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Thread: Techniques -- Fishing a Needlefish - sinking or floating

  1. #1
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    Default Techniques -- Fishing a Needlefish - sinking or floating

    Several of our newest members have mentioned that they appreciate coming here, but feel somewhat intimidated by our members who have years of experience, and know how to modify their fishing for different situations.

    That's a good point. If you are inexperienced, you can be nearby an angler who is using the same setup as you, and outfishing you 5 to 1. I decided to set up a series of threads to help our newest members learn "How" and "Why". The "where" will be your responsibility.

    If we can teach you how and why, then we have accomplished our goal of helping people to become better anglers. Anyone is welcome to join in, and give their feedback on what works for them in different conditions.


  2. #2
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    I like the sinking needles when bass are on sandeels. Cast out deep, and retrieve as slow as you can without getting snagged, try to keep them in the top of the water column, Deadly.

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    Needlefish, one of my favorite fall plugs. I like to fish black most of the time because I hit the night surf mostly. Sometimes color makes all the difference in the world, as I have seen guys nail them by changing to olive when the hits on black slowed down.
    What BB said, I like sinking needlefish most of the time, but will use a floater if the surf is rough and I want to slow it down to the max. Even so, sometimes they want a faster retrieve, you just have to experiment.

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    Depenging on the size of the needlefish, sometimes I take the last treble off, replace with a siwash, and put a chartreuse or black open eye feather on it, 5/0 or 6/0. Bass hit from the front, but sometimes this action with the feather puts them over the top for more strikes.

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    Big bass want big food. Go against the grain, throw a long one out there and crawl it in. You might not get many hits, except for the big ones.

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    Quote Originally Posted by nitestrikes View Post
    Depenging on the size of the needlefish, sometimes I take the last treble off, replace with a siwash, and put a chartreuse or black open eye feather on it, 5/0 or 6/0. Bass hit from the front, but sometimes this action with the feather puts them over the top for more strikes.
    I do this to a lot of my plugs. The feather or bucktail ones seem to outcatch the others, but it could be the confidence I have when throwing them.

  7. #7
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    Update - I'm still fishing needles this time of year, mostly at night, very slow. I like big needles, the bigger the better. Some sandeels are 12" long, my needles the same size. They're also good for big surf when you want to punch it out there.

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    Default needlefish

    Can someone tell me the correct way to use a needlefish?

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    Like any plug, there is no "one" correct way to fish needles.
    Some folks love sinking needles, I prefer floaters.
    I own at least 25 needles made by several of my buddies that build, and a slew of ones I build myself.
    My favorite way to use needles;
    1) at night with somewhat calm conditions is crawling slow retrieve so that the needle gives off a "V" wake as it comes in. Thrown across rips coming from the reefs this has accounted for some very nice Bass on even the smallest 4 inch needles I use.
    2) even in semi rough water at daybreak or dusk, and probably during full daylight (which I seldom fish) I use a retrieve that resembles a spook type retrieve. With a high tip, and light snaps, it causes the needle to zig-zag. Sometimes I will pause and let the needle stop, sometimes I will keep it moving back and forth in a steady motion.
    The thing I like best about these things, is that the strikes are almost always the most violent you will get from a Bass. Seems to **** them off for some reason.
    I have also watched people use a rip it in type retrieve, working the plug very quickly with a tip snapping action to make it surge back and forth. This is usually with a sinking needle.
    God is Great, Beer is Good, People are crazy.

  10. #10
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    Listen to Stripercoast1, baitstealer, he knows his plugs.

    Needles are one of my favorites as well. They are deadly when sandeels are around, or in late fall when you think the bass are there but sluggish. There's something about them that will provoke a violent strike, as SC1 said. I like to fish em slow.

    They're also great for covering large amounts of area to see if any fish are around.

    If it's sinking, you gotta kick it up a notch so you don't get snagged on structure. Needles are so effective that in some places and times of year I just throw them out in current, hold the rod, and let the current do the work.

  11. #11
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    Default stubby needles

    I like the little stubby needles becaause they are compact and you can throw them a mile. Then I just retrieve very slow, like these guys said.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stripercoast1 View Post
    Like any plug, there is no "one" correct way to fish needles.
    Some folks love sinking needles, I prefer floaters.
    I own at least 25 needles made by several of my buddies that build, and a slew of ones I build myself.
    My favorite way to use needles;
    1) at night with somewhat calm conditions is crawling slow retrieve so that the needle gives off a "V" wake as it comes in. Thrown across rips coming from the reefs this has accounted for some very nice Bass on even the smallest 4 inch needles I use.
    2) even in semi rough water at daybreak or dusk, and probably during full daylight (which I seldom fish) I use a retrieve that resembles a spook type retrieve. With a high tip, and light snaps, it causes the needle to zig-zag. Sometimes I will pause and let the needle stop, sometimes I will keep it moving back and forth in a steady motion.
    The thing I like best about these things, is that the strikes are almost always the most violent you will get from a Bass. Seems to **** them off for some reason.
    I have also watched people use a rip it in type retrieve, working the plug very quickly with a tip snapping action to make it surge back and forth. This is usually with a sinking needle.
    What he said, great advice. The only thing I would add is I like to fish heavy sinking needles in a rip or canal situation. I like to let them sink deep as I work the water column. My best success has been from the surface to about 8' down with the sinkers.

  13. #13
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    This is an article by Dennis Zambrotta, very informative.




    "Why Fish A Needlefish" - Dennis Zambrotta

    There are many, many different varieties of plugs that surfcasters use when chasing striped bass. Top water baits, minnow swimmers, metal lips, darters, etc. They all have their time and place when applied in the right location during the right conditions. Most plugs have a seductive “wiggle” that catches bass almost as well as they catch fishermen. For many years on the beach if a plug didn't “swim well” it didn't sell well. That theory applied to much of the striper coast until the emergence of the “Needlefish Plug.”

    Some background:

    The needlefish type plug has been around since the late 1950s (Boone), but it wasn't until the early 1980s that they started to become popular along the northeast coast from New Jersey to Cape Cod. It was during this time period that surfcasters began to use three different brands of needlefish plugs. These initial needlefish plugs produced by Boone, Classic and Linesider, can best be described as a straight painted piece of wood that came through the water like a “pencil with hooks.” Because of this “lack of a wiggle” they initially turned off many casters at the time (including me). But at the same time some surf casters “in the know” were quietly racking up incredible scores of striped bass on them, especially when sand eels were the prevalent forage and conditions dictated using the needlefish plug.

    These early needlefish, although very effective, also had some major problems. They were poorly constructed by most of today’s plug building standards. They all used a screw-eye construction to attach treble hooks. These screw-eyes proved no match for the heavy bass that were prevalent on the beach at the time. Large bass, when hooked, pulled the screw-eyes right out of the wooden needlefish. Many anglers, including some of my friends, lost the bass of their dreams to these early models.

    As word began to spread along the beach about needlefish plugs and their effectiveness other plug makers got involved in the game. One such person was master plug builder Donny Musso of Long Island, owner of Super Strike Lures. Donny got wind of the needlefish through a friend that fished the Nantucket surf. Donny’s friend implored him to make a “beefier” needlefish that could stand up to the bass. In 1983 Donny designed a unique wooden needlefish that was tapered on both ends. He built it using a “wire-thru” construction. Some of the barrel swivels Donny used on the initial models failed on the big bass but Donny quickly modified the swivels using a larger and stronger size. These improved models were put to the ultimate test on the cow bass that swam in Cape Cod and Block (Needlefish) Island waters. They passed with flying colors and produced phenomenal numbers of bass without failing. Donny Musso deserves full credit as the builder who “revolutionized” the Needlefish plug. His wood needlefish design was then converted to a plastic model in 1984 with no loss of effectiveness.

    As needlefish popularity began to “snowball” other plug makers jumped into its path. Al Gagliarduci introduced his wooden version called the Gags Needlefish in 1984. The Gags Needlefish came with a thru-wire construction which allowed the thru-wire to rotate within the plug thus giving anglers one more weapon to counteract the treble hook straightening leverage that big bass often used when hooked. After overcoming an initial “peeling paint” problem the Gags Needlefish became one of the hottest plugs on Block Island.

    By the fall of 1984 needlefish plugs were the hottest plug on the coast. They were a hot commodity and tackle store shelves were quickly emptied of any that were delivered. In 1984 Gibbs came out with a screw-eye model needlefish which was well received but still had the problem screw-eyes. It only took Gibbs one season to come out with an improved thru-wire model which was in full production by 1986. So by 1986 you had thru-wire needlefish plugs being turned out by Super Strike, Gags, Gibbs, and Spofford Lures of Martha’s Vineyard. All were quality products and many surf casters owe the fish of their dreams to these plugs.

    Needlefish Today:

    There is no longer a shortage of needlefish in today’s plug market. Just about every plug maker makes a version of the needlefish. They vary in shape and size, come in wood or plastic, and have various applications for just about every set of conditions a surf caster may encounter. Along with the original four improved needlefish (Super Strike, Gibbs, Spofford, and the recently re-introduced Gags), you have Habs, Afterhours, Salty Bugger, Stetzko, and a myriad of others. In fact there are so many different needlefish an angler would be hard pressed to find room for all of them in his surf bag. So how would one decide which needlefish to purchase? Trial and error will cost you more than a few bucks, especially when you take various color patterns into consideration. I've been asked to try and help the novice caster make a decision. First off – I've been fishing needlefish plugs since the early 1980s when they became the rage of the coast so I have a great deal of experience. There are ALWAYS a few needlefish in my surf bag. I have fished almost every brand of needlefish plug since there inception in a multitude of conditions. Most needlefish plugs are “sinkers” for lack of a better word, they sink when they hit the water but glide toward the surface upon retrieve. On or close to the surface is how “most” casters fish them. Some needles come to the surface by barely turning the reel handle (such as the Gibbs and Gag’s). Other needles (such as the Musso Super Strike and Habs) will work mid-level water depths or close to the bottom depending on whether the caster lets it sink and how fast it’s retrieved. So far I've only used one needlefish that was a true “floater” and it is a homemade plug built by a friend of mine. I'm sure there are other floaters because just about every basement plug maker builds needlefish nowadays. So a needlefish can basically be called a surface skimmer that can at times be effectively fished in deeper water.

    What I've learned:

    Needlefish are very versatile plugs and it would be a mistake to set “hard and fast” rules on how to fish them. Just as in any type of surf fishing there are so many variables involved that may affect your decision on which needlefish to use. They include water depth, water clarity, current, surf conditions, time of year, type of bait present, wind speed and direction, etc. How I use needlefish on the Cape doesn't necessarily work when I'm casting on Block Island. What works when the wind is screaming onshore may not work in flat water (or maybe it will). So, I have my “preferred” methods of using needlefish for every location I fish, depending on the conditions. But I always tell those who will listen to my general rules that bass don’t read - so be flexible in your methods. For example – I don't know how many times I've heard casters say they won't cast a needlefish because there are no sand eels around – big mistake. Needlefish plugs can be extremely effective even when there isn't a sand eel on the beach for miles. They can work when the forage is squid, bunker, silversides, whatever. A big key when using needlefish plugs is confidence. Once you get over the fact that a needlefish plug doesn't need to do a lot in the water (as in “wiggle”) you will gain confidence. Fish it high or low, night or day, light or dark pattern, they all work when the time is right and it's up to the caster to figure that out. Another key is being versatile – being versatile and adapting to changing environments on the beach while casting needlefish will allow you to uncover the mysteries of the plug. After all, isn't learning the most satisfying part of surf casting? It is for me.

    So, which needlefish do I use and when?


    Gibbs Needlefish:The best needle for use in flat or calm surf. Retrieve it very slowly, don't worry it stays right on top creating a V-wake that bass home in on. The Gibbs is the closest model to a floater.
    Colors: Solid Black, Fluorescent Lime GreenMusso Super Strike Needlefish:Retrieve slow to moderately fast, skipping on occasion, even at night. I'm convinced this needlefish creates a unique sound when retrieved and because of this it often takes fish when other needles won't. Can be effective in all conditions and because of its plastic construction (which is less buoyant) it often shines in very rough water. Can be very effective in rips. If you can't seem to catch on a Super Strike Needle try fishing it fast and skip it across the surface on occasion. I also use the Super Strike needle in conditions when most would use a popper.
    Colors: Neon Pink, Neon Green, Solid Black, and Black/PurpleHab’s Needlefish: The best casting needlefish, it will reach that offshore bar that other needles won't. It works great in rough or calm conditions. A most versatile plug and all sizes and patterns can be effective.

    Colors: Chartreuse, Fluorescent Green, Pink, and BlackGag’s Needlefish: Good all around needlefish. I'm still experimenting with the new models made last season (2005) and I'm just as impressed with them as the older models from the 1980s. The large 9 inch model in Copper was the most consistent producer for me in 2005.Tony Stetzko Needlfish: I fish many other needlefish brands and they all catch at certain times. I personally witnessed the effectiveness of the large size Stetzko Pink Needle in the hands of its creator. I went through my bag of needles trying to duplicate his success – the closest I came was with the Gag’s 9” Copper Needle – but Tony still smoked me that particular night with his own creation.


    Was it the type of needlefish or the fisherman using it? Nothing wrong with being humbled by Tony Stetzko, I'm just one of many in that club. Just remember, success is relative and everyone has their own opinions based on their experiences. Others may tell you different and it would behoove any surf caster to pay attention to other opinions. You now have some of my general rules for using various needlefish plugs and all that I mentioned have a great track record for taking trophy stripers from the beach. But as I stated before: striped bass don’t read my general rules. So always be flexible when casting the beach.


    http://www.edgangling.com/ARTICLE-Wh...Zambrotta.html

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    Thanks for posting Dennis's article bababooey....
    iI took me a while to learn how to present the needle....for me it works best in current or moving water...and at times.....the slower the better....it's hard to conceptualize that a straight stick of wood or plastic would hang some big fish...but it does.....you just have to slow your presentation down to a crawl when the fish are not aggressive... and let the current do the rest of the work....




    Maybe some of ya's might have some further thoughts.....

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    Great article.

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    Quote Originally Posted by bababooey View Post
    "Why Fish A Needlefish" - Dennis Zambrotta

    Colors: Solid Black, Fluorescent Lime GreenMusso Super Strike Needlefish:Retrieve slow to moderately fast, skipping on occasion, even at night. I'm convinced this needlefish creates a unique sound when retrieved and because of this it often takes fish when other needles won't. Can be effective in all conditions and because of its plastic construction (which is less buoyant) it often shines in very rough water. Can be very effective in rips. If you can't seem to catch on a Super Strike Needle try fishing it fast and skip it across the surface on occasion. I also use the Super Strike needle in conditions when most would use a popper.
    Colors: Neon Pink, Neon Green, Solid Black, and Black/Purple.
    I tried this last night and did raise a fish to get a swirl & a miss. Never would have thought to try and fish one that way.

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    Needlefish are like my darters... I never get a hit on them. Never have, and thus have little confidence.

    Good thread though

    edit: I should qualify, I've caught plenty of crabs on sinking versions of both, however

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    Awesome thread thanks for sharing. I didn't know there were even than many kinds.

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    Quote Originally Posted by bababooey View Post

    Was it the type of needlefish or the fisherman using it? Nothing wrong with being humbled by Tony Stetzko, I'm just one of many in that club. Just remember, success is relative and everyone has their own opinions based on their experiences. Others may tell you different and it would behoove any surf caster to pay attention to other opinions.
    Dennis is a fellow elder statesman of surf fishing. Have met him a few times and I agree. It is the fisherman that catches the fish not the plug.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by surfrob View Post
    Needlefish are like my darters... I never get a hit on them. Never have, and thus have little confidence. edit: I should qualify, I've caught plenty of crabs on sinking versions of both, however
    Rob, you're one of the old timers out there I refer to...you've been doing this a long time......you have caught a lot of fish from different areas.....I would be honored to show ya some of what works for me....at night when the sandeels are here....if you're willing to drive back up to your old haunts in NNJ......
    It's an open invitation....PM me anytime for my # when you want to come up.....












    There was someone else I was giving advice to about needlefish....he was unsure of technique...but he went out and tossed one anyway.....here's what happened.....and my response.......

    Was working a needlefish (darkskies motivated me) in different pockets of current and then it happened. I got Drilled. The only other time i got hit like this was in the inlet dropping live eels from a boat. To be honest it was my second cast and was really just getting a feel for the new rod. I set the hook and this fish ran. My first thought was this is the biggest bass i hooked into this year. Second thought was that hook set was weak... Had him on for about 20 seconds two long runs a head shake and he was gone.


    KYJ thanks for the kind words....
    I put a lot of thought into reading some of the reports of those who seem to be struggling and thinking of the most diplomatic way to help someone....
    In real life I'm a lot more blunt, crude, and ornery.....a crabby crusty fart with many flaws... had stopped helping others for awhile because of all the selfishness and bad behavior I've experienced in my fights to help save fishing access out there......


    I decided to start helping folks again, on a case by case basis, in recognition of those who unselfishly gave me some tips when I started out in the artificial game.


    I remember the struggles, the self-doubt, the feeling of failure.....and asking myself..."Man this ain't that easy...will I ever get it right?".....


    And on I persevered....failing over and over until some things started to fit together....the small pieces of the puzzle at a time......


    When I typed my response to you, I felt that what you needed was one fish that would drill that needle, and get your confidence up....I'm so glad to see that happened....to me it doesn't matter if you landed it or not.....I can tell by the tone of your report how excited you got....

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