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Bob Banfelder

Bob is an award-winning crime-thriller novelist and outdoors writer. "The Fishing Smart Anywhere Handbook for Salt Water & Fresh Water" is endorsed by Lefty Kreh and Angelo Peluso~online at Amazon.

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December 01, 2012

Black Beauty ~ Clearly a Crankbait Winner

by Bob Banfelder

Post Hurricane Sandy left our westerly North Fork area bays high but shy of bunker. Hence, the bite was off. The ospreys had left for better hunting grounds, and an American Bald Eagle took its place, sitting perched upon the fish hawks' vacant nest along Colonel's Island, just east of the 105 Bridge in Riverhead. Christopher Paparo (marine biologist, fisherman, columnist, hunter, falconer and wildlife photographer) put aside rod and reel, grabbed his kayak and camera then headed east along the Peconic River with high hopes of capturing photos of our nation's emblematic treasure. Chris got a quick shot or two as the eagle was suddenly spooked by a fisherman with a cast net in hand, looking for any sign of bunker. No great shot of the bird of prey for Chris, no bunker for the fisherman, and no fish around for the eagle or any angler—or so I had thought.

I was ready to pack it in for the season. The 18-foot center console had been put to bed the day before the storm. In its stead sat my 7-foot, 9-inch inflatable, just in case I saw some action or heard some positive reports. I had gone out a few times but with very little luck—and that is after having thrown out everything I could muster in the hope of hooking up. I made offerings of tins, bucktails, jigs, soft plastics, spinners, poppers; flies both large and small; clam bellies and frozen bunker strips. I was targeting anything with significant shoulders with which I could proudly close the season. Nada. Needless to say, I felt a bit frustrated.

What to do?

I figured I'd try the complete opposite of what Donna and I usually do. I'd invert the process. What did I really have to lose? As I had already fished the early mornings and late evenings with not so much as a touch or a tap, having purposely picked a mid-tide with the flow of water moving along nicely, I now decided to fish the early afternoon during a dead-calm low. Both my experience and logbook tell me that moving water and/or dusk to dawn pursuits are best for big bass. Therefore, if I were going to purposely do things wrong, I might just as well get it right. Right?

After repeating the program described above, once again exhausting my arsenal, I selected a long black jointed lure that I had forgotten about for several seasons. The color black I usually reserve for nighttime fishing. However, in keeping with my nonsensical plan of action, I set up a Shimano Sustain 5000FE reel coupled to a Shakespeare SP 1101 7-foot Medium-Heavy action rod, then clipped on the lure: a 7-inch jointed black Bomber model #16J-Magnum Long "A". It is a deadly lure for stripers and blues. Too, it has proven lethal on pike, pickerel as well as large and smallmouth bass. Therefore, it was my go-to plug pick for both sweetwater and the suds. But with all the new crankbaits I've experimented with over the course of years, I had passed over this winner. It had been tucked away in my surf bag.

I started out trolling the south shoreline of Flanders Bay, rowing the inflatable while running the lure through a stretch of shallow murky water, the artificial minnow alternately diving between a foot and eighteen inches. Suddenly, the rod tip bent. I released the oars, grabbed the rod, and reeled in a submerged branch with several leaves attached.

Maneuvering the craft about, I headed for deeper water, trailing the red-eyed, black-bodied crankbait through a 3-foot column. Suddenly, came another bend in the rod. I reached for it and felt the fish grab then let go of the lure; enough trolling for the moment. I sent the one-ounce body sailing, watching the lure splash and settle before retrieving it slowly, wiggling lifelike as it neared the surface. My third twenty-five-yard cast resulted in a solid hit. A minute or so later, I landed a nice fat 20-inch sideliner.

Within the first hour, I released two more stripers—20 and 23 inches. No keepers, but I was pleased . . . somewhat.

I thought a lot about that tapered streamlined lure, hanging there before me at the ready as I rowed to another corner of the same shoreline. Seven inches long when you figure in its hardware: hangers, split rings and ¾-inch clear plastic front-fixed lip, configured to run shallow on a slow and steady retrieve—made to dive deeper into the water column with an aggressive reeling action set against the short-nosed diving plane. Two #1/0 treble hooks: one positioned at its furthermost rear section; the other placed just forward of center of the front section. Over the course of years, the plug proved to be sheer dynamite—from Gananoque along the St. Lawrence River, through Maine and other New England waters, right on down along our coastline. Salt water or fresh, it repeatedly took nice fish.

At $9.00, the lure is a bargain that is hard to beat—hard being the operative word. The body's polycarbonate modulus tensile strength rating is 350,000, which translates into 1,200 pounds of hydraulic pressure being applied before the lure would shatter. That's some serious force. Muskies may certainly make their mark upon those Bombers, and big bluefish will absolutely batter them, but you cannot kill that lure. What can happen is that you can lose the crankbait in the heat of battle if you're not careful, so I advise using a wire leader, especially when tackling those toothy predators. I don't always follow my own advice, but I pass it along anyway.

The wounded artificial baitfish swimming action of the Bomber 16J– Magnum Long "A" is long on performance and short on patience in attracting predators. During the next hour, I had caught and released three more of those sideliners in Flanders Bay, for a total of six shorties.

If there is a lesson to be learned from all of this, and there most certainly is, it's to try and not get locked into a regimented approach but rather to experiment with what may even be considered an unorthodox reach. Initially, nothing was working for me. Not even fresh frozen bait such as clam and bunker. Go figure. I had worked several of my favorite proven lures and patterns during a tide that had almost always produced for me; that is, maximum current. But by inverting the whole ball of wax, so to speak, I worked the black-colored crankbait usually set aside for nighttime fishing, fished it during daylight hours in lieu of the preferred dust to dawn approach for targeting stripers, then hooked into, landed and released a half dozen sideliners in a couple of hours. It was the only lure in my assortment that produced. I'll remind you of that age old adage, and that is: "That's why they call it fishing."

Admittedly, I was a tad disappointed that I didn't come away with dinner. A couple of fillets would have been nice for the table. I'll just bet that beautiful American Bald Eagle had no trouble scoring a meal spied from its outpost. Of course, those birds of prey have no restrictions other than the weight of what they can carry away in their talons; an awesome sight to behold!

I'll be back on the water soon after proofing and putting this blog to bed. Just so long as freezing water and/or heavy snow do not thwart my attempts, I'll be at it till the close of the season. Perhaps I'll see you out there. Dress warm and remember to bring your camera.

Award-Winning Thriller Novelist, Outdoors Writer,
Creator of Unique Course/Guides,
Cablevision TV Show Host, Special Interests with Bob & Donna
Senior Editor, Broadwater Books
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