Story by Tom Pagliaroli

The next couple of weeks are the twixt ‘n tween of the emerging hot spring saltwater fishing.

With sea bass set to open Wednesday, May 15 and the fluke opener set for Friday, May 24, it’s indeed gap time, but prime opportunities exist in the forms of stripers and, more recently bluefish, and there is not a more fun way to catch these May marauders than by plugging.

To be sure, be it a shallow running swimming or darting plug, or a surface popper, rod bending fireworks will ensue with bass and blues, and these medium light spinning and casting tackle game arenas are the bays and inlets. The Manasquan River and inlet, and Barnegat Bay and inlet are top areas. Figure the stripers anywhere from 16 to 30-plus inches, with the blues ranging from 2-pounds to choppers in excess of 10-pounds.

Soaking fresh bunker chunks or fresh clam in the surf will no doubt catch some fish, but this is as exciting as watching paint dry. From this corner, the run ’n gun plugging game is the only way to truly enjoy the unbridled energy offered by the springtime migrants.

The choice of plugs is legion, but we stick with the likes of the Yo-Zuri Crystal Minnow and the Mag Darter, the Rapala Skitter Pop and the X-Rap Popper, and the Daiwa SP Minnow. All bases covered with these, with the silver/black, silver/blue, bronze/chrome, white/red head, and bone the most productive color schemes.

Heavy Metal: When blues are ripping by in numbers, make the switch to a single hook metal jig, either plain or with a tube tail. Figure the size on the forage they are tearing into. If its spearing or herring, figure an AVA-007 or AVA-17. If bunker are the prey, up it to an AVA-17, 27 or even 47. Tube tails can sometimes make a difference, and this time of year, the red and the white can be the game changers.

Either size, utilize a light wire leader in the 6 to 9-inch range to minimize bite-offs from the hunger-crazed, slash ‘n grab blues.


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