A surfcaster with a well-armed bullpen is ready for anything!
After an MLB offseason marred by an extended and contentious lockout, I was left without one of my favorite, mindless things to read about during the winter, the ‘hot stove’. Baseball has always been my favorite team sport and I obsess over it, just like I do fishing. No trade rumors takes away that mental exercise of trying to piece together the lineup, starting rotation and, of course, the bullpen. There’s no denying that the best teams, have great bullpens.
I have been taking surfcasting seriously for 20 years, that’s a long time and, even as two decades have passed, I still have nights where I find myself wishing that I had brought plug X, Y or Z instead of the dozen that I thought were the correct choices for the location and conditions at hand. I preach preparedness, but everyone falls short at one time or another. I typically have three surf bags in my truck, one is a daytime bag, one is nighttime and one is intended for heavy current; but even with that, I don’t always have everything.
When I was younger, I didn’t care as much, I’d just rip things out of my bag and toss them aside and hurry the better choice into its space—the backs of my vehicles were a breeding ground for tetanus and not safe for bare hands. As I’ve gotten older, I find myself prioritizing organization—even ahead of preparedness—mostly because if you’re organized… guess what… you can actually find what you’re looking for! And with this—embarrassingly obvious—revelation, I have found salvation in the form of a vehicle-based bullpen.
This all came to light when I was walking around a bargain store and found a Plano Storage Locker for short money—immediately, I knew what I had to do. My next stop was Home Depot where I purchased three 10-foot lengths of PVC downspout and then it was back home to dust off the chop saw. Cutting the pipes into 9-inch lengths produced 13 tubes per stick and it turned out the box held 40. The tubes are oblong so they typically hold more than one plug each, and if you’re talking about needlefish they can hold a half-dozen. It should be coming together in your mind, this thing can hold a lot of plugs!
The most important thing to keep in mind when stocking your bullpen is to remember that this box is not intended to show off how many GRS and Mike’s Customs you have, it is meant to bail you out when the forecast says 5 to 10 and you get out of the truck to find 20 to 30. Or when your spot that never has big bait is loaded with 10-inch bunker. Or when Plan C calls for a completely different set of plugs after pulling a hard skunk at A and B.
Instead, consider the curveballs that cagey lefty, Mother Nature, has thrown you in the past—hard winds, unexpected mountainous swells, big bait, microscopic bait, bioluminescence, dirty water… the list goes on and on. And then think about those high confidence plugs that you can almost always count on to kill a skunk. You want a good mix of options that can be called in to nullify the unexpected and others that can replace your workhorses if you lose one in the heat of the battle. You also want to make sure you have a mix of plugs that can cover the water column.
My workhorse plugs are needlefish, metal lips, darters and splashy topwaters. I’m going to make sure I have needles that cover sizes from 6 to 10 inches and weights that can scrape the bottom in current all the way up to slow sinkers I can hang in a slow sweep. Same for metal lips, I want small 1-ounce Danny’s all the way to 10-inch deep divers that can swim below 10 feet. I’m sure you get my drift for the rest. For the curveballs, it’s going to be a mix of light and heavy stuff, bottle plugs that will gain traction in hurricane swell and rocket through wind. Heavy stubby needles that will cut wind and stay down in chop. But I will also want unloaded Red Fins, 5.25-inch SP Minnows, 1-ounce Super Strike needles and small soft plastics like Albie Snax to draw strikes when the fish are hopelessly keyed in on small bait.
Stocking the pen is almost as satisfying as knowing you have exactly what you need when things go sideways in the surf. Perhaps best of all, you won’t have a salary cap to contend with and it won’t be necessary to make any trades to fill that last tube.