Th­ese tweaks to pop­u­lar striper surf plugs will stop a 50-pounder from turn­ing your lures to rub­ble

Outdoor Life - - FISHING - by JIMMY FEE

bass is like an ag­ing heavy­weight fighter. It lacks the speed and show­boat­ing of blue­fish or false al­ba­core, so it re­lies on ex­pe­ri­ence and raw power to drop surf fish­er­men to their knees. In ad­di­tion to the hay­mak­ers de­liv­ered by the striper’s sav­age head shakes, a bass will lean on its rocky, cur­rent-swept en­vi­ron­ment to stack the deck even fur­ther. To KO a gi­ant striped bass, ev­ery as­pect of your tackle has to be as tough as your quarry, in­clud­ing your lures. While few lures are truly big-bass-proof right out of the pack­age, clever surf cast­ers have found ways to mod­ify top pro­duc­ers to han­dle a heavy bass. Here are three easy tweaks to proven cow catch­ers, born from the in­ge­nu­ity of an­glers who spent a lot of time in the ring with gi­ants.


Big stripers eat big meals, and one of the best ways a cow hunter can em­ploy the big-bait, big-fish men­tal­ity is with the 9-inch, 5-ounce Sé­bile Magic Swim­mer 228 SSK. The Magic Swim­mer first gained pop­u­lar­ity on the Cape Cod Canal, where fish­er­men learned there was no such thing as “too fast” when re­triev­ing the dou­ble-jointed hard bait. As fish­er­men through­out the striper’s range be­gan us­ing the Magic Swim­mer, they quickly learned that the stock hard­ware bent like pa­per clips un­der the strain of a huge bass. And fish at­tached by more than one of the lure’s three hooks could dis­man­tle the bait.

The first step in im­prov­ing the Magic Swim­mer’s dura­bil­ity is re­plac­ing the tail hook with a hook­less buck­tail teaser (1). In ad­di­tion to pre­vent­ing stripers from gain­ing the le- ve­r­age nec­es­sary for break­ing the plug and bend­ing a hook, the teaser ex­tends the bait’s length to more than 10 inches and adds more swim­ming mo­tion.

The next step is up­grad­ing the front and mid­dle tre­ble hooks and split rings (2). Hooks like the 6X strong 4/0 VMC Fish Fighter Tre­ble will stick hard in the bony mouth of a big bass and re­sist bend­ing or break­ing dur­ing the fight. To at­tach the tre­ble, use a heavy-duty split ring like the Rosco 6XH or Spro Power Split Ring Size 7.


Ev­ery striper fish­er­man has a stash of min­now plugs, ei­ther the clas­sic Bomber Long A or the newer Daiwa Salt Pro Min­now. Min­nows can be tuned to pro­duce both quan­tity and qual­ity, but when it comes to the lat­ter, a few up­grades are needed to keep bass from man­gling the bait. Al­most all min­now plugs have a fixed hook hanger on the belly. The torque ap­plied by a big striper can twist this hanger and crack the plug. If you’re lucky, this will only cause your plug to spring a leak; if you’re not, the fish will rip the hook hanger out of the body and leave you with a bro­ken plug and a fish story. Adding a bar­rel swivel be­tween the split ring and the hook will pre­vent the bass from twist­ing the hook hanger (3). At­tach the swivel di­rectly to the hook hanger by cut­ting one swivel eye and bend­ing it out just enough to fit over the hanger, and then bend that swivel eye back into place. Sim­i­larly, cut the eye of the hook to work it over the swivel eye and then bend it back into form. You can also re­move the rear hook (4) as many an­glers be­lieve two tre­bles ac­tu­ally cre­ate more room for er­ror than a more pos­tive hold.

Some fish­er­men go much fur­ther by drilling out min­nows, adding a stain­less-steel through-wire and swivels (5), and then fill­ing the hol­low­bod­ied plug with foam (6). The re­sult­ing plug not only hooks and holds onto big stripers, but it also sur­vives bat­tles with true gi­ants much more ef­fec­tively than stock plugs.

Many lures won’t han­dle a huge striper right out of the pack­age, but some sim­ple mod­i­fi­ca­tions make them cow-ready.

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