|| |—| || |FEVER BREAK: DiBenedetto shows off an early season striped bass.| This past winter i suffered from my typical, acute case of cabin fever. Sure, I escaped to Florida a few times (snook in Jupiter Inlet and tarpon in Biscayne Bay), went cod fishing off New York (does the word “numb” mean anything to you?), took a fly-casting lesson, religiously oiled my reels and organized my tackle and watched more fishing TV than I care to recount. But, for me, the fever doesn’t break until the shrink-wrap is off of the boat.
As you read this, I hope to be surrounded by a school of striped bass in Western Long Island Sound. The first fish of the year are never big, but they readily hit plugs worked very slowly. And each fish takes me farther away from a relatively fishless winter and closer to the weakfish, makos, tuna and white marlin of the upcoming season.
This April I’ll bring almost two years of desk time at this job onto the water. And I plan to put some things I’ve learned to use. Here are a few of those tricks.
1. From Mark Davis of Shakespeare Tackle I learned about “bubbling,” or waking, a spinnerbait for skinny-water redfish. Davis holds his rod tip high and works a large, twin-bladed spinner, which he sometimes tips with a porkrind, so it bubbles right beneath the surface. He says it’s deadly.
2. SWS Editor at Large George Poveromo assured me that a southern standard, a popping cork fished above an artificial lure, will also work wonders on stripers when paired with a lure like a Fin-S Fish or Cocahoe minnow.
3. From Keys Captain George Mitchell I found out that a red Sharpie marker can be used to color my hooks; a trick that many anglers believe entices fish to strike. The ink also helps prevent corrosion that can dull a hook’s point.
4. At a Salt Water Sportsman Seminar, Captain John Luchka told me that an exposed sandbar loaded with birds is always worth checking as the tide covers it. Luchka says the nutrients in the bird droppings attract little fish—and big fish follow. (Around the office we started calling this trick the “sh*t blitz.”)
5. My friend, Southern California Captain Fred Archer, has made me swear that I’ll start letting some of my trolled baits spin instead of rerigging them so they run “natural.” He claims I’ll get more strikes on a bait that swims like it’s drunk. If you’re like me, this goes against everything you’ve come to know about bluewater trolling.
These are just a handful of the tips I plan to take into the new season. Along the way, I’m hoping to pick up some of my own that I’ll share with you in future columns.
Thank God the fish are back.