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HEY, GO FIND YOUR OWN SPOT!

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RichTrox
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 posted 01/06/2008 02:38 AM  

GO FIND YOUR OWN SPOT - PART 1

Well, winter is upon us once again and that can only mean one thing. The boards are going to get pretty lively again. A couple of topics that always seem to arise during this time are related to spot burning, spot mugging and report chasing, and these topics can always be counted on to generate a lot of heated debate. I have given these issues considerable thought over the past year and have come to the conclusion that there are no cut and dry answers that effectively address all these issues.

For starters, we live on a densely populated island with fairly limited surf fishing access. Then for good measure throw in fishing clubs, cell phones, B&T word of mouth, magazine and internet reports, issues with illegals, well, you get the picture. The other side of the coin is that all involved in this sport should strive to work together, with the common interest of preserving and improving the rights, access, and resources we currently possess.

So how are we all going to manage to play nice together? I don’t know. Like I said, it’s a tough nut to crack. For my part, and please pardon the weak analogy, I know that when the sugar hits the floor, it’s going to draw ants, so I try to look for my sugar in spots the other ants have missed. This brings me to the point of this diatribe, which is how I find and learn my spots, and it is the closest thing to a solution to the above issues that I can offer. Having your own spots is about having options, and leveraging those options into consistent catches while avoiding the masses. It is also about discovering the bites within a bite that others might miss.

AND NOW FOR THE DISCLAIMERS…

I by no means set myself up as the end all and be all of fishing knowledge, as there are many more knowledgeable than I. My method of finding and learning spots has evolved from over 35 years of pursuing striped bass and is offered for the sole purpose of helping anglers reduce their dependence on report chasing, spot mugging, tangled lines, and plugs to the back of their head. Any resemblance to my dissemination of this information as a charitable act is completely coincidental, and if accused as such, may be construed as slander in a court of law. Furthermore, as I fish the south shore, from the inlets on back a good percentage of the time, most, but not all, pertains to this domain, but this approach can basically be applied to anywhere bass swim and feed. Pursuant to the above statement, I am not liable for, or party to, any personal injuries incurred, or any parking tickets, arrests, or summonses that might arise from the information provided forthwith.

GET TO THE POINT……..

This is going to be long, so if you have some place you gotta be, then go do it. As I have stated in previous posts, my method for finding and learning spots is a top down approach, very specific in nature, and assumes a basic knowledge of bass behavior and most importantly, does not contain any short cuts. So what does this mean? It means it can’t be capsulated in a few paragraphs. It means starting with the broad strokes and working down to the finer intricacies of what makes any given spot produce fish.

I remember a post by a young member (name withheld) where he asked that for a given set of conditions (i.e. water temp, wind, tide, moon, etc) where would be the best place to fish? I responded by saying that trying to reduce bass fishing to a matrix, or subset, of general conditions was the quickset way to madness that I know, as these conditions are entirely spot dependent. This response was confirmed by several other well-known fishermen. So let’s start at the top, with the broad strokes.

BASS ARE WHERE YOU FIND THEM…

Any basic knowledge of bass behavior starts with the bass’ growth stage, structure and bait. I’m not going to paraphrase other authors on the obvious concerning these elements, but I will give you my views, from the top down, on how these elements relate when determining whether any spot may be productive. I will further define the size of the bass sought, related structure and bait, as well as the time of year that a given spot may be considered a worthwhile, productive spot.

In my vocabulary, the word “spot” is synonymous with the term “resident fish” because it is resident fish that you are really looking for. It is not about blitzes, or targeting transient fish, or catching fish on the flats when the conditions are right. This is about finding and working fish that are socked into a spot for a full set of tides or more and that stay put for as long as the conditions that initially drew them remain relatively stable. It is also about finding overlooked spots or bites at some of the larger, more popular areas while hopefully avoiding detection by the crowd.

The first in this order is the bass itself. As far as I’m concerned, bass fall into three basic categories, and the where and how you fish will depend on what type of fish you are looking to catch. The first category is schoolie bass. These are the bass that most probably do not migrate, instead wintering over locally in our bays and estuaries. These fish are akin to bluefish (I resist saying lowly bluefish) in the way they act and feed. They just run around hitting anything that moves, and are generally the first and last of the species to be caught in every season, for obvious reasons. The commute must be murder.

The second category are the intermediates and are comprised of the high 20” to mid 30” (former sub-keeper size) fish that are so prevalent during most of the season. Many of these fish are migrators, but not necessarily successful breeders, so some may show up early in the season, some later if they got lucky. The third category consists of what most of us call “big” fish, the breeders, both male and female with the title of “truly big” generally belonging to the female of the species. These fish usually show up in my neck of the woods as early as May, but more typically through June. The need to understand the different classes of fish is because they tend to feed in different areas at different times of the season.

The second in this order is “structure”. Everybody knows that bass relate to structure, but what does everybody know about structure? As I see it, there are two kinds of structure, that being obvious and subtle. Examples of obvious structure are sand bars, bridges, dock lines, jetties, yada, yada. I do not demean these types of structure as they are truly primo, but as a rule these types of structure are well known by everybody, hence the dreaded crowds and the point of this post. If you can find this structure in un-crowded conditions, then more power to ya, but to be really successfully in finding your own spots minus the crowds, you need to pay attention to the less obvious (i.e. subtle) structure. Some of the less obvious structure includes unseen channel edges and drops, points, ridges (those that go up), and back eddies (frequent by-products of points and ridges).

By their very nature, less obvious structure is, well, less obvious, and while it may sometimes be in plain sight to an unknowing public, more often than not these spots require significantly more investigation in order to be sniffed out. Frequently they require a longer, more arduous walk, and in almost all cases, these spots will need to be fished under the cover of darkness in order to unlock their true potential. If you are uncomfortable with being alone while wading as far as 30 yards from shore on a dark new moon night, walking long distances on sod banks or sand bars, or have any irrational fears of the unknown, then do your investigations during the light of day and then bring a friend along at night.

This in itself is not a bad idea, as it’s always good to have backup if a mishap finds you. For my part, and as I typically travel alone, I have been very fortunate in my nighttime forays. Other than getting stuck in various mosquito drains, numerous dunkings, and a few nasty falls, I have managed to avoid serious injury thus far. How far you are willing to go for a spot should always depend on your personal comfort level.


Check out my weekly blog at Stripers247 View from the beach
Drive your car like your life depends on it.
 
RichTrox
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 posted 01/06/2008 02:43 AM  

GO FIND YOUR OWN SPOT - PART 2

SO LET’S TAKE A CLOSER LOOK AT THE UNOBVIOUS…

It’s well known that bass, particularly big bass, do not like to work very hard in their quest for a meal. They also do not like to work very hard when they are not feeding, which is important as this can be for fairly long periods of time during an off tide. No revelation there, right? So what is it about structure that draws bass to it? The obvious answer is that structure makes a good ambush point for bait, which it does. But in the larger picture structure seems to me to be about hydraulics, the movement of water or more specifically, the eddies that are formed when water is forced to flow over, or around something.

It is these sometimes-unobvious pockets of dead water that are one of the keys to finding productive structure. Eddies are like quiet rooms for bass where they can rest when they are not actively feeding, and because they almost always reside right at the edge of moving water, they also provide a convenient place to launch a feeding foray from. And they can and do exist aplenty, right in the middle of the maelstrom that we call inlets. Why is this important? Because good structure provides feeding opportunities during the “right” tide, and a suitable resting place during the “off” tide, all courtesy of the lowly eddy. More on how this fits into the scheme later.

The third and last in the order is “bait” and this too comes in the obvious and unobvious variety. Obvious bait usually makes itself apparent, and your fishing techniques can, and should be, adjusted accordingly. Shoals of rain bait milling around near shore or dimpling the surface, peanuts and adult bunker flipping around, these are all good signs that a productive spot may be nearby. No big story here. But sometimes the bait present is not readily apparent. We all know that bass will eat just about anything in the water, and I believe many bass develop individual tastes and associated feeding methods for attaining the meal that suits them. Certainly there are some well accepted generalities, such as big bass want big meals, and we all know that they can key in on specific baits at certain times of the year. But what about the “other” times?

There are many times where the obvious bait may not be on the menu for some bass, or more confusing still, you fish a spot where there is no apparent bait, yet a spot is loaded with fish and you catch well. You should be asking yourself “what just happened?” Many of you have probably witnessed bass chasing flounder to the surface of an inlet when the flounder return to the bays in the fall. Where are those flounder headed? You think some nice sized bass might follow them to their destination and take up residence nearby? You think the bass do not know where these fish are in the spring? Have you ever opened the stomach of a bass and find nothing but crabs and small ground fish, even though the area you were fishing was loaded with spearing?

Small sea bass, porgies, flounder, crabs, eels, clams and worms, these are all viable, and many times the preferred food sources for bass, and they never make their presence known to us. Coupled with suitable structure, finding large concentrations of any of the above, or what I call a “solid seasonal bait pattern” can sometimes translate into a productive spot that others may have missed, or do not recognize. Just three or four of these fairly consistent, seasonally oriented bait / structure patterns can put you on fish when others are scratching their heads and wondering where the bass are.

SO WHERE DO I START, AND WHAT DO I LOOK FOR?

Start by trying to identify good structure. Good places to look are Rand-McNally atlases, both Suffolk and Nassau (a must have for west end bays) and any of the online satellite imaging sites like Google Earth, Windows Live Local, or good old MapQuest (in Arial mode). It’s winter and you have nothing to do fishing wise, so take some time and do a little homework and legwork. Using the atlases, find points, coves, and most importantly, possible access points. Using satellite imaging from the various websites, learn to identify channel edges, submerged points, depth changes, anything that looks promising, and then get off your butt, get out, and take a look at these spots.

I used to spend my winters walking an untold number of banks and channels with nothing more than a conventional setup and some bank sinkers (4-6 oz is quite sufficient). I would cast and count, take 30 steps, cast and count, ad infiniteum, ad nausea. If I came across a drop, as indicated by an increase in the count number before touching bottom, I figured I might have a spot that might produce during a certain stage of the tide. Any quick drop is good, but if after 30-40 yards the channel depth rose again, as witnessed by a decrease in the count, then I figured I had a one half of a gold mine, as far as spots go. Holes in a channel are what I call an “in and out” spot, and what this means is that this is a place where bass can lay and ambush their prey when prey is present, rest when they are not feeding, and choose which stage of the tide they do either. All that’s needed is a solid seasonal bait pattern in that area and you have a gold mine.

What makes a spot like this work is the previously mentioned back eddies, which not only work horizontally (left and right), but vertically as well. Anybody who has dived will tell you that most times when the tide runs over a hole, the majority of water near the surface continues in a relatively straight line, while the water near the drop at the bottom meets resistance from the far wall of the hole, and actually reverses itself into an eddy and rises back up the slope of the drop. This hydraulic dynamic is what makes holes in a channel so attractive to bass, and being a hole, it works on both the incoming and outgoing tide. It’s the same thing for any large protruding structure, be it rock or piling, natural or man-made, in a channel. Is it any wonder why inlets and bridges are considered bass magnets? It’s not just the lights at night, those fish are there 24/7, feeding or not!

The same principle applies to channel points, especially the points that protrude at a 90 degree angle, or channel elbow. Ever wonder why it is that bass relate to points? Do you think they are just swimming around, come across a point and think, “Hey, here’s a point, let’s hang around and see what happens”? Of course not! The reason they may take up residence in this locale has to do with the ever-present back eddy. The current, regardless of the tide, flows around the point and invariably produces an eddy, usually to the inshore side, and this eddy is the quintessential feeding and resting area for bass. If you can find a point with a submerged sand point, drop, or hole then all the better. And if you can match that area to a solid seasonal bait pattern, then once again, you have a gold mine.

And what about ridges, or the rising edge of a sandbar? These are highly overlooked bits of structure that can pay big dividends when coupled with a solid seasonal bait pattern. Ridges will generally produce an eddy on either side of the structure and most important, ridges serve to concentrate the feeding zone (i.e. square footage of water) for bass by making it harder for bait being carried with the tide, to hide. Consider this hypothetical example. A long continual deep water tidal area of let’s say 20 to whatever feet is suddenly forced up against a large sandbar that reduces the depth to let’s say 6-10 feet. Three things happen here.

The first is that the obstruction produces eddies to either side of the obstructions. The second is that the many cubic feet of water being pushed by the tide, is now forced over the top of a small area (the sandbar) thereby concentrating the hunt area for active bass. The third and most likely is that the bait follows the currents feeding the eddies which brings the bait to the waiting bass. Throw in any solid seasonal bait pattern, well by now you get the picture. If you don’t believe this scenario is worth a look, then go ask the boat guys who fish the west bar at Jones. This same dynamic happens in other less known, and surf accessible locales, you just need to find it and mate it with a seasonal bait pattern.


Check out my weekly blog at Stripers247 View from the beach
Drive your car like your life depends on it.
 
RichTrox
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 posted 01/06/2008 02:48 AM  

GO FIND YOUR OWN SPOT -PART 3

SO WHAT’S ALL THIS ABOUT THE SEASONAL BAIT PATTERNS…

All right, let’s talk about the seasonal patterns for a minute. This could have also come under the earlier subtitle of “BASS ARE WHERE YOU FIND THEM”, in that bass move around a lot during a normal season. For simplicity’s sake, I break a season down into three parts, those being spring, summer, and fall, and the two conditions that best define where the bass will be during these parts are water temperature and available bait.

The first part of the equation is water temperature and again, there are no revelations here, as bass will generally seek water in their preferred temperature range throughout the season. The short version of this is that in early spring, bass can be found deep in the bays where the water warms quickest. By early summer these fish have pulled out and moved closer to the inlets, or outside to the ocean. In the fall, they may move back in to the bays, or stay in the inlets depending on factors other than water temperature.

Many types of bait may also have a preferred temperature range, or a preferred source of food that will put them in different places throughout the season. Small bait, big bait, ground fish, all come and go at different times and take up residence where the conditions suit them best. When you can overlap these two factors, you have the makings of a solid seasonal bait pattern. Let’s take “obvious” bait like adult bunker as an example. When they show up in the spring and head into the bays, they are very likely to draw some good-sized bass with them, as the water temperatures within the bay at that time of year are well within the desirable range for bass.

Conversely, by early summer when the bunker have settled into the backs of harbors, the water there is much too warm for the bass, who have by now backed out closer to the inlets and the cooler ocean water they provide. Apply this same approach to some of the less obvious bait possibilities in conjunction with some of “your” newly found structure, and you might find a solid seasonal bite that others didn’t see.

PUT IT ALL TOGETHER AND LET’S GO FISHING…

OK, you have identified some spots that look like they hold potential, so what’s the game plan? First and most obvious, make sure your spots are in the temperate zone for the time of the season you are fishing in. No sense looking deep in the bay in summer, enough said. It is best to try and group spots together by locale and work them all, using the run and gun approach. Be prepared for the fact that you may have fish them a number of times throughout the season, and sometimes for a number of seasons before they either reveal their secrets, or get discarded from the list of potential spots.

I approach all new spots, and bass fishing in general, with the fairly simplistic view that the bass are either looking up, or looking down, and that they are on either big bait, or small bait. My choice of baits reflects this simplistic view, as I carry a small variety that allows me to “test” these conditions. I will almost always carry an SS needlefish, an A-salt bomber, a big bottle plug, a deep diving metal lip, a few shads both large and small, assorted bucks w/ #70 pork rind, and sometimes my favorite shortcut, live eels. Colors are kept simple also; typically white yellow or black depending on the amount of available light. Although I have been made fun of at times, I also take a page out of the freshwater bass tournament playbook and carry up to three rods, each with a different type bait from the above list. I do not use snaps, so it is easier for me to carry three rods than to keep cutting and retying. Remember, this is run and gun fishing.

If I am looking at three new spots and I decide to fish them on the out, then I start with the one where the tide runs first, which usually makes it the spot closest to an inlet. I arrive as close to the beginning of the out as I can, make some basic observations such as obvious bait, wind direction, accuracy of my tide stage prediction, etc. If obvious bait is present, I start with that, and if no obvious bait is present, then I run my “test” baits. I will generally not take more than a half dozen casts with any one bait, before I switch off to the next. If fish are there, and they are feeding, they usually make themselves known.

After I run through the whole “test” range, it’s off to the next spot in line. After that I do the same at the third and last spot, after which I return to the first and start the whole process over again, this time deeper into the tide. If time permits, I do this through the entire tide, however in the real world this is usually not the case, so fish the spots when you can, and make sure to take note of the conditions if success is met. Although you may not prefer to keep a bass for the table, a lot can be learned by examining the stomach contents of a bass, particularly when it was caught in a locale with no obvious bait pattern.

The last thing I want to address was the aforementioned post by a young member (name withheld) where he asked that for a given set of conditions (i.e. water temp, wind, tide, moon, etc) where would be the best place to fish? The short version of my response to him was that these subset conditions are very spot dependent, and they are. In order to best utilize your growing catalog of spots, it helps to understand how these conditions affect each one. While trying to effectively cover how all these conditions relate would be a daunting task, I’ll try to cover some broad strokes and indicate how to use them to your advantage. Much about the role that water temperature plays in finding fish has already been covered, so let’s take a look at wind.

Wind in the extreme can be the best and worst of times for fishermen, however most times it just dictates where I’ll fish. This is for several reasons. I fish the bays a lot, so regardless of the wind speed or direction, I can usually find a fishable spot. The general rule of thumb for wind, where bait applies, is that small bait is blown with the wind, and bunker feed into the wind. A practical case in point for how this works occurred this past spring while working a pod of fish on small bait. For 4 nights the wind was from the SW and the fish and bait stayed put, but on the 5th day the temps dropped some and the wind came pretty hard out of the NW. That night that spot was barren, so with the assumption that the bait was being blown with the wind, I started working my way, going from spot to spot, in a southerly direction across the bay. At my fourth stop I found the bait and fish, which then stayed in that area while the wind direction remained constant.

Where tide and bass are concerned, most fishermen concentrate primarily on the out, and for good reason, as during many times of the year it is by far the most productive tidal stage. In the early spring, it is pretty much all about the out, and is related to the fact that this is the warmest water period. During the warmer months a good, but short bite may occur during the incoming in some spots, due to the influx of cooler ocean water. In the fall, some areas may produce on both sides of the tide. But where your spots are concerned, it is very important to understand what stage of a particular tide produces the best and why.

In some spots the early outgoing may spur a food chain event resulting in some big fish showing for a short period of time. One spot that comes to mind works like this. The tide starts moving and shortly there after the shad show up in the rip, chowing on the small bait being swept off the flats into the channel. Right on their tails a few small pods of bigger fish show up for the shad. They may only be there for 10 minutes, frequently less, before they have had their fill and back off to the calmer water (eddy’s anybody) to digest. They haven’t gone far and after that short shot at them, sometimes making a small adjustment in your location can put you back on them. Some times not. Sometimes due to the lay of a spot it works in reverse and the good bass are waiting at the end of the tide to ambush the shad as they attempt to leave the area. Again, all very spot dependent.

As for the phase of moon, this too can have a significant affect on how a spot produces. A full bright moon can kill some spots I fish. A new moon might provide the cover of darkness and the strong currents needed to draw the interest of the bass and for several days on either side may produce good results for a given spot. The same spot during a half moon phase, with the wind against the tide might be pointless to fish as the dynamics preferred by the bass for successful feeding don’t exist there at that time. Once again, all very spot specific.

TIME TO SAY GOODNIGHT…

To sum it all up, try to keep it simple and work your way down. Identify some potential spots and work them frequently, through different stages of the tide. Rotate your profiles until you find something that works, then stop and note all the conditions in place at that time. Keep your eyes and ears open, and your brain working at all times. Don’t get bogged down with trying 4 different color patterns of the same plug, because it rarely comes down to that. Don’t grow roots, remember this is run and gun exploration. The more spots you hit, the more you are likely to find something worthwhile. And most important, be patient and have fun with it, as it’s not going to happen overnight. Finding good spots is a lot of hard work, but the knowledge you gain in their pursuit lasts a lifetime and the satisfaction derived in their finding is second to none.

I’m tired,….I think I’ll go to bed now. -Rich



Check out my weekly blog at Stripers247 View from the beach
Drive your car like your life depends on it.


This post edited by RichTrox 03:13 AM 01/06/2008
 
likeitreallyis


Joined: 10/28/2005
Posts: 16948
Location: Rolling in the deep....
 posted 01/06/2008 09:16 AM  

Nice post Rich..up..some great info there nice read..


Green Grass and High Tides forever,,,
 
LeoDA

Joined: 09/26/2005
Posts: 2212
 posted 01/06/2008 09:24 AM  

Insomniacs gotta love em!

We said Rich.
 
sparky1871


Joined: 10/24/2002
Posts: 2073
Location: Deer Park
 posted 01/06/2008 10:04 AM  

Great stuff Rich.
I like the saying "I know that when the sugar hits the floor, it’s going to draw ants, so I try to look for my sugar in spots the other ants have missed."
As always Rich very well written and very helpful.
John


I don't look busy because I did it right the first time.
 
HEADCHEF1971


Joined: 05/29/2006
Posts: 248
Location: TOWN OF BABYLON
 posted 01/06/2008 11:07 AM  

upONCE AGAIN WELL WRITTEN POST....
very informative. thank you 1


LIBBA  #1834
MONTAUK SURFCASTERS ASSOCIATION #1834

this one is for you kenny!!!
 
codmaster

Joined: 09/16/2003
Posts: 2001
Location: California
 posted 01/06/2008 12:46 PM  

Rich - sounds like you have the makings of a book here!

Very nice!
 
walleyeman
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 posted 01/06/2008 01:59 PM  

Great stuff Rich! upup


LIBBA #1983
MSA #1982
 
toyotaoffroad91


Joined: 06/29/2006
Posts: 1982
 posted 01/06/2008 03:28 PM  

did someone say STICKY!
Rich you've teached me many things in person, and now you've just amazed me... the best part is i have been doing like you say and producing!
upupupupupupupup
 
SmithtownScotty

Joined: 04/15/2006
Posts: 137
Location: Riverhead
 posted 01/06/2008 09:28 PM  

I have read many a book on fishing. I didn't even get through all of your post Rich, but this is outstanding information so far. I appreciate it. I love the part about counting as the sinker falls to find your honey hole. EXCELLENT IDEA. I will finish reading it tomorrow, the wife is calling...

All the best to you Rich Trox in the new year.
 
kcee7


Joined: 09/24/2004
Posts: 907
Location: Sayville Salt Water
 posted 01/07/2008 09:17 PM  

Awesome post Rich. That's some serious 411 right there. Thanks for sharing.
 
rpsurf5


Joined: 07/12/2001
Posts: 2369
Location: Port Washington
 posted 01/09/2008 07:54 PM  

Great stuff, very well written also !

Thanks for posting this !upupupupup


Delegate of the New York Coalition for Recreational Fishing

Member Montauk Surfcasters Association, LIBBA
 
RichTrox
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 posted 01/10/2008 12:03 PM  

thanks for the kind words guys.....

If anybody has any questions, feel free to ask. -Rich


Check out my weekly blog at Stripers247 View from the beach
Drive your car like your life depends on it.
 
rubicon

Joined: 07/27/2004
Posts: 479
 posted 01/10/2008 03:47 PM  

Thanks- well written and very educational!
 
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