Keeper bass on the plug

Day after day, I would go to the river and plug away hoping that some keeper sized fish are still around. I really wanted to catch a keeper fish on a plug and also bring home a fish for the family to enjoy on new year’s. I had 2 days left – it was Dec 13, and the open season was about to close.

The usual spots had the usual bunch who had the place covered with at least 3 rods per angler soaking bunker. There was no space for me to move and cast around, so I said my hellos and then left to cast at other spots.

I went to the other spots and gave it a few good casts. I think I moved at least 3 to 4 spots before finding the fish. Along the way, I met an old lady who told me she had a boat further east and use to fish a lot when she was much younger. She didn’t believe that the black bomber was any good, “use a white one… its better!” But its dark now, the black will be better. She said she is going to go back to her house and if she has her lures at home, instead of the boat, she would give me to use them. So off she went, and off I went to another spot.

BAM! The currents were fast and furious, and pulling my lure very close to the rocks. It would probably snag soon if I didn’t get a big hit from a very hungry bass. The fight was on! I was fighting the fish and the current. But I fought back hard and didn’t give the fish a chance to go close to the rocks to break me off. A few minutes later and a treacherous climb down the rocks, I managed to land the fish. I gripped it on the lips with a boga-type tool and pull it out. Feels like a keeper. It weighted around 12 pounds on the un-certified and most likely unreliable boga-type tool, but it definitely measured 31 inches.

It was definitely delicious!

Just plugging away!

The first striped bass plug I bought is the black Bomber Saltwater Grade Magnum Long A. It weight 1.5oz and has a nice wobble to it. I think 90% of the bigger striped bass were caught on this single plug. The leftover clams were thrown to the back of the freezer for next season.

The next plug that I bought was the Cotton Cordell Pencil Popper, which surprisingly caught fish for me even though it was late December. I never got the hang of the upright pulling action that John Skinner recommends in his book and video. I just made sure that I reeled in fast enough that no slack line gets into the reel and screws up the next cast.

First plugging striper

I had the same setup as described in the previous post. 1 bait and 1 plugging rod. After threading the shrimp on the 8/0 hook, I cast out and begin setting up my other rod for plugging. Its not a special rod, its a Calypso Mako telescoping rod that you can get from Amazon.com or Sports Authority. I received it as a christmas present from wife’s sister a year or so back.

I did not know what retrieve speed or action I should give to the plug as I worked it back. But since I was using 25lb mono and could not feel the plug swimming, I jerked the rod each time I reel in some line. Then I felt a hit, the plug was still a ways out so it could not be striking the rocks. I swung the rod up to set the hook, but again missed the hook set. WHY DOES THIS ALWAYS HAPPEN TO ME!

This hit only made me more focused and as I worked the plug back over the water I was eagerly anticipating another strike from the striper. A few casts in, I felt the hit again and I set the hook hard! I felt the weight of the fish and the fight was on. Afraid to lose the fish with a bad hook set, I set the hook a few more times. A few minutes and the fish was landed.

It struck at the head of the plug and I had a proper hook set in the mouth.

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WHOOO! I hooked up two more later on!

Plugging

With the nights starting to get progressively colder, sitting and waiting for the striped bass to hit my baits became unbearable. So I bought a black bomber to work the water, while my other rod is soaking the bait.

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Unfortunately, no hits that night on both the bait and bomber.

Personal Best Striped Bass

A fellow fisherman whom I chatted with said “just use shrimp” as I was complaining about having to travel long distances to buy bait. With no fresh clams or worms at my local bait and tackle due to the late season, I made do with fresh shrimp from the fish market.

After many little schoolies, I wanted to target something a little larger, something keeper sized. Typically, I would break the shrimp down into 2 pieces to use them. But this time I tied up a large 8/0 Gamakatsu Oct In-line circle hook on my fish finder rig with a little 1 oz bank sinker, and threaded on the whole shrimp. On the other rod, I had a 3/0 octopus hook in a fish finder rig for the schoolies.

I set up the bells and the lights, and sat down to wait until it rings. The thing about circle hooks is that you don’t set the hook on the fish like you would with a largemouth bass. When the bell first rang I walked over to the rod and picked it up. Given the many false alarms I had experienced from little hits, I tried to feel for the fish on the other end of the line before reeling the bait in. I felt nothing so I put my rod back down, since I was also confident that my shrimp is still be on the hook. Fresh shrimp is tougher to pull off, plus I was using a large hook that was firmly threaded on.

After a while, the bell rings again. I picked up the rod and reeled in the slack. Still I didn’t feel any thing on the other end. The little 1 oz weight was on the seabed, and the swivel is taut against the fish finder slider. I put the rod back down.

The third time the bell rang. And again I pick up the rod and tried to feel for the terminal tackle. It felt like something was different on the other end. I slowly reeled it and and finally begin to feel that my weight was moving in the water. Then with a slow and steady swing I pull the circle hook into the corner of the bass’s mouth and the fight was on!

I had to reach over the line of my other rod since the striper swam out and also slowly navigate my way down to the water on the slippery rocks. This fish was definitely bigger and it was taking a good amount of line as I bring him in. A few minutes later I landed my personal best striper for the year!

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Since it was so huge and I had no good way to transport it back on my bike, I called my father-in-law to come pick me up. He was super excited, because I usually catch and release my fishes and this time I called him because I had a big one.

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A proper shot.

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Its heavy!

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The 8/0 hook is definitely the right hook to use. Any smaller and it probably would not have been able to hook up on the corner of the mouth successfully.

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I filleted the fish and my wife cooked it the next day.

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We invited our relatives over to share the fish and 7 of us couldn’t finish it. Everyone loved it!

Renewed focus on Stripers

Since the spot on the Hudson river is really out of the way for me and the tackle is also inconvenient to bring to work with the much longer rods and fresh bait. I settled for a fishing pier along the East River. I went out there after work on my foldable bike.

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And I caught them there too! Little schoolies!

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I was at this pier in the morning that Saturday and there were about 5 other anglers already with baits soaking in the water when I got there. One of them had landed a schoolie right before I arrived. But throughout the day there were zero hits on any of our rods. When it was close to sunset all of them left. However, right when the last fisherman stepped off the pier, I started getting hits from the little schoolies and eventually landed my first decent sized striped bass! I was so happy that I was shouting “YEAH! WHOOO!” when it fought more than the other stripers I’ve hooked up so far. A keeper bass caught south of the Washington Bridge that crosses the Hudson river has to be at least 28 inches. So happily I released this guy after a few photos with the help of the tourists on the pier.

Striped Bass

Striped Bass. The fish that I had spent the summer of ’14 targeting to no avail. I bought fresh clams and spent many hours on the water. But I always came back with a healthy tan and nothing to show for it.

After the bass bite had ended, I noticed a fellow carp and bass fisherman friend of mine post up pictures of striped bass that he had caught in the last month. I decided to reach out to him and set a date to go join him on the Hudson river for some striper action.

We bought worms and claims. The worms are expensive. $1 for a worm. It better catch us some stripers!

And it did!

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It was almost like carp fishing! The line just zips off and the drags starts ticking! But it was the only striper to hit my bait. =( And that was $12.

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Nevertheless, the view, sunset and company were amazing! I still had a great time!

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The bait stealers!

Bass bite died down

Since I worked during the day and could only leave after 5, my regular nighttime fall fishing was getting less and less productive. Finally after a few nights of zero hits, I decided to call it a year for the bass.

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It was a great first year of bass fishing! What fish should I be targeting next?

DIY Spinnerbait bass

There is nothing like making your own lure and then catching fish on it!

Again, as I was rolling the spinnerbait back towards me, I missed a hit right at my feet. I know I always miss the hits. But I always try again, and the second time it connected square in the mouth and I caught my first DIY spinnerbait bass!

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I am an avid follower of www.homeluremaking.blogspot.com and I followed one of his many lure making tutorials for this! Go check it out!
For this spinnerbait, I used stainless steel wire, steel bullet weight, 5/0 O’Shaughnessy hook, Bass Pro shops Tourney Special Silicone skirt and a little colorado blade. It gives out a tonne of vibrations as I reel him in.

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Fishing upstate

With the end of fall quickly approaching, Dennis and I made plans to go upstate to do some camping and fishing. A storm was suppose to roll in the following Monday, so we hastily decided to go up on Friday. It turned out that we were in another weather system and it was freezing up there!

Thank goodness I bought a decent sleeping bag rated to 40F!

Deceivingly good weather at the start of the trip!

It was super cold and rainy! Good thing I had a huge tarp from the Kelty Noah series! My pack and everything else underneath it was dry!

The bass were not biting during the day! But after dinner I managed to find two little bass to bite! Little but with a big belly!

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We had zero hits the next day and almost wanted to find some baits to use! But this salamander was so cute and its probably an illegal bait to use! We shall get some Zoom lizards in this color to hit that lake next time we hike out!

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Freezing morning breakfast!