Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report
Saturday, October 16, 2010:
The winds remain wicked, especially if you’re a boat angler. In fact, they haven’t come down at all since the cold front passage yesterday. Another thing that has seemingly been blown away is the bass bite that had begun to flower along the beach and near inlets.
You’ve likely heard about the major bass 47-pounder, taken on chunk at the far South End. That was caught yesterday by Classic contestant COURTLAND FOOS, WILMINGTON, DE. Data: 47.63 weight, bunker, Holgate, 11:15 AM.
That fine fish, along with the Classic, had attracted a ton of angers to Holgate today. I checked with many of them and not a thing has been caught.
I have no explanation for the dearth of the blues. Not one weighed in the Classic. Looking back in my records, we’re usually chestwader deep in them by now. I will guess that when they arrive. It’ll be a veritable free-for-all. If you recall, we had massive slammers showing in the spring. Since hardly anyone keeps the large ones for food, they were released to fatten up for the summer. However, we have seen falls when the big schools of trophy blues simply forsake our shores – though not once, in the past 40 years, have they not shown at all. That would be beyond freaky.
Along with nature flexing its muscles wind-wise, it is showing off in a far different way near the beachline. Birdplay has gone crazy from Mid-Island northward. Along with massive birdplay marking schools of bunker and possibly rainfish, huge gannet are making major splashes as they impact, then swim underwater chasing forage fish. Gannet are the largest member of the famed booby family. They’re amazing fliers, incredible divers and supreme underwater swimmers but get one of those suckers on the beach, as often happens a couple times a fall after the birds apparently injure themselves in dives, and you quickly see how totally dorky they look and act, the source of the famed “booby” terms used by humans.
The other eye-catcher anglers and beach walkers have been the whales, which are also working the baitballs. In fact, I even saw one surfacing off Nebraska Avenue this a.m. They seem to be humpbacks but it’ll take the Marne Mammal Stranding Center to confirm that.
Now for the down side of those baitball out past the bars. As is almost always the case, bass in the beachline hear about the feast and bolt out there. Again, the beach had been starting to come alive with bass when the bait shows outside and, sure enough, the surfcasting instantly suffers. Of course, should the bait get chased into the shallows – which could happen during high tides -- and more bass can be caught in a few hours than days of surfcasting.
By the by, some of the baitballs are bunker but the ones I was watching were much small baits, possibly even rainfish. While gannet usually pounce of bigger mails, they are not opposed to diving in after packs of spearing or rainfish. It should be noted that plunging gannet are not targeting a single fish, the way an osprey does. When they dive, they’re hitting the water to both startle the prey and to get a jump start, speed-wise, to swim after the meal. Underwater photography has clearly shown this.
The potential for poppers is now at its peak. Despite the nonexistent finger mullet run, the corncob mullet are everywhere. These are famed jumpers, and have been seen amidst the above-mentioned baitball-under-fire. Add larger bunker and herring to that current surface action. Bass are surely attracted to surface splashing poppers.
Popper 101: Many/most popper throwers use huge splashes and fast retrieves. And that surely maximizes the number of small stripers taken, However, bigger bass are not inclined to expel a whole lotta energy chasing a potential meal that supplies a so-so amount of meat for their larger bodies. However, a popper lightly popper and even then allowed to linger dead in the water gets a bigger bass thinking, “Hey, why not.”
Another aspect of poppers that even some pros don’t realize is the way a slowly retrieved and lightly-popped popper actually maximizes the tail-wagging action of the artificial. Big pops and fast retrieves create a straight line, low waggle look and action. When you just tweak-pop a popper, the tail (unseen to the angler) is swinging wildly right and left down below. A slowly retrieved popper can be given a snaking action much like a Spook.
Freshwater fishing gives a good sense of how a saltwater popper can be best worked. In clear water, a largemouth bass can often be seen following a surface plug, both interested and confused. More often than not, subtle pops and twists spark an attack reaction. When popping the surfline, envisioning a bass trailing the artificial (which they’ll do for goodly distances) allows what might be called a micromanagement of the artificial’s action. A complex of actions is the trick. Small pops, lots of tail waggle, maybe a quick non popping spurt forward for a few feet, then a dead stop, all work together to keep the stalking bass interested. Going a little splashier and radical toward the beach, as a wounded baitfish might do, is the clincher.
Tip: If a bass makes a full-blown swirl at an artificial, that’s the time to turn on the sped and splash. The bass expects it. If it doesn’t chase after it, the fish was either suspicious of it or might well have been simply annoyed by the popper -- and is trying to chase it away. Happens all the time.As is the case with both saltwater and freshwater bass, there is seldom much interest the second time the same popper is presented to the same fish, for that reason, veteran pluggers don’t even cast the popper after a swirl or missed strike. Instead, they switch plugs, often to a surface swimmer or shallow diver, to offer a different look.