2016 Plug Review: What Worked,and What's Next

 As I sit here writing this, it's dumping snow out.  But, it's been a long time since I've added anything to the blog.  I've had a couple other things going on.  But, I think this is a tradition at this point- a review of what worked in the previous year.  So, without further ado, here's my plug review from 2016.

 I'll start with the lures that worked best for me this year, and then finish with some I hope to take advantage of next year.  The fish tank in the background is my brakish fish tank with Archer fish and Mudskippers.  Note the fish in the background in the picture above. I thought it was appropriate.  Some of the pictures suck though.  I'm drinking Prosecco and I don't want to take anymore.  So this is what you get.

The Pikie  (pictured above)
Not a huge surprise, but not exactly a common place plug now-a-days.  In the last couple years I've really tried to work large metal lips hard.  To say I love Danny's is an understatement.  I fully intend on getting a tatoo of the classic Danny.  HOWEVER, this year, the Pikie has been even better for me.  It's similar, but works right below the surface, not on the surface.  I'm finding that the pikie is more versatile.  You're able to work it  on the surface if you work HARD.  Or at least the ones I use (Mikes Custom) you do.  It's a balance- slow, but not too slow because it won't swim.  HOWEVER, the BIG difference in the Pikie is the ability to use it in current.  Even strong current if you, again, work it slow.  It won't go deep, but it will swim.  The downside is, like Danny's, they are cumbersome to cast.  I use a rod rated 3-6ozs with a medium/slow action, and I often wish I had more.  Maybe this year I'll finally get one.  It just seems silly to use a rod that could fight a Tuna when you're mostly going to be catching 20lb and less fish.  HOWEVER, with the Pikies pictured above, I've landed multiple fish over 30lbs in 2016, including the biggest fish of the season.  Other downside...expensive.  They're expensive.  No factory made pikies, sorry.  I like to work the big plugs during slack tide.  Usually high  so I can swim them over stuff, but not always.  Other favorite time to use a Pikie- over submerged boulders.

I'm not going to spend much time on this.  Was a favorite last year as well.  This year, I added in a BIG darter to my repertoire, a 4oz block of wood by Mikes Custom.  It's incredible.  It doesn't go too deep, but MAN DOES IT DIG.  No tide too fast.  Few big fish on it.  HOWEVER, obviously (or it should be if you read this blog), if I could only carry one, it'd be a Super Strike.  And, also of course, it'd be yellow over white.  I will say though, this year I really had good luck with blurple and even more so with parrot.  And I load them, and they go shallower.  How?  I'll post a video soon about how that works.  Mike also makes a 3oz darter that's pretty good.  I didn't use it too much, I jumped back and forth from super strike 2oz to the 4oz Mikes mostly.  Towards the end of the season I picked up some of the new plastic Northbar darters- not bottle darters, actual darters.  PHENOMENAL.  Cast like crap, but dig even better then the SS, and I really like them.  And they catch fish.  I have yet to load one, but I will.  I got some blurple and parrot ones from Paulies in Montauk, and look forward to trying them more next year.  I'm not wasting time telling you how to use them.  Just google it.  However, I will say, try them someplace you DON'T think they'd work.  They will.  And they have for me.  I had a fish this year completely swallow one, all the way down it's gullet.  I lost the picture when I almost died and lost my camera.  Bummer.  I love darters SO MUCH.  They are SO COOL.  I wish I was smart enough to invent a lure so simple and so unique to Stripers and just so...surf fishing.  They define the sport to me.

 Mag Darter
The tiny lure that catches big fish.  Always amazed when I cast and cast and cast and don't get as much as a hit, and then put on the mag darter, and BOOM.  Fish on first cast.  Fantastic made lure, tough as nails.  Hooks are good, but I usually swap them anyways.  Weird colors, but I just get the bronze one.  I do have them in a few colors, but have no data to support that any of them make any difference.  Even the cloud color.  Expensive lures for what they are, but what are going to do?  They work.  So, I'll buy them.

I feel like this list this year is a bit cliche'.  I'm picking all the most acclaimed and picked lures from everyones list.  Well too fucking bad.  My list, my rules.  Data is data.  This year, more so than ever before, the bucktail was CRITICAL to my success.  Big water, strong currents, hurricanes, chopping monstrous blue fish.  All begged for the bucktail.  I caught, literally, hundreds of fish on the bucktail this past year.  Drifting them low and slow.  Cast out at various angles to waves and current, and then let it drift slowly through with the sweep, gently bumping the bottom.  Most of my fish come at the end of the drift as it starts to lift.  The picture below is on purpose.  I, like everyone else, use dark red on dark nights.  I use white during normal nights, and chartruese on full moons.  Or dirty water, but I don't fish dirty water very much.  Tails are essential, I still prefer bucktails, but yeah, otter tails work fine too.  I think if I could only have 3 they'd be 1, 1.5, and 2oz in white.

Tsunami Talkin' Poppers
I'm a pretty huge fan of John Skinner.  His books are well written, his advice easy to implement, and his videos entertaining.  Nice guy too, and I enjoy speaking with him.  So when he recommends a product...I almost always at least go look at it and often I end up buying it.  The talkin' popper is an example of this.  But, I believe in them too.  They are DIRT CHEAP.  I have bought several for $9 at shows, and on clearance/special.  They are tough and have VMC hooks!  NINE DOLLARS.  They can be worked like a little neck or a pencil popper.  I do the latter.  I caught a bunch of fish on them this year.  Alright, a bunch might be a little strong, but I caught a couple dozen anyways.  One day, on an "island", I caught 10 out of a little blitz in just an hour or so.  And they didn't want anything else.  Funnily enough, I like the small size, the 5" one.  It works really well.  But they all work great.  My white/pearl one is my favorite, but I don't think color matters at all.

Little Neck Popper- the BIG one
Super Strike little neck popper- the big one.  The 3oz one.  And has to be the slow sink.  No, it won't swim like the 2 and 3/8oz.  But, I have found it works way better in current or waves.  Multiple times this year I couldn't work any other popper but this one in bigger waves.  It doesn't get it's due out there in the surf.  Everyone is winging the 2 and 3/8oz one.  There is a time and place for everything, and I think the 3oz has an important place- in the current/big water.  Note: it doesn't sink as fast, and doesn't cast as far, but that's not saying much because it still casts WAY further than you'll probably ever need.  More than I ever need.

 Savage Gear Freestyler
My wild card lure.  I think these are in a league of their own.  The only lure that when you pull/tug it continues on it's own path- the only one besides the sluggo.  You can work these fast and high or slow and deep.  They work in current, they work in calm, they don't hang up, they don't catch weeds.  They come in BIG sizes.  They're only $10-12.  They have awesome hooks.  I caught a 40" bass on the small one this year, and others on both large and small.  I like to slide these over structure.  Bump them into rocks.  BUT the best way I have found to work them, is to swing them in current, almost like a bucktail, but with twitches and rod swings to make them dance.  I'm going to paint one flat black for next year and use on a new moon night.  These are like cheaper sebile stick shads.  Well, they used to be a lot cheaper, now they're just a little cheaper.  See below.

Lures missing from this list that are still good:
The sluggo.  I didn't fish a few of my old spots much this year while I focused on a couple new ones.  And two of my old stand byes in particular that are sluggo mandatory, just gave up no fish, so I just didn't catch many fish on sluggos.  I still think this is one of the best lures ever.
"Atom Junior" metal lip.  I'm not sure why, but I didn't catch too many fish on these this past year.  I think it's because I found the darter to be more effective in situations I would have previously used the atom.
SP minnow/bomber.  I focused on big fish and big water, and I found that these had no place in my bag.

Lures I'm excited to try out/use more in 2017

-BIG mag darters.  NEW.  Came out late in 2016.  As big as a super strike darter.  Claim to have same tight wiggle.  PSYCHED about these plugs.
- Mikes custom "little" darter.  Can't remember exactly what it's called.  Cool plug, I threw one of these a few times but not much.  Single belly hook.  I have big ideas for these 2oz plugs.  They aren't really a darter, but swim sorta in between a metal lip and a darter.
-Big Roc slopped heads.  Threw these a few times too.  They swim phenomenal.  They swim hard in current or wave.  Fat body.  I think they will work great in a wave/sweep situation.
-Black Label swimmers.  I bought these at striper day last year.  I think they could work great in places a bomber or SP would.  I just didn't have the discipline to fish them enough this year to figure them out.

-Mikes Custom Big Ben.  MONSTROUS plug.  SO much potential.  Hard to work.  Not like other dannys.  My heart will be pounding the first time I get a hit on this plug.  No place for even Teeners' on this plug.  Huge is an understatement.
-Sea Fly.  Like a giant jitterbug lure.  I think that it could work in places a danny would.  Great action, just didn't fish it enough to catch anything.
Sebile Stick Shads.  Alright, I got suckered here maybe.  Maybe not.  Zeno's stories were too much.  And the Savage Gear freestyler has been so effective for me, I figure, why not these?  And they're cheap enough now that I don't need to take out a home equity loan if I lose a couple.

Black Label Sloped Head Metal Lip.  I'm getting a little drunk so bear...bare...whatever...with me.  I really like how this plug swims.  I only landed 1 big blue fish on it, and a few smaller bass, but it's a well built plug that handles current and flat water well.  I bought a few more even before I really have had a lot of success with it.  I am a believer.