Steve worked the boat into the tide line where the outgoing Ipswich River ran into the incoming tide off the southern most point of Plum Island. Shutting off the motor, we just drifted along in the current, tossing rigged unweighted Slug-Gos into the outflow. In a matter of seconds I felt the slam of a striper as he plowed into my offering and headed upriver toward the yacht club.
The sun had just come blazing up out of the ocean, but the air was still cool. The lawn of the Crane Estate was a beautiful deep green, the shadows from the trees making a dark edge to the mowed surface. A few seagulls were working the rocks on the far shore and Pavilion Beach was yet to be filled with people seeking relief from the city heat.
The fish at the end of my line was not happy with his lot, and he struggled to throw the hook that was embedded in his lip. I knew right off he was a schoolie, so I brought him to the boat as quickly as possible. With a little twist of my wrist I undid the hook. With a flip of his tail he left a small hole in the water and dove back to the dark blue water below.
Fishing with Slug-Gos is one of the more effective ways to catch stripers. Easy to rig and inexpensive to buy, they are one of the best alternatives when you can’t scare up live bait. My tackle box carries a wide variety of both lengths and colors.
Rigging them is quite easy. Start with a 8/0 O’Shaughnessy hook made by Mustad. There are other similar hooks made by others that will work as well, but do not use a shorter shanked hook. Wrap a few winds of thread around the shank near the eye. This rough surface will help keep the Slug-Go on the hook better. You only want to wrap back a half inch or so, finishing off with a couple of half hitches. Now put a few drops of glue on the thread. This will keep it in place nicely.
Here is the most important suggestion of this article. The Slug-Go has to stream out naturally beginning at the eye. To do this the hook has to be placed through the Slug-Go carefully. Take the Slug-Go and lay it beside the hook with the head of the Slug-Go just behind the eye. Note where the shank of the hook ends and the bend begins, The start of the bend of the hook has to be inside of the Slug-Go but the point protruding out and back toward the eye. It may take you a few attempts to get the right measurement, but this point is critical.
The whole rig must flow through the water smoothly. It can only do so if there is no curl in the offering. If your hook comes out a little behind where it should, pull on the tail of the Slug-Go. It will tear the bottom a bit, but the bait should straighten out. Now pull the head of the hook down the shank to expose the thread. Drop some glue on the thread and pull the head of the Slug-Go back up to the eye. This will hold the Slug-Go in place on the hook. What you should have is a nice bait that will flow through the water easily.
I do this with a variety of sizes and colors. However, my basic, go-to rig is a nine inch, blue/white or all-white Slug-Go. Sometimes the fish only want tiny ones, but it has been my experience that the nine inch ones work the best. If you fish at night try black or purple. Some folks have had good luck with a red/white offering. They seem to think it looks like a fish with blood on it.
Attach this outfit to your line. I like to use an open knot that lets the lure swing back and forth naturally. It imparts a lot of action to the Slug-Go as it is retrieved. When I do this, I use a barrel swivel up about four feet on my line. It stops any twisting. You can also use a simple snap swivel. If you do this you do not need a barrel swivel.
The actual fishing of the lure takes a little practice, but you will quickly get the hang of it. Most of the time the best retrieve is a slow one with tiny jerks imparted by the rod tip. Simply toss it in toward the shoreline, tideline or structure and start to bring it back toward the boat. As you slowly wind the reel, give the tip of your pole little jerks. This will make the Sluggo dance through the water like it is a hurt fish.
Go slow. This is not a race. You are trying to convince the striper or blue that this is a fish in trouble. And the ocean hates anything that is not healthy. The game fish will attack it with a vengeance. This lure will come through the water just below the surface.
If you want to get down to the bottom or lower in the water column, you can rig Slug-Gos with a jig head. Follow the same directions as rigging with just a hook. The weighted Slug-Gos can be fished almost the same way as the un-weighted ones. Let the weight bring the Slug-Go to the right depth and then retrieve it slowly back to the boat.
You will often get short strikes. If it keeps happening try adding a loose stinger hook to the bend in the first hook that simply dangles along side the Slug-Go. Remember that you can’t catch fish if you are not out there. See you on the water!