For Less Than a Fin By Dennis Zambrotta

For Less Than a Fin
By Dennis Zambrotta
If I were to tell you that three of the best surfcasting striped bass producers all cost less than five bucks; would you believe me? Read on. I’ve been playing this surfcasting game a long time and experience has taught me that you can limit yourself to three very affordable (under $5) presentations and have a very good chance at success. A few years back I started to work part time at the Salt Water Edge retail tackle shop located in Middletown, Rhode Island. One of the most common questions I get is, “What is the best lure to catch striped bass from the surf?” Well, as we all know there are many different answers to that question and the SWE has thousands of potential lures to choose from. I could easily recommend three plugs that could very well total over $50. Now don’t get me wrong, there are definitely times when you may need specialized plugs to catch bass but not everyone has an unlimited budget. For customers with a limited budget my normal response is that I can recommend three of the most effective striped bass surfcasting catchers of all time…and all are less than $5.00 each.
So what are they?
A ½ – 1 ounce white bucktail jig: This one item should be a staple of every surfcaster in the northeast. It’s a very effective lure in almost all conditions and catches striped bass from schoolies to cows. It’s no wonder that a bucktail jig is included in every military pilot’s survival kit. Very versatile, a bucktail jig can be fished as is or adorned with a plastic curly tail, pork rind, or even white felt. In many scenarios all you have to do is cast it out and reel it in. I’d be willing to bet the basic white bucktail jig has taken more surf caught striped bass than any single plug around. Cost: $3.50 – $4.50.

A live eel: The natural eel presentation has probably taken more large surf caught striped bass than any other method. Even during times when bass are finicky they often will readily strike an eel. Much has been written about using eels in the surf, it’s a legendary technique to say the least. And it’s recyclable! When it dies continue to use it as a rigged eel. Cost: $2.00

A teaser (also referred to as a “dropper”): For those that don’t know about teasers/droppers. Teasers are considered anything that you tie ahead of your primary presentation. Generally attached via a six inch section of stiff mono to the lower ring of the barrel swivel of your main leader. Teasers/droppers have been around for a VERY long time and are have been used with great success by sharpies and novices alike. Nowadays teasers are generally made from saddle hackle feathers and/or bucktail hair tied onto a strong single hook. They should be attached approximately two feet in front of your main offering. The idea is to present a small natural looking artificial to mimic smaller baitfish. Teasers/droppers will readily take finicky bass that may not hit your main offering. They can be extremely effective and on many occasions will out fish your main offerings. Many sharpies can relate occasions when if you didn’t use a teaser you would go fishless. Another popular teaser is the 4 ½ inch Red Gill Rascal. This soft plastic dropper imitates a small sand eel and has taken more cows than you can imagine. Cost: Feather $2.25 – $3.50
Red Gill $2.75


So there you have it, three proven killer striped bass lures for less than the cost of a fin. If you were a surfcaster on a limited budget and these three items were all you could use for an entire season… you would still be very successful.


9 comments on “For Less Than a Fin By Dennis Zambrotta

    1. Dennis Zambrotta

      Hi George,
      I’m as frugal as they come but one eel wouldn’t do it for me for an entire season 😉

  1. Ryan D

    Thanks Dennis I thought I was just cheap cause I haven’t gotten into buying all those expensive plugs people act a fool over. Not that it’s a bad thing ppl can do what want but some get a little crazy over it and make themselves look bad. I been to a few shows in jersey and was completely disgusted with how grown men act and how low some of them will go. I bought a bunch of these red gills and was on my way. Thanks again you just confirmed my tactics.

    1. Dennis Zambrotta

      Ryan – there is a time and place for every plug but the point here is you can get the job done with a small budget and some basic presentations… Redgills being one of the more deadly.

  2. GChristman

    I suspect the cost of eels adds up over a season (although rigged ones are likely value packed) and bucktails tend to get lost (at least if you suck with them like me) so they add up quick as well.

    If on a budget I think someone can still do well with plugs. Buying new stuff, a bomber or redfin is always a good value. Sluggos do the job and are cheap (but tear…….which superglue can fix). A cordell pencil and a hopkins wouldn’t set you back much. Haunt some yard sales and grab an old gibbs bottle and anyone’s needle and you’d be pretty well set on a budget.

    Better yet, take a few beach walks in the winter and stock up on other’s losses.

  3. mikeyb101

    Great article…Caught my very first striper on a Redgill. Almost gave up that morning, until the older surfcaster to my right said “bring it too your feet, you’ll hook up” sure enough I did.

  4. Corey Pollnow

    Haven’t fished a red gill but I’ll have to give it a try.

    Thanks for the demonstration on Saturday at Rivers End.

  5. BOB


  6. chuckg

    I’d throw in one of those $3.00 mambo Minnows that the Chinese probably churn out a couple of million a year


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