Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Building up the Arsenal

I'm reloading for the upcoming season. At this time of year, I usually assess my plug situation and look at what was successful last year. From there, I decide what I need more of and begin working. I'll make a lot of wooden plugs and jigs, and I'll buy some other stuff.

Here's what I think will be hot in the plug department for 2011:

1. Pencil Poppers- I fished the Canal last summer and was amazed that two plugs were catching the vast majority of the fish. These were pencil poppers and Sebile Magic Swimmers. We don't use many pencil poppers here in RI. Maybe we should. They cast like bullets and have that darting surface movement that really attract stripers. So, I plan to use a whole lot more of them this year. Made a bunch of them in a light color (see examples in photo).

2. Small Needlefish- There were decent numbers of sandeels around last year. I had very good luck with small, 5 inch needlefish. In the past, I made a lot of large ones, but I suspect small will be in this year. That's why I just made about a dozen smaller models.

3. Bucktail Jigs- You never have enough of these. I have the molds, cast a lot of different sizes and models and they all work. This is the most versatile lure you can stock in your plug bag. I am making a good number of 1 1/2 oz. hotlips jigs for deep currents (see photo at left). I am also making a lot of small (1/4-3/4 oz.) flathead jigs to use when small bait is around.

4. Swimmmers- I've bought some 6 inch Bombers in a pearl or black back. These where hot after dark when the mullet were around last year. Should be hot this year also.

5. Skinny Plastic- I'm sold on the Hogys and I've stocked up on these. I like all the sizes....6 inch, 9 inch skinnies, big 10 inchers. Go with the white or black models. Also, stock up on the Hogy swimbait hooks which made a big difference for me.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Color, Does it Matter?

You bet it does. I don't know much about the science of how stripers see or view color. But, based on experience and a lot of trial and error I know that the color you are using does make a difference.

Here are some examples:

1. Just about all my bucktail jigs I use are white with a white head and white bucktail. Thread is white or red. Ditto for plastics with a white body and white jighead. This applies in daytime or nighttime.

2. For my skinny plastics (Hogys), I generally use black at night and white in the daylight, although white also produces at night sometimes. Once in a while, a strange color (pink or electric chicken will work in the daylight), but white will usually work on those times also.

3. All my needlefish are either made with a white base or a black base. On my white models, I might paint the backs in a yellow, green or blue for a little contrast, but the colors are basically light. Use light colors in the daylight and black at night. Once again, white sometimes works at night too.

4. My Deceiver teasers are white or black. White in the daytime, black at night.

5. When using swimmers, I like a black back model at night and a light color in the daytime (same pattern as above).

6. As far as poppers are concerned, I only use them in the daytime, so most of my poppers have a white base. I like all white, or a white one with a green or blue back.

That's about it. Quite a simple choice that boils down to mostly light colors in the daytime and dark at night. Sometimes a wacky color will work but all of the above choices will catch 90% of the time when the fish want to hit.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Tails Make A Difference

Big snowday here in RI today so I spent a good part of the day making plugs. I was finishing up about 10 needlefish and began work on a half dozen pencil poppers. I also tied up a bunch of tails to go on all these plugs.

Tails DO make a difference. You don't see them on a lot of commercial plugs these days because of the added expense. On many of my plugs like my poppers, I will simply go with bucktail on a treble hook (see photo at left). That seems to do the trick. On my needlefish plugs, I like to use a combination of bucktail and hackle for enhanced action (see photo at right). I tie a Deceiver-type tail. To do this, saddle hackle is tied with two feathers on each side of my hook. Then bucktail is added below and above. The main colors that I use are the base colors of the plug which is generally white or black. One more note here....I love the 9175 single Mustad hooks (#5/0 or 6/0) for needlefish tails. These are sold at

Whether you make your own plugs or buy them, add tails. They do make your plug more effective.

Winter Striper Fishing...What's Going On?

Quote from this week's fishing report in the Fisherman magazine, "The holdover bass fishing has yet to materialize in the Providence River, Thames and Narrow River." I am going to tell you that if it hasn't materialized yet, it is not going to.

I am on a roll right now....blanked 8 times in a row and have yet to catch a holdover in 2011. The stripers are just not in the Providence River in any numbers. You do hear rumors of a fish here and there and occasionally one is caught (see pic), but there are so few I am beginning to wonder if the effort is worth it. The effort here is also diminishing with very few fishermen out trying. It is also disturbing to hear that the same poor fishing is occurring in other winter hotspots of past years. It supports the notion that striper numbers (especially schoolie numbers) are way down.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Slick Surfcasting Site

Want to see a real slick surf casting site with a free online magazine....check out
The pics are on the home page of Surfcaster's Journal are gorgeous, and I loved the magazine that can be accessed from the menu at the top of this page. It is a free, online version and has a wealth of information. I think that eventually, most magazines will be online. They will also be interactive with video clips. Some carp fishing magazines that I go to often are already doing this, and it is the wave of the future.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Wintertime Tackle Building

This is the time of year I spend a lot of time in the basement getting ready for next season. After cleaning all my reels and making rod repairs, I'm ready to start tackle building.

I spent the last two weeks making a bunch of small needlefish plugs, hot numbers last season. There's nothing tricky about making a plug. For this plug, I used hardwood dowels that have a diameter of 3/4 inches. My construction is a through wire construction. The front hook hole is always drilled first. Then, with the plug body is propped up in a perpendicular position and I drill the inner with a 1/8 inch drill bit (this will house the wire). A drill press makes this job so much easier. Next, I will shape the plug by twirling it around a belt sander. My next step is to drill a couple of lead holes on the belly of the plug and later fill them with molten lead. The final step is to paint the plugs. Lastly, the wire, swivel and hooks are added. If you don't want to go through through wire construction, plugs can be put together simply by using stainless steel screw eyes.

Another project I had going last week was making bucktail jigs, another hot lure last season. I mold all my own jig bodies with molds from Do-It mold company. After molding, I paint them using durable powder paint. Last week I was making a lot of flathead jigs. If you have fly tying expertise, tying up jigs is quite easy. For those who know how to tie and are not into molding the jigheads, try buying the blanks from That online store also has lots of plug building material, hooks and wire.

I still have a load of teasers I want to tie up, but that will come later on this winter.

Monday, January 3, 2011

50,000 HITS!

The Rhode Island Striped Bass blog hit a milestone today with 50,000 hits! When I first created this site two years ago I envisioned a local blog catering to RI fishermen. I thought maybe it might get a thousand hits a year. Boy, was I wrong. I suspect fishermen from all over the striper coast have been on this blog, and that just shows the tremendous interest in striper fishing these days.
My next goal is to reach 100,000 hits.
A big thank you to my many followers.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Winter Fishing....Dead

I've taken my first striper on New Year's Day every year for the last 15 years in the Providence River. Not this year.
As usual, I hit the Providence River last night. I fished perfect conditions. It was a warm day with melting snow, rain was on the way and we had a high tide at dark. Perfect. However, the place had no fish. Right at sunset about a dozen guys had the same thought I did. Get out and get that first striper on New Year's Day. However, no one had a hit and most left disgusted. After dark I saw and talked with 6 other fishermen I knew. Some were throwing plastics; others tossed live eels (a deadly winter bait). The results were the same....not a hit.
For the last week and a half, the Providence River fishing has been in a death spiral with no life at all. I've been blanked 4 times in a row now. According to past logs, this is supposed to be the hottest time of the year. Not this year. In reality, this is just a continuation of the poor fishing we experienced from the summer and fall in Gansett Bay. There are very few holdover fish this year. I'm guessing the rest of the winter will continue to fish poorly.