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Light Tackle Weakfish

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Glen Cove, NY - Weakfish - 2005Our recommended light tackle weakfish outfit includes a spinning rod and reel combo suitable for 20lb fused line. The optimal rod is 6’6″ to 7′ feet long with a fast to extra-fast action and capable of handling lure weights up to 1 ounce. Most anglers prefer to use 20lb fused line as opposed to 30lb fused line because the slightly decreased line diameter can provide additional casting distance when flipping small bucktails.

Braided Line for Light Tackle Weakfish

We recommend loading the reel with 20lb 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, feel the softest hits, 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.

Terminal Tackle for Light Tackle Weakfish

The main line should be attached to a 3ft length of 30lb fluorocarbon leader use a 50lb 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.

Bucktails for Light Tackle Weakfish

Bucktails are universally effective for fluke especially when fished with a strip of pork rind or a preferably soft bait-tails. These can be worked in any condition at a variety of speeds. Many serious plug fishermen claim if they could just have one lure, it would be a bucktail. The standard colors are white, yellow, pink and green (chartreuse), yet it is always a good idea to try to “match the hatch”.  Sizes range from 3/4oz up to 2oz.

Angling Tips: Know when to go

This bite usually begins and mid May and the best action can continue for several weeks depending upon several factors including water temperature, salinity and the phase of the moon (tides).  Big weakfish enter the bay and can spend several weeks waiting for the right combination of factors to make a run to the various creeks to spawn.  The best action occurs before and just after the spawn.  Read the local fishing reports to get an idea of how the run is progressing.  Be sure to stop in at the local tackle shop the day of your trip to get the most recent info on where and on what stages of the tide the fish are being caught.

Tide runner

Weakfish are frequently called tide runners for a very good reason.  They are most active in areas with a strong running tide or current.  These are powerful fish and their body type and broad tail give them an added advantage over the bait in a strong current.  The geography of the bay creates a tidal difference of more than two hours from one location to another.  When the tide is high at the inlet, there are still a couple of hours of flow left at the mainland beaches and creeks.  This means that there is always a decent current running somewhere.

Water temps

It is also important to pay attention to the tidal flow and its effect on water temperatures.  The bay is very shallow and warms quickly in the spring and ocean temps lag far behind.  There is also a power plant discharge that adds even more warm water.  We found water temps of 78 degrees in one spot on the mainland and just three miles away at the inlet the water was 56 degrees!  The fish are clearly affected by these extremes.  Even if the fish don’t more to stay in a specific water temp, they certainly shut down.  Once feeding fish are found it is important to note the water temp.  If the bite ends, move to other areas with similar water temps.  These extreme temperature fluctuations can also have a significant effect on bait concentrations.

Find the bait

Spring weakfish typically feed on spearing, shrimp, crabs, and several other small baits that can be found on the flats and along the creek channels throughout the bay.  When the tide is flooding over a flat, the fish run with the tide picking up whatever they find.  As the tide falls they retreat from the flats and tend to congregate in the deeper depressions.  They also patrol the creek channels and use the deeper water for security and to ambush their prey.  In many areas, the spring weakfish run is also accompanied by a bluefish run.  Hordes of 2-5lb bluefish can found just about everywhere.  Their feeding habits are quite visible and even though they may rip your tackle to shreds it pays to attempt to find the weakfish nearby.  These weakfish are more than large enough not to be intimidated by the blues.

Spooky

The shallow water can make these fish extremely spooky.  Anglers on boats should avoid running motors any more than is absolutely necessary.  Position the boat carefully and let the wind and tide to move the boat within casting range of targeted areas.  It sometimes pays to run the boat the extra distance so that it enters a creek with the wind and tide rather than running up-tide through the creek and then drifting back.  There are some narrow creeks and channels that simply cannot be fished effectively under certain tides and wind directions.  However, there is so much productive bottom in the bay that there is always somewhere to go regardless of the conditions.  Have an anchor ready to stop the boat from drifting directly over a productive spot.  A small vinyl coated mushroom anchor is a great way to control the boat and to temporarily stop or slow the drift.

Break out the light stuff

Jig heads of less than 1oz are often used to keep the presentation just off the shallow bottom and looking natural.  Bucktail jigs have a little more buoyancy and water resistance and can very effective in the shallows.  In the deeper holes and hard running currents naked jig heads provide less resistance and allow the jig to be presented deep in the water column.  The jigs can be tipped with pork rind, squid, or artificial soft baits.  A squid strip has a little more scent but will take less abuse when casting and needs to be changed frequently.  Soft plastics have unique actions and colors that can enhance a presentation but are easily destroyed by bluefish  Make sure you have plenty of them).  A serious weakfish angler typically has at least two of these three choices in several varieties and in good quantities on hand at all times.  Be prepared to experiment, it can make a big difference at the end of the day.

Presentation

It is critical that the jigs are presented just off the bottom.  Once the rigs get up in the water column, the baits will quickly fall prey to the Bluefish.  Always carry a good selection of different size jig heads and be prepared to switch to the lightest jig or bucktail that still holds the bottom.  Cast across or slightly up current, let the current sweep the jig across the bottom.  This is the same way that bait is swept across the bottom as the fish feed.  A slight bump may be the only thing that is felt when the fish picks up the jig.  Quickly reel out the slack and set the hook.  Be careful, Weakfish have thin mouths, excessive hook sets can create a large hole and the hook can easily slip out.

Light Tackle Weakfish Checklist

  • 6’6″ to 7′ conventional rod rated for 20lb braid and lure weights up to 1 ounce
  • Spinning reel rated for 20lb braid
  • 20lb fused line
  • 30lb fluorocarbon leader
  • 50lb barrel swivel
  • 1/4oz to 2oz bucktails

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
Hookup Inshore Bucktail Hookup Inshore Bucktail
Classic bucktail w/premium stainless hooks available in 1/4oz and 5/8oz in a wide variety of colors
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Hookup Inshore Bucktail
HookUp SynTail Bucktail HookUp SynTail Bucktail
SynTail Series w/premium Mustad hooks and synthetic skirt for durability - available in 1/2oz to 6oz in a wide variety of colors
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HookUp SynTail Bucktail
Hookup Big Bucktail Hookup Big Bucktail
Classic bucktail w/premium Mustad hooks available in 1oz and 1.5oz in a wide variety of colors
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Hookup Big Bucktail
Berkley Gulp Mullet Berkley Gulp Mullet
Gulp Alive! Soft bait - 3" - GSSM3 - available in 12 colors - natural, action, scent and taste - irresistible swimming tail action.
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Berkley Gulp Mullet Berkley Gulp Mullet
Berkley Gulp Alive Shrimp Berkley Gulp Alive Shrimp
Gulp Alive! Soft bait - 3" - GAPSHR3 - 15 different colors - looks, feels and smells like live shrimp - extremely durable and long lasting - rig on a jig, dropper, or any way you would with live shrimp
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Berkley Gulp Alive Shrimp Berkley Gulp Alive Shrimp
Berkley Gulp Alive Grub Berkley Gulp Alive Grub
Gulp Alive! Soft bait - 1.5" - GAJJG1- available in black, chartruese, pearl, and white - proven shape and action works well for all fish - use on jigs, dropshots, and dropper loops
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Berkley Gulp Alive Grub Berkley Gulp Alive Grub
Berkley Gulp Sandworm Berkley Gulp Sandworm
Gulp Alive! Soft bait - 6" - GAPSW6 - available on bloody, camo and natural - looks and feels like natural sandworms - rig and fish like live bait.
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Berkley Gulp Sandworm Berkley Gulp Sandworm
Berkley Gulp 6" Grub Berkley Gulp 6" Grub
Softbait - 6" - GSG6 - available in 6 different colors - tough and durable - fish at depths up to 300 feet - wide swimming tail for greater action and visibility
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Berkley Gulp 6" Grub Berkley Gulp 6" Grub
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