on top water plugs- including one beautiful early morning out on the rocks where I had 6 total fish and 4 fish over 33" in just over an hour on pencils. I really appreciate the Tsunami Talkin' Popper (second from the left and fourth from the left), because it's super cheap, tough, and comes with VMCs. I work them like a pencil, but you could work them like a little neck too (not shown). I like the BIG yellow pencil, NorthBar pencil, in this picture when I'm trying to cull bigger fish. I haven't done a very good job of it yet- only a few times- but it did land me my biggest surface fish to date in 2015 at 36" (remember, I don't fish during the day OR the canal). The Gibbs pencil in the middle is the classic plug, and so is the atom popper on the end. I add in the atom because it makes me laugh- one morning when Robin and I were fishing I caught 5 fish in 6 casts on that little guy- including two when I intentionally casted over his line. It was a fun day. Tough weekend, but fun day. I didn't take a picture of a little neck or spook because I have yet to really get a lot of success with them, but they do work.
Here's a couple plugs you might not expect. Savage Lure Freestyler. This is a glide bait/stick bait. It's a $9 version of the Sebile stick bait that's $30+. And it comes with the single hooks, which are super strong. I love this lure. It's extremely versatile. You can work it just under the surface, let it sick deep and it'll stay deep. I work mine really slow with just medium/slow pulls- not really twitches. It kinda darts like a darter in a way, but I think the key to this is the suspension. If you stop it, it just basically sits with a slow sink. Toss it into current and let it swing too. I think the little guy is a dynamite peanut imitator. I have a couple mackerel colors too, but I haven't even really used them.
So that's it, for stuff I use regularly. I've caught on a bunch of other stuff too, but those are my favorites.
Here are a few other things I want to fish more next year.
On the left: 4oz Gibbs slope head. Huge, bad ass plug. I didn't fish it much this season. Why? I have no idea. I will next year. Next is a GIANT Lemi works needle. I bought two of these in mid-November and never even fished them. Next year! Next, supers strike needle. I fish needles occasionally, probably not enough. I used to fish them a lot more. This is my favorite needle in my favorite color. It works incredibly. If you want more info on needles, google it. Next up, 9" swim shads. The big boys that Crazy Alberto likes. I just picked these up this year, I look forward to fishing them more (with my new big-fish tackle). Next, is the yo-zuri mag darter. A ridiculously expensive plug. Why these are $15-20 I have no idea. I only bought one because I got it on sale for $10. Well...holy shit do they work. I bought 4 more in colors I don't think other people wanted because they were less expensive. The hooks are OK, and I didn't swap them. I landed a few good fish on them towards the end of the year, and this will be a great early season lure. Landed my last fish of the season on this exact plug. Next, is the big ass hogy I brought up previously. I love bottleplugs, and super strike yellow-over-white is the only one you really need. I have a black/green/white one that works well too...and by works well I mean, I've caught a couple fish on it. These are special conditions plugs in my opinion, and while they work in rips, they work better in big water conditions. A lot has been written on these too, just google them. Finally, the bucktail. I say EVERY DAMN YEAR I'll fish them more. And then I don't. Maybe 2016?
Flies! 2015 was the first year using a fly rod in the surf for me (well, consistently anyways). I am 100% committed to more fly fishing in 2016. These are the flies I carry when I head out, whether with the 8 WT or 10 WT. I won't get into all of them, but the 7 below are my favorites. Like plugs, I try to pick out flies that cover various levels of the water column. I tied the clouser in the top right corner, and I use them a lot- as does everyone else. I like epoxy flies too, they cast well and are tough (bottom left). Puglisi flies are good big body flies that cast well, and of course I also use deceivers. I won't even give you any advice here, because I am not qualified. These are just what I like.
Finally, I never used teasers before 2015. Never. Yeah, whatever judge me if you want. But in 2015 I ran into several occasions where I could of at least caught a few more fish that were on small baits. And one time in particular, I saw big fish feeding on sand eels and I just COULD NOT get them to take anything. I think they would have gone for a teaser? That's my theory. Anyways, I tied up some of these and am locked and loaded for 2016.
So there you have it. Those are my favorites. Hope you enjoyed reading!
I'm working on writing up my favorite gear too, but it's a beast of a post since there's so much. So for now, just think spring, and hope this inspired you to go out and spend some cash at the local tackle shop!