Jason of course is right on the money! Yes, there are & have been 50's & 40's aplenty for boat guys in the last 10 years or so... it just isn't so for the surf guys, obviously! Only one documented 50 from the Montauk surf last year-- but dozens from boats between Montauk Point, Block & the Race last year alone, conservatively! Obviously, it's all about bait: what IS available, where, in what concentrations! You bet your bottom $ that the Bass greatly prefer (& benefit from!) high- protein snacks such as bunker/ pogies, herring (any!), squid & sand eels... BUT: in their abscence, Bass are forced to scrounge the bottom for whatever else they can find. Unfortunately for the hard- core surf- caster, in the last 10 years or so, this "bottom" has been deeper, & away from the shoreline (with the usual few exceptions). Yes, the ultra- Pros such as Iron Mike can still beat the odds is seems-- but almost no- one else is catching mid- 30 to mid- 40 lbers. with any consistency from the surf, thus no 50 lbers. either (esp. not on artificials-- with the lack of big bait, & competition from other cows on the hunt!)
Leads me to a quick story of a big fish lost of my own... illustrating the "they're not there" problem! In my 7+ years of discovering the Outer Cape, & mastering it & doing tremendously well... & having dozens of 35+ Bass nights, all "keepers" (though I SHOULD point out-- failed to before-- that I am STRICTLY a catch- & - release guy! Almost never do I keep/ kill a Striper of any size!)... fact is: 250+ were over 20 lbs... maybe 50+ were over 25 lbs... maybe I had 10 Bass between 30- 35 lbs... Then, only one bigger: my best there at 41 lbs. That was the #'s & size distribution during those years at the Cape for me (1995- '02), and I only lost ONE definitely bigger fish!!
Early Oct., '98 ... one of the Hollows/ Wellfleet... Dawn is breaking, and I just ran out of my 2 dozen eels after my 40th or so bass of the night/ 6 hour session, up to a high of 32 lbs. (all released!). As first light is cooking, and I'm not sitting & resting looking at the water, before getting ready to tackle the steep climb back up the dunes... I notice the calm surface all around me "raining" w/ bait. Now, suddenly, there are swirls everywhere, as far as the eye can see (no exaggeration!)... and I can tell the bait is sand eels. I'm frantically cutting off my eel rig, & tying on a plug leader to my same eel rod reel-- when now I notice the swirls have become tremendous splashes! (this was pre- seals, remember!). I reject my first inclination-- to go for a medium S.S. needle-- & instead grab the large Jointed Gibbs Danny/ Eel plug from my bag (that Al discussed earlier, too!). Take time to adjust the drag... check my knots-- being careful, & looking only for a big fish, as usual! Though now as it's light, I'd settle for another 32! Anyway, first cast... the BIGGEST Striper tail I have ever seen to this day (in person!), came clear of the water a yard behind my wiggling plug... then, an AMAZING, violent strike (of the type Frank used to describe for Canal fish attacking Whiting/ imitation Whiting!) erupts on the plug-- equipped with a front 4x 4/) Treble, & rear single ONLY, as are most of my plugs)-- and, somehow never felt iron! Never hooked that fish-- but got a good enough look at him, to know he was 55+ ! (Much bigger than my boat- best 49 lber!).
In 7 years of hard surf- fishing for cows since: two more encounters with 50's lost!... but none landed, & "only" one other 40 for me! Jason: I only dream about fishing JB & AB back in the days when Bunker (& cows!) roamed freely! I keep the faith, that those days may some day return: but logically, I don't see bait supplies going up any time soon! (What a tragedy, that Bunker & Herring are depleted, FOR cat food & lobster bait & soap & other replacable crap!!)