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Email & Message Board Archives

ere is a collection of emails from StriperSurf readers. Each email includes my answers, some short, some long. The answer to the question you have may already be here! More information will added as I gather it together.
NOTE: I know that some of you seasoned fishermen may strongly disagree with some or all of my answers. Fair enough, just be sure to read this sentence before you send me a complaint.

1: Do you know if Surf Fishing is good (fruitful, or in this case, fishful) around Virginia Beach?

ANSWER: In spite of the hoopla about the annual Virginia Beach Striper Tournament my personal opinion is that its not a great area for stripers from the surf. I think of it more as a "spot" and "croaker" area. Your best chances are going to be in the Fall when the fish are moving south again.

NOTE: My answer may seem incredible since Virginia Beach is just south of Chesapeake Bay. Look at a map, think about the migration routes of Striped Bass in the Spring and Fall. There is nothing that is going to attract Striped Bass to hang around this area in great numbers.

2: Do you ever use a rig in conjunction with a lure? It seems logical to me that the rig/sinker/lure combination would provide a lethal combination of depth, color and bait fish emulation.

ANSWER: No never have - it does make sense however and I will give it a try when no one is around. I think a soft plastic such as a Fin S might be a good test.

3: Being that I have only used bottom rigs (high low rigs etc.) and blood worms, I am not used to the terminology. Could you please tell me what a "leader", and a "shock leader" is; and the proper way to prepare a lure for fishing a striper.

ANSWER: First off you should try using chunks of bait such as mullet and/or menhaden. A leader is a clear piece of monofilament that attaches to your main line via a barrel swivel. Leaders of 3 to 4 feet are normal when you are fishing with lures although most fishermen use leaders as short as 12 inches. You can use a DuoLock snap on the end to clip on the lure or simply tie the lure directly to the leader with a loop type knot. See the Knots section of StriperSurf.

A shock leader is used primarily in baitfishing. The pound test of the shock leader should be 2, 3 or 4 times higher than the main line. A monofilament shock leader is extremely important when using Hi-Tech braided lines - I use an 80 pound mono shock leader. When I use mono for bait I use 30 pound line and that 80 pound shock leader, my rigs are all 60 or 80 pound line with a 150 pound barrel swivels at the attachment points. There is much more detailed information about fishing lines and shock leaders at Bait Fishing - Let's Get Serious.

4: Being that I have been doing the summer fishing trip since I was 5, I can cast the country mile necessary with a rig, but will I still be able to get that distance with a lure?

ANSWER: No - I can cast okay with a 4 to 6 ounce lead weight but my distance drops if I put on a 1-1/2 oz Bomber or similar lure. I use a different, lighter weight rated rod for fishing with lures.

5: Could you please explain the different lure configurations not only on the line but also their workings in the water that attracts the striper?

ANSWER: You will have to forgive me but to answer that would require a few weeks of work. Basically you want any lure to imitate the baitfish that are present but you don't want it to be a perfect match. Your lure must "look different" somehow, color etc.

CONCLUSION: You should not switch to fishing with lures until you have had success with baitfishing. Your chances with bait are FAR HIGHER than with bait. Please try using different baits (chunks, squid, clams, sperling etc)


What would be the best rod for surf and jetty throwing bait? Lamiglas?

ANSWER: While I don't endorse any particular rod makers I think Lamiglas continues to deliver the best product on the market right now. Since I can't even try to keep up with all the new rods from various manufacturers perhaps the best suggestion is to ask for opinions from other surfcasters in the Main Forum.

Strictly for bait I use a "semi-custom" made 10 foot rod built on a Lamiglas E Glass (Fiberglas) "Honey" blank. Honey refers to the color. Many B&T shops in the NY/NJ plus New England areas carry these as "Custom Rods." They are not custom, they are wrapped and supplied by the biggest Northeast tackle distributor. My rod is rated for 2 to 5 ounces. I overload it all the time with an 8 oz weight and big chunks of bunker on a High Low rig. I only use it for fixed bait fishing since it is too heavy for casting, it wears me out after 10 minutes.


Hi Bob, I want to buy a new surf rod. My old rod is a one piece, the one I want to buy is 11 ft St. Croix Premier 2 piece. My question to you is , are the 2 piece rods weaker than the 1 piece. By the way do you like St.Croix?

ANSWER: No, two piece rods are just as strong as one piece, you shouldn't worry about it. St Croix makes excellent rods, they are good value for the money and stand by their warranty without questions. The only "negative" on their surf rods is that you must stay within the rod's weight ratings. Don't overload the rod by 300 or 400%, say with a whole Menhaden and 10 oz. of lead! On the Photo page there is a picture of Chris "Gil" Gillin holding a 43-1/2 pound bass, he uses a St Croix!
An 11 foot rod is a big stick, are you sure you will be comfortable casting?


Thanks Bob, I bid on one of the Mitchell Nautil GV 7500 on Ebay for $92 which is a decent deal and I was Psyched but then I read your article on this reel and my blood went "ice cold". I have been trying to get the best reel for the money to match my Lamiglas XS 8' 6" surf rod. I would love a VS (Van Staal) but don't have that kind of loot, something around $130-160 would be great.

ANSWER: Wow, you're putting a lot of pressure on me. Actually it is a difficult decision since your rod is 8' 6" the balance is going to be tricky.

1: If you can find a deal or on Ebay the traditional Fin Nor Ahab 12A would be my top choice. New they sell for nearly $200 and they are hard to locate.

The reels below all fit in your price desired price range.

2: Daiwa Black Gold, model 20 or 30 depending on your weight preference. This is a solid well built reel like the Penn SS Spinfishers.

3: Shimano Baitrunner: Excellent dual use reel for plugging and great for baitfishing. Model BTR3500 looks like a good size.

4: Penn 6500SS Spinfisher, the classic all metal, skirted spool reel and the top selling reel for saltwater. Downside is that it weighs in at around 22 oz so it may be too heavy and a bit too big for your rod. Downsizing from there is the 5500SS which has a graphite body. A few years ago there were a lot of horror stories about these Penn reels with graphite bodies, I have a 5500SS and its never given me any problems. To be honest though I don't get to use it that often because its mounted on a light action rod. Friend of mine up in Rhode Island uses one all the time, he's a former Atlantic Salmon guide from Canada. Now he's "hooked" on False Albies and they are like freight trains, he swears by his 5500.

Whatever way you go, just make sure that the reel feels good on the rod, the balance with the rod and reel is the main factor and ONLY you can make that choice since your height and arm length determine your sense of balance.

Great articles, especially the article about Mr. McReynolds world record bass. I am a beginner surf fisher. I learned a lot from that article and the other articles I have read on your site. I even read the book about "Night Tides" from Billy the Greek, it's a great book.

I was wondering if I can ask your opinion on what surf rod I should buy. A Breakaway surf rod or Lamiglas Ron Arra's. The one thing I know for sure is I am buying a Van Staal VS-250 reel and that's because I read the great article about the reel on your site. Hopefully with my new rod and your hand tied rigs I'll catch lotz of bass this fall.

ANSWER: First thing I need to do is dissuade you from buying a Van Staal for bait casting. That is "financial overkill."

If you are just starting out then I suggest a rod and reel combo that will cost you several hundred dollars but not break the bank and/or limit your options (Bait or Lures).

Both Lamiglas and Breakaway make outstanding products, the former is now more known for "plugging rods" while Breakaway made their fame in baitcasting rods. I have a Lamiglas Ron Arra rod that I got dirt cheap but frankly I don't believe they are worth their premium price. This rod is about 3 years old so maybe the newer Ron Arra's are greatly improved, nevertheless all my graphite rods are basic Lamiglas surf rods and I see no need to change them. I am considering purchasing a new 12 foot Breakaway rod, strictly for baitfishing.

You should consider purchasing a Medium Heavy Action rod, say 10 to 10-1/2 feet. Something that can cast both a 3 oz lure and heave a 4 to 5 oz lead weight and bait rig. I no longer advise people of the exact manufacturer's product numbers since they change all the time. Check the rod ratings on both the Lami & Breakaway web sites. If you have questions about Breakaway products I suggest you look for the name, "Mr. Mark Edwards", on the Message Boards and direct a question to him. He holds the US record for distance casting with a spinning reel and he uses a really big off the shelf Breakaway rod. I do not know what brand reel he uses but it is not a Penn or Van Staal.

On that subject, Reels, I always recommend Penn SS (Spinfisher) series reels as a starter. The larger sizes, 6500SS, 7500SS are still 100% metal housings with forged internal components. They have a bad "rap" for the anti-reverse clicker failing to click after awhile but the key thing is that these reels are simple to fix at home and/or every B&T shop on either coast can fix them quickly because the parts are readily available. With simple care you will be able to pass it along to your son! I have both a 6500SS and a 8500SS, the smaller one is on a graphite rod that I use for either lures or "light" baitcasting. Light baitcasting is when I only want to get the bait out to the second wave and the surf is not too rough. Normally I don't use more than a 5 oz lead weight on that rod or it becomes overloaded and won't cast 20 feet. The 8500SS is on my heavy baitcasting rod, it holds more line but it weighs considerably more. The combination of the heavy baitcasting rod and the heavy 8500 SS wears me out if I try repeatedly casting a big plug. For that or throwing eels I go to a Lami rod that has some backbone. That rod has a Van Staal 250 attached to it.

I hope I have not confused you but I am always alarmed when I read stuff on various message boards by "tackle fanatics" who insist on recommending expensive tackle and/or are constantly buying new tackle all the time.

Just keep in mind two things when you are bass fishing:
1: Baitfishing is not as romantic as "plugging" but the success ratio has got to be at least 5 times higher.
2: When small bass are around switch to bigger hooks and bigger bait. Same goes with plugs, if small fish are hitting small plugs, switch to bigger but similar type plugs. A big fish will be lurking around, that's the one you want!

Subject: Where to Fish and BBQ

Hello, I was just at your website and I would like to know where in Island Beach State Park to fish and barbecue. I need to know by Friday.

ANSWER: There are no public usage BBQ's at IBSP as far as I know however you can carry in your own BBQ and use it South of the Public Bathing Beaches. Fires and BBQ's anywhere else except on the ocean side of the Park, south of the Public bathing Beaches is forbidden. Fire and BBQ regulations are changed according to the weather conditions. Ask about the current status at the Gatehouse. There is an online map of the Park at:

Subject: StriperSurf NEED ADVICE

I want to order a book to help me get started. Which one of Frank Daignault's books do you recommend? Do you get a cut?

ANSWER: All of them! No, seriously order Striper Surf, it covers the full spectrum of striped bass fishing and its very enjoyable. You won't relealize that you are actually reading a textbook! Further education, read The Trophy Striper. Frank's two other books, Twenty Years on the Cape and Eastern Tides are reminisces of the "glory years" of striper fishing in Massachusetts and Rhode Island and the coming of age of the Daignault family. They are both very touching books with a lot of Frank's wit and humor which will make you laugh and perhaps shed a tear. Normally I would also suggest Striper Hot Spots but since you live in New Jersey, Jim Freda's recent book Fishing the New Jersey Coast is the one you should buy and study.

Both Frank and Jim are personal friends. The fact that they contribute to is a huge benefit and quite frankly I am "honored" that they do so much for the web site's readers. Short and sweet, no money is involved - just Friendship, Admiration, Respect and Trust.

Subject: HELP with Message Board

Hi Bob, I tried to register to the message board but I did not receive back the confirmation email and I am not able to participate. Please help.

ANSWER: I get this quite often, here are the basic answers:

  • You registered an invalid email address which was kicked back by your ISP. I will manually change it in the database and validate the correct address.
  • When you registered you forgot to add the ".com" to your AOL address.
  • When you registered you forgot to add the ".net" to your Optonline address.
  • When you registered you gave "" but Comcast is now ".net".

Computer software is stupid, it doesn't know to add in or change on its own.

Subject: Thanks for the great website/info

Bob- Fantastic info on your site. I've always enjoyed fishing, my brother got me out to IBSP last year and I got that sickness known as the Striper Bug.
Found your site and I now read the beach structure and I often find the fish.

Dark lures at night? Would have figured colors but that black/grey 4" tsunami worked like a charm on a bunch of 20-22" schoolies Sat night.

ANSWER: Thanks for the email and glad you are "sick." Generally dark lures at night but if the moon is out shining brightly you can use standard colors. A couple of years ago I caught a mess of bass at IBSP one night on a yellow over white popper!

Until an actual striped bass joins the Message Board system or submits an article titled "How to Catch Me" I go by the principle that there are no rules and no experts, so experiment.


Where are the strippers? Write back today!

ANSWER: Strippers are normally found in Go-Go bars. Stripers are in both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Where are you? I can't really answer unless you give me some more information.

Here is an excerpt from an excellent thread from the Ask Frank Daignault Forum on the Message Boards. Both Frank and "DeeJay" are seasoned "stripah fishermen." The thread is titled "Gearin Up," and was started on August 8, 2003.

QUESTION: Frank, I was wondering if you could let us know what type of gear you use from different rod sizes and types to reels and terminal tackle. Your favorites etc... I ask because I know you are a no nonsense guy who does not take endorsements or believe in Mickey Mouse crap and you have been in the game along time.

Frank's ANSWER: Given a choice, I would prefer to be a consumer advocate in surfcasting. I’m not comfortable telling my readers something I am being paid to say. There are, of course, some products that are really good for them – like my books – (just kidding), usually with companies that have been around a while. For instance, I never had a bad Penn reel or second rate Lamiglas blank. I know it surprises you, but I don’t have that good a background equipment wise mainly because when I have something I like, I just chug along with it and the years go by. Also, with a life of very modest starts, my economy-habits have not changed in line with my means. Even though I could afford way better, you can’t hose the cheap off of me. A related digression.

Two years ago our love child, Dickie, says to me in the woods – and what does he know being only 47 and all – “Dad, what are you doing with that Mossburg pump? Why don’t you get a good gun?” He’s right, but see I have killed so much game with this “cheap gun” that I bonded to it. Anyway, I did get a new, rifled Rem 870 with cantilever scope mounts and a Leupold 2-8 variable that will shoot the fleas off the nuts of a field mouse at 100 yards. Momma J is the same way. We got her a new in-line rifle with the same scope and she pines for her old side lock musket. Let’s take a look at the list.

My conventionals are 9-3 with ceramic guides, custom made where the reels clamp on One is a Fisher graphite and the other two are old yellow fiberglas Lamis. The Fisher has a Amb 7000 C-3; one lami has a Pro Gear given for testing, which is quite good and the other a squidder. Momma J has two spinners that are the old yellow fiberglas lamis with ceramic guides custom wound 8 . She also has a Tidemaster from St Croix with a Daiwa BG 20. It is a 20 pound rig with Stren Magna-thin. I have used it more than she, always when I know there is nothing around. Spinning, for me, is like kissing your aunt.

Fly fishing we have all new stuff because for some reason fly fishing is better when the stuff reflects what is offered today: I have a St Croix 9’ #10 two piece with an # 11 Scientific Anglers floating line on a Tioga fly reel – which I highly recommend. New this year is a Redington 9’ #10 startlingly similar to the St Croix with a Redington RS-2 reel turned from bar stock. Line is an intermediate camo #11 from Cortland.
Momma J has the same rig only in #8 rod with a #9 line.

We have both retired a variety of graphites with way more bendy actions which we are beginning to miss, along with a basket of Medalists which have more reliable drags than the fancy/smancy reels turned from bar stock. While prices of contemporary stuff have fallen, note that most of the equip is made outside the country. No wonder we have so much unemployment.

Line strengths are as high as trade-offs will permit. I don't expect the World Record but I could not live with myself or anyone else who broke off and I saved one bullet on the outside chance that it is ever me.

Light spinning -- 20 pound Magna thin
Heavy spinning -- 30 pound Magna thin
All convench -- 50 braid, new (Brand forgotten)
Fly fishing, all rigs, -- 20-pound tippets

DeeJay's Answer: I've had the opportunity to use a lot of gear from the 60s up till the present, both mine and stuff I inherited from my dad. Also over the last few years due to various "associations," I've had the opportunity to test stuff for free or acquire some stuff at or close to cost.

A lot of the new stuff is junk when you compare it to the old, durable gear of yore---Lami and American-made Fenwick rods and blanks, Penn, Mitchell, Quick and Luxor reels, etc. You get great performance, crisp-casting rods and butter smooth reels, for about a year or two and then you wind up replacing it.

I've never had a bad Lami rod, period. From the old reddish-brown glass blanks of the 50s, the old yella workhorses, the S-glass of the 80s, and the new black and Ron Arra graphites. Top drawer, all the way.

I only found Fisher rods after they were discontinued---but a little bird told me that Pat Abate had a small stash, and I was able to get my hands on a 10' medium Fisher, which I shortened by about 5" from the butt. That is probably my favorite rod. I use a red Abu 7000 on it. I like trigger grip reel seats, too.

As I've gotten older and lazier, and as I've sort of conformed to the Lawn Guyland customs (the "when in Rome" syndrome), my spinning reel use has gone way up. I've never had a problem with a classic Penn Spinfisher that I couldn't fix myself in a few minutes, on my tailgate out on the beach. Those old classic Mitchell (302, 386, 388 et al) coffee grinders also take a pounding without complaint and are even easier to fix if you have the part. I think the luxor/Crack reels were overrated. New reels, I have nothing but good things to say about the Van Staals, and very little good to say about much else. Stay away from third-world reels--that includes Korea. Japanese reels aren't third world unless the parent company has them made there--and many of the cheaper models of Daiwa and Shimano aren't made in Japan.

Conventional reels---well, I cut my teeth on the Squidder. I have 4 ranging in age from the 1950s to the 1990s. Never a glitch. You just can't kill them. Abus are also good. I have quite a few of them, from a 20 year old red 7000 up to some with no level-wind and high-speed retrieves. Easy to fix if you have a problem. I've only owned a couple of Newells, but they're top-notch. And I was pleasantly surprised by the durability of my Calcutta reel.

One area where you have great improvement over what was available in the past is in lures. The small minnow swimmers of today, and in the area of rubber/plastic soft baits. Used to be that throwing a rubber eel was like fishing a piece of driftwood. Today's soft baits are a lot more supple and life-like.

Lines are better. 60s mono was springy, wiry, stretchy and made me stay with squidding line and Dacron on my Squidders. Today's monos are way better, and the new braids and fused lines (like Fireline) are easier to use than Dacron.

I use 20# Big Game mono on spinning reels, 25# or 30# on the Squidders (the 30# is only for the [Cape Cod] Canal).
I like 20# or 30# Fireline for bigger spinning reels.
On my other conventionals, I use 50# Whiplash on the Calcutta for eels, and 50# Spectron on the Abus.

More from DeeJay: Just one thing I left out---in the past and even up to recent times, you had good product continuity from companies like Penn. Many Penn conventionals have been around since before WW 2. The Penn Spinfishers of today are the same internally as the first ones from back in the early 60s. Today's are black, the originals were green, and that's about it. Penn engineers would also carry over parts from an existing series of reels to new designs. So you could buy a reel and realistically expect to be able to repair it for as long as you fished.

The problem with that is, there's less profit in selling you a $3 part than there is in getting you to buy a new reel. When Penn was a family owned company, they resisted radical changes in their product lines. But Penn was recently sold, and changes are in the works. The word I keep hearing around the internet is that they're going to drop those old classic Spinfishers, and perhaps many of their old reliable conventionals.

The trend today, from a lot of reel manufacturers especially, is to sell you a reel every 2 - 3 years. You get something that works well for light use, but will die in hard surf use in a year or two. $150 in today's money is like $40 was years ago. The difference is that the 40 buck Penn still works today, but today's $150 skirted spool, ball-bearinged wonder reel has a shelf life of 3 years max. Then to seal the deal, just in case the reel turns out to be tougher than expected, they drop production after 3 - 4 years and dry up your parts source. I have people tell me all the time that after turning a reel with upwards of 8 ball bearings and a one way roller in the anti-reverse, they just can't go back to a "clunky" Penn Spinfisher with spool wobble and that click, click, click from the anti-reverse dog. So instead of sticking with the tried and true, they say, "well, it was only a $150 reel, who cares if I only get 3 years out of it. In 3 years they'll have something better for the same price".

That's what you're up against in today's market, with new gear. Add that to the fact that the saltwater market commands a fraction of the profit that the freshwater bass market does, and the surf market is another minute fraction of that saltwater fraction.

If you buy a new reel and it's something you like, the smart move may be to buy it in bulk. That way, you can cannibalize the broken one for parts to keep the new ones turning. But they still have your dollars in their pocket.

Trophy Rigs