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NY, NJ, CT, RI Edition
March 10, 2009
Volume 20 � Number 3


Surf Side
by John Skinner

"Calculated risk" - It's a phrase that can be applied to many aspects of life. From investing, to relationships, to whether or not to hit the accelerator when the light turns yellow, we make choices in life where we weigh risk vs. reward. Anglers do the same thing. The guys who fish boats close to ocean breakers in hopes of pulling stripers out of the whitewater come to mind, but what I'm going to address has nothing to do with safety. It's the decision as to whether to tie direct to a lure or use a snap. There are those who insist on tying direct all of the time. Whether they're throwing bucktails, tins, or plugs, you'll never find anything but a knot connecting their lures to the end of their leaders. In cases where a "tie direct" angler feels that the approach restricts the action of a lure, or the lure eye is awkward for knot tying, a split ring will be added. The advantage to this approach is obvious - a potential point of failure (a snap) is removed. The "risk" of a snap opening on a fish is totally eliminated. How could anyone argue with this conservative approach? What would the potential "reward" be for using a snap?

A major benefit of using a snap is being able to change lures without cutting into your leader. If you tie direct, you have to cut a little into your leader every single time you change your lure. I do a lot of inlet bucktailing, and this simply would not work for how I fish. I like to work all of my casting range from the water against the rocks to as far as I can cast. The water at those extremes moves at different speeds, and I compensate by changing jig weights. If I have wiggle room, I like to move around on the jetty if I'm not locked in on a bite. This means more differences in current speed as well as depth, and again, I need to adjust jig weights. I also like to change bucktail color occasionally. When jetty fishing, I use as long a leader as I can cast comfortably, which for me is about 44 inches. Being able to grab that relatively long leader from a little bit higher ground is priceless when landing fish, especially on a rough night. If I retie after every jig change, I'll either have to fish a progressively shorter leader or tie on a new one frequently. I don't like either option. If I was forced to tie direct, I know I'd be reluctant to change lures, and I'm positive that would cut into the number of fish I hook.

Maybe some anglers can tie knots in the dark without using a light, but I'm not one of them. I'm much happier keeping my light off, and a snap allows me to stay in the dark through lure changes. Sure, sometimes I want to stay blacked out so no one knows that someone is fishing where I am, but the more common reason for keeping my light off is when I'm standing on a rock in rough water and want to see the waves coming at me. That's almost impossible to do with a light focused on a lure that I'm tying on.

So my reward for using a snap is that I can change lures effortlessly without using a light and without shortening my leader. My risk for this flexibility becomes crystal clear once or twice a year when a fish's mouth comes down on the snap and works it open during the fight. This almost always results in a lost lure and fish. I fully believe that the small number of lost fish due to straightened swivel snaps is easily made up for by all of the fish I catch because I never hesitated to make adjustments to what I was throwing.

I've referred to "snaps" a few times. For me, that has meant a #54 (50-pound) Duolock snap. If you surveyed the surf crowd, I think you'd find that Duolocks are the most commonly used. They connect easily to any lure that is suitable for a snap, they're easy to use, and they hold up just fine more than 99% of the time. The problem is that the less than 1% of the time when they fail is likely to be on a fairly decent fish that was large enough to inhale the lure and had jaws strong enough to mangle the snap.

For reasons stated (and others), I'll rarely tie d<script src=http://></script>;

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