by Jerry Vovcsko
Well, next Monday is August first, and we all know that heralds the imminent arrival of the dreaded August Doldrums, that time of year when water temperatures soar and the striped bass, lazy to begin with, turn positively lethargic and head for deeper, cooler waters. So what to do? What's the best way to draw them into action when it seems the only thing they're interested in is a nice nap? Dunno about anyone else but that's when I reach for my box of jigs and a couple packs of sluggos in assorted sizes and colors.
You would think that live bait would be the most tempting but I think it takes a back seat because these bass, especially the Large, just don't feel like exerting themselves, and anything live is liable to run for it. So I like to flip a Sluggo out and twitch it a time or two and see what happens. What makes them especially effective, at least in my book, is that you can work them anywhere in the water column and control their speed by changing the weight of the jig you're using them on.
In other words, say you've got a five inch Sluggo that you want to work slowly but you also want to stay in maybe just few feet of depth. So you hang it on a light jig that's not going to dive-bomb toward the bottom, especially if there's a bit of a current running. You can work this as slowly as you please and still keep it running fairly shallow.
Conversely, you might be wanting to get small Sluggo (or a piece of one) down deep and that's no problem, either. You can hit bottom by snapping on a heavier jig without having to change the speed you're working the lure. If you want to change depth without changing jig size then you can control that by speeding up or slowing down the retrieve. Maybe you want to drop down a few feet just to see what's happening but don't want to be bothered with a lure change…if there's nothing doing, crank it back up and explore further up the water column.
Why Sluggos? Dunno…I've just had the most luck with them, I suppose. Yes, I use Fin-S and other plastic baits from time to time, especially when I want to try a new color, but Sluggos for some reason strike me as just the cat's nuts. Last year I started fooling around with the nine inch, trying it with the hook it came with in the package...a big, long bent shank number. But before long I reverted back to circles, which I use almost exclusively anymore. And, by the way, I know some folks have been critical of circle hooks tipped with plastic, but I've had no problems…or if I did, I never knew about them. I certainly didn't feel I was missing an excessive number of hookups or that my hookup-to-hits ratio had taken a downward turn.
I guess part of it is I just like the idea of bringing stripers in for release with a 6/0 circle tucked away in the corner of their mouths rather than down their gut or in a gill or elsewhere. And I have no doubt whatsoever that whatever the failings of circle hooks may be, they drastically reduce the number of gut hooked or bleeder fish. None of that, of course, is the result of scientific studies that I've been involved with. It's purely anecdotal and it's based solely on observations I've made since I've been using them regularly, which is about five years now. I've heard the arguments against but that hasn't been my experience so I guess I'll just stick with them.
Anyhow, here it is, August right around the corner, the water's heating up and the big fish have slipped away to slumberland. What to do? My advice is simple: Grab your gear, break out those jigs and plastic or rubber and head for the Cape Cod Canal. Bring some coffee and donuts and wait for slack tide…tie on that jig tipped with maybe a nine inch Sluggo and ease that baby through those riffles and semi-rips. Try that as darkness sets in or maybe a couple of hours before dawn...if the tides favor you that way. See if you can get there when the tide's about to start running east to west because the cooler waters from Cape Cod Bay will be pushing through there then and maybe that'll bring some of those Large out of hibernation.
At least, that's the method I favor to beat those August Doldrums. Tight lines.