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If you fish the surf long, or hard, you will quickly come to realize that there are no absolutes when it comes to success in the suds, or in any other type of fishing for that matter.
By Fred Golofaro
Bottle plugs, aka Gibb’s Casting Swimmers, have accounted for many big stripers over the years.

Over the years, I’ve continued to catch many bass on unadorned bucktails, particularly those made by John Paduano which are patterned after our most common baitfish. Will there be times when a strip of pork rind or a rubber twister tail will make a bucktail more effective? Absolutely, and that’s why I always have a jar of Fat Cow in my bag. But please don’t ever tell me that my bucktail needs to be dressed to be effective.

So continuing down my list, we come to the topic of metal lip swimmers. I have read, heard it preached and overheard conversations on the beach that would have you believe that metal lip swimmers are ineffective in flat or calm surf conditions.

One morning on a local beach, I overheard a self proclaimed “expert” informing a newbie that the metal lip swimmer hanging from his rod was the wrong plug for the calm surf conditions that prevailed that day. When he moved down the beach I couldn’t help but tell the novice caster that he had received some bad advice, and that I have caught many stripers on metal lips under just those conditions. The fact of the matter is that I have caught more stripers over 30 pounds on metal lips worked on the surface in flat, calm water up and down the Striper Coast than I have toes and fingers, as well as a handful topping the 40-pound mark.

Our own knowledge and beliefs are the product of our own experiences, and based on those experiences, I can say with a great amount of confidence that you can indeed catch bass, and quality bass at that, on metal lips in calm water. While we could write a book on fishing metal lips, we’ll end it here and save the other stuff for another day, but I think the point has been made.

And while we are on the subject of plugs, it is a long held belief that popping plugs are a lure designated for daytime use. I’ve always hedged my comments on the subject by using the phrase “primarily for daytime use,” but the fact is that poppers can be a very effective nighttime option when retrieved slowly along, or near the surface. Longtime surfman and veteran of many beach access wars, the late Bill Miller Sr., regularly pulled big stripers after dark on Atom Striper Swipers. He schooled me on the technique one night as I stood waist deep next him in Fire Island Inlet and played spectator as he beached several 30-plus pound bass on these plugs under the cover of darkness.

The current hot nighttime popper is the Super Strike Little Neck (2-3/8 ounce) which provides better casting distance than most of the traditional nighttime plugs, and swims much like a metal lip when retrieved at a slow pace. It should be noted though that the 3-ounce version of this plug swims equally as well when retrieved at a crawl.

Continuing on the plug theme, can we once and for all define a bottle plug? So many casters out there, including some with considerable time on the beach, improperly refer to Polaris-type poppers as bottle plugs. It is understandable given that the shape of these plugs (Gibb’s Polaris, Super Strike Little Neck) more closely resemble the shape of the old style coke bottles than do plugs of the Gibb’s Casting Swimmer design, which any seasoned surfcaster knows to refer to as a bottle plug. Along with Gibb’s and Super Strike, there are a host of wood plug makers out there who turn out bottle plugs of similar design.

These are the same plugs that have accounted for some of the Striper Surf’s more notable stripers over the years, including Mark Malenovsky’s 64 pounder from under the Montauk Lighthouse on Thanksgiving Eve in 1992, and the 65 pounder caught at Ballards on Block Island in November of 1984 by a Rhode Island caster waiting to catch the ferry back to the mainland.

Hopefully, this clears up the bottle plug mystery once and for all.

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