Surfcasting Strategy Reconsidered

Acclaimed author and surfcasting guide DJ Muller started his talk at Narragansett Surfcasters last week urging people to ” have a plan” arguing that if you don’t you essentially “plan” to reduce your likelyhood of catching a big bass. That logic is hard to argue with and I’d have to think many in the room have heard that message before. Knowing the surfcasting experience in attendance they likely plan most of their outings. DJ took it a step further and emphasized that planning must be linked to execution and that he believes many surfcasters could up their game with increased attention to execution. DJ, who is a builder by trade makes his living creating and executing on a plan. He takes a similar approach when surfcasting. His goal is to find the time and place where  “over the next few nights a fifty pound bass will swim within 100 yards of the rock I am standing on” Like all top surfcasters he considers the variables of tide, moon, bait migration, temperature and wind and also draws from his deep experience to try and determine the location that will best allow him to achieve this goal. That’s “planning” and it is vital; but then there is “execution” and DJ’s talk flicked a switch in my head that made me realize that I had developed some lazy habits and how I probably brought some biased and or just bad ideas into my thinking over time. DJ’s talk scrubbed my surfcasting hard drive.

Surfcasting Guide and Author DJ Muller with a nice bass

He shared his thoughts on that while striped bass travel in schools they feed independently. They are both competitive and opportunistic and as such on most occasions if you put a plug on their “dinner plate” they will eat it before their schoolmate does. Upon reflection I realized that I likely overemphasize bait shape and color. Perhaps because I also enjoy fly fishing for trout. Where “matching the hatch” is part of the puzzle. Nonetheless it seemed to have introduced a bias in my thinking that hasn’t served me well. DJ helped me realize that at least at the start of a trip why go to extremes to “match the hatch” if the bass is opportunistic? Also, DJ sees little value in throwing the same plug to the same spot. I know have done this countless times believing that perhaps the bass didn’t see my last presentation or just they just moved in; but I also recognized that I “like to watch” so seeing or more likely hearing a bass hit a surface plug has always been a big thrill. DJ believing if the last cast to that spot was presented properly then it’s time to switch it up and throw a different depth of plug to that same spot. One of his most valuable pearls for me was his suggestion that if you fan cast the surface with a Guppy Pencil Popper for example, without success. Repeat the process with a “high in the water column lure” that runs a foot or two below the surface. DJ is a fan of the SP Minnow or a Super Strike Darter for this purpose. If you still haven’t found the stripers it’s time to break out the bucktail jigs, heavy rubber or the Super Strike Heavy Needlefish. Obviously, DJ puts in the preparation time and draws from thousands of hours of surfcasting; but he is equally focused on execution as he is on location. His three dimensional (surface, high and then low in the water column) approach helped me realize that while I may have gotten location right and I may fished over many nice bass I did so without enough attention on depth; therefore failing to cover the water column adequately and never actually putting the lure on the “dinner plate”.

I know the bass DJ describes and I am looking for is still out there and his talk helped me reconsider my approach, refocus on execution and recognize some bad habits. 

Anyone interested in improving as a surf caster would be well served to catch one of DJ’s presentations. He will be at The Saltwater Edge for Surf Night on March 7th. You can learn more about all of his upcoming presentations and guide service at DJ Muller Surfcaster. His books are available at The Saltwater Edge and on his website.


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