Offshore anglers know to look for mahi-mahi under flotsam; Floridians are used to hunting for tripletail under buoys; and anglers up and down the coast look for cobia under both. But you can look for cobia under something else, too, because they have an affinity for a different kind of floating habitat – rays of all types. It’s common to find cobia when you spot eagle, manta, or cow nose rays.
This fish’s coloration proves this type of behavior is programmed into the cobia; like the rays, they’re white on the belly and brown or black on top. That makes them hard to see as they cozy up to those bat-like creatures winging their way through the water. Often you’ll spot the cobia if you look just behind the rays, where they’re watching as the rays flap up mud bottoms in search of food. If a shrimp, crab, or baitfish flushes away from the ray, you’ll see the cobia dart out to nail it.
Take advantage of this behavior by using tower boats and polarized sunglasses. From your vantage point, watch for the passage of rays, then toss a live bait or lure just in front of them. If there are cobia tailing along, they’ll rush up to snatch the offering. Cobia will readily attack large jigs, noisy topwater lures, and black plastic eels 10″ to 12″ long. Good live baits include eels, pinfish, scaled sardines, threadfins, and small blue crabs. Most anglers use medium to heavy spinning gear, with line in the 25-pound range. When the cobia are in deep water and seem shy about taking your lure, put them into feeding mode by allowing a 6″ plastic jig to free-fall within a few feet of the fish-this often triggers a strike.
** 7 Laws of the ang-liar**
There’s no such thing as too much equipment.
Cast everything in the best light possible.
When in doubt, exaggerate.
The way to a fisherman’s heart is through his fly.
It’s good to be at the top of the food chain.
Even the best lines get weak after they’ve been used over and over.
Sometimes you have to squirm to get off the hook.
Energy Drink: Seabait Potions $8 • 207/422-3169 • www.seabait.com
You want your lure to stink like the real thing? There are plenty of fish scents out there to choose from, but one new attractant breaks the mold: Seabait potion and wands, concentrated solutions of oils, amino acids, and pheromones.
The Sandworm Potion smells just like real sandworms and comes in a two-ounce bottle. Seabait’s Bloodworm Wand, a Chapstick-like product used to coat your artificial lure, is easy to apply and sticks to the bait through a half-hour or so of casting before you’ll need to reapply. I’m not sure if it was the result of (ahem!) natural fishing prowess or the attractant, but I caught five stripers on my Seabait-spiked lure while my fishing buddy had just one hit.
Generation Gap: Contender G15 $70 • 800/347-3759 • www.pfluegerfishing.com
What did your great-great-great-grandfather fish with? Chances are it was a Pflueger, which has been building reels since 1881. But those reels of yesteryear were nothing like the Contender G15, a new conventional star-drag level-winder that features four ball bearings and a 4.3:1 gear ratio.
I found the Contender G15 perfect for striper trolling. The drag and freespool are smooth; it holds 290 yards of 17-pound test; and it comes with an included rod clamp. The frame is graphite and the spool is anodized aluminum, but it’s still a chunky reel for its class at 18.3 ounces.
You cruise 40 miles offshore through 3′ seas at zero-dark-early in the morning, and when you get to your destination there are 100 other fishboats already on-site. Depressing, isn’t it? But close combat fishing is a reality. Use these tactics and you’ll have no problem beating the crowd and showing up the competition.
• When boats are chumming or chunking, take a position down-current of the pack so their chum lines will work in your favor.
• Instead of starting early, start late and fish late. Most anglers clear off the hotspot by midafternoon, and often the bite will come on strong toward sunset.
• Fish deep. Often the traffic will put fish down, and trolling with diving planers or weighted lines will produce more fish.
• When hunting for flotsam in the morning, most guys run east as far and as fast as possible. Savvy anglers will run northeast or southeast. Running east puts the sun in your face whereas running at an angle makes spotting flotsam easier.
• After a while, fish dealing with the pack mentality catch on and learn to avoid heavy leaders. When everyone else is using 80-pound test, try 50- or 40-pound test. You may break off a few more fish, but you’ll get a lot more bites, too.
The Ranger Z19 Comanche is a performance bass boat that provides the comfort, speed, and fishing features pros demand. This is the Lexus of the bass boat world. Sitting in the well-cushioned helm seat, screaming along at 65 mph, wind was the only thing that kept me from sipping my coffee. The carpet-stripped stainless-steel footrest added comfort, as did the sturdy handholds to my right and my left – even though I didn’t need them. But more than speed and comfort will put you ahead of the bass-hunting tournament pack – easy steps up to the wide unobstructed casting platforms fore and aft, a locking compartment that holds up to a dozen rods and reels, and a gated dual compartment livewell. Dual button-down straps at the bow and a flat rodrack amidships ease switching from spinning to conventional gear. Like to carry lots of crankbaits and plastic lizards? An abundance of stowage compartments with 1″ elevated lips and rubber gaskets keep those goodies protected no matter how hard it rains. Changes? I’d add lift-up cleats at the stern and a cover on the electric switch panel. Who Will Fish It: The competitive basser who likes comfort. Another Choice: The Triton TR 200 X2 is another top-of-the-line basser that runs a hair slower than the Ranger but costs a bit less at $45,000. The Numbers: $49,000. Contact Ranger, 800/373-2628, www.rangerboats.com
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