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Catch of the Day - By: Capt. Dave Compton - Feb. 2004

Trolling is not my favorite way to fish. Since the recovery of the rockfish and the decline of the large bluefish in the Bay, I don't do it as much as I used to. Nowadays most of my parties would rather chum for the rocks and blues if they can. When that isn't working we generally try bottom fishing until late fall. Oh, sometimes we will troll a bit for Spanish mackerel and Taylor blues in August and September, but that is secondary to the chumming.

When trophy striper season comes in, I believe it's worthwhile to "Pull the Plug." Many years ago when the Bay was full of big bluefish we used to run the Cut Channel with Chesapeake Bay three-way rigs. These were made up with three-way swivels, big dipsey sinkers on three foot drops and surgical tubes on 25 foot leaders. We usually ran two of them. We also ran a flat line with a four- eight ounce inline weight and a big spoon or "ragmop." Our fourth rod would pull a big Cisco Kid or magnum Rebel. If the "Cut" didn't hold fish we would troll up to "48" (now buoy 62). I don't use the three-way rigs as much anymore since the advent of the umbrella rig for trophy striper fishing. While the Cisco has given way to the Mann's Stretch, I will still pull a plug for these jumbo rocks.

Last year when we were fishing the inshore ocean for jumbo rockfish in January one of our four lures was a Mann's Stretch 25 in the mullet pattern. This plug has a greenish back, white sides and a little orange on the belly. We ran it way far out using a 20 ft., 80 lb. test leader and 80 lb. test spider wire braid line. Trolling about two-three MPH the stretch would wobble like anything sending its message up the line to the rod tip. It had great action and was a killer on the big stripers. Other good colors are the chrome/blue and the chartreuse/blue. I like the two hook series better than the ones with three hooks. Our other plug was a "Tomic" lure. This is a newer lure, but very similar to a version of the "J" plugs we used in Lake Michigan for salmon. It works very well in the salt water for stripers and has great action.

A few years back during our fall/early winter outings we used to troll a couple of Cotton Cordell Red Fins. They had three styles. The regular Red Fin came in size seven and size five for stripers. They also had a jointed Red Fin in size five and a deep diving Red Fin in size five. I never got a deep diver that would track well, so I quit trying them. The regular and jointed ones work fine. They caught fish, too.

I think one of the earliest plugs I can remember using for stripers was the Creek Chub Jointed Pike. These were huge lures that would bend the rod tip over and make it throb in a rhythmic pattern. They were especially effective trolled along and around the pilings of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel at night. You don't see them being used much anymore, but I still have a few of them in my box. Perhaps I'll try them again sometime.

When I first got Aces Up, my charter boat, I made a test run over to Dymer Creek in preparation for the CCA Tournament. Besides Lynn Walton and Eddie Gay, my tournament partners, we had Jim Covington with us. Jim has a place near Lynn's on the Creek, but didn't striper fish much. We took him with us out near buoy 59A and put out some lines. One of them was a Stretch 25. Another was a Hopkins 550 spoon. The others were parachute rigs. We didn't have much time to troll, but Jim got the biggest striper of his life on the Stretch. We got a few others, too, but it was neat to get the biggest one by pulling a plug. Don't ask how we did in the Tournament-I'm embarrassed to tell you. Let's just say we shot our wad the day before.

I guess fishing is like anything else. Things come and go. What's hot today is cold tomorrow. But plugging for stripers seems to be hanging on with those devotees who still pull the plug. There are new ones coming on the market all the time. They seem to get bigger, better and fancier each year. Now there are mirror finishes and holographic patterns. Pretty soon they'll be making them with molded in lights so they shine in the dark. If they make it, I'll pull it.

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