Fishing – Slug-go

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Hooked on Slug-Go after great catch

The Connecticut-made plastic lure is catching on with saltwater anglers — and for good reason

Hooked on Slug-Go after great catch

The Connecticut-made plastic lure is catching on with saltwater anglers — and for good reason

It was time for Plan B that evening since it was too foggy for my taste to head out into The Race, in the east end of Long Island Sound, for stripers. Instead, I selected a small cove with runoff from a nearby bay emptying into it, hoping for a bass or two there, closer to home with better visibility to boot.

Within an hour, four stripers to 16 pounds went for the new lure given to me by a fellow writer. Getting ready to call it a night, the proverbial last cast into less than 4 feet of water just at the end of the tide brought another strike followed by an enormous boil on top in the ultra-calm water. The fish took considerable line on the first run against my light spinning tackle, succumbing in the end.

At 47 pounds that fish was the largest bass of the year and the start of my interest in the Slug-Go.

The Slug-Go — made by Lunker City Fishing Specialties in Meriden, Conn. — has come into shoreline tackle shops on the wave of plastic lures introduced for saltwater fishing. Plastic baits have long been the workhorse of the freshwater bass angler but over the last 10 seasons they’ve gained fame on our side of the aisle. Perhaps, the most famous is the Slug-Go.

It’s an elongated piece of plastic that resembles a stick, 1/4 to 1/2 inch across at the head, tapering to a fine point at the end. Coming in several sizes, the most popular for stripers are the 6, 7-1/2 and 9-inch, the latter size duping many large bass, some just shy of the magic 50-pound mark.

The lure has no built-in action; you must bring it out with the rod. Cast it out, then jerk the tip, watching the lure as it darts to one side much like wounded prey. Jerk the rod again and the lure repeats its action, drawing the attention of stripers on the prowl for a meal. It might take a little practice to get the hang of the deal, but it’s worth a few moments of your time.

You want the lure in motion, moving back and forth as you continually work the rod tip, all the way back to the boat.

Lunker City makes hooks that go in the head of the bait with instructions included on how to rig it. Some tackle shops like River’s End in Old Saybrook, Conn., and Quaker Lane Bait in North Kingstown, R.I., have come up with custom rigging with a hook in the head and another in the tail, the latter for short strikers. People in the stores might have the time to show you how to do this if you come in when they’re not busy (after you, of course, buy the lures and hooks).

During winter months, Steve McKenna of Cranston, R.I., an employee at Quaker Lane, goes around doing seminars on how to use and rig the lures at various consumer shows and club evenings. It’s well worth the time to go to one.

Slug-Gos have fooled stripers all up and down the southern New England coast. I’ve gotten reports from Cape Cod, including the shoal water on the east side of Monomoy and the east side of Martha’s Vineyard, casting the lure into shore then retrieving it as described above. It has also worked along the rocky stretches of Narragansett, R.I., so much so that the state’s leading paper dedicated a whole column to the success Steve McKenna had with it.

In June 2005 he caught two bass over 40 pounds and several in the 30-pound class all in one night, all from shore.

Other ideal places to fish the lure are along the many rocky striper hangouts in Fishers Island Sound. In the spring of 2005 Allen Fee, co-owner of Shaffers Marina, lost a corker bass casting into the rocks on the south side of Ram Island. All the rocky points of land in both the east and west sections of Long Island Sound, both New York and Connecticut, will produce striped bass to those tossing Slug-Gos into the rocks. The late Ted Keatley of Stamford showed me many places over the years off that town where Slug-Gos will likely work, some right in the harbor.

Many small boaters like to drift by shoreline, casting as they go while others anchor quietly then prospect for a specified amount of time before calling it quits or moving to another location. Sometimes people toss a second rod over with a chunk of frozen bait on the bottom while they cast to the shoreline rocks with a lure of some type. Try a large Slug-Go instead of a smaller artificial meant for schoolies, and see if the size of your fish on casting tackle doesn’t improve.

Slug-Gos come in a variety of colors, including all-black for night fishing; just make sure you know where any outlying rocks might be before attempting a trip on a dark night.

During the day a finish Lunker City calls Alewife is productive along with Albino and Arkansas Shiner. When squid are the predominant forage in the spring in places like Quonny Pond in Quononchontaug, R.I. — home to many striped bass — try the bubble gum color, a pink finish that resembles a squid when darted erratically through the water.

Bluefish also like Slug-Gos, so expect some cut-offs, one downside to plastic lures, but the effectiveness of the lure will outweigh the loss felt when a bluefish bites the lure in half. (So wisely buy and bring extras with you.)

The same spinning rod one uses to toss poppers to bluefish will do with Slug-Gos, just use a mono leader — not a metal one. Clip one to your line and toss away. Your targets will be mainly places along the shore where gamefish are looking in the shallows for the next meal. The best times will be early in the morning, just before sunset and into the night.

Slug-Gos will also work at times during the day, especially if it’s overcast or foggy, with light levels lower than normal, perfect conditions for bass to stay in shoal water looking for a meal.

I could go on and on about this lure that looks like a fat, plastic ballpoint pen to some, but put one in the water at the right spot at the right time and see if the striper population doesn’t take notice — and react accordingly.

Tim Coleman has been fishing New England waters for more than 30 years. He was managing editor of The Fisherman magazine’s New England edition until 2001, and is now a freelance writer based in Rhode Island.