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Surfcasting for Striped Bass and Bluefish

Saltwater Striper fishing tackle lures and plugs

The surf and its fish
Introduction to surf fishing

Montauk fall  surfcasting

An approach to fishing the shore

The advice below is more about angling in the surf than casting. The methods of casting are discussed in the section on overhead casting in greater detail and the Hatteras and the Pendulum cast are discussed.

True surfcasters are nightime hunters who have perfected their tactics, methods and equipment and have a great understanding of the tides and surf conditions, lunar phases, weather, barometric pressure variances and a host of other variables patterns lerarned from years of experience and keeping log books. They understand this magnificent predator, its forage and work at the art of fooling the fish. Stiper lures range from the essential bucktail to custom made wooden lures crafted in secret by the same surfcasters. It is no easy game and these same individuals have put in the time and plied their trade through many nights and days of absolutely miserable conditions. They have earned the right to be proud of their accomplishments and protective of the knowledge they have worked hard for. Not including broken bones, mosquitos, weirdos, dangerous reefs, rip currents, slippery rocks, impaled hooks, cut hands and you name it they have experienced it learning it.


To be successful, a surf angler must be prepared to put more than casual thought into the whys and wherefores of the sport. Those who live close to the sea have the advantage of constant observation. Others must rely on information in respect to weather reports and Fisheries reports. Chasing reports is yesterdays fish. get out there and make your own. There are no short cuts you m,ust put in your time to learn if you truely want to be a surfcaster.

It is not possible to give advice with any degree of certainty but there are obvious indicators which will allow the travelling angler some promise of success.

First choose a rising tide, either early morning or evening. Bright sunlight is not always a condition to be avoided, but mid day flood tides do not usually produce best results. Beaches in the vicinity of estuaries are surf angling beaches.

By fishing as close as possible to submerged reefs, or from the rocky approaches, the surf angler will often be rewarded for his efforts. When working the beaches after dark, short casts are most advisable.

During rough seas, watch the amount of sand lifted in the breakers. Where constant sand curtains exist, it is unlikely surf feeders will be present. Choose the edges of sand bars bordering channels to place your bait, and where fast drifts and sweeping currents are present, look for where such conditions become less active.

Fresh bait is almost essential though salted varieties will be found successful when small fry are scarce and when fish are working the surf. Heavy seas are not a deterrent, but, on the other hand often bring in surf feeders to dine on the disturbed food.

If you are going to fish the surf on the beach, the recommended rod is an 9 ft. to 12 ft. fiberglass or graphite surf rod. The rod should have fast to medium action and support 2 to 5 ounce lures. The surf rod needs a reliable saltwater reel capable of holding two hundred and fifty yards of 20 pound monofilament. I use a Penn 9500SS and a 704Z. They last forever and it is easy to obtain parts. The new Penn SS series with skirted spool is becoming the reel of choice as it helps to keep the sand away fom the gears.

Lighter line test will cast further, but you give up breaking strength, so dont go less than 15. I use ande 20 or 17 lb. trilene big game monofilament. For a discussion on braided lines see here. It is a discussion on the properties of flourocarbon leader material vs. monofilament line. New braided lines will cast much further and have a very small diameter and have virtually no stretch but that discussion is for another time.

Striped bass, bluefish, blackfish, fluke, porgy, sea bass and weakfish were the mainstays along the Northeast and mid-Atlantic States.

surf fishing photo- dead sticking

Dead sticking bait in the daytime.

Blue fish in the surf

You need to use wire leaders because of there teeth. Do not put your fingers near their mouths. You may lose a finger.

Red drum, channel bass, spot tail bass, puppy drum, and redfish had a large following along Southeastern and Gulf Coast State
And on the West Coast, you will find drum, cobias, spot, croaker, sea mullet, blowtoads, trout and transplanted striped bass.

The best hook size to use is a 4/0 bait holder for a variety of species. This hook will catch almost anything out there unless the fish are small. When using large bait for large fish, I use large size hooks. 7/0 and above. For bluefish use size 7/0 with the wire leaders on them. Fireball rigs float the bait off the bottom These will help keep your bait away from crabs and Skate..(As will constant rebaiting with fresh bait.)

Puppy drum and stripers can be caught on regular bottom rigs, the Eagle Claw snelled hooks will work but a big one can straighten it. You will be better off getting some good strong 4/0 hooks and snelling them yourself with heavy monofilament line for those.

Fish Finder Rig -
For catching bigger fish in the surf like drum, cobia and stripers use a fish finder rig. Check catching a striped bass for the right approach amd some discussion on using a fishfinder. Instead of using one of those use a big snap swivel rated to a 100 pounds and some people just use a McMahon snap but it will work better with a swivel, if you use a swivel with the snap it will let your sinker roll in the current and won't wind your leader and bait up on top of it. You can also use a bead to prevent it from going past your shock leader knot. You snell a short piece of 4 to 8 inch 80 pound test monofilament leader to your hook and your shock leader is attached to that with a good snap swivel. The hook size will depend on what you want to catch. Any where from 4/0 to 13/0. Some companies size their circle hooks differently, for big drum and cobia use the Mustad or VMC 13/0 size or the 8/0 size Gamakatsu, Owner or Eagle Claw. Use a smaller hook size puppy drum. If your going to use it for sharks replace the monofilament hook leader with a 9 inch coated steel wire You might also want to use an 80 pound shock leader because the shark might get its tail wrapped up in the shock leader which could break the line.

Sand Spikes -
You can cut some Pvc pipe from your local hardware store. Or you can order some inexpensive o 22' 28' or 36' sea strikers from us.

Finding your spot
Finding the right spot on the beach to fish isn't that hard to do. Low tide is the best time to survey the terrain.You want to try to find deep water that is close to the beach, if the waves are breaking all the way to the beach it's not deep. Sloughs are deep areas between the beach and the outer bar. The waves will hit the outer bar and break then reform again before they hit the beach. Look at the beach for spots with a lot of gravel and shells around it. If it's during the summer and you see a spot that looks good, take a look around on the beach. If you see a lot of sand flea shells and pieces of them washed up on the beach that's a good sign there's fish around eating them.
Use at least one rod out with cut bait on it all the time. You never know, there could be something big out there that might come around. If the fishing slows down try throwing different distances. The fish move around sometimes as the tides change. Sometimes they are up close and sometimes they will move way out there around the outer bar. If they still won't bite then they have moved on down the beach or back out. Be patient. You have to put your time in. That big one will make it all worthwhile.

Surf angling is a sport which calls for a knowledge of fish and the elements that favour their presence. Experience is the only tutor. Learn the use of the implements of their capture and the hours spent in gaining the experience of locating them is the most enjoyable aspect of the sport.

You can practice casting by dry casting on land in a field. Dry casting is a sport, but more importantly, it is a means of learning and practicing the skills which will make you successful angler when you go fishing, because you will be able to cast long distances and cast accurately. We've all met the difficult situations where the water is rough, the wind is strong in your face or side on, you need to land the sinker in a sand hole near reefs, cast a bait in front of a school of fish, avoid tangling with the person next to you, the person next to you is casting a bit further and catching all the fish, and so on. With the right gear and skills, you can fish almost anywhere and in any conditions. Lighter line means longer casts, while shock leaders allow much heavier weights and the caster's strength to be used more.



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