believe in the bucktail

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It’s been an awesome lazy summer of fishing from the great Sea Oak that Thomas and I bought in June, drifting and drinking for summer fluke and black sea bass, but now that fall is full upon us, it’s time to start getting serious. I met up with Ben today at the new Greenpoint Fish & Lobster Co. at Eckford and Nassau to talk about this year’s derby. Ben’s been a busy guy for most of the year, but we’ve nailed down our date for this year’s derby and it’s going to happen Friday 17 October through Sunday. Like last year we’re planning to have a great cookout of derby fish this year with lots of beers and good times in Dream’s backyard. Look for more details later this week.

Yesterday (Saturday), I managed to sneak out of town and work for a brief trip to Montauk to check out the fall run. I didn’t know there was a tournament this weekend, but when I pulled into the lower lot it was pretty obvious that something was going on—more than just the usual fall crowd, and judging by Zeno’s comments over at Surfcaster’s Journal, there wasn’t much to be expected this weekend anyway. I was supposed to meet up with my friend Tyler who was out in a buddy’s boat targeting albies, but he ended up having a field day with bass, blues, and, yup, albies into the night so I was solo in the crowd of surfcasters, many of whom were grilling food and lounging around the lower lot with gear drying out, draped over their trucks and campers. I spent the earlier part of the day retreading my boots with Grip Studs since the last time I was out here I lost one of my Korkers while wading back to shore and was annoyed at how they just seem to untie themselves and wander off without so much as a middle finger on the way out. I’d done some reading up on the #1800 model on this site and figured what the hell since Korkers and Grip Studs are pretty comparable, price wise. These studs have a pretty wide auger and you drill them directly into the felt sole of your boots. I geared up pretty lazily myself while trying to enjoy the setting sun and pink sky and no one around me seemed to be in much of a hurry either.

I walked down the path to the lighthouse and didn’t see many people at first, but offshore there were a lot of boats working off the point. A couple guys were throwing bucktails off the lighthouse point but it seemed pretty quiet, until I turned the corner. From Brown’s up to where I was standing at the top of Turtle Cove there were no less than 25 surfcasters, maybe more since I counted a half dozen I could see at the point of Brown’s in the distance. I walked toward the beach thinking This Was A Huge Mistake, but found a rock in relative solitude while all around me I saw guys eyeing each other up and seeing what the other was throwing. That kind of scrutiny is annoying, but I guess it comes with the territory. It was about mid-high tide with no wind and the surf was mellow. Most guys were throwing pencils in the fading light and nobody was catching. I started with a pencil too and got nothing. I switched to a 2oz bucktail and got some weeds. I switched to a 1.5oz bucktail and got some weeds. The light was changing from blue to black and all around me headlamps dotted the dusk and swept the water in wide arcs. That was annoying too: people surfcasting with their headlamps on full lumens. I could hear some arguments in the distance and the smell of grilled hot dogs wafted over Camp Hero. A guy far to my right was throwing a glow-in-the-dark popper that looked like a falling star every time it caught my peripheral vision. I swapped to a 1oz bucktail that somehow got caught up in my clip and wouldn’t sit right. I don’t even know how that happened as it was stuck somehow in the middle of the clip and I had to turn on my light and use pliers and a lot of cursing to free it. I turned off the light and cast out. This bucktail seemed to swim better in the current and not get hung up on the rocks ahead of me. I was doing the surfcasting thing where you hold the butt end of the rod between your legs for leverage—actually this was the first time I used this Lamiglas 1321 I bought off some guy last winter because I tried to use it when I went out with Bill Wetzel back in June but the previous owner put these wire guides on it and half of them had broken welds or chips in them. (I got the guides replaced at Bernies.) Anyway, I was probably day dreaming or something or trying to imagine the bucktail bouncing above the rocks when a truck slammed my line and, with the aforementioned rod-between-the-legs posture I’d assumed, damn near catapulted me off my rock. I set my drag tight to pull free of some of the weed beds, which may have had a part in almost falling face first into the next rock. For the first minute I pumped and cranked and fought this fish sitting down before I felt I had enough control over it to stand back up, but by then it lodged itself between a couple boulders about 20 yards to my left. With all the people around me I didn’t want to alert them to the fish on my line and I didn’t want to give up either since the only other fish I caught in this supposed Striper Mecca was this little rat in June that wasn’t even worth mentioning other than it was the first kinda bass I caught in Montauk. I turned on my lamp and hopped down and started wading to the boulders.

Luckily for me I was tucked into this little corner where nobody on either side could see what I was doing. I got pounded by waves here but got close enough to grab the leader and pull the fish out. It just sort of acquiesced with what I wanted to do, exhausted from fighting in the surf and rocks, the bucktail stuck neatly in its upper left lip. I didn’t get measurements, but this was easily my biggest bass of my surfcasting life thus far, and by a lot. It wasn’t a monster bass by any means, but no surfcaster would be bummed about landing this fish. I estimated it to be about 20-ish pounds, and will probably be 35-pounds the next time I tell this story. It took me a good bit to revive the fish but it finally gave a kick and swam off, in my observance, somewhat sheepishly. In the distance that same guy threw his glow-in-the-dark popper and lights went on and off in the night. Nobody saw me climb back up to my rock smiling.

This is Peter Laurelli, who makes those great fishing videos that get me through the long cold winter. This is pretty much how I felt in triumph over man and nature.

I had one more fish, considerably smaller, but lost it before the moron parade started with guys shining their headlamps at full blast in every direction looking to see what you were doing, shining directly into the water around you and everyone else. I thought about moving further west but figured with the amount of lights going off that it probably wasn’t worth it at this time of the tide. Walking back to the lot I tried to be courteous and shield my light from the guys fishing while trying not to trip in the dark, but nobody gave a shit. They gave even less than that, really. Just the fact that you were there was an annoyance to them. Nobody ever said surfcasters in Montauk were nice guys.


p.s. So far all Grip Studs are in place and I’m pretty satisfied with them. Screwing directly into the boot allows the studs more flexibility with the sole of the shoe which makes for better grip, as far as I can tell. There’s a lot of guys who are sold on these over Korkers. Maybe I will be one of them.


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