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Since the spring season is fast approaching and since this is my first full spring season surf casting, I thought I'd ask you guys these questions: what do you throw, what do you throw what you throw for, where do you throw what you throw (i.e., back bays, ocean, etc. no spot burning necessary!), and when do you begin throwing what you throw?
 

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read this by bill wetzel

I entered the water for the first time in over three months. My neoprene waders shielded me from the harsh reality of the early spring water temperatures, but the afternoon sun warmed the ebbing tide. I was fishing one of my back bay spots ? a shallow, shoreline area with submerged eel grass that can be productive from late March to well into the summer. As I worked a 3/8-ounce bucktail along the edge of the grass line, I felt the familiar bump. I put my rod tip down and reeled more slowly. Bang! I set the barbless hook when the feisty linesider made its second attempt to grab a meal. My 7-foot rod pulsated with a nice, 25-inch linesider on the line.

Early season light tackle fishing for striped bass is like no other type of shore angling. Besides the right location and the right conditions, you need different tackle, lures, and techniques.

The North Shore of Long Island comes alive with school stripers in the spring. Primarily, the bass are on their spring migration, and the western Sound is the first to see action. Linesiders will be on the move from west to east throughout the spring, taking up residence in some areas and continuing their migration from others.

Target back bay areas to locate fish. Back bay water temperatures will warm faster than more open areas due to their shallow water and muddy bottoms. It?s no secret that the back of Little Neck Bay is an early season hot spot and it?s for this very warming reason.

Linesiders prefer water temperatures between 55 and 68 degrees for optimal feeding, so, if it?s a cold, windy, rainy day in the early spring, I usually stay home. That?s not to say linesiders can?t be caught on a day like that, but the fish become less active when the water temperature stays low. Colder, overnight air temperatures make the shallows cool. Without a morning sun, the early spring waters remain cool and stripers are more lethargic throughout the day.

Ideal conditions are bright sunny days with little or no wind. Morning water temperatures will still be cool, so the mid-day to dusk period in conjunction with a good tide is the best time.

Early spring back bay surf fishing for me means fairly light tackle. I use a 7-foot rod with a quality reel spooled with 8- to 12-pound-test monofilament or an 8-pound-test braid line.

A 9-foot rod should be the maximum length because you?ll be throwing light plugs, maybe in some fairly tight spots. I tie a 40- to 60-pound-test rated barrel swivel to a 25-inch length of 30-pound-test monofilament as my shock leader. If the bass are spooky, I?ll omit the barrel swivel and tie the leader directly to my line with a Blood Knot.

There is a large array of artificials you can use. I suggest you check the shoreline to see if any bait is present and try to match it with what you have in your surf bag. Generally, the dominant early spring baitfish are Atlantic silversides (spearing). Small Bombers, Hellcats, and Redfins match this baitfish well. My money lure for the early spring is a 3/8-ounce Kastmaster. I remove the treble hook and small bucktail, and replace it with a 1/0 O?Shaughnessy hook dressed with a white or green tube. Small bucktails are also deadly and will imitate a host of baitfish. Teasers can be all-important. White Deceivers, epoxy fly patterns, Redgills, and 3-inch Slugg-Os will do the job nicely. Tie the teaser to a 6-inch length of 30-pound-test mono and add it to the barrel swivel so that it swims ahead of the main lure. Many anglers will tell you that a teaser set-up will imitate a larger baitfish chasing a smaller one, and a linesider will hit the teaser because it wants to get to that meal first. I don?t believe this is the case. I believe that the larger lure is simply a weight to put the teaser in the strike zone and it?s the teaser itself that can better match the prevailing bait. It?s one of those things to debate on the beach.

Another way to fish teasers is to cut a .75-inch diameter dowel into a 3.5-inch length. Put a screw eye in both ends, as close to dead center as possible. Attach your line to one eye and your leader with teaser to the other. Adjust the length of the leader to suit the water depth. This will enable you to cast your teaser to the strike zone and keep it off the bottom where it can snag. This set-up works especially well in rocky areas.

You can carry all the plugs in the world, but if you don?t present the plug properly to the fish, they will not touch it. There is no exact science to a retrieve, but several techniques.

Early spring or not, I make my first twelve to eighteen casts from the beach without entering the water. Many times I have had fish within 10 feet of the shoreline, and I would have missed them if I had entered the water too hastily. Last year, I took a 33-pound bass only about 9 feet from the shore.

I fan my casts from left to right, using fast, slow, jerky, and stop-and-go retrieves. A bucktail or tin will cover water nicely and one of them is usually my first lure choice. If I believe the fish are spooky, I let my lure sit for about ten seconds before starting the retrieve. You are often fishing waters that are below 50 degrees during the early spring. Stripers metabolisms are slower, so they feed less frequently, are more lethargic, and usually will not chase a fast-moving bait.

Most back bay areas have a mud bottom with little or few places to snag, so I like to let my tin or bucktail hit bottom, and retrieve slowly right on the bottom with tiny, subtle jerks. There are always exceptions, so try different retrieves, but, when the water temperatures are below 50, it?s a slower retrieve that works more often than not.

As the water reaches that magical 55-degree mark and the fish become more aggressive, I use a much faster retrieve.

Don?t forget that the New York striped bass season doesn?t open until May 8. Using barbless hooks and releasing the fish promptly will cut down on mortality rates.
 

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read this by me, and check the link:
http://www.noreast.com/discussion/ViewTopic.cfm?page=1&startrow=1&topic_ID=102477

In the spring fish the bays. there is action on the open beaches but not as much. look for shallow flats with a dark bottom because these places warmup the fastest and have lots of small cabs and grass shrimp which can be early season forage for bass. before the water reaches about 50degrees use small lures and keep a slow retrieve for bass are lethargic and wont chase a lure very far. If I dont see adult bunker or herring I rarly use plugs though I will keep a small metal lip and needle in the bag. I mainly use soft plastics, small plastic swimmers, and bucktails. For the swimmers keep them around 4-5 inches. bait in the spring is usually small and slim. try to keep your lures skinny to imitate sand eels and spearing. For the swimers I usually use a Yo-suri crystal minnow black and silver. bucktails in white, Chartruse if the water is dirty(it usually is in the spring)3/8oz-1oz. tip the bucktails with a skinny soft plastic like a slug-go, fin-s fish, or bass assassin. fish it slow on near the bottom. for soft plastics put the on jig head 1/4- 3/4oz sluggo shallow, assassins deep. 3-4in swimm shads from calcutta or tsunami in white or chartruse work well. another good search bait is a 3/8oz cast master with a small green tube tail. in the spring the water can be dirty for run off or crystal clear for the is no plankton in the water yet. I use florocarbon in the spring. I think it makes a difference. in dirty water use pink or chartruse because it is brighter and the fish can see it better. also bass sometimes fish by scent in murky water so coat everything with a thin layer of smelly jelly or tip it with some GULP! dont get the jelly on the buck tail for it kills the action for it matts up the hair. instead put it on the soft plastic trailer. pork works to but cut it down to give it a slimer profile in the water. when fishing the bucktails right a bove the bottom with the ocational flick of the wrist, if you get a bump and miss the hook set jerk it the let it sink the the bottom and sit for a second. repeat. if the bass doesnt hit it the second time resume your retrieve. most of the hits come on the first drop. this works about 75% of the time for me. most of these lures are small and are best fished on a light 7-8ft rod. Use a rod able to throw lures 1/2-2oz and get a good fight out of a schoolie but still capable of landing a keeper. distence isnt an issue when fishing around sod banks and creeks for there is usually at high tide a feww feet of water right there and the fish are usually up against the bank. try the mouths of creeks around the top of the out going. warm water and small bait gets pulled from the shallows into the creek. I have seen dozens of bass sitting in three feet of water a noon at themoth of the creeks feasting onall the small bait and grass shrimp that was being swept into there mouths. spring fishing can be hit or miss so dont get frustrated. The y time i use the mathods i just described are mid march through april depending on how fast the water warms. afteer that larger bait comes and the bass spread out into the rest of our waters. on the ocean front use bait, cut squid herring or worms or clams. some large bass are caught every spring by someone using a herring chunk or a hole squid. in the bays i like to use lures but sometimes a piece of clam or worm is all the fish will eat. I keep a few GULP! sand worms in my bag just in case. This is mainly a schoolie fishery so crush your barbs and get the fish back in the water as fast as possible to a void stress on the fish. I have also caught some nice weakies and flouder in the spring when bass fishing. bring a few flounder hooks in case the bass dont coroperate, it has saved the trip more than once. they will hit the gulp! or sand worms or a small peice of clam or mussel. another trick is to suspend a small 2inch bucktail, soft plastic, or fly under the float used in snapper poppers. retreive slowly but give it a few pops now and then to get the fishes attention. for bass cover lots of water. go from creek to creek by boat or where waders and walk from the land. try this in the spring and you should get into some fish. as the season moves on increase your lure size to match the natural groth of the bait fish. good luck and tight lines.

This post edited by snapperman 05:12 PM 02/13/2008
 

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Sod Bank Bassin?
By DJ Muller
The arrival of spring is welcomed by the stir crazed surfcaster. The cold winds of winter
don?t bite so hard, the layers of clothing and jackets start peeling off. Green vegetation
begins to sprout up all over the place and it is finally time to get your equipment in line
for some of the great spring bass fishing along the sod banks and beaches of the Raritan
Bay.
Usually by the time April rolls around I am raring and ready to catch some bass. Actually
by that time, I am ready to catch anything that swims. I have all my rods and reels ready
to roll; after all, I have had all winter to ready them. I make sure all my line is fresh. I
have enough rigs tied up to carry me through the spring run. I go through my bait-fishing
bucket and make sure everything that I need is in there; sinkers, clam knife, pliers, extra
rigs and hooks, my digital scale, a tape measure, head lamp, and elastic thread. I then dig
out my home-made sod-bank buggy, one I made a couple years back for humping all my
fishing rods, spikes, bait, chair, and what ever other good stuff that I could fit into it,
down to where the fishing is good. I then load all the stuff into the back of the truck and
head off to the bait store for some fresh clams on my way to the honey hole. It is spring
and it has been too long since I actually felt the weight of a bass on the line. I have
dreamed about it all winter but it just isn?t the same, of course.
Shallow waters always heat up the fastest in the spring. Bass, like any animal, gravitate to
warmth. At this time of year the bass are also moving into the warm shallow creeks and
rivers to spawn. This is what makes the back bays good spring locations for catching
bass. The more I fish the shores of the Raritan Bay, the more good places I find to fish. If
you want a little tip on a spot that is hotter than all the rest, I would like to inform you
that there isn?t one. Any of the bay beaches are capable of producing bass in the spring.
From Morgan Creek all the way out to the backside of the Hook, you can find productive
water. It may depend on the time of the season and the water temperatures, but by mid-
April, take your pick. Last year for example, there would be a good number of bass
caught one day in Union beach, and the next day it was hot in Keansburg. The bass cruise
the muddy flats in search of forage, when they find it they indulge, when there is no
forage, they move on. It is not too much more complicated than that.
The Set-Up.
When fishing the sod-banks I have found a nine foot rod teamed up with a reel equal to
the Penn 5500SS, to be the perfect combo for what I am doing. Most of the bass that you
catch will be 15 pounds and under, but every once in a while a heavyweight will come for
dinner. It is not unusual for a 20-30 pound bass to be caught from the area. Remember the
pre and post spawn bass swim these shallows. I like to spike my rod as opposed to
holding it for long periods of time. I use a custom made hi-low rig, and I bait it with fresh
clam. Not frozen, not salted, fresh. I just hook the clam on and cast it out and wait for the
action to begin.
A Bay Tip. When it comes time to fish clams, as a rule I don?t usually tie my clam on. A
fresh clam usually stays on the hook while casting if put on correctly. However when
fishing the bay I have had trouble with the clam staying on the hook while in the water. I
have yet to figure out why, perhaps it is small predators, maybe flounder of crabs, or
maybe strong current, but it is has become advantageous to tie the clam on with some
elastic thread. Plastic thread is available in just about any tackle shop. Put the clam on
like you normally would and then wrap it with the thread about 10-15 times. Keep the
thread and the clam up around the shaft of the hook. The barbs on the shaft of the
baitholder hooks help the elastic keep the clams up on the shaft as opposed to sliding
down to the bend. Remember, you want to keep the hook concealed as much as possible.
When you begin to experience the inability of your bait to stay on the hook, be prepared
by having some thread ready to wrap up Mr. Clam.
Tides. The bay is big, and the bay is wide. The bay is also shallow. The sod banks of the
bay sit high. Higher than the sand and mud that sits down below the top of the banks.
Any one that has fished the banks knows what I mean by a drop off, or step down. The
drop off varies of course but once you step down off the bank the bottom gradually
descends. At low tide you can walk below the sod banks, and you can wade out quite a
distance before getting to deep, fishable water. Fishing on the top of the banks at high
water gives you 3-4 feet of water right in front of you. This is why you want to fish the
banks at high tide. High tide offers you plenty of water to accommodate the desired bass
activity. Many a cow bass cruise just off the drop off at high water, this gives you, the
shore based angler, a considerable shot at a trophy.
Make Haste. The time to begin is now! Don?t wait till June to start fishing for bass. Find
a spot that you feel comfortable with on one of the bay beaches or banks and go put in
your time and see what you can come up with. You usually get some good action
throughout April and early May. Time on the water is what will get you both fish and
fishing experience. Not sitting home reading about how others do or have done it. In
closing, while fishing the Bayshore areas, please, please, clean up after yourself. I see
way too much ?fisherman?s refuse? left behind. In many cases these areas are not
publicly maintained areas, and future repercussions could be suffered if fishermen
continue to leave their junk and not take responsibility for their garbage. I would not want to lose one of these great bay access points because of carelessness.
 

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also read this

Written by Mike "Saltheart" White
Jigging for Early Spring Bass by Saltheart

I thought I'd share some of what I know about jigging for early spring bass.

First of all , size matters. You won't do too well in the early spring with a 5 OZ ball jig and a 9 inch shad body. You got to go way down to jigs in the range of 1/2 to 1 OZ depending on their shape. Flat head jigs at 1/2 are proven fish getters this time of year. Typically, these are bucktail jigs. You can also do well with a bare jig and some sort of plastic tail. Small curtail grubs work well as do 4 inch fin S fish, 3 inch sassy shads, small sluggos types, small polywog looking things, Zoom flukes, etc. My favorite plastic jig tails for spring fishing are the Zoom, Salty Fat Albert curltails in white. I like these because I think the salt in them causes the bass to hold on a second longer, increasing your window of opportunity to set the hook.

OK back to the jigs themselves. In the 1/2 to 1-OZ range mentioned, I believe that it's the visible profile of the jig that matters, not its weight. So for a flat head, you need something smaller than for a round head. Say a 1-OZ round head has about the same profile as a 1/2 OZ flat head. There are substantial differences in the way a 1-OZ ball behaves verses a 1/2 OZ flat head (sink rate for instance) but I'll get to that later.

The reason I mention the trade off between the shapes and sizes of jigs is that some people have a hard time casting a 1/2 OZ jig under surf fishing conditions. Sure it's easy in the local pond but on the ocean with wind and waves and structure, etc., you need to be able to cast a 1/2 Jig about 40 yards. If you can't , you could consider moving up to a heavier jig but with a smaller profile.

While I'm talking about casting, let me point out that its much easier to cast the very light stuff with a spinner than it is with a conventional reel. Experts can do it all with a conventional but most will find it much easier to get the 40 yards and not have down time taking out overruns if they use spinning gear.

You also need a light action rod. Freshwater bass rods or Steelhead rods work well for throwing jigs in the 1/2 to 1-OZ range. For schoolie fishing, both in the spring and fall , I use a Lami GSH 108-2H with a Suveran 400 spinning reel. I use 10 or 12 pound test. I prefer 10 but sometimes if the tackle shop doesn't have 10, I can do OK with 12. Very often I tie direct but unless you are willing to retie often , use a 3 foot leader of 20 LB mono. The Suveran is an expensive reel (way less than a VS though! ) so if you don't have the money, never fear. The new Abu center drag spinners like the C4's and C6's are fine reels too with the same Abu center drag and cost much less. You would also do well with a smaller pen like the 4500SS and Daiwa and especially Shimano also makes some nice smaller spinners.

I'm currently building myself a St Croix 70 M for a light conventional set up. I haven't decided for sure but right now I'm leaning towards one of the small ABU 5500 size reels. Maybe a small Shimano Calcutta. Once the rod is done I'll take it to the tackle shop and try a few reels on it to see what feels good. For a very light conventional, I'm partial to a center thumb button like a Morrum or Calcutta but there are some newer small Abu's out there with center thumb buttons at a much lower price now.

You need a casting tail. That is, you want to have the jig hanging down away from the rod tip some distance to cast. For a spinner, a tail of only 18 inches is fine. For a conventional, you may want a 3 foot casting tail. Anyway, cast it out there. Now you are in the game.

Now what?

The first thing to remember when jigging is the same as the first thing in any other style of fishing, pay attention. I don't mean look out on the water. I mean be ready mentally and physically to hook a fish. You don't get a five minute pull for you to wake up and set the hook. You get a 1/4 second bump and if you are in space when it happens, you won't hookup. The best thing I can use as an analogy of your awareness level would be to be poised like you would be if you were touching something that may be hot. You approach it fully away to sense the heat and have you body and muscles set to pull away fast before you get burned. That's the level of awareness you need to be a good jig fisherman. I've posted about the ready position before and was very disappointed by the response I got from even very experienced fisherman. Excuses like "its hard to stay concentrated for two hours when its cold and windy", etc. Well what I can tell you is that its mental awareness that separates the good jiggers from the great jiggers. If you remember nothing else from this article, remember that mental awareness is the secret to jigging and maybe the most important thing in all types of fishing.

Ok, so hopefully you are on you toes, aware, and you lay out a good cast. The simplest and easiest thing to do is simply let the jig hit the water and start a steady retrieve. Keep the rod tip low so that if you feel anything touch you jig, bang, set the hook. A quick sweep of the rod tip up will do that for you. You don't have to swing too hard that you lose you balance and fall in. A perfect hook set to me goes from about horizontal to about 70 degrees up with the actual hook set happening between 50 and 70 degrees. Now keep the line tight and reel the fish in.

Ok, that's a basic easy technique. The next thing I would practice is a countdown. After the jig hits the water, count 2 seconds or 4 seconds or 6 seconds, before starting the retrieve. This shouldn't be done randomly. By counting down, you are causing the retrieve to occur at different depths, thus locating the depth of the fish eventually. So, you want to be systematic. Try 2 seconds for 3 casts. Then try 3 for a few, then 4, etc. When you find the fish, keep using that countdown to be able to consistently reach that depth cast after cast. It's not unusual for the fish to be in a very narrow depth range. It may change from day to day and spot to spot but on any given day in any given spot, they are likely concentrated within a particular depth range.

You'll find that this is one place the jig weight and shape matters. A 1-OZ round ball will sink faster than a ½ OZ flat head. It will also have different action in the current. So if a 3-second count is working for a round jig, you might need 5 seconds (or whatever) if you switch to a lighter, higher surface area jig.

The next thing you want to learn is how to find the bottom. Some of the best jigging opportunities are right on the bottom. A simple way to do this is to cast out, just let it sink an inordinate amount of time, then slowly retrieve. Get to know what it feels like to have the jig touching bottom under conditions when you know for sure its down do to the long countdown before starting the retrieve. Another way to find the bottom is you sort of want to combine the countdown method with the steady retrieve method. You want to let the jig sink but you need to keep in touch with it so you can feel the drag when the jig bottoms out. Another good technique to add is a gentle raising and lowering of the tip to also try to sense the jig touching the bottom on the uplift of the tip.

Now, once you get good at finding and feeling the bottom, try to learn to bounce the bottom. That is, get the jig down and feel the bottom with a tight line as described above but raise and lower the tip enough to get that jig to go up a couple of feet then bounce back down and hit the bottom, then up again, etc. The bottom bouncing produces some sort of sound or vibrations and will also result in a puff of sand or mud to be kicked up thus making a visible sign to attract the fish too.

There are other ways but I think these basic techniques, used alone or in combination, are actually at the root of anything more complicated.

Buy jigs with good hooks. A good hook is essential, even for small fish. I've never broken an 8/0 hook in my life but despite spending $2.50 on a jig with nice hair, I've had several hooks break right where the hook meets the lead head on smaller jigs with minuscule fish on. Before you buy a jig, hold the lead head in one hand and the hook in the other and give it a good rock from side to side. If it can be bent easily or break in you hands, it won't even hold a small fish. Forget about jigs that come 12 in a package for $3 for saltwater striper fishing. You are far better off to economize by buying a good bare jig with a solid hook and painting and tying yourself than to buy cheap jigs that save a few bucks but result in many lost fish. All my jigs have forges and Cad plated Mustad Hooks. We make all our own. Two reasons why we make our own; We save money, and we know that jig won't let us down.

My last comment is about using teasers with jigs for schoolies. It works great but I'm not in favor of it. Spring fish that will hit a teaser will almost always hit the small jig. Unlike later in the season where teasers will increase you chance at hooking up at all, teasers used on spring schoolies just gets you double hook ups. That's fun if you haven't done it much but spring fish are easy to catch , one after another, so why go for doubles except to have a big number of schoolies to brag about. One fish on the line is plenty fun. It really kills me to see guys tying on 3 teasers plus a jig going for doubles, triples and quad hookups of 12 inch fish. Then later we hear how they caught 2000 fish that season. Sometimes a teaser will get you a fish when the jig won't. Then its smart to use the teaser but just to get many many fish at once, it just doesn't make sense to me. Multiple hookups means harder handling of the fish (the other three bounce on the rocks while you lip and release number one) and longer time out of the water for them. Give the little guys a break and catch and release schoolie fish one at a time. In my opinion, it's more sporting.
 

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Don?t forget that the New York striped bass season doesn?t open until May 8. Using barbless hooks and releasing the fish promptly will cut down on mortality rates.

I believe the season starts April 15th...
 

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light tackle and bass assassins on florocarbon leaders will work well in the back bays..

although many will disgree about the aggressiveness of early bass, a white popper (1.5 oz floater) on the N shore on a low tide has been a very effective early season lure for me... some very small early season bass have smacked this lure just as hard as if it were fall...

Small swimmers like the rapala floating minnow have also been a lure that has worked well.. the fish will be small but bass are bass.. this little guy was my first bass of 2007, .(April).. it is legal to catch and release in NY all year.. popper and fish almost same size, but against conventional wisdom, they liked the topwater, especially if it's shallow.. good luck
... fish hit at dusk, there was small eels in the back bay at the time.. watch for the bait..

best choice though for me would be the bass assassins (white, bubblegum pink on small jig heads on floro)... good luck


This post edited by likeitreallyis 10:00 AM 02/16/2008
 

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do you guys tie direct when using floro inthe spring. i do except on small light jigs and lures where the swinging from the snap will give it more action. also, when fishing dawn or dusk in the spring, first lure out of the bag is a 1oz sspopper. in the day a small bucktail or soft plastic on a lead head. at night a small bomber, crystal minnow, or mambo minnow with a red gill as a teaser. also check out the videos on noreast. there are some from a seminar last year where mark broome talks about fishing in the spring in the back bays. also at rocky point fishing stop there are guna be seminars on spring bucktailing by doc muller and spring fishing on the north shore by mark B.

This post edited by snapperman 11:07 AM 02/18/2008
 

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Before I even think of what to throw, the first thing I do is plan out my trips for Spring. That means getting tide tables for the area?s you plan to fish, taking into account moon tides, times of sunrises and sunsets, and when you expect to see certain baitfish (your log book comes in handy here). Once you have a basic schedule, as those dates approach, factor in the weather, what baitfish and game fish have been doing. In early spring keep a close eye on the water temps, they?ll appear like magic.;)
 
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