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Bluefish Plugging

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Bluefish PluggingFor throwing plugs at bluefish, we recommend a spinning rod and reel combo suitable for 20-30lb fused line.  The optimal rod is 7′ feet long with a fast to extra-fast action and capable of handling lure weights up to 1 ounce (though you typically throw lures 50% heavier than the rating).  Most anglers prefer to use 30lb fused line (as opposed to 20lb fused line)  because the slightly increased line diameter does not noticeably affect casting distance.

Recommended Line for Bluefish Plugging

For bluefish  plugging, we recommend loading the reel with 30lb fused line as opposed to braided line or mono.  Fused and braided lines allow for much greater casting distance than mono.  This is because is the much smaller line diameter of fused and braided lines.  In addition, the fused and braided lines have virtually no stretch which allows the angler to carefully work even the most difficult lures, and easily set the hook.  Fused line is preferred to braided line because it has better abrasion resistance and is less likely to form a wind knot.

Leader, and Terminal Tackle

The line should be attached to a 3ft length of 50-8olb fluorocarbon leader using a 75lb barrel swivel.  The small profile of the swivel virtually eliminates any chance of picking up debris and provides an easy connection point between the line and the leader.  The angler needs to be careful not to reel the swivel into the rod as it can damage the guides.  Some anglers use an albright or uni-knot instead of a swivel.  This knot can be tricky to tie properly with braided and fused lines.  We do not recommend using wire leaders for bluefish plugs.  The lure bodies are typically all the protection that is needed.  The wire leaders harm the action of all but the biggest lures.

Surface Plug Retrieval for Stripers

As with any popping lure the angler should always experiment with different retrieval speeds.  If a fish strikes at the lure and misses be sure to pause for a moment to give the fish a chance to gather itself before it strikes again.  Different lures will be effective at different retrieval speeds.  When targeting bluefish on poppers, lures that work well at slow speeds are typically preferred. 

Surface Plug Styles, Sizes, and Colors

The two most common plug types are poppers (chuggers) and sliders (lipless swimmers).  Poppers are typically heaver than swimmers and provide extra casting distance and a better target in choppy water.  However, sliders can be worked very slowly and their subtle action can often draw strikes when poppers fail.  Pencil poppers have the best characteristics of both types (casting distance and subtle irresistible action), but take some practice before they can be used effectively.  Typically lures that are 4-7 inches are preferred, but when really big fish are around, lures up 9 inches can be used.  Effective colors vary, but typically anything with a white or silver bottom is going to be effective.

Common Fishing Mistakes

One of the most common angler errors happens when the fish misses the lure and the angler takes a swing to set the hook and ends up pulling the lure out of the hit zone and eliminating the chance for a second strike.  Always be sure the line is tight and the fish is on before setting the hook.

Another common mistake is that the fish strikes the lure, hooks itself, and the angler just starts fighting the fish without ever setting the hook.  Bluefish often jump and thrash on the surface.  They can easily unhook themselves.  Remember to set the hook!

Changing Hooks

We rarely get the manufacturers original hooks to withstand a season of repeated saltwater use.  In many cases we switch the hooks directly out of the package and always replace them with a corrosion resistant 3x treble.  We typically carry extra size 2, 1/0, and 2/0 trebles.  See our specific hook recommendations below.

Crushing Hook Barbs

Unless you are fishing in a tournament you should always crush the barbs on all treble hooks.  By crushing the barbs you minimize any damage that might be done to the fish.  Even more importantly, most angler/hook accidents occur when plugging.  Smaller bluefish are easy to bring to the boat and are typically green (very lively).  It doesn’t take much of a head shake or a slip while holding them to end up getting hooked.  It can be very difficult to remove a barbed hook from an angler especially when it is attached to an angry bluefish.

Fish Flipping/Release Tool

We always use a fish flipper or release tool.  The 3ft leader is just long enough for the angler to get a couple of wraps on their arm to control the fish while it is still in the water.  The release tool is used to quickly remove the hooks without exposing the angler to them.  It also minimizes any harm or stress to the fish.

Striped Bass Plugging Checklist

  • 7′ conventional rod rated for 20-30lb braid and lure weights up to 1 ounce
  • Spinning reel rated for 20-30lb braid
  • 20-30lb fused line
  • 50-80lb fluorocarbon leader
  • 75lb barrel swivel
  • 4-7 inch popping plugs
  • 3x replacement trebles in sizes 1, 1/0, and 2/0
  • Fish flipping/release tool

Please contact us if you have questions about our recommendations!


Tackle Recommendations
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Rods
Penn Legion Spinning Penn Legion Spinning
Inshore spinning rod - 6'6" to 8' - multiple models suitable for 6-40lb mono and 6-65lb braid - fast to extra-fast actions
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Penn Legion Spinning Penn Legion Spinning
Shimano Teramar Northeast Inshore Spinning Shimano Teramar Northeast Inshore Spinning
Inshore spinning rod - 6'6" to 8' - multiple models suitable for 10-30lb mono and 8-30lb braid - medium fast to extra-fast actions
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Shimano Teramar Northeast Inshore Spinning Shimano Teramar Northeast Inshore Spinning
Reels
Penn Spinfisher V Penn Spinfisher V
Spinning reel - models rated for 4-50lb mono and 10-80lb braid - 4.2:1, 4.7:1, 5.6:1, and 6.2:1 gear ratios - 5 ball bearings
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Penn Spinfisher V Penn Spinfisher V
Penn Clash Penn Clash
Spinning reel - models rated for 4-30lb mono and 8-80lb braid - 4.7:1, 5.6:1, 6.2:1 gear ratios - Full Metal Body, CNC Gear Technology, Leveline Oscillation System, HT-100™ carbon fiber drag washers, 8 Sealed stainless steel ball bearing, Instant Anti-Reverse bearing, Heavy-duty aluminum bail wire, Braid ready spool and line capacity rings
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Penn Clash Penn Clash
Shimano Spheros SW Shimano Spheros SW
Spinning reel - models rated for 6-30lb mono and 20-100lb braid - 4,4:1, 4.6:1, 4.8:1, or 4.9:1 gear ratios - 4 ball bearings, Hagane body, Hagane gear, X-shield, cross carbon drag, and CF aluminum cold forge spool.
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Shimano Spheros SW Shimano Spheros SW
Shimano Stradic FK Shimano Stradic FK
Spinning reel - models rated for 2-20lb mono and 10-65lb braid - 4.8:1 and 6.2:1 gear ratios - 6 ball bearings - Hagane gear provides power with cold forged drive gear, precision cut gears for power and smoothness, Hagane body, Dyna balance, Fluid Drive II gearing system, and cold forged aluminum spool
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Shimano Stradic FK Shimano Stradic FK
Line
Berkley Fireline Fused Berkley Fireline Fused
Fused line - more resistant to nicks and abuse than braided line - blaze orange, flame green, or smoke colors - available in 6 to 30lb test and 125, 300, 1500, and 3000yd spools
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Berkley Fireline Fused Berkley Fireline Fused
Lures
Yo-Zuri Surface Cruiser Yo-Zuri Surface Cruiser
Popping plug also capable of stop and pop, walk the dog or skipping actions. Available in 6inch-1.625oz and 7.5inch-3oz sizes with color change technology, stainless wire-thru construction, extra large eyes, 3x strong trebles, and 3x strong split rings
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Yo-Zuri Surface Cruiser Yo-Zuri Surface Cruiser
Yo-Zuri Bull Pop - Floating Yo-Zuri Bull Pop - Floating
Popping plug available in 6inch-2.5oz and 8inch-5oz sizes with stainless steel wire-thru construction, 3X strong trebles, 3X strong split rings, extra large eyes, and color change technology
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Yo-Zuri Bull Pop - Floating Yo-Zuri Bull Pop - Floating
Yo-Zuri Hydro Popper Yo-Zuri Hydro Popper
Popping plug available in 3.5inch-7/8oz and 4.75inch-1.5oz sizes with thru-wire construction, 3X strong trebles, extra large eyes, extra wide mouth, heavy duty split rings, and 8 different colors
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Yo-Zuri Hydro Popper Yo-Zuri Hydro Popper
Yo-Zuri Hydro Pencil Yo-Zuri Hydro Pencil
Surface lure available in 5inch-1oz with internal rattle, walk-the-dog action, thru-wire construction, 3X strong treble hooks, heavy duty split rings, and extra large eyes
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Yo-Zuri Hydro Pencil Yo-Zuri Hydro Pencil
Yo-Zuri 3D Popper Yo-Zuri 3D Popper
Popping plug available in 3.5inch-7/8oz and 4.75inch-1.5oz with internal prism finish, color change technology, thru-wire construction, extra wide mouth, 3X strong trebles, heavy duty split rings, and thru-wire construction
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Yo-Zuri 3D Popper Yo-Zuri 3D Popper
Yo-Zuri Diving Slider Yo-Zuri Diving Slider
Slow sinking lure available in 5.5inch-2.5oz stainless wire-thru construction, extra large eyes, 3x strong trebles, and 3x strong split rings
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Yo-Zuri Diving Slider Yo-Zuri Diving Slider
Hooks
Mustad Ultrapoint 3X Treble Hook Mustad Ultrapoint 3X Treble Hook
36329NP-BN - Ultrapoint elite treble, opti-angle needle point, chemically sharpened, nor-tempered, ringed, 3X strong, black nickel finish - sizes: 4, 2, 1, 1/0, 2/0, 3/0
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Mustad Ultrapoint 3X Treble Hook
Mustad 3X Strong Treble Hook Mustad 3X Strong Treble Hook
3561D-DT - Treble, ringed, 3X strong, duratin sizes: 6, 4, 2, 1, 1/0, 2/0, 3/0, 4/0, 5/0, 6/0, 7/0, 8/0
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Mustad 3X Strong Treble Hook Mustad 3X Strong Treble Hook
Terminal Tackle
Mustad Rolling Swivel Mustad Rolling Swivel
77900 - Black Rolling Swivel w/round eye - available sizes/rating: 4/144lb, 6/118lb, 8/104lb, 9/77lb, 10/70lb, 12/49lb, and 14/42lb


Yo-Zuri Fluorocarbon Leader Yo-Zuri Fluorocarbon Leader
Fluorocarbon leader  - invisible, durable, max knot/crimp strength - clear  and disappearing pink colors - 4-200lb test and 30/100yd spools
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Yo-Zuri Fluorocarbon Leader Yo-Zuri Fluorocarbon Leader
Yo-Zuri TopKnot Fluorocarbon Leader Yo-Zuri TopKnot Fluorocarbon Leader
Fluorocarbon leader - additional abrassion resistance, lower diameter, invisible, durable, max knot/crimp strength - clear and disappearing pink colors - 8-200lb test and 30/100yd spools
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Yo-Zuri TopKnot Fluorocarbon Leader Yo-Zuri TopKnot Fluorocarbon Leader
Berkley Prospec Leader Berkley Prospec Leader
Fluorocarbon leader - invisible, durable, max knot/crimp strength - clear, blue, pink, brown colors - 20-200lb test and 25/33/75/100yd coils
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Berkley Prospec Leader Berkley Prospec Leader
Other
Berkley Floating Dehooker Berkley Floating Dehooker
Soft grip buoyant handle - removes embedded hooks safely - lanyard included
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Berkley Floating Dehooker Berkley Floating Dehooker