15 Minutes with: Eric “Slappy” Harrison
Here’s what we learned…
Location: Boston Harbor
Tides: Either, as long as water is moving along rips, rock piles, boulder fields.
Approach: Focus on anywhere that current meets structure, or where current lines set up and create feeding lanes.
Rigging Selection: Dialing in your jig heads is the key to success, lighter jig heads make the lure swim better, heavier jig heads give you better feel and get the lure deeper. In every situation, you have to find the appropriate balance between the head weight and conditions. I keep 3 rods rigged with the 13”, each with a different sized head so I can switch rods instead of tying on a new lure.
Bait Selection: 13” Jigging Hogy, Barbarian jigs in the ½ to 1 oz size. I fish the ½ ounce heads in water 10’ or less, the ¾ ounce heads when the water is 8-15’, and the 1 ounce heads in 10-20’ when there is strong current or it is very windy.
Why this bait? : The jigging Hogy is a big bait and attracts large fish.
Colors: I’m not stuck on colors, but my general rule is dark at night, light during the day. Blamber is my go-to color at night and it has produced so many large fish on it, that it is my confidence color. Pink is also a great color at night, especially if squid are around
Retrieve: There are two basic approaches, trolling and looking for fish, casting and working schools of fish or structure that holds fish.
In the kayak I troll from spot to spot, a casual pace in the kayak is the perfect speed for trolling, anywhere from 2 to 4 miles per hour is a very effective trolling speed for stripers. I troll when heading out to my spots or when I’m moving from spot to spot, it is a great way to identify where fish are feeding and gives you a chance to find spots you may have overlooked.
The basic strategy is simple, keep the bait in the bottom third of the water column and make it swim. I fish from a Hobie Kayak with a Mirage pedal drive, this allows me to jig my baits as I troll. The additional action catches more fish and having the rod in my hands allows me to set the hook quickly and hook more fish than I would with the rod in a holder.
The amount of line you let out depends on your speed and the water depth. In shallow water, less than 10’, I will troll at 3 to 4 miles per hour and a ½ or ¾ ounce head, keeping the lure about 80’ back. In deeper water, I slow down to 2 to 2.5 mph and may bump up to a 1 ounce head to get the lure deeper. Dropping the lure further back, 100 feet or more, will also help you swim it deeper.
Once you get to your spot or have identified where the fish are, casting and retrieving is the most effective way to get the fish. I always start off by focusing on the bottom third of the water column, it doesn’t matter if I’m fishing in 5’ or 20’, that is the zone that produces the most fish. Swimming the Hogy along the bottom and letting it fall down and bounce off the bottom is a very effective retrieve. The bait needs to be constantly swimming and any time you can bounce it off a rock or the bottom, you make noise that attracts the bass. Stripers aren’t always on the bottom, I always vary my retrieves and take some casts where I amp up the speed to keep it near the surface or get a steady bouncy swim at mid depth. In very shallow water, high speed retrieves are very effective and can lead to some explosive hits!
Rod: My rods are all custom spiral wraps designed for swimming large plastics. Most musky or heavy swim bait rods are good for this application. They tend to have more moderate actions which makes it easier to throw the larger baits. I fish rods in the 7’ to 8.5’ range; longer rods are great for longer casts and for keeping your line up out of the weeds with a big fish on. Shorter rods are good for windy nights and tend to provide a little more sensitivity .
Reel: I prefer fishing conventional reels because I’m able to stay in close contact with my line and feel hits as my bait sinks, something that is hard to do with an open bail on a spinning reel. The Shimano Calcutta 400bsv is a nice reel with a power handle and an adequate drag system, it also doesn’t have a level wind to slow down casts and weigh down the reel. I also use small conventional reels like the Penn Fathom; small conventional weigh a little more, but have good drag systems for bigger fish.
Line: 50lb Power Pro Braid.
Leader: 5-8’ 50# mono leader. I tie my own wind on leaders, I use spiral wrapped rods with very small guides and the knot less leaders fly right through them. Wind on leaders tend to have higher breaking strength and fewer failures than knotted leaders.