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From: Warthog SC
Time: 2:09:04 PM
Distance—A Little and A Lot Can Go A Long Way!
I begin by saying that there are far more capable people than me on both sides of this subject. With that said, let’s talk structure and distance fishing. Low tide is a classroom if you have an idea of what to look for. After 20 years I still find myself guessing and taking chances more than I like to on what I call “structure payoff.” Will the structure I see at low tide produce when the water returns? Frustratingly, I have learned that a productive cut can be the size of 10X10 table top. It can appear as nothing more than a pool or tiny sliver at low but the fish work it during the return or falling. Anyone that chooses to take structure, hard thought-through “guessing,”and distance (long and short) out of surf fishing is out for adult beverages, luck, and a lot of tale telling. I don't have a problem with any of those three. In fact, I’ll take all the luck I can get.
Long casters tend to be impressive don't they? Don't lie or kid yourself. It is impressive to see a caster launch it out there about 125-150 yards. There are plenty of surf fishermen who can’t do that and have no desire to. I get that. Distance is not always productive and I know many of you know that. There have been times when I underhanded it and caught slot puppies most of an entire tide. Got tired of catching them and fished for something else. Think about it—underhanded, literally fifteen feet. I learned this technique and “structure lesson” one day while watching a guy at Buxton after I had been all but shut out for four straight days. It was November and over the course of four days I had caught 4 specks and two grays. Fishing was terribly slow… or so I thought. The guy was alone, 50 yards to my north dragging in puppy after puppy. I couldn't believe what I was watching. As low tide neared and he was packing it in, I made the humbling walk up to where he was and explained my sob story to him and he offered me insights in the next thirty minutes that revolutionized my approach to fishing fifty yards and in. He was an older guy, a local, obviously experienced, and what most impressed me about him was that he was not concerned with taking fishing secrets to his grave. His attitude toward me as an inexperienced and virtually clueless surf fisherman was refreshing, to say the least, especially since I had only been surf fishing a total of about five times at that point. To the younger fishermen out there reading this, you may think you know a good bit, and you just may. However, old salts are worth listening to—always. They know a thing or two as well. You may well learn more from an old salt in fifteen minutes than from fifty You Tube videos or saltwater magazines. Sometimes fishing long distance is a waste of time and energy and produces absolutely no fish. I know that all too well. BUT, when I set up on the beach to fish (not in a tournament setting) I almost ALWAYS put one 12’ 3” 3-5 rated rod out to my far right, out of everyone else’s way, that is out there for distance. As I fish I keep an eye on that rod even though the drag is set quite loose. The purpose is to test the waters further out.
In continuing with that thought, there are those times when long distance does matter. Better yet, it’s crucial given the structure and other intangibles (ie. wind, dirty water, schooling patterns, etc). Sometimes such conditions and structure involve slinging it for all you are worth to reach gray trout, for example, at the foot or backside of the 2nd or even the 3rd bar. Does distance pay off? Obviously, it can. Understanding structure is just as crucial. I know some guys that fish for bulls every year on the north end in the tournament, I won't call names, they know who they are, and a few of them can cast for distance when they need to. Do they always fish far out? No. They fish structure and they study the structure at low tide and they KNOW both what they are looking at and looking for. They fish the best of what the structure presents and there are times when the ability to cast 100-120 yards + with weight and bait is required to hit that table top and hitting that location can lead to the hookup with the fish of your lifetime.
So, is learning to cast further worth it if you are able bodied to do it? In my opinion, Yes! Why? Because fish work structures at different distances obviously because of the varying structures they encounter along with structures they like whether they are the predators or the bait. There are times when I have caught sea mullet at the 3rd set literally all tide long. I had no idea why they were there. I just tried different distances and found the fish. The same can be said for gray and speckled trout, especially in mid-May. I saw this pattern repeatedly over the course of 2010-2015. 100-130 yards with a two or three set obviously using tackle that could reach those distances (specifically, 12 foot 2-4” rods that are rated 3-5 but have the readability of a 1-2 in the last 18 inches of the tip and yet are versatile and easily strong enough to handle a 40+ redfish). You won’t find such rods at Cabela’s or Bass Pro. I have no exact answer as to why those fish were that far out. I was merely fortunate enough to have had the equipment and technique (and luck) to put bait where they were. I haven’t been able to get back to South Core in May to really seriously fish since 2015, so I don’t personally know about more recent years. Need I mention a blue blitz? At day’s end, how many times have you heard a guy say, “Blues came by but they were too far out.”
I conclude now with a question: How many of you out there think that distance is important...at times, and have you put in the time and effort, especially you younger fishermen, to become proficient at distance so you will have it available when you need it?
It’s a good thing to ponder especially for younger fishermen and “fishergals” with a lot of years of promising health and fishing ahead of you. A little distance can go a long way! Practice casting and putting in the hours in farm ponds or a local lake can make a huge difference in the success of your surf fishing outings. Quality rods, reels, line, and a really small but efficient shock leader knot will help your cause as well. Rod-wise, distance doesn’t come cheap but in the long run it will pay off. Research and don’t be shy about asking questions (lots of questions ie. guide design and placement, reel seat location, butt/tip mesh point, blank components, length, load point, the list goes on) before committing to purchase a distance rod that is truly a good “fishing” rod. Your next trip just might surprise you!