Gettin Schooled by Bill Wetzel

I believe it was the second week of December in 1991. The SW winds were blowing at a sustained fifty knots bringing the warm air from the south, and raising the night air to temperatures near sixty degrees. High tide was around 9pm and we had just came off a moon. New or full I do not recall. Montauks south side put the wind directly in your face making the Atlantic Ocean churned up and huge. The plan was to hit the stepping stones on the north side and work my way over to false and north bar on the dropping tide.

I was about twenty six years old and armed with a Saber 11 ½ foot fiber glass rod, and a Penn 850SS reel, spooled up with 20lb Ande pink. Most guys at that time had similar set ups. I arrived at the light at about 9pm and crawled my 1988 sky blue Nissan Pathfinder into the north side entrance.  Through the woods, and out at the false bar cut I kept heading west to get to the Stones.  I arrived to the rock piles and stepped out of my buggy, I remember thinking “this is not bad”. The water was flat and clean as the warm fierce SW winds blew over the bluffs and into my back. I crawled out onto some of my favorite rocks and began casting black with gold tint Long A Bombers.

After about 11:30pm I took a drive to False and North bars. With the place completely disserted, I continued casting the bomber and would occasionally mix it up with the classic Gibbs yellow darter. Back then I do not think there was a Montauk caster alive that did not carry a Gibbs yellow darter. By 1am I had not a touch and took the drive around Clark’s cove, though the stepping stones, around the Oyster pond and into Shagwong. With my headlights off I noticed about ten casters lined up and one of them dragging a slob towards my buggy. My mind went completely numb. “Ya got a scale?” the caster asked. I pulled out the old brass Manley and confirmed the weight to be 44lbs.  “They got the herring pushed up to the beach, nothing under the 30lbs. Just throw a Super Strike yellow darter. That’s all they want”. I quickly grabbed my rod and stuck with my bomber. I knew I could cast it a mile with the wind at my back and I remember thinking “I’ll show these guys what a bomber can do”. I was young, cocky, and too green to listen to words of wisdom. I worked my way into the outside edge of the lineup and watched every guy hooking into huge fish, most of them well over 40 lbs with some schoolie 30’s mixed in. I could not even get a tap with my bomber, and after about 20 minutes of watching guys bail cows I tied on a Gibbs yellow darter. In 1991 Don Musso had introduced his plastic Super Strike darter and every caster in the lineup was using one. On the other hand I only had my trusty Gibbs.  I threw the Gibbs with passion and panic, but could not buy as much as a bump. My entire body was shaking and casters continued to pound slob after slob. I heard the whistle of the darter that night and today I can tell you that no other plug that I know of makes the whistling noise like Don’s plastic darter.  “It must be the darter. It’s not swimming right”, I thought. I put on another Gibbs darter but it only yielded the same results. By 3am there was barely any tide left and the lineup left one by one. Every caster had his share of multiple forties and maybe even a fifty or two. On the other hand I kept fishing until the tide slacked out. I did not manage so much as a bump. Although the Gibbs and the Super Strike darter are very similar in profile and action, the Super Strike has a slightly deeper dig and perhaps a little more zig and zag.

I was a young man without much money but I had been saving up $100 to buy a batch of plugs. The next day I took the money, walked into my local Bait and Tackle shop and asked “how many Super Strike darters can I buy for $100”.

montauk map type3 (2)

Bill Wetzel is what we like to call “The Hardest Working Guide in the Surf”. A quintessential Montauk Regular Bill works hard at teaching his clients the secrets of Montauk coves and consistently puts them on the fish. No wonder most of his customers come back for more year after year. Bill also runs a Surf Rats ball, Subscribers only forum at There he exchanges ideas with his subscribers and of course, logs each and every one of his trips for all to read. Check it out at


11 comments on “Gettin Schooled by Bill Wetzel

  1. vegasvin

    Been there done that! haha.. we go trough it and will we ever get another night like that in our lifetime?

  2. HeinekenPete

    …thanks, Bill, for the great story & the detailed map. I’ve heard these names before but now I can place them.

  3. Dennis Zambrotta

    Nice story – sounds like you learned the difference between a “darter” and a “zig zag” that night. There is more to the name than we think.

  4. donlbi

    Good story, thanks. Also, a big thanks for the map–never been but I’ve read Z & Skinner so much it really helps to get a lay of the land.


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