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A look at how and where to throw deep-diving metal lips when fishing the surf.
By Roger Rosenthal
Tags: surf
A selection of deep-diving metal-lip swimmers from Big Water Lures, Surf Asylum and Beachmaster.

When we approach the surf what we see is the surface of the water. While you might be able to peer beneath the surface immediately in front of you, overall our vision is greatly limited. I believe our limited perception gets translated into limited cognition: we think about the water surface because we can see it. Yet, as every good surfcaster learns through experience there are always more fish under the surface than are showing on the surface, even in a blitz.

Even more important is the role the bottom of the ocean plays for gamefish like striped bass. Fish in a neutral feeding mode will stay near the bottom, attacking only what comes into their immediate zone. In current, fish will station themselves near the bottom where friction reduces water speed and allows them to feed while using less energy. Other types of structure such as holes, protruding rock ledges and sand bars provide ambush points out of the current allowing bass to surprise disoriented baitfish as they pass by.

Traditionally the most effective way to fish the bottom of the water column has been with bucktails. Bucktails are, and will continue to be, very productive tools in the surf. The proof is in the innumerable large fish caught by bucktails each year. What I would like to add to the surfcaster’s thinking is the role that deep-diving metal lips can play in exploring the depths beneath the ocean surface.

One great advantage that large profile deep-diving metal lips have over bucktails is there size. They offer a bigger meal. Especially plugs like Big Water Lures’ giant deep diving Pike which is big enough to cull out smaller fish that find its hefty dimensions too much for their taste. Yet, as Gary Soldati of Big Water Lures notes, the other advantage of size comes in murky or big water. Compared to bucktails, Soldati feels that, “…big Pikes show up so much better in big water conditions.”

Size is not, however, the only advantage of deep-diving metal lips. While one can debate how important swimming motion is for enticing game fish to strike, I think most of us consider it an important, if not essential attribute of a surf lure. Bucktails, for all their virtues have little to no swimming action. Metal lips, however, have that slow, seductive waggle and roll suggesting not only “life” but perhaps a compromised injured baitfish unable to defend itself.

So where should you use deep-diving metal lips? Anywhere you might use bucktails. Moving water and rips are excellent places to use these lures that can get down to depths of 12- to 14-feet below the surface. Another area favored by plug maker Don Guimelli of Afterhours lures, are shallow boulder fields. Don likes to snake his metal lips through the boulder field using an erratic retrieve that allows the plug to dive when the retrieve is sped up and then use the buoyancy of wood to allow it to rise toward the surface as the retrieve is stopped or slowed. Don will experiment with his retrieve to determine what retrieve the fish are responding to on a given day.

Another way to use large diving metal lips is simply to cast the plug and begin to reel in quickly. The weighting of the plug and the lip shape will cause it to dive with a fast retrieve. Wait until you feel the lip hit the bottom (remember if the lip just touches bottom you will not hang up) and then briefly stop your retrieve to let the plug rise a bit off the bottom. Then simply retrieve with a steady retrieve pausing it only if you hit an underwater rock.

Deep-diving metal lips cannot be employed in all the situations that bucktails can, nor will they ever replace the bucktail. What they can do is provide a fun-to-fish complement to bucktails that offers a good chance of attracting the attention of a cow bass.