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THE NEXT ROCK

Surfcasting can be a dangerous endeavor, but there is more to consider when venturing into the surf than just your own well being.
By Dennis Zambrotta
Tags: surf, general

Waking at 4:00 a.m. she peeked out the window into the driveway. Her husband’s Ford pickup was not there. “He’s probably hitting the bass good tonight”, she thinks aloud to herself. In the back of her mind she is worried.

Two hours earlier:
It was a perfect new moon night on this stretch of Rhode Island coastline as the extra-low tide would allow easier access to his favorite rock perches. A passing offshore storm some 300 miles off the coast set up a 3-foot swell creating white water to help fool any bass in the area. All alone, he gears up in his wetsuit and instinctively grabs the items he needs: two neck lights, plug bag, eel bag, belt, pliers, but in his haste, he forgets his knife.

Up on his first perch he’s into bass immediately and all are decent 15- to 20-pound fish but they are no match for his 10-foot Lamiglas rod, VS 250 and 65-pound braid. “This could be my night”, he says quietly to himself. The bite dies at slack water.

As he contemplates changing locations he peers out to the beckoning flat rock some 200 feet out. His casting partner regularly fished it on moon lows and had taken two 50s from that perch; but he had never fished from it because of the apprehension of swimming that far. On this night he figured the bass had moved deeper so he decides to try it. He got his gear in order for the swim and hopped off his perch. A minute into his swim he pauses and treads water; he could see his destination and was almost halfway there. A few more minutes and he is in the swirling, 15-foot deep water near flat rock. He swims up to the back side and grabs its edge while feeling around with his feet for a step-up rock. None were there. Periodically a wave would wash over pushing him away. He swims back and then unsuccessfully checks each side for a step-up – none were found. “Now I know why not many guys come out here”, he thinks to himself.

Sloshing around he struggles to stay afloat without the full extension of his arms or legs. He reaches for his knife on his belt. Just as he realizes it’s not there another wave comes and once again pushes him into the rock causing him to swallow some water and choke.
His only chance is to get in front of the rock and use a wave to help push him up and onto the perch. The first wave pushes him halfway up the slope and he grabs the top but could not hold on and slid off. He waits for a larger wave. It came and pushes him up onto the rock where he grabs a crevice with his free hand while he holding onto his rod with his other hand. Another wave comes immediately afterwards and sweeps him off the perch while knocking his rod from his grip – fortunately the rod wedges into a small crevice atop the perch. He swims back to the rock and grabs his outfit by the reel before it gets swept away by the next wave.

As he swims to the front of the rock for another try he hasn’t realized that he had inadvertently knocked the braid off the line roller of his reel when he grabbed it. As he treads water he can feel slight resistance on his legs and feet – seaweed was his first thought. He reaches down and can feel not seaweed but line wrapped around his legs. He tries pulling it away and soon realizes it’s his own braid which is now also wrapped around his surf bag. Just then another wave comes and slams his body into the front of the rock. Momentarily stunned he flounders and quickly realizes his hands and arms are now also tangled and attached to his legs courtesy of the 65-pound braid.

Sloshing around he struggles to stay afloat without the full extension of his arms or legs. He reaches for his knife on his belt. Just as he realizes it’s not there another wave comes and once again pushes him into the rock causing him to swallow some water and choke. He begins trying to pull and break the line but only manages to bury the braid deeper through his wetsuit and into his skin. By now his rod is lying on the bottom and at least 25 yards of braid is wrapped around his body. Fatigue as well as panic are now setting in. Another wave pushes him into the rock, this time head first. Not being able to use his hands to protect himself his head hits the rock with such force as to knock him unconscious. He slowly sinks in place, drifting back and forth with the motion of each wave, tethered to his favorite rod by his own line. The oxygen in his lungs is quickly displaced by sea water. All is quiet.


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