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Ask Frank Daignault Frank Daignault is recognized as an authority on surf fishing for striped bass. He is the author of six books and hundreds of magazine articles. Frank is a member of the Outdoor Writers of America and lectures throughout the Northeast.

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Old 08-13-2011, 03:39 PM
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Default "Lady Luck" an excerpt from Trophy Striper

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
In view of obvious committments to luck, here is my treatment in the Trophy Striper:

"Lady Luck" copyright 1999,




Lady Luck






While surfcasting in Rhode Island in the fall of?88, George Schirmer of Moorestown, N. J. beached a 52 pounder, his first 50. It was the best of a pile of bass taken by him and his three buddies in two nights. He later found out that same weekend that he had won a brand new Mercedes in a raffle at home. George had bought the last ticket.
Such weird experiences may be why people love to gamble. They will risk a dollar for a chance to win a million without regard for the fact that the odds are 100 million against them. We all worship at the altar of chance, because a wild card drifting in the deck of any sport can create bizarre results where games are won on the good or bad bounce of the ball. So it is with fishing where we venture our time and efforts in the often dismal hope of finding that prize striper. This chapter could be filled with examples of how luck influences virtually every sport, but it will be limited to something most intriguing -- memorable stripers.
In the early 60s, while attending a Massachusetts Beach Buggy Association annual dinner, I was getting drinks at the bar when the band stopped playing as everyone in the hall stood and began to applaud. A young man, maybe in his high twenties, came into the crowded hall of several hundred surf fishers and their spouses. He was smiling and waiving warmly to the crowd. The Governor?, I thought. No, he had taken the largest striped bass ever caught from shore at the time -- nearly 70 pounds. This was double the weight of the average striper club?s fish-of-the-year 30 years later. Still, there has never been a time when that kind of bass did not lift people off their seats. My dinner was ruined that evening, because I spent all my time following the celebrity for a chance to talk to him, to hear something of what it had been like to catch that kind of fish. Finally, when the evening was winding down and many had left, I cornered him alone. After shaking his hand and introducing myself, I plied him with my prepared barrage of questions. During our conversation about the fight of such a big striper, he told me that he didn?t have any means of comparison because he had never caught another striper other than that monster which was one of the biggest bass ever taken in sport fishing. How can that be possible? A person catches the largest striper in a generation and catches no other of any size? How can that sort of thing happen?
(More tomorrow)
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Old 08-13-2011, 04:28 PM
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Default Re: "Lady Luck" an excerpt from Trophy Striper

Though not as big, a friend of my son, who had NEVER caught any kind of fish in his life, got a 49 pounder(weighed several hours after sitting on the deck of the boat) one day. He asked him if that was a good fish... I think the kid wanted to strangle him... In my opinion, luck does have a place, but it always helps if someone that has experience can coach the lucky angler is nearby...
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Old 08-13-2011, 05:30 PM
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Default Re: "Lady Luck" an excerpt from Trophy Striper

In writing an article for OTW about striper fishing in Boston I had to mention a particular angler fishing the Charlestown dam. I wrote this guy off for the reasons that most would, cheap gear, throwing the single lure he had with him. This guy nailed his first striper on the yo-zuri mag minnow he was throwing, the only lure he owned. The bass was 48" and fat, north of 40#'s.

Several nights later I had a chance to speak with him, he was here from India with several members of his family and was staying at the hotel near the dam. I wish I could say he was here as a tourist as I did in the article, but instead he was burning off stress while his son was in a Boston hospital having a brain tumor removed from his head. I never got to find out if his son made it but I was happy he got that fish after hearing that. Talk about luck, such a serious event to bring him to the states, and at least he had some "good" luck.
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Old 08-14-2011, 07:23 AM
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Default Re: "Lady Luck" an excerpt from Trophy Striper

Next excerpt:


Around the same year, mid 60s give or take, Del Barber, a Charlestown, R.I. surfcaster, became subject to incessant needling from one of the women who camped with her husband on the beach there and who wanted to learn how to fish with live eels. They were part of a highly social crowd of members of the then Rhode Island Beach Buggy Association that enjoyed picnics, cookouts, and family gatherings punctuated by some surfcasting for stripers. Del, who had held any number of offices in the association and who was esteemed as a proficient surfcaster, was the perfect person for the teaching job. One evening, as the sun sagged low on the horizon, dozens of beach families were strewn along the shore in those aluminum folding lawn chairs that we?ve all seen. He walked her down to a gentle surf amid the guffaws and catcalls of both of their families and friends. It was one of those non-events, it seemed, that otherwise bored people seek to turn into a momentous occasion.
Playing up his part as a competent instructor, rolling his eyes with poorly hidden grins, Del began with, ?This here is an eel. That there is the ocean. Now, you open this here bail and just cast it out and reel it in slow. If you get a bite, let him take it for a few seconds, then let him have it with a sharp tug. Here, you try it.?
The lady made a so-so cast, closed the bail haltingly, reached down to lift an errant coil of line from around the crank, then complained to Del that she had a problem.
?I?m already stuck. Crissakes, I knew I wasn?t cut out for this?
?Take it easy. Maybe the eel is a little too frisky yet,? Del cautioned, as he noticed the line lifting under some unforeseen force.
?Set!?, he urged, as the line went taught and the rod began to bend as she tried to react to his advice.
By now she was backing with a severely bowed surfrod while a crowd of silent, intent, beach friends formed an astonished gallery along the shore and something peeled line off the reel. Del was grinning with delight while the poor woman was unsure if this was some kind of esoteric beach buggy association prank. Near dark, a breaking wave slid the monster onto the shore of East Beach and Del scurried down to lift it to the dry sand. Word spread like fire through the large slack jawed crowd that had gathered that the 55 pounder had been caught on a first, first cast.
?I mean, like, what is the big deal? The men put on all this stuff like they were going to a war or somethin?. I mean, ya know, it is only a stupid fish. Like it?s not like I?m mad at this thing that I want to put a hook into its mouth and pull it up out of the ocean. I thought I was stuck.?
(more tomorrow)
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Old 08-15-2011, 01:28 PM
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Default Re: "Lady Luck" an excerpt from Trophy Striper

More excerpt from that marvelous literary achievement. The Trophy Striper:


When the mackerel are running, they can draw concentrations of light tackle anglers from all over. If the macks are tinkers, say under 10 inches, they pan-fry nicely. The bigger ones, and I?ve seen them up to four pounds, can be filleted for cooking or chunked for use on the bottom as bait. They are on the oily side but, for that reason, are favored by some fish eaters. Moreover, at the larger end of their size, they will take small striper lures -- particularly Fjords and Kastmasters -- and even pull drag from the reels of heavy surf tackle. A story that is repeated every few years, one which is heard more when the big bass are around, is the one about a gang of people using light tackle to catch mackerel. Invariably, during the melee, someone is fighting a mackerel when a moby striper comes along and eats the mackerel. Of course, the bass was hooked when it swallowed the mackerel and, often, the striper was landed and weighed in at over 50 pounds. What gets no attention is the number of times that it happens when the unsuspecting pan fisher -- often, but not necessarily a kid -- breaks off while fighting a mackerel. I have seen these sudden break-offs with kids catching mackerel and we will never know what did it. Maybe we don?t want to know.
An old saying whispered at the altar of luck is that it is better to be lucky than good. That is fine, if it is one or the other, but how many times have you heard it said that some people are both lucky and good, two elements that when combined can produce miraculous results. Stuart Jones, who has become a pen pal from earlier books, was fishing wrong on the beach at Chatham Inlet when he got the fishing surprise of his life. I say wrong because I have taught my readers to fish at night with a plug; he was using a chunk in the daytime and not even watching his spiked rod. His little girl, Lindsey, age six, pointed to the rod and shouted ?Daddy!? With 20 pound spinning tackle, Jones beached a 57 pound lineside. It garnered the Massachusetts Governor?s Cup for the 1994 season.
Jones? story qualifies in this chapter about luck, because he combines his trophy striper encounter with a well-honed checklist of skills. He knew how to fish bait, in this case a chunk, which is the striper coast?s most popular method. Stu was savvy enough not to fish stripers with a wire leader. He saw no harm in having a line in the water at what is probably the most popular surfcasting spot in the northwest Atlantic, as he was at the beach on vacation with the family anyway. Moreover, once fast to the fish of his life, he did not blow it by pulling against this monster until his line broke. What was lucky about the event was the year in which it took place. That season, few fish exceeding 50 pounds were caught anywhere let alone in Massachusetts. The notion that Lady Luck?s best work comes from situations where she gets a little help from the angler seems to manifest itself here. I?m convinced that those encountering the most ?luck? are those who, because of their experience, have seen enough of these things to be ready for just about anything. As a boy hunting with my father and brother, Papa used to say -- whenever a grouse rocketed out of a thicket -- ?You can?t get lucky if your gun don?t go off.?
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Old 08-16-2011, 03:02 PM
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Default Re: "Lady Luck" an excerpt from Trophy Striper

(Another excerpt from "Lady Luck", a chapter in Trophy Striper


Just south of Highland Light, during a quarter moon in '77, I had a nice firm take while retrieving a rigged eel. Hauling back, I felt the momentary weight of a fish followed by the give of having failed to hook it. What I noticed right away was that the weight and resistance of my eel had changed, been reduced, so that it was much lighter. I knew immediately that my bait, while still there, was smaller and only one thing could trim it -- bluefish. Nothing rips a striper fisher more than to have an eel, which has had twenty minutes of rigging time put into it, cut and compromised. I was miffed with a capitol P. You have to understand that this story takes more time in the telling than in the living, that only seconds went by between the take and the suspicion that a blue had cut it. I did not yet know what my bait looked like. Anyway, I kept right on pumping the eel as though nothing had happened, figuring that the only way I could get even was to keep fishing and catch the bugger. The bait didn?t go 10 yards before it was taken down a second time in the same retrieve. This time I hooked it and kind of hoped that I could even the score. However, this, I could tell, was no bluefish. A few minutes later, I beached the nicest striper of our season, 51 pounds. Looking down upon it in the wet sand, I just knew what I was going to find. It was a case of confirming something about which I was certain. There, front hook buried deep in its maw, was half of a rigged eel with its lower section trimmed away by the bluefish. Let's speculate about the turns of luck, what might have, could have, happened.
Had that blue struck just a little deeper, he would have cut my mono leader. With no bait, there would have been no subsequent striper take. Could the blue stalking and taking the eel have brought attention to the bait that might otherwise have gone unnoticed by this fine striper? If so, I should sing the praises of bluefish for the rest of my days. Might a less experienced surfcaster have stopped the retrieve after the cut off and just cranked in without action? Might such a change in retrieve have made no difference and the bass would have taken it anyway? What if I had caught the blue, which is something that I might normally want to do? Can you picture me gloating over a fine bluefish, say 16 pounds, while a 50 pound plus lineside -- which had started to move toward the bait -- drifted seaward to forage for something with greater appeal and been gone by the time I made my next cast? Yes, I was lucky that night, but many aspects of what happened could never have taken place with a less experienced angler.
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Old 08-17-2011, 01:49 PM
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Default Re: "Lady Luck" an excerpt from Trophy Striper

More:


The biggest bass I have ever caught, a mere 53 pounder when judged in the backdrop of all the monsters taken around me, put more fear into me than any bass I have ever contacted. My wife, Joyce, and I were into an unforgettable take of big fish on Nauset Beach's Refrigerator Hole. Flanked by breaking bars, the hole was dark and deep at this stage of the tide. At first, we hauled a few fish from the center but action settled into both ends where water was washing over the bars, each of us fishing at opposing ends with rigged eels. They were all big stuff with nothing under 30 pounds and at least half over 40. We must have put a dozen on the beach when we noticed that activity had begun to lessen. Meeting at the buggy, we agreed that we were both getting less. Considering what had been stuck or dropped besides what we had caught, we assumed that probably every bass in the hole had had a bad experience with these rigged eels. We went to Rebels with little rubber teasers as droppers.
With this change in offers, the blitz fishing started all over again. Apparently, the bass, having no experience with them, were less wary of the small lures and plugs. We split to the bars, cast at the same time, and hooked up at the same time. A little later, maybe the third fish with the plugs, I had a routine take. Only this time it went, went, and went, out over the bars on the outside, screaming into dry line on the spool of my conventional reel. Fishing with 50 pound braided line and a surfrod which was a real pool cue, no shore fisherman could have had stronger. Having hauled on stripers over 40 pounds for most of the night, I had a fresh mastery of what was needed, yet I was still anxious. At the bottom, I grasped the empty spool with fingers and thumb to stop it. Joyce, her rod spiked on the bumper of the vehicle, was beside me with a gaff, and we were both staring in silence out into the darkened Atlantic. I had never been in contact with anything like this. Pumping the rod and following with turns of the reel, I stored line for a few yards, each period where it took line growing shorter and times when I gained longer. Then, we saw the dark figure in the foam of the first wave as it washed up exhausted. Joyce ran down, gaffed its jaw and dragged shoreward, and I -- falling in behind to cut off escape -- gasped at the sight of my Rebel's last hook in the striper's vent. That is, dear patient reader, what you call luck.
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Old 08-18-2011, 12:49 PM
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Default Re: "Lady Luck" an excerpt from Trophy Striper

More just to prove that I have in the past deemed luck as a worthy subject for exploration:


How does that sort of thing happen? I know exactly. Use of teasers in striper fishing has become a widespread methodology. The idea is that much of what bass forage on is small so that an imitation of small baits is effective. Moreover, many small offers can be served nicely with a single hook, which is stronger than a treble, while offering a high survival for returned fish. In order to deliver such undersize offers, it is necessary to use a lure, usually, but not necessarily a plug, as a casting weight. The mistake that many surfcasters make is that the teaser is tied too close to the casting weight. This does not allow sufficient room for a big fish to take the small offer up front without being touched, even scratched, by the hooks of the casting weight. In the case of this bass over 50 inches long, I hauled back when it struck the teaser and drove the plug into the fish where it found purchase in an otherwise streamlined and highly unlikely spot. Plain, dumb luck.
How many times have we said ?if we only knew?? The year our son, Dick, joined us on the beach while on leave from the Coast Guard, we came onto a nice hit of fish that had been storming the shore here, then showing up there. Each night, it was a case of hunting them down, and some of the nights we would not find them at all. The tide was dropping, sweeping water east over the top of a point where a half dozen of us had gathered. It was a little crowded, but no one was in any position to complain all during the take of bass that ranged from 30 pounds up. Dick had just slid a 41 pounder to the top of the beach when we could see a buggy coming down the shore toward us. All of us had to be thinking the same thing: What can we do to make this person think that the fishing isn?t any good? If we all stop fishing, the person may pass. Still, that person -- or are there five -- might pull up and fish there because no one is fishing. The safe thing was to keep fishing, to hold the spot, so that if they pulled up they would have to forage for space. Dick, however, wanting to send the message that fishing was so poor that some were just hanging around, stood away from where he had just caught the 41, having hidden it in the buggy out of sight. The lone surfcaster pulled up, walked over to Dick?s bootprints, made one cast, and hooked and landed a 51 pounder -- a size striper that to this day, with 35 years of fishing, Dick has never taken. If we only knew. Sometimes I think that it is better that we don?t know.
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Old 08-19-2011, 02:55 PM
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Default Re: "Lady Luck" an excerpt from Trophy Striper

Another excerpt from the Luck chapter of Trophy Striper:


Sherwood Lincoln, one of the co-founders of River's End Tackle at the mouth of the Connecticut River, was fishing the Cape beach with Frank Bentrewitz of Clinton, Connecticut when Sherwood asked, "Frank, will you try the feel of this plug's retrieve? It doesn't feel right to me." Whereupon, Frank made a few turns of the reel and hooked a 52 pounder saying, "It feels all right to me."
Like everybody else with a little time in grade, I have stung the World Record. Enjoying a daylight blitz one mid-summer day, we were part of a crowd of 100 surfcasters throwing poppers at bluefish which were slaughtering herring in the surf. People were so absorbed in the blues that it seemed no one was ready for stripers to show on the same baitfish. Because I was wearing Polaroids, I saw the much larger forms of the bass sliding through the first wave. Once we tied small swimming plugs to our leaders, an offer that came close in action and appearance to the bait, we began hooking nice bass. There was one monster, however, which kept making an appearance in the first wave; it moved on a slight angle to the shore to take a baitfish while the ones on the outside pushed in. Every time I saw the thing, snubbing the cast short so as not to lose time too far outboard of it, a different bass would take my lure, and I would then be engaged for a long enough time to miss another chance. You have to understand that in those days we caught so many fish, remnants of an aging population of monsters whose sisters had mostly slipped away, that we could look at a 35 to 55 pounder and estimate its weight within a pound. So, when I tell you that I had the World Record in front of me, I?m talking about having seen the beast, all five feet, several times. Maybe the fourth or fifth time that she showed, I hooked a real good fish within seconds of having seen her and was so sure that I had her I had begun work on my acceptance speech for the IGFA. I gave the fish a light drag, not because I feared a break in the line, but because I didn?t want to straighten the hooks on the smallish plug. When I beached this striper, I was astounded to see that it was not the brute that I had expected. It later weighed only 43 pounds, but I needn't have weighed it because I was certain that the fish I was after was still out there. And it was. Again, when it slid through a curling wave, I laid a cast where it should have been and hooked up right away. Pulling line from the spool, it went out over the bars into line that the 43 had not moistened and then I dropped it. If not a record, it would have been, I am certain, my best. She gives trophy stripers and She takes them away. It is one of the rules.

For a greater examination of life in pursuit of moby stripers buy and read The Trophy Striper here through PayPal or the old fashioned way with a check in the mail. End of excerpting. Your questions and or remarks are welcome.
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Old 08-20-2011, 08:52 AM
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Default Re: "Lady Luck" an excerpt from Trophy Striper

"Luck is when preparation meets opportunity."

Didn't coin the phrase but it seems to fit.
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Old 08-20-2011, 04:42 PM
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Default Re: "Lady Luck" an excerpt from Trophy Striper

I sold an excerpt to "Lady Luck" to SWS right after the book came out. It was very popular article. (That was back when the editor would respond to my inquiries.)
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