Due to a family health issue, I've spent a lot of the past week in hospital waiting rooms. I had my laptop with me so I passed the time by reading through a lot of Al's posts in this forum. I picked out some of the stories and did a little minor editing and organizing. You can see the results in the attachment. I hope this is appropriate for this thread. If not, please delete.
NOTE by Bob D'Amico - Thanks for putting that together in HTML.
Al Bentsen Stories
Frank mentioned heartbreakers. If you're at this game long enough you will have a few. I'll start with one back in 1955.
I was in the Coast Guard stationed in San Juan Puerto Rico. I only mention this to set the scene.
Down there I was fishing for and catching jacks from twenty to fifty pounds and tarpon to fifty, and losing the really big ones. All this was done from the shore in San Juan harbour. In other words I was in good shape to go on a 30-day leave and fish for stripers.
This was September and the start of the mullet run. My first night I went to Long Beach, Long Island with my good friend Paul. We started to fish the jettys from Troy Avenue east with rigged eels. We hit a couple of bass in the teens to 27 pounds. I went to the Ohio jetty and Paul to Minnesota.
The conditions were ideal. No heave, the wind light southwest, tide dropping, and a nice chop on the water. This was after dark about 9PM. I was casting a large eel about 18 inches long. I got the hit on my third cast about 30 feet from the stones.
The fish just kept running against a four-washer drag in my Penn Squidder. I had 200 yards of new 36 lb. test Ashaway nylon line. As the reel started to empty and got close to the end of the spool, I grabbed it, and my 40 pound test leader broke on the far end. I reeled in all that line and was completely rattled. There weren't any scrapings on the 10-foot leader that would indicate a shark had it across his back. Chapter 2 next. This story gets better...
On the second night, my friend Charlie and I went to Long Beach. When I told him of the lost fish, he gave me a Squidder spool with 300 yards of new line on it. We both went to the Ohio jetty. Conditions and hour were identical to the previous night.
After a few casts, I nailed another drag screaming fish on the eel. He didn't want to stop and with a quarter of the spool left, I tried slowing him down with my thumbs. It worked. He stopped and I worked him back in. When I got half the line back he stopped, buried his head in the sand, and tried to rub the eel off. It didn't work but he got his wind back and took of on another long run.
I turned him again, worked him back to about the same spot and he started the head rubbing trick again. He couldn't disloge it so he took off on another long run and parted the leader where he frayed it in the sand.
The next day my friend ran the spool of line he gave me off on a line dryer and told me the fish went down about 240 yards on his runs. The tackle I used was identical to the outfit I had in San Juan for the tarpon and jacks and I never got stripped of line. Another point; I've had bass do the head trick before and I landed them. Its something they might do in shallow water. So to this day I think this was one big striper.
I had a good week in Long Beach with bass to the high thirties. Then a hurricane was heading up the coast creating a heave and we went to P-town on the cape. If you read Frank's hurricane we did the same cow catching. We had filled Willey's truck up with bass to 44 pounds until we thought a spring would break. Most of them were over 35 pounds..That was at The Race and our first night on the beach. In case you doubt the story, Charlie can be found working at Truro Real Estate on Route 6 on Cape Cod.
I've got to set the scene for this one. The place is Race Point on Cape Cod in the early 1960's. I was fishing with my good friend Mel Clapp. My tackle is a Squidder with 50 pound test dacron line and a 15-foot 50 pound test mono leader, mounted to a Harnell 542 with 8 inches cut from the tip. "Still a great rigged eel stick". I had just gotten some carbon teflon drag washes from my friend Ted. I put them in the reel to replace the leather ones. They were supposed to be smooth and never wear out.
It was the middle of October. The wind notheast gusting over 50 knots and raining hard. The wind would be on our backs and the tide coming in. The beach was open range - no park service. We were the only ones out there. It just can't get any better than this. I set up on the right corner of The Race and Mel a hundred feet to my left. It was about 11PM when we started fishing. Mel was the first one to get a fish on. He didn't need any help and soon had a 35 pounder in the truck.
Now it was my turn. I hit a large fish on the eel. He doubled the rod in half and he took off for Plymouth. Something was wrong. The drag started binding. The rod bucked with each run. After a long hard fight, I had him coming. I lifted him out of the wave onto the sand in front of the breaker. Then it happened. The hook just fell out.
I only had a few seconds. I threw the rod up on the beach and took the gaff out of my belt. The wave hit the fish and it slid up the beach. He looked like a good fifty. I dove to the fish and hit the fish with my gaff. When I did that my fist hit the sand and knocked the gaff out of my grasp. I figured I had him. The gaff was on a surgical tube attached to my belt. The fish kept sliding back and turning his head toward the sea. He was free. I dove after him and grabbed him by the tail. He slipped away. Mel came down the beach too see what I was yelling about.
I got my other outfit and started fishing. It wasn't long, maybe 30 minutes, and Mel had another fish on. The fish didn't run or fight at all. He reeled in a 52 pound bass. To this day I think the bass Mel landed was the one I lost. He was worn out when he hit Mel,s eel.
There have been times when you tag bass and catch them again shortly after a release.
I told Ted about the binding drag and he forgot to tell me you have to grease each washer.
One more heart break story. Time period early 60's. You need to know a little bit about sand eels before I start. Sand eels go to sleep at night by burrowing in the sand and when daybreak comes they pop out. This is not a problem in the fall when the nights are 12 hours long. However in the early summer the nights on the Cape are very short, six or seven hours at best. When it's high tide at sunset it's low incoming at daybreak. Consequently, if they are packed against the beach at sunset they dive in the sand all the way up to the high tide line.
After fishing all night in a thick fog with rigged eels, we had a couple of cows in the box in the rear of Mel's truck to show for our hard work. As daybreak broke we decided to head back to the cottage. The fog wasn't a problem. We just followed the sand rut. I was sitting on the ocean side of the truck and I was staring at the water as we drove. I suddenly noticed thousands of sandeels bouncing all over the beach. It was low tide and they came out at first light. Mel stopped the truck for a closer look. I walked down to the quiet, gentle surf line. There were big cow bass all over enjoying this free meal 20 to 30 feet away from where I stood. Normally the birds would devour this free lunch before many could wash into the sea. But they wouldn't or couldn't fly in the fog. The bass were chowing down.
Mel, I, and Charlie jumped to the truck to try and find some suitable hooks, like a 3/0 or 7/0 Eagle Claw. There was one in the truck and it was Mel's. It was his truck. He rigged it up with the free bait on the beach and started catching. Meanwhile Charlie and I were cutting the 9/0 siwash hooks out of a couple of rigged eels...We rigged them up and loaded them with sandeels.The bass would only push them with their nose. They wouldn't bite. Not even one fish. Mel was hooking up every time he got it out there. After a while the fog started to lift and the birds took over the free sandeels. Mel landed about five nice bass. When we quit, Charlie and I had none.
Since that day I always carried bait hooks in my truck or wallet, but I never encountered that situation again.
I'm reminded about that day everytime I put my wallet in my back pocket and sit down the wrong way.
In this thread I have told stories of all the big ones that got away. Now I thought I would tell you about a good tip I got from my friend Charlie Leigh.
It was October 21,1959. The phone rang when I got home from work and my friend Charlie who was finishing up his vacation in Cape Cod was on the phone. He said Dick Samms and he just got off the beach and they caught some cows at sunset before dark. The fish were in an area from the Traps to the Second Rip with tons of bait. They were being held there by a 50 mph southeast wind. They had to leave the beach after dark because the fire in the water killed the fishing, but they were going out at midnight on the moon rise when the fire died. I told him if the wind was going to hold I would be up there at 4pm the next day, which was Saturday. I called the weather bureau and the storm was going to last through Saturday night.
I lived in Brooklyn, so the one night fishing trip was a drive 320 miles long in the storm and through every small town between Providence and the Cape. We didn't have the roads that we have today. At best a seven-hour trip. I left home at 8am that morning and arrived about 4pm.
Charlie and Dick were waiting for me when I got there. I jumped into my waders and we went to the beach. When we rolled down the hill at the Coast Guard station, the sight I saw was unbelievable. Giant whales were offshore crashing the bait. Gannets were hitting the water like machine gun bullets. The wind was blowing close to hurricane strength. We drove to a spot between the Second Rip and the Traps. We got there just in time. It was just starting to get dark.
You almost had to hold back on your cast. The wind was right on your back and you felt the length of every cast was a world record. I had a hit on the first cast when the eel hit the water and missed it. I missed the second hit on the next cast. Something was wrong. My only thought was to drop back on the hit and then set the hook. When your instinct is to set on every bump, that's hard to do. On my next hit I dropped back and then set. I was in. The fish I landed was in the low 40's. After a few more casts I got another one the same way. He was a twin to the first, about 42 pounds. With the overcast and the setting sun, it got dark quickly and the fire drove us back to sleep till moonrise. Back at the cottage Charlie's landlady Fran had cooked us a wild roast duck dinner with a pie and everything. It doesn't get any better then that.
We got up around 1am, dressed, and hit the beach. Conditions were the same, and as the moon rose the fire died. It took a while but we started to hit the fish again, one here, one there. Charlie went to the right of me and said he would give me the light if anything happened. About 30 minutes later I saw a dim glow to my right. Dick and I drove there and found Charlie unhooking his third big fish. He had nailed three in a row. We had action the rest of the night till daybreak. The wind died and the migration continued. The fish moved out. I finished the night with eight big ones and Charlie and Dick had five each.
When Fran saw the fish, she called her customers in New York. They raced up to the Cape but it was over. Some of the same guys I called before I left Brooklyn.
We just started to help build a "good old days" catagory for the Striper Surf Club web site. I just found that Dick had taken a picture
of our catch that morning and Charlie had it put on that web site. The picture is the 4x4 with fish in the back and nobody in the picture. Its under "good old days". We haven't been in that club for many years but it's good to give them a history. They couldn't go back past 1980. Charlie, Dick and I were charter members in 1951.
Fights to Remember
There are many great bass fights I remember. Sometimes the bass won sometimes I did. Here's one - it was long ago but the jetty and the big bass are still there. There are many short jetties off of the boardwalk in Long Beach. This was on one of them. It was impossibe to get out on the stones at high water because the rocks were low to the water and when built dumped at random. They aren't sidewalk jetties.
To begin it was early August, the best time to fish Long Beach. Cows were always there at that time of year. August was the big shedder month. The date was Aug 11th, and high tide was at midnight. We had a light wind out of the northwest. The ocean was flat as a pancake. No waves, just like a lake. I decided to feel my way out on the rocks. I made it to the end. I and the rock in front of me were the only objects sticking out of the water. The tide started to fall and I started catching, all on rigged eels. I then hit a big bass right in front of the jetty about 20 feet out. The fish exploded on the eel and took off like a shot. He must have smoked out about 200 to 300 feet of line. With the boardwalk lights behind me I had a great view of the action. Then he decided to jump. He cleared the water six times coming completely out with each jump. After the last jump, I dropped the fish. I got several good bass to 36 pounds that night. The only time I've ever had fish jump like that were tarpon in Puerto Rico.
The water on that beach has always been shallow so most of the fish jumped and fought like they were tied to a rocket. I didn't know it then, but one of the sharpies of that era, Eddie Mertz, had several bass that night on the jetty east of me.
Email to ragman, dated Jan 22, 2006
Using clams on the Cape
There are millions of them in the shallow water of the bay all the way up the Cape. There are probably tons on the ocean side. You can pick them up on the bay side in P-town at low tide. I don't know if they are sold in the tackle shops. If not, you can bring them. Salted and frozen.
They have been using clams on Long Island since before my time. Clams should work on the Cape. Nobody uses them. Fresh bunker is a bait which just started being used on Long Island in the early seventies. Bunker must be fresh. Frozen doesn't work well. Frank fished the Cape when the bait was sand worms at 10 bucks a flat. They worked well and everybody used them. They also use squid and sand eels.
When I fish bunker I use 9/0 salmon hooks, so my heads don't work well in the daytime. I hook the heads in and out of the jawbone so a lot of hook is exposed and they can see a 9/0. I never tried smaller hooks with the heads in day light I just use the tail or a middle section with the 9/0. The hook is buried. They can't see it and the hit will tear through the chunk like butter. You got to remember the head is one big bone. If you bury the hook in it, you will just get hits, so maximum hook exposure is a must with the head.
Here are some things I live by fishing bait:
Stories about the above
- The fish don't start feeding until the waves start breaking on the sand bars off the beach on the dropping tide. They just wait for that crashing wave to stir up food on the bar. They are there but they wait. If you have breaking waves on the low incoming they will continue to hit until the water gets to deep and the waves stop breaking. If the sea is flat and there are no waves to break I rarely bother to fish.
- When fishing for maximum results I try to fish the bait on the sand bar, the fish big ones will go on their side to hunt there. Even giant blues. This rule works any time. If you have a bar with a cut in the bar and the waves are breaking. Fish the sandbar on either side of the cut, probably the best place for you to be. They will go in 18 inches of water rather then hunt in the deeper water.
- The best time of the 24-hour day regardless of conditions waves, no waves, tide coming in, or going out, high tide, low tide, any wind you can hold in, is when the sun just pops up at daybreak in that one hour as the sun rises and at times beyond. You just got your best shot at hitting them. They seem to hunt along the beach going back and forth running the beach line for breakfast and only at this time of day. All this applies to big fish because that's all I ever caught doing it. The 9/0 hooks are for cows and chunks. I use a 3-way swivel, no fish finder, and hit them on the second bump of the hit.
- Two very good fishers were leaving the beach just before daybreak just as I was arriving. They fished all night, caught nothing. I could see them from the beach. They were slowly packing up, then BSing, having coffee. In that time that they were dragging butt, I nailed three large bass in the spot they stood before daybreak. I never told them because they wouldn't tell me if the situation were reversed.
- One night John Curran and I were fishing at night in August and the tide was dropping on this large sandbar. We were putting the bait right on top of the bar. A famous author (not Frank, this guy writes how-to on surf fishing, about seven books) was fishing the deep water around it. We were nailing giant blues and 20-pound bass on every cast and he was doing nothing but a few, a fish every half hour. He wanted to know what we were doing. We told him fresher bait. If he knew, he would have had his club there the next night. Just a few but simple things to remember.
You can catch on any time of the day or night or any tide. But you should do better remembering these rules. When the bass are going crazy on migration they are chasing large schools of bait and can hit any time. That?s when most guys catch.
If I think of any more I'll send them to you.
The rules to catch bass casting fishing lures would take longer and there are more of them.