Gain An Edge: Tournament Surfcasting - The Fisherman

Gain An Edge: Tournament Surfcasting

44-pounder
This 44-pounder was the winning fish from the spring Surfmasters Tournament and it was caught by the author.

How tournament surfcasting can make you a better fisherman.

Surfcasting is a very unique sport in that, you’ll have guys who treat it as a hobby, putting just as much time and dedication in as guys who fish competitively. In spite of their different motivating factors, the same caliber of work is often put in. So if similar work is being put in already, why do some choose to compete and others don’t? While the core passion is the same, there can be vastly different approaches to surfcasting as a hobby versus as a competitive sport.

Leaderboard
The Surfmaster’s Tournament leaderboard is displayed in front of Paulie’s tackle shop in Montauk.

Reason For Competing

There are a lot of polarizing views on tournament surfcasting for stripers. I would say the majority of guys I talk to (except for those that compete of course) don’t get it. They don’t think fishing is supposed to be that way. “I don’t need the attention or glory, I fish for myself” is something I hear a lot. That’s fine, I respect that, as I also fish for my own satisfaction, but why should competing get a bad rap? Let’s put it in the context of other sports. Should an Olympic-caliber swimmer, for instance, be viewed as less admirable for bringing his or her dedication and skill to a tournament stage? Should he or she just be satisfied with the personal achievement of breaking a world record at the pool at the gym with no one there to see it? I don’t see why the two have to be mutually exclusive. I live for these fish, it’s where I find my passion and I love doing it, however I’m also an extremely competitive individual. The desire to have my skills and hard work put out on the playing field and measured up against others drives me even more. It’s another level of satisfaction unto itself.

While first place is what everyone aims for, what many don’t realize is the rewards of tournament surfcasting don’t just have to come in the form of taking home a prize. I believe the greatest byproduct for me has been the time I force myself to put in. The desire to win pushes me to fish so much harder than the average surfcaster would. And as a result I, without a doubt, have caught more and bigger fish then I would have otherwise. After a long hard day, we all have nights when we feel like we just don’t have the energy left to fish all night and maybe not find what we’re looking for. But the competitor in me knows that all it takes is one big fish to win, and even though the fishing might be slow, I force myself to go and see it through even if it feels like ‘I’m just going through the motions’.

Winner
The author displays the first place plaque he received for winning the 2021 fall Surfmasters.

Game Plan

If you’re serious about competing, there needs to be special emphasis on having a well-structured game plan every night. The foundation of my approach to each tournament is simple yet effective. It entails keeping a disciplined log of the previous season and under most circumstances, emulating that pattern for the current tournament. As a general rule of thumb (in this current fishery at least) your most valuable intel is most likely to come from the data collected over the previous one to two years. Thus, you need to be constantly, observing, adapting, and then executing.

You’ll have guys fishing a certain moon at a certain reef that won the tournament 20 years ago and that tactic just doesn’t work in this day and age. Use recent patterns as your starting point and adjust your game plan from there, taking into account moon, wind, tide and other variables. Furthermore, while it only takes one big fish to win a tournament, it’s hard to put that into practice and make your approach to pull all-nighters for seven nights straight hoping for that one fish. My game plan for each night usually is to find the chew, and then work on finding that certain bite I’m looking for. This is the bite that will produce a winning fish. Once I find that, then for the following nights, every outing consists of putting myself on the best rock or at the best angle with the best presentation at the best time to cull out the biggest fish possible during my window of opportunity.

map
Montauk is where Brandon spends a lot of time learning all of its terrain for tournament time.

Mental Toll

While this sounds simple on paper, the stress and pressure associated with this style of surfcasting is the reason so many guys abandon it or never take it up. The Montauk Surfmasters events are 10 weeks long and every night becomes a game in itself. Imagine if the World Series was 50 games long, yeah it’s kind of like that. How can you sit idly by and feel content on a perfect moon tide in October when you know your competition will be out there grinding. Even if your recent trips have been dismal, or the conditions are not ideal, the thought that someone else might hook that winning fish will give you all the motivation needed to hit it. And despite the stress, I thrive on those nights when everyone is out and you’re fishing head to head and sometimes shoulder to shoulder with the competition. On these nights, the “time on the water” factor is taken out of the winning equation—you’re both there—you both have a shot and the path to success is solely rooted in technique, talent, and stamina. There’s an immense satisfaction that comes from pulling the winning fish on one of these nights, knowing the reason you won was because you held the x-factor to get it done on that night and under those conditions.

Upcoming Surfcasting Tournament
– September 16 – November 22: Montauk Surfmasters Fall Tournament (Invite Only)

– September 30 – October 2: Fred Golofaro Memorial Montauk Surf Fishing Classic

– October 21 – 23: Babylon Fall Surf Fishing Classic

– October 28 – 30: Fred Golofaro Memorial South Shore Fishing Classic

I aim for consistency. The Montauk Surfmasters has events per year, one in the spring and one in the fall. While entering a monster fish or winning a hard tournament always draws a lot of attention and respect, it’s short lived if you can’t show that it wasn’t just a lucky fish. I tell myself, “You’re only as good as your last fish”. Constantly entering big fish, winning, and/or placing is the goal. At the end of the day, just like with any other sport, when you take it to that next level you have to dedicate more time and want it more than anything else. I love seeing people give it their all in whatever passion they have. To win and excel at anything with consistency is admirable. Whether it happens to be body building, table tennis, sharpshooting, or bass fishing, there’s something to be said about mastering your craft, whatever it is. And in the case of surfcasting, whether you place or not, the byproducts of competing are invaluable and will surly make you a better and more disciplined fisherman.

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