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March Madness: Preparing for the Surf Fishing Game

For many, March Madness means college basketball’s big dance. Days are spent anxiously watching teams compete, hoping their brackets don’t get busted.  For me (and my fellow surf fishing addicts in New York) March signals a different type of madness. March Madness for anglers is our time. The long winter is coming to an end. Days start to get longer. Temperatures start to get milder. The show season begins to wind down and a particular date draws closer- April 15th– the official start of the Striped Bass season in New York State. For us Striper stalkers, it cannot come soon enough.

With the season drawing closer every day, planning is essential. Anglers are scrambling to make last minute preparations. This is our March Madness, a time when every decision counts and we must use time wisely in making our final preparations for the upcoming season. Once the season begins there’s little time for servicing reels; looking for missing gear packed away.

last season; or for buying lures that should have been purchased the day after last season ended. The fish wait for no one.

When it comes to preparation you need to make sure your equipment is in optimal condition. Your reels must be in great working condition, rod guides can’t have nicks or damage from last season]s action, rusty hooks need to be removed, and line has got to be changed.  Unfortunately, I have witnessed several occasions where people who have purchased expensive rods and reels make the simple mistake of not spending just a little more to change their line.  In my experience, fishing line is the most important part of your equipment.  An angler can break a guide or bend a reel handle, and still have a shot at landing a fish.  But once the line breaks all is lost. The line is the only true connection between you and the fish.  Sure, equipment will eventually fail but decreasing the chance of breakage or other problems increases the probability of landing the fish, especially the larger ones which inevitably put more stress on your equipment. Change your line, and while you’re at it, remember to re-tie often for the exact same reasons.

During the Madness, remember your mantra- Research, Plan, Know, then Go. Start mapping out the trips you plan to take ahead of time. As the date of your anticipated trip gets closer, pay attention to the wind. Wind speed has an important role in determining your success with the fish. Investigate the moon phase and tides of the dates you plan to fish. These are also necessary for surf fishing success. You need to put in the work to know when the different moons and tides are best for the particular areas you plan to fish. If you need a rule of thumb, fish the outgoing tide and the new moon. This is a great starting point, however, different areas will present different conditions and you want to plan accordingly.

When planning trips, especially if you have thoughts of fishing new areas, you really need to arrange to go and observe these areas in the daytime, and if possible at low tide. This is very important as you will be able to observe the structure or lack of structure that would be otherwise covered up by high tide or darkness.  You never want to travel to an area with which you are unfamiliar. Technology and networking give rise to many ways to do such observations- even if not in person. What is most important is to minimize blind casting. Blindly hurling your baits into the surf will only result in a lack of consistent success. With the right preparation and the willingness to plan your outing in advance, you can have a successful trip.

In closing, all respectable surf fisherman will utilize the planning process when it comes to equipment and trip preparation to increase the percentages of hooking up consistently. Fortunately, the technology we now have at our finger tips has increased our ability to plan and research more easily and efficiently.  Success at anything takes time and energy; it is no different when it comes to fishing.  If you are an angler willing to do your research and scout out areas to fish, success will be just a cast away. Tight lines, and Live the Passion!


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