5/26/23 by Capt. Dave Peros
The word from Bruce and Jeff Miller at Canal Bait and Tackle in Sagamore is that people are catching plenty of fish from low end of the slot all the way up to 50+-inch bass throughout the land cut on both tides. You know a plug is hot when a name pops up when talking to another shop owner whose business wouldn’t necessarily quality as a “Canal” shop – only because it doesn’t happen to be within a stone’s throw of the Ditch. In this case, they had heard that a plug called the “Bullet” was producing a lot of big fish – and this plastic creation is the brainchild of Jeff Miller himself.
For years, Canal sharpies have known about the benefits of loading the Cotton Cordell pencil, a plastic version that has a “chambered” body, allowing for the addition of BB’s, mercury, water, or even mineral oil to allow for a significant increase in weight. In some cases, loading a plug is more about casting distance, but with a loaded pencil like the Bullet the added ounces allow it to sink down to the water level where the fish are holding.
Last week, Jeff explained that allowing a weighted plug to sink and then starting a slow retrieve will cause it to rise towards the surface, mimicking a panicked baitfish trying to flee from a bass pursuing from below. One mistake, Jeff added this week, that inexperienced anglers will make is to quickly retrieve the plug as well as opposed to letting it swing in the current and using just enough lift of the rod tip to move it upwards lightly and reeling only as much as is needed to maintain contact. Anything with more “oomph!” behind it will typically pull the plug out of the strike zone, both horizontally and vertically.
Plugs are fun, for sure, but Jeff added that paddletail jigs can be even more effective, especially in the hands of less experienced anglers. First off, that paddle will vibrate on its own and doesn’t require any great skill in working it, just as the old big double-jointed lipless crankbait that once ruled the Canal since you just cast it and retrieved it, most often as fast as you could.
Bruce said there is just an incredible amount of bait in the Canal, from mackerel of various sizes to pogies, alewives (river herring), shad, and squid. Although there are plenty of soft plastic paddletail jigs to choose from – and everyone seems to have their favorite – one thing to keep in mind is to have on hand a wide selection of weights to deal with the speed of the current. Now, logic would dictate that a heavier bait would be larger all around, but not necessarily, and apparently this week having the right size soft plastic to mimic the bait was really important. Add in color – with blue a hot option this week given the herring and shad the fish are feeding on – and it becomes clear that options are many.