Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report
Friday, November 03, 2017: Winds have roughed up the surf again, though the John Matt bass (see story below) has a load of anglers out there fighting the 2- to 4-foot surf.
(This might be updated later today. Wanted to get this John Matt interview out there.)
CLASSIC GET’S BIGGER IN SURF CITY: I chatted with John Matt about his now tourney-leading 48-pound bass. And his hookup and fish fight had all the hallmarks of a classic, trophy bass triumph.
John was quick to credit his fishing partner/cousin, Gregory, for reconnoitering the surfline as they drove the Surf City beach at low ride. The two are dedicated surfcasters, going out “almost every day,” during the bass season.
“We were driving along and Greg had said, ‘Right here!,” recalled John.
Greg based the stopping point on a fine-looking hole in a low-water setting. Onshore winds had the water chopped up a bit, making it a tad tougher to spot deeper water. Helping things along were fine, sunny, fall-like conditions. Water temps near 60.
Settling in, each man began fishing with a single rod each.
John was using 30-pound braided line on a Penn spinning reel, seated on an eight-foot pole, handmade by a late buddy. John would later wonder if, just maybe, he had a little fishing help from his buddy up above.
As terminal tackle, John was throwing a five-ounce pyramid sinker, an 8/0 circle hook on … wire leader. Yep, wire leader.
“I thought the big bluefish were around.”
It didn’t take long to realize something big was, in fact, around. “It was only my second cast when it hit,” he said.
In fact, John was still walking his rod back to the spike when he felt a couple quick raps. “I was still holding the rod and it was like a quick boom … boom.”
Attention highly heightened, a second series of raps let John know he might be onto something. It was Gregory who suggested he set the hook.
“As soon I set the hook, she took off. She took a lot of line.”
The initial run, straight out to sea, guaranteed it wasn’t the likes of a large stingray.
The runaway bass train strained the drag on John’s reel. “It just started beating the hell out of the rod.”
Unable to turn the fish with drag alone, John walked backwards onto the beach, maybe 25 yards. He then walked forward to gain some line back.
At one point, he tightened the drag “a little.”
The famed war-of-wills soon began, with the fish changing its strategy from an out-to-sea bolt to swimming, side-bodied; running parallel to the beach – classic bass maneuver.
As the fight commenced, Greg offered, “That is one big fish!”
It took 25 to 30 minutes of inch-ish give-and-take for the bass to tire … and offer a look-see to John. “It came up about 30 yards out. I seen the fin and tail.”
Greg announced, “It’s a bass!”
The final phase of the fight was more of the deadweight pull-in, with John backing further up the beach. Being it was low tide, there was not a large shorepound to contend with.
The fish was finally pulled in far enough for Greg to get a shot at grabbing the trophy fish -- though the “grab” part didn’t go quite as expected.
“Greg didn’t want to get his feet wet! I told him just go grab it!”
Once grabbed and hauled up to high ground, John got his first gander at the 51.5-inch striper, his largest bass ever.
Then came the problem every angler would love to have. “It was too big for the cooler on the front of the truck.”
The solution was to take the cooler out of the rod rack and just lay the mega-bass inside. This left the fish’s head well out on one side and the tail striking out on the other side of the rod rack.
John recalls getting a goodly number of stares by motorists and pedestrians as he drove to Surf City Bait and Tackle for the initial weigh-in.
After officially entering the fish into the LBI Surf Fishing Classic in Surf City, John headed over to Fisherman’s Headquarters, where he was entered into the shop’s Calcutta.
After photo sessions – and allowing a parade of onlookers to check out the fish hanging at the shop – it was time to fillet the it. “It took a long time to clean,” said John.
Of import – and a chuckler for many of us – the bass had a bunker head in its belly. It was partially digested but the cut marks from a knife could be seen. Yep, someone fishing a bunker head came that close to grabbing this now Classic-leading striper. That said, who’s to say the fish’s success in pulling that bunker head off somebody else’s hook didn’t give it confidence when seeing John’s bunker chunk lying enticingly on the bottom? John surely thanks whomever readied the fish for his taking.
By the by, that big-ass bass also had sand crabs in the belly. Just sayin’.
As to getting back out fishing again, catching that major bass hasn’t cooled John’s fishing urges whatsoever. “I’m not looking forward to another one of them, but I don’t care. Even if it’s only 30 inches, it’s a striper.”
Additional information on the Beach Haven Charter Fishing Association can be found at www.BHCFA.net.
The black sea bass action is still good on the wrecks and reefs off the port of Beach Haven, the mahi and tuna are still offshore when conditions permits trips out there, but the annual striped bass migration has the captains of the Beach Haven Charter Fishing anxiously awaiting their arrival.
Spiny dogfish have arrived on the wrecks and reefs close to shore making it difficult at times to get some consistent actions going on the sea bass. Those pieces of structure a little farther offshore still seem to be free of the pesky dogfish and are still producing a steady bite.
The canyons are still holding a very high number of mahi-mahi with fish being caught by working lobster pots and other items such as week lines and pieces of debris. This is a cast type fishery on light gear. Other mahi, often larger, are also being caught on the troll. The overnight chunking action has been spotty at times although the chum slicks have been attracting some swordfish and sharks to spice up the action. Daytime trolling has been producing its share of tuna.
At last report a large mass of striped bass were just off the mouth of Raritan Bay. With some continued cool weather these fish should be showing up off Beach Haven in anywhere from a couple of days to a week or so. These are big fish, and it is important to take advantage of them when they show up. The BHCFA captains are ready to troll, jig, or fish live bait when they get here. There have been reports of a good number of 40-pounders caught up to the north.