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John Skinner

John Skinner is the author of Fishing the Bucktail and A Season on the Edge. He’s the creator of the fishing log software FishersLog. He’s a consistent producer of trophy striped bass and holds the current New York State false albacore record.

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June 24, 2013

A Good Read from the Rips

by John Skinner

I'm a surfcaster, but I credit bass fishing the East End rips from boats decades ago with teaching me a lot about striped bass fishing that I was able to exploit for surfcasting, especially in areas with significant current. When legendary boat captains such as John DeMaio and Bob Storc wrote books – I bought them and squeezed out any information I could. A new book is now sitting on my desk from another Montauk Captain, Tom Mikoleski. If the name sounds familiar, it's probably because you've read some of the hundreds of articles he's had published in fishing magazines over the years. His new book, Bass Buff – A Striper Fishing Obsession Guide, is a no-brainer must-have for any boat angler, but should also be added to the fishing libraries of surf and kayak anglers as well. Tom has many years of experience as a full-time Montauk charter captain. His book benefits from both his fine writing skills and the immense body of knowledge he has accumulated in his years of days and nights in the rips.
The weapons of choice of big bass hunters are all covered in great detail, including fishing with eels, bucktails, bunker, and the strategies used to consistently entice the largest stripers with these offerings in a variety of conditions. He also has the necessary nuts and bolts chapters that cover gear and rigging. The opening chapters of the book that take the reader along on the author's journey to becoming a charter captain are also a very nice read. You can learn more about the book at
I'm writing this in the midst of the season's first heatwave, but the water temperatures are running cool enough that we shouldn't expect the heat to do significant damage to the bass bite just yet – that's if you're actually on a bass bite. If you're having a good season so far, pat yourself on the back for being smart or consider yourself lucky, because I think the surf season has been a tough one so far for most shorebound anglers. Rich Trox, as he does often, started a great thread on the Noreast Surf Forum addressing surf anglers' impressions of the season so far. You can read that here.
Access restrictions have complicated matters, but I think the change in bottom structure caused by Sandy has had an equally adverse impact. There's also an issue with the water quality in Long Island Sound, at least where I live in Riverhead Town. The water has been just plain dingy all season. On Sunday my son and I were fluking in the boat about a mile and a half off the beach, and the water was clear. When we moved in about halfway to the beach, we could barely see our drift sock just a few feet under the surface. I'm hoping the strong "super moon" currents will finally flush things out, but there just seems to be a lot of silt and debris built up from the past years' storms.
Bait this year is spotty. I'm seeing just a few sandeels being spit up by the fluke we're catching, but there are none close to shore. I've heard reports of good sandeel concentrations in the western Sound. The ocean from Fire Island Inlet to Shinnecock is loaded with adult bunker, but finding pods with fish on them can be a chore. We should have a couple more weeks before warm water seriously diminishes striper action and pushes what remains to eastern waters. Enjoy it while you can, and just learn to adjust expectations if your catching isn't as good as in years past.

June 02, 2013

Penn Rods Experience

by John Skinner

Yes, I really meant "Penn Rods" and not "Penn Reels". Most anglers think of reels when they hear the name "Penn", as they should, due to the fact that Penn reels have been a dominant player in the recreational saltwater fishing industry for many years. Even the URL for Penn's website is "". Earlier this year I had my first experience with a Penn rod. It was a mid-range Legion Inshore 7-footer rated for 15- to 30-pound mono, or 20- to 50-pound braid. I had seen these rods at a winter show, and got one to use on tarpon in Key West. With a Penn 560 Slammer and 50-pound-test Spiderwire Stealth braid, I had it rigged to its limit. I hooked a couple dozen tarpon on it, had significant battles with about eight of them, and landed one that measured and calculated to about 150 pounds, along with a smaller 100-pound class fish. This was from shore, near a bridge, and if I had broken the rod I would have blamed myself for the excessive pressure I put on it. The rod held up just fine.
This encouraged me to try another Penn rod. This time their top of the line Regiment Inshore Series. In this case a 7-footer rated for 10- to 17-pound-test line that I would use for light duty striper fishing from the shore and kayak. This rod is built to New Guide Concept (NGC) specifications with Alconite guides. A few years ago I built my own NGC 11-footer and became a believer in this method of using smaller and more numerous low-profile guides. The result is a lighter-weight finished product with casting performance that I found comparable, and sometimes better, than traditional layouts. The handle on the Regiment is a blend of cork and rubber that they call "Hybra-cork". It's very comfortable and wasn't as slippery as cork when my hands were wet and/or slimy.
I matched the Regiment with a Penn Slammer 360 spooled with 20-pound-test Spiderwire Stealth braid. It has quickly become my favorite rod for the kayak and bay shoreline casting. I can't wait to catch false albacore on it in the fall. Here's a video of the rod in action.

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