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Fishing the Fury
Tips for fishing a Blitz
by John Budish

irds wheel overhead, crying to each other in a language only they understand. In the surf below them, large fish break the surface of the water in pursuit of smaller, unfortunate baitfish. The birds pick up forage where they can, signaling to spectators on the beach where the most intense carnage is happening.

Substitute whatever species you prefer for the birds, gamefish and baitfish, and you will have any fisherman’s dream encounter, a blitz. Happening upon a full-blown feeding frenzy will raise anyone’s adrenaline level. It also makes it very easy for even the novice to catch fish. There are, however, methods to improve your catch even in the above scenario.

I don’t think I know any fisherman who doesn’t want to catch more and bigger fish. The first and foremost tip for fishing a blitz is to have good working tackle. It does not necessarily have to be top of the line, but it has to work as it was intended. When an angler gets into feeding fish, his or her tackle gets tested on nearly every cast. Any weak links in the tackle will become readily apparent after only a few fish. It is therefore necessary to keep up maintenance on your tackle. Keep reels well lubed, and make sure rods guides are not cracked, grooved, or chipped. Make sure the drags on your reel are in good working order, smooth, not sticky. Also, make sure the line on your reel is fresh. Check it for nicks after every trip.

I would say 98% of people fishing a blitz use lures. There are a few modifications you can do to improve your success while tossing lures. Use a single hook lure. Not only will you do less damage to the fish than with a treble, but you will also be able to unhook a fish quicker, thereby getting back into the water and hooked up with another fish sooner. Barbless hooks work well, especially if you plan to release all of the fish, but you must be careful when you play a fish with a barbless hook. It will be easier for the fish to throw the hook if there is no barb. Keep a tight line at all times.

You should always use some sort of leader when fishing a blitz, even if it is a bass blitz. I fish using 2-foot leaders made of 60 pound leader material below the snap. I use them even for bluefish, though I keep an eye on the condition of the leader after every fish, and change it when needed. Wire leaders will reduce bluefish bite-offs to nearly nothing, but I like the mono in case there are a few bass mixed in with the blues.

The second way to improve your catch deals with working the school. Although blind casts into the middle of the school will produce fish, there are advantages of a well-placed cast. Try to place the cast in front of or to the side of the main body of the school, and move the lure away from the school, as if it were fleeing. No baitfish, even in a panic mode, is going to charge a school of feeding gamefish, and the gamefish know this. I’ve had errant casts go over a school of voraciously feeding bluefish, and the lure was not touched until it passed through the school and was “running away.”

Copyright © Jim Freda

Another reason to “lead the fish” with the cast is to reduce break-offs, caused not from the hooked fish, but from it’s brethren. During a blitz, especially a bluefish blitz, it is important to move your fish away from the main body of the school. If the school gets between you and the fish, your chances of getting your tackle back become slim. During one of this past fall’s bluefish blitzes, I broke this rule and lost a good lure because of it. I was fishing an 8 ½ foot conventional surf rod spooled with 15 pound-test line. I have the line doubled for 8 feet with a bimini twist and have another 8 feet of 30 pound-test shocker attached with an Albright knot. Add the two feet of 50 pound-test leader I mentioned earlier, and I had what was essentially an 18-foot leader. I say had, because I was bit off.

I hooked a fish on the outside head of the school, and it immediately ran straight out. The school ended up between the fish and myself, and in their enthusiasm to consume the frightened baitfish, one of them bit through my line. I reeled in only 15 pound-test; no leader, no 30 pound-test shocker, no double line.

Unless being held by some sort of structure, blitzes tend to travel, sometimes very quickly. That means that a successful fisherman will have to go mobile. Most often a fisherman will travel just far enough to reach the school, allowing them one or two productive casts before they need to move on. It is far more productive to get ahead of the school, and make six good casts. Besides, you will not make friends squeezing in where the school is, but you will be regarded in a better light if you move ahead and wait for the fish.

Many times there will be multiple species feeding in a blitz. Stripers and weakfish are known to mix with blues of an equivalent size to feed on baitfish. In most cases, these fish will lay a little deeper than the blues, picking off scraps and stragglers that get below the blues. It pays, sometimes greatly, to let you lure sink below the blues before starting a retrieve.

Every fisherman dreams of finding an all-out feeding frenzy consisting of his favorite gamefish. Although catching fish during a blitz is relatively easy, following the above guidelines will help you catch more fish, bigger fish, and keep some of your expensive tackle too End

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