The Surfcaster by Bill Wetzel

By Bill Wetzel

It was recently opening day of the striped bass season here on Long Island. To many this is a very significant day, but for many different reasons.  For me the fact that I can legally catch and take home striped bass to eat for dinner is meaningless.  It is difficult to put into words, but the beginning of the season is a stressful time for me yet a very exciting one.  Before I had a family, a house, and mouths to feed it was not that way, but now it can be overwhelming.  Before I can start fishing there is the lawn, the deck, the power washing, the retaining wall, then there is all the fishing maintenance that I should have done over the winter but didn’t. Indeed late March and the month of April is a time to get in the fishing when I can, and to bust ass the rest of the time so I have from May to December to hunt for stripers. I tell myself that it is all worth it, but sometimes I feel like I am one of the few who know why it’s worth it. So for those of you that either don’t fish or are trying to figure it here is some food for thought as to why or why not our sport is worth it.

Through our sport you can learn about yourself in the way of discipline, self reliance, respect of nature, determination, and your physical mental capabilities.  These lessons usually do not come easy, but nothing worth doing does.  How many of us have came home from work played with the little ones, caught an hour of sleep or so to hit a 1am tide? You know the drill. The alarm rings at 12am, or perhaps you do not want to wake anyone so you put your cell phone alarm on vibrates right next to your pillow. You have both your work clothes and your fishing clothes ready near the door as to not to wake anyone. You quietly slip into your fishing clothes and sneak out the door to your buggy. You’re sure to pull out of the driveway with the lights off, and then it’s the moment of truth. “Why am I going out in the middle of the night when everyone else is sleeping in their cozy beds”?  The reality testing of yourself may or may not happen, but if it does it comes with an immediate answer of complete justification, and then you push on.  Upon your arrival you do not see another buggy in sight and spend about 10 minutes making sure everything is perfect. It is a moonless rainy night with the demons of darkness making a valiant effort to intimate you to stay in your buggy or go home. “What’s the difference between walking in the day or a very dark night” you ask yourself. “Nothing except light”.  You push on through the a dark narrow one half mile path that snakes it way though the pitch black woods.  The surf gear attempts to keep you dry, but the sweat builds as you hustle to the shore line.  Your eyes begin to sting from the rain water mixed with deet (used from the back bay trip the night before) dripping from the brim of your lucky hat. The shadows of the trees look like monsters swaying in the night. “Plataweasels”?  The closer you get the more you can hear the roar of a five to seven foot heave that has developed from an off shore storm. NOAA did not predict the big water, but you have enough salt running through your veins to not only except it, but welcome it. Suddenly your heart begins to pound, your skull begins to tingle, and the bumps on your skin begin to rise. Big water can do that to ya.  You quicken your pace and before you know it you are through the woods and at the surfs edge, with rolling white water dumping over your favorite point into a deep inviting striper cove.  You buckle up your surf belt and enter the roar of the ocean using your rod as a cane to rock hop to your favorite rock. Through the dark surf you can barely make out the rock which is about a foot in diameter and getting pounded by waves. “Yeah it’s a small rock, its big water, and it’s very dark out, but damn it that’s the rock that is going to put me into the best lane, and I’m hitting it”, you scream out loud to allow the surf to know you to know your intentions.  As you get smacked around on the dropping tide you get up on your rock, yes your rock because there is nobody but you, at least not that you know of that has ever stood,  much less caught a striper on it. The waves begin to seriously beat the hell out of you and threaten to knock you in deeper water, but you tell yourself “the tide is dropping, I’ll be alright”.  You try to pick your first cast between the waves, but it is so dark you are having a tough time timing your cast. You lean back and let the first cast fly. The sweep takes your plug for a few seconds, but you reel quickly to regain contact. Suddenly you feel a hard thump and your line goes tight. Your rod bends in half and your drag begins that slow peel. You’re a surf caster.

Please consider joining and enter our annual East Coast June striper tournament. The tournament is free for all members, supports catch and release with all proceeds going to Camp Adventure to help kids with cancer.  The tournament is in its eighth year covers the entire east coast, has some of the best casters anywhere, and has thousands of dollars in prizes from our sponsors.  Thank you,  See ya there—Bill Wetzel

Editor’s note;

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 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



9 comments on “The Surfcaster by Bill Wetzel

  1. mike

    That was awesome i love that feeling walking down the path in the pitch black before you get to the water…You nailed Bill!

  2. William

    You have perfectly described how feels to be a surf caster, however, not every first cast gives into the satisfaction of knowing why you made 1/2 mile hike to your rock base…until that first cast and the knowledge of pace, sweep, and condition of the water your in….
    Great writing Bill, you really captured the essence of why we keep doing it again and again.

  3. Captn Bob

    Nice read, you hit the nail on the head. With me its the deep sigh of relief after the first cast ! AAHHH made it! Thanks for keeping it real.

  4. DonR

    I thought of this article as I made the long, cold, dark, walk out to my spot. As soon as I left the house I knew the honking wind was coming in the wrong direction but I went anyway. Didn’t catch but I won’t feel guilty about staying in bed.


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