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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.

The fishing game is full of variables, and surf fishing seems especially susceptible to misconceptions and confusion. It is also a discipline which allows for a wide range of discrepancies when it comes to the right and wrong way of doing things.

Much of what we learn, and subsequently believe to be gospel is, or should be, based on our own personal experiences. If you fish the surf long, or hard, you will quickly come to realize that there are no absolutes when it comes to culling gamefish from the suds, or in any other type of fishing for that matter.

And so that’s why I get a little crazy when I hear speakers at seminars, or read articles and books claiming that you must do something this way or that. Two words that immediately raise suspicion when I see or hear them, and which I’ve made a conscious effort to eliminate from my vocabulary, are “never” and “always.” Those words just don’t hold true when it comes to fishing, or much else in life. And so, while these “misconceptions” will have little effect on the global economy, they still bug me.

One that I come across with increasing frequency has to do with fishing bucktails. If I hear or read one more time that you should not fish an unadorned bucktail, I’m going to pull out what hair I have left. One night on Long Island’s Bayville Bridge, way back during my pre-teen years, a legendary and very successful bridge fisherman, Ed Sens, lectured me that you fish plain bucktails in the spring when small bait was most prevalent, and add pork rind later in the season. His words left an impression because a week earlier, I had watched him land three stripers over 25 pounds from the same span. I came to learn later in my angling career that he was part of Al Reinfelder’s circle of bridge fishing sharpies. In Al’s classic book, Bait tail Fishing, he describes Ed as a master bridge fisherman.

Years later, while guiding light tackle charters during the hey days of the 70s weakfish run, I fished small white, unadorned bucktails almost exclusively, and regularly outfished anglers in neighboring boats tossing dressed bucktails and the infamous Salty Dogs. It was simple – the small bucktail was a better match to the grass and sand shrimp the weaks were gorging themselves on at the time.

Updating to this century and several years back, we enjoyed a fine fall run of stripers that was fueled by an abundance of peanut bunker. One afternoon, with fish and bait spread the length of Montauk’s north side, I beached four bass in the 20-pound class, along with many smaller fish. Fish were being caught on rubber shads and bucktails dressed with pork rind, but for most casters, it was at best a steady pick, while I was into fish on nearly every cast. And, I saw only one other fish landed along the stretch I was fishing that even approached the 20-pound mark. The puffy, naked bucktail was a very good match for the bait that day. Did fishing it naked make the difference? Maybe or maybe not, but it sure didn’t hurt my results.

Ditto on several occasions when white bait clouded the south side of Montauk and the bass were playing fussy. Small, white, naked bucktails didn’t knock their socks off, but they did allow me to hook up with more frequency than other casters. Again, matching the hatch was likely the key to the small jig’s effectiveness.

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