In the case of plugs, I consider the versatile ones, the plugs that may do as many alternative issues as attainable, are one of the best. My causes may replenish a e book, however they really come down to 2 necessities. First, if a plug is flexible, I don’t have to hold as a lot on every journey—I don’t want 10 lures if one will cowl every part I could encounter. Having a plug that may go high to backside, gradual to quick, and passive to aggressive is an asset. The second cause versatility is so vital is it means I by no means get shocked by some unknown issue or sudden shift in circumstances. For instance, if the climate reporter completely botches it and the wind finally ends up blowing twice as onerous or half as onerous as predicted, a flexible plug can deal with all of it, and I received’t be compelled to name it quits.

On open-ocean sand seashores, circumstances can change quick, and the adjustments might be extreme. In five-minutes, it might probably go from calm and placid to robust winds and rolling waves. Additional, anglers have to be ready to fish every part from dead-still shallows, to onerous rip currents, to deep troughs, with all of those areas generally occurring inside 100 yards. Of all of the locations I fish, open-ocean seashores have essentially the most variability and require essentially the most preparedness. You have to be versatile, observant, and prepared for something. Nevertheless, attempting to be geared up to cowl miles of seashore might be exhausting should you don’t have a buggy and are hauling 30 plugs in your again.
On the planet of striped bass fishing, there are just a few lures that rise to the highest in relation to versatility. For sand-beach fishing, the bucktail and needlefish are the 2 I hear talked about most steadily, however I’m going to make a powerful argument for a 3rd choice: skinny smooth plastics.

The Tender-Plastic Stickbait

The lure class, “soft-plastic stickbaits” started with the Lunker Metropolis Slug-Go within the Eighties. I’m obsessed and have a love of the Slug-Go that borders on illness. That is the archetype for what I imply by “skinny smooth plastics,” however there are quite a few choices from a wide range of lure producers.

To suit the profile I’m describing right here, a smooth plastic should sink very slowly unrigged, have a straight tail, and be versatile sufficient to be rigged within the three alternative ways talked about beneath. Along with the Slug-Go, the Gravity Deal with GT Eel, JoeBaggs Block Island Eel, Zinger Bomba Shad, and Fish Snax Lures Tremendous Snax all fall below this umbrella.

Striped Bass Surf Stickbaits

1) Gravity Tackle GT Eel
A brilliant-soft, sturdy formulation provides huge motion with minimal effort, which makes the GT Eel excellent for straight, gradual retrieves within the nighttime surf. The baits function “color-shifting” patterns for a pure, panicked baitfish look and are scent-infused. They’re accessible in 13.5-, 9.5-, and 6-inch sizes, with enjoyable coloration patterns together with “Midnight Calamari,” “Silverback,” and “Barbie Pink.”
2) Zinger Baits Bomba Shad
Connecticut-based Zinger Baits affords a wide range of customized smooth plastics, together with the Bomba Shad, a round-body bait with a “rat tail” that has an attractive, undulating motion at a wide range of retrieve speeds, from super-fast to painstakingly gradual. A sturdy physique simply accommodates a jighead or swimbait hook, and all kinds of customized colours provides anglers tons to select from, together with old-school striper favorites like “blue cloud.”
3) Fish Snax Lures Super Snax
Born out of a need to forged a weightless smooth bait a great distance, Massachusetts-based Fish Snax Lures affords two sizes of its long-casting plastics, the 4-inch Albie Snax and the 9.5-inch Tremendous Snax. The Tremendous Snax is designed to be rigged on a weightless swimbait hook, with the bait itself offering loads of weight to succeed in fish from the boat or seashore.
4) Lunker City Slug-Go
The unique soft-plastic stickbait has been a striper-fishing staple for many years. Surfcasters favor the 9- and 12-inch sizes, however sizes to three inches are additionally accessible. The Slug-Go might be rigged a wide range of methods, relying on the situation, circumstances, and retrieve. A big catalog of colours provides anglers loads of choices, however favorites for the surf embrace “eelskin,” “bubblegum,” and “bunker.”
5) JoeBaggs Tackle Block Island Eel
A brilliant-sized stickbait at 14.5 inches lengthy, the Block Island Eel from JoeBaggs Deal with has a stable physique for extra sturdy rigging on a jighead. It’s accessible in traditional striper-catching colours like pink, black, sand eel, and white.

One of many magical issues about soft-plastic stickbaits is the variety of methods you possibly can rig them. With only a single smooth plastic and a handful of jigs and hooks, you possibly can fish nearly wherever, from proper on the floor and quick to 30 toes down at a snail’s tempo, and every part in between. Now, in fact, you don’t wish to tear up your plastic by consistently switching the rigging on the go, so I recommend having a handful of your favourite fashions rigged three alternative ways.

On a Heavy Jighead

What “heavy” means to you is relative, however for many seashores, I contemplate it to start out at round 1½ or 2 ounces. This might be mild for inlet and Cape Cod Canal guys, however for the open seashore, it’s uncommon for me to exceed 1 ounce, and the one occasions I take advantage of 2 ounces is throughout storms or excessive winds. This rigging is my least favourite choice, general, however when it’s needed, it’s virtually inconceivable to imitate with something aside from a bucktail or an internally weighted swim shad. When circumstances name for it, they turn out to be important.

sand beach at night
Underneath flat-calm circumstances, weightless rigging may be very productive within the surf.

On a Swimbait Hook

The second rigging choice is on the other finish of the spectrum: utilizing a weightless or near-weightless swimbait hook. In boulder fields, again bays, and shallow flats, I discover a skinny plastic on a weightless hook to be the simplest lure of all time—and I don’t say this frivolously. Nevertheless, on open-ocean sand seashores, a weightless smooth plastic typically isn’t the only option. I’ve been annoyed attempting to make one work. I proceed to be compelled to attempt as a result of they’ve produced 1000’s of fish to greater than 40 kilos for me elsewhere. Nevertheless, on the open sand, I confronted two hurdles. First, they don’t forged properly—even with skinny, mild, braided line and a smooth, lengthy rod.

The second drawback is even tougher to take care of as a result of wave motion and wind make it robust to remain in touch with the weightless bait. Even when the waves aren’t big, when attempting to make use of the simplest very gradual retrieve, slack or perhaps a bow in your line can develop, and this breaks the contact with the lure. With no direct connection to the weightless plastic, you possibly can’t work the lure successfully, really feel placing fish, or get an excellent hookset.

Underneath flat calm circumstances, weightless rigging might be outrageously efficient. If I can fish weightless, I’ll, however I typically can’t.



I break up jighead sizes into two classes: heavy hook and skinny hook. Heavy-hook jigheads—just like the Joe Baggs SPJ (pictured on left)—are robust and able to deal with huge stripers in robust currents. Lighter-hook heads—just like the Z-man HeadlockZ HD (pictured on proper)—are extra susceptible to opening, however hook penetration is much better. In addition they don’t tear up baits like heavy-hook jigheads do, and they’re a bit simpler on the fish.
I’ve actually come round to utilizing light-hook jigs. The hook penetration is such an asset when fish are solely mouthing the bait, hitting near the seashore, or when I’m struggling to really feel the hits as a result of wind or wave circumstances. Additional, on open-sand seashores, you don’t have to fret fairly a lot about having an ultra-strong, burly hook as a result of there’s no construction for the fish to get into. You’ll be able to simply go a contact lighter on the drag and let the fish run a bit since there aren’t any obstructions for fish to interrupt you off. Nevertheless, it’s worthwhile to be cautious: huge fish have an uncanny means to make you pay for light-wire hooks. One place they’ll “get you” is on the seashore lip. That final second, when a wave is dragging again in your fish and also you’re determined to get it on dry sand, may end up in bent hooks and misplaced fish. It doesn’t even need to fully straighten both; only a small quantity of deflection may end up in a pulled hook. There’s actually nothing extra devastating than seeing the fish of your desires because the hook pulls, then diving for it because it slips away at your fingertips. Use these mild hooks cautiously!

Gentle Jigheads

The third rigging choice I take advantage of are the identical baits on mild jigheads. I contemplate these to be jigheads of lower than an oz—I take advantage of ½ to ¾-ounces essentially the most.

For me, this has been a game-changing rigging choice that gives essentially the most versatility. Whereas a thin smooth plastic on a light-weight jighead could look nearly equivalent to 1 on a heavy head, the best way the bait behaves within the water is completely completely different. In typical sand-beach circumstances (with out robust, ripping currents or large waves), a bait like a Slug-Go on a heavy jighead will at all times be falling straight to the underside, being jerked up vertically by the angler, or dragging within the sand. Until you’re retrieving in a short time, it may be practically inconceivable to get a plastic on a heavy jighead to “swim,” or transfer by the water column with the physique parallel to the underside. As an alternative, the tail is at all times pointing straight up, or straight down, because the bait rises or falls.

With a light-weight jighead, the pull of the road counter acts as the burden of the jighead, and the entire physique then strikes by the water column parallel to the underside. The physique and tail are horizontal, and this delicate swimming motion is a really pure presentation that mimics virtually every part. That is one key to the productiveness of the sunshine jigheads, however it’s not the one cause I consider it’s the best choice on the sand.

Tender-Plastic Rigging Choices

• A screw-lock secured to the bend of a sturdy live-bait hook leaves a soft-plastic stickbait fully unencumbered by {hardware}, permitting the entire physique to undulate and transfer.

Gravity Tackle GT Eel
Gravity Tackle GT Eel 9.5” on Live-Bait Hook with Screwlock

• Gentle jigheads assist get stickbaits down within the surf but additionally enable for a horizontal presentation, like a needlefish, on a gradual, straight retrieve.

JoeBaggs Block Island Eel
JoeBaggs Block Island Eel on JoeBaggs SPJ Jighead

Gravity Tackle GT Eel 13.5”
Gravity Tackle GT Eel 13.5” on Gravity Tackle Atlas Jighead

Zinger Baits Bomba Shad
Zinger Baits Bomba Shad on KillShot Jighead

• A swimbait-style hook has a screw-lock on the attention of the hook that enables for straight, safe, weedless rigging of soft-plastic stickbaits. Swimbait hooks can be found weighted, with lead molded across the hook shank, which maintains the horizontal presentation whereas serving to get the bait down in present or tough surf.

Fish Snax Lures Super Snax
Fish Snax Lures Super Snax on Fish Snax Lures 7/0 Twistlock Hook

Lunker City Slug-Go 12”
Lunker City Slug-Go 12” on BKK 11/0 Titan Diver+ Hook with removable weight and spinning blade

Gravity Tackle GT Eel
Gravity Tackle GT Eel on 8/0 Titan Swimhook

• Popularized by Rhode Island surfcasting legend Steve McKenna, tandem-rigging a soft-plastic stickbait, in comparable vogue to a rigged eel, is a man-made different to a natural-bait presentation. The 2 hooks hanging beneath the bait operate as a keel, making a snaking movement by the water.

Lunker City Rigged Slug-Go 12”
Lunker City Rigged Slug-Go 12”

The Retrieve

When you can’t get a soft-plastic stickbait on a light-weight jighead to do the legendary jerk and glide that weightless rigging offers, the flexibility of the sunshine jighead and pure swimming motion is profound. With ⅜-, ½-, and ¾-ounce heads, I can cowl your entire water column of a sand seashore at a wide range of regular retrieve speeds; no have to go tremendous gradual or tremendous quick. I also can rocket the smooth plastic out into reasonable winds and swim it by breaking waves with out having it tumble or shedding reference to it. Add this to the ultra-realistic (dare I say, horny), flat swimming motion of the sunshine head, and you’ve got an unbeatable mixture.

There could also be one problem so that you can overcome with the sunshine jig methodology. To be the simplest, I strongly urge you to let go of the notion of “jerking” or “jigging” the plastic bait. For no matter cause, anglers appear to at all times wish to bounce and jerk bucktails, shads, or skinny baits on jigheads. They consider a straight retrieve isn’t “doing sufficient,” and received’t appeal to fish.

I’ve discovered the other to be true: jerking and jigging a smooth bait turns off stripers feeding alongside sand seashores. Essentially the most pure presentation is much less, no more. At night time, most baitfish are attempting to keep away from detection, swimming alongside quietly, subtly shifting fins or tails with none dramatic movement till they’re being chased or attempting to seize some meals. They aren’t going loopy, darting up and down within the water spastically. Your lure shouldn’t both.

striper on beach at night
When retrieving smooth plastics within the surf at night time, much less is extra. After darkish, stripers reply higher to a straight, gradual retrieve than to an erratic retrieve.

When you’re not satisfied {that a} skinny smooth plastic on a straight retrieve is one of the best methodology, contemplate the needlefish plug. Correctly designed needlefish all have some slight swimming motion on a straight retrieve, however it isn’t a lot. Nevertheless, most anglers agree they’re extraordinarily productive on sandy seashores. Most anglers fish a needlefish on a straight retrieve, letting it slide by the water column, so why wouldn’t this work with a soft-plastic stickbait when the fluttering, undulating tail and flexible physique has extra lifelike movement than a needlefish. Due to this fact, logically, we ought to be fishing smooth plastics on a jighead with even fewer jerks and twitches than needles!

I hope I’ve satisfied you to at the very least give the straight retrieve a attempt. Apart from that, fishing a thin smooth plastic on a light-weight jighead may be very easy: forged it out and retrieve it again. I prefer to fish any and all construction I feel may maintain fish whereas maintaining the bait within the center or backside third of the water column. I significantly like pulling these baits over a sand bar and letting them fall slowly into the trough on the opposite facet. I don’t cease my retrieve and let it drop off; I make a extra gradual fall into the deeper water. I feel that is more practical as a result of it appears to be like extra pure to be slowly falling into the trough horizontally, as a substitute of a head-down plunge proper to the underside. Except for swimming baits by troughs and over sand bars, I additionally swing them in rip currents created by cuts, pull them by breaking waves and white water, and likewise run them alongside the seashore lip—all favorites of mine.

Another tip is to attempt a comparatively quick retrieve. I had many nights when fish appeared to reply to a faster retrieve. The soft-bodied bait actually undulates, vibrates, and pulses with out fouling or rolling out (as onerous baits may). Going a contact sooner than “regular” generally is a actual gamechanger.

Stickbait Sizes

For me, one thing round 8 to 10 inches is one of the best compromise, and that’s what I take advantage of virtually on a regular basis, in every kind of various construction, round every kind of bait. Going bigger might be efficient, however I’ve discovered that fish of all sizes will assault a 9-inch Slug-Go—stripers from 15 inches to a behemoth 40 kilos. Nevertheless, on a light-weight jighead, altering the dimensions of the bait could make a big distinction in how your lure performs, far more so than when placing it on a heavy jighead or a weightless hook. For instance, generally I go for a 7-inch Slug-go over a 9-inch if I really feel I’m not getting sufficient casting distance or have to get deeper (the 7-inch has much less wind resistance and sinks a bit sooner). Having a mix of various measurement baits, on completely different measurement heads, might help dial in your presentation.


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