I recently discussed light tackle with some fishing buddies over a bottle of Tennessee’s finest. We all agreed that casting artificial lures on the Chesapeake Bay has the potential to catch as many big fish as any other method. I believe the chances for a trophy striper are better for those who know how to handle a light stick. Until a couple of years ago, most Mid-Atlantic fishermen would have laughed at a statement like that, but not anymore. Throughout 2010, light tackle casting held its own and often out-produced other methods of Chesapeake Bay fishing.  It’s encouraging to walk into bait shops and tackle stores now and see Bass Kandy Delights, Bass Assassins, and top water plugs displayed prominently at the end of the aisles beside umbrella rigs and parachute lures. I’m very happy to promote light tackle fishing for one main reason – I don’t know a single light tackle fisherman who isn’t a conservationist. It is absolutely clear that anglers who cast artificial lures are hard-wired to protect the fish and to take care of the water they fish in.  

There are many ways to catch fish that are fun and relaxing and I’m a fan of sports fishing by almost any method. I’m not saying fishermen who are attracted to other methods aren’t conservationists, in fact, a great many are.  It’s just that, like ethics and sportsmanship, there are many interpretations of conservation.  I just prefer the perspective most of the light tackle guys I know bring with them to the Bay.

The most productive fishermen I know use whatever method of fishing produces best considering the conditions. I just find it more fun and challenging to cast artificial lures. Light tackle has historically been looked at as a little fish method. A lot of good Chesapeake fishermen only bring out the light gear when they can’t get the big fish to bite otherwise.  I think that’s a mistake.

Light tackle casting is easy to learn at the basic level, but it can also be a life-long study. The best fishermen have a clear understanding of what’s going on in and around the water. Light tackle fishing is never a passive sport.  There’s no waiting for a rod to go off or a float to go down.  Casting takes both mental and physical skills.  Rather than fate or luck, casting success is determined by a long list of skills and decisions – spot selection, lure choice, rate of retrieve, depth of presentation, and direction of the cast just to name a few.  Whether it’s with a fly, jig, or plug, there’s no greater sense of satisfaction than out-smarting a fish casting an artificial lure.  I sincerely believe that anyone who experiences it will become a better steward of our natural resources.

Since it doesn’t look like I’ll get too many more trips in before the first of the year, I thought this might be a good time to look back at this year’s fishing. It’s been a good year. I’m frequently asked if I think Chesapeake striper fishing is in decline.  I’ll leave that up to those who have fished here longer.  This was my fifth year fishing the Bay, so I don’t have a good baseline.  I’ve learned a lot and there’s no doubt I’ve refined my skills and become a better fisherman.  I’ve learned to streamline my trips and make surgical strikes to the areas where I think fish are more likely to be at times when they’re most apt to bite.  That said, I feel like every year I need to up the effort-ante more and work harder to find the fish.  It’s a lot harder to catch fish now than it was when I first started fishing in Maryland.

I sat down last night and paged through my photos hoping to filter them down to a single-barrel video montage. With a self-imposed time constraint of ten minutes, I decided not to include most of my freshwater trips. It was tough. I’m sure I left out some nice fish and excellent fishermen. On some of my best trips I didn’t even take a camera.

Whether it’s eight minutes or eight hours, any time I’ve spent on the water has been exceptional and I’ve learned something from every single person I’ve fished with this year. To those of you who have shared your trips with me, either in person or through emails, letters, text messages, or phone calls, just saying thanks seems insufficient.  I only hope I can give back a fraction of the help you’ve given me. I think I have the finest fishing network on the Bay and I savor it.  So, here is my attempt at distilling 2010 down to a small batch of pictures. All my best to you and yours for a happy holiday season and here’s a steep tip of the mason jar to everyone reading.  May the new year lead you down the road to the thunderous slaps of big fish tails.

Posted Thursday, December 16th, 2010 at 1:09 am
Filed Under Category: Fishing Reports
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Responses to “A Year of Light Tackle Thunder”

  1. Bill M says:

    I’m just getting started with this saltwater stuff but your perspective, experience and willingness to share your knowledge have shortened the learning curve for me immensely. I have been fishing all my life but there is so much to learn. I still don’t know how to catch a BIG fish on LT. I have enjoyed you articles and pictures through out the year. Thanks for sharing. Hopefully we can fish a few more times together next year than we did this year. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you and yours!

    BTW-the video won’t work in my country-Sony won’t let it.

  2. John M. Brase says:

    I started fishing the Chesapeake in 2006. After spending 18 years in pursuit of smallmouth bass on the St Lawrence River from Clayton to Alex Bay the Chesapeake Bay presented a daunting challenge to say the least. I upgraded my Grady and became a novice on the Chesapeake trolling stripers and yearning for crank bait fishing for smallmouth. Thanks to your website and informative reports for the past two years I have returned to the enjoyment light tackle fishing. Thanks for a great website and have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

  3. Shawn says:

    Thanks very much. Sorry the video is being blocked. I’m working on it.

  4. Shawn says:

    Okay, the link should work now. Just can’t embed it.

  5. RiverCat09 says:


    Thanks for teaching me much about light tackle fishing both in person and on this site. I look forward to viewing your montage once you get it working.


  6. Shawn says:

    Crap… foiled again. I’ll change the soundtrack. Sony doesn’t like it that I’m promoting one of their songs.

  7. sam sellard says:

    Great site. I just found it not long ago and it has become a go to site for me. i live south of you (Onancock VA) and this site gives more info on what the fish up your way are doing. More info is better. Not many LTJ down hear but it will change. A few weeks back my wife (who is a good LTJr) and a novice fishin gal went to a spot where thier were about 10 boats trolling. I marked (with my new structure scan)what looked like individual fish tight to the bottom. We started jigging and catching nice rock from 25 to 37″ on 6″ BKDs. In 3 hrs we caught 42 and anf when we left thier were 25 boats there jigging. I might add that not one boat had BKDs and very few were catching. They were not at all interested in a spoon. As a side note last Sat we ran into some schools of rock coming down the coast on our way to a wreck and were prepared for just such an occassion and proceeded to LTJ 30+ fish in the 36 to 42″ range. Never did make it to the wreck and all fish went back in the drink.Merry Christmas.

    I also read some of your post on TF in the boat electroincs forum.

  8. der Fischadler says:

    Anticipation of this “Through the Lens” montage is really building now.
    I guess I should thank Shawn; he has put me on some great fish this year and allowed me to catch all the truly big ones. Thanks for that and for giving me the pleasure of picking up all the truly big bar tabs as well.
    Merry Christmas,
    der Fischadler

  9. Jake says:

    First I must say thanks for another year of great articles. Secondly thanks again for allowing me to come out and fish with you! Hopefully the new year will bring me the opportunity to come out a little more.


  10. jumbo1 says:

    Shawn we had alot of great trips this year…even the ones where we didn’t do a whole lot of catchin’ were outstanding…looking forward to many more in this upcoming season…Hope we can make 2011’s first trip as good as 2010’s was last year…Happy Holidays!

  11. Zink says:

    Great article. I’m still looking for a trophy sized LTJ striper farther south in my usual fishing grounds in the PNP/PLO area. I know I’ll figure it out eventually by finding those sweet spots and sharing with my own network of fishing friends down there. I put in a lot of time this fall practicing my LT skills and it payed off with consistent catches. But I’ve learned a ton from your articles here and TF posts. Thanks for sharing and good luck in the New Year!

  12. RogerT says:

    Shawn,Thanks for putting together this site & sharing your wisdom in this great fishing technique know as Light Tackle Jigging.

    Merry Christmas and a Happy new yr. to you and yours.
    Hope to see you on the water in 2011.

  13. Shawn says:

    Okay, finally got the photo montage uploaded. Sorry for the delay.

  14. Bill M says:

    Nice. Very Nice!

  15. Steve Lawson says:

    Jesus Shawn.Not many people catch that many big fish in the bay their whole life. I believe.

  16. Paul says:

    That was certainly worth the wait!
    You deserve a lot of credit for the explosion of light tackle fishing on the bay. I have grown up fishing the bay and for the most part I trolled, chummed and live lined, which is what I had learned from my peers. When you started posting your successes it surely opened a lot of eyes. I recently sold off my trolling gear in hopes of spending more time with the light stick. My fishing time is limited, but I know how I want to spend it. See you around the bridge. Happy Holidays to you and your family and thanks for sharing your knowledge.

  17. Farmer says:

    I’ve been trolling for a lot of years. More than anybody I know. I mostly just catch my limit and get off the water anyway, but you’re right that trolling two dozen rods isn’t really very sporting. It is effecient though. I think you are right when you said before hat changing fish habits have a lot to do with the success of light tackle. I won’t give up trolling, but when I see thirty pounders coming up regularly in the Bay on jigs, I won’t some of that. I don’t always agree with you, but I enjoy reading.

  18. R. Warner says:

    Great article and video. I’ve seen a lot of those pictures in reports, but I think you’ve been holding out some. There are some BIG FISH in there!

  19. Jigger Dale says:

    What kind of fish is that gold looking monster about half way though the video?

  20. Shawn says:

    Dale, it’s a black drum. It was light colored when Cory caught it, and I think it even shows up lighter in the picture. Caught well above the Bay Bridge, that was our biggest fish caught on a jig this year.

  21. Tony says:

    Shawn, Congrats on another great year. Thanks for sharing all the great tips and advice. Very enjoyable video’
    Wishing you & your family the best in 2011.
    Cheers to many more!

  22. Rich says:

    Shawn, thanks for a great year. Enjoyed each and every trip. Let’s get that big Red drum that we have been looking for, this year. Hope you have a great Christmas with the family. Rich

  23. RiverCat09 says:


    Great job! What software are you using for your videos?

    What is that bizarre looking skinny fish about half way though? Some kind of needlefish?

    Thanks for putting this together!


  24. Shawn says:

    There are two different fish. The one I’m holding in the sepia toned photo is a ribbon fish. It was the shiniest fish I’ve ever seen. The one on the topwater plug is a needle fish. We had a great topwater bite in the mid-bay shallows this year when striped bass moved in on the needlefish spawn.

  25. eluxman says:

    Thanks Shawn Im always learning from your site & your post at TF. The video was great & the tunes also. I hope 2011 treats you just as great.
    Thanks for all your sharing
    Happy Holidays!


  26. Shawn says:

    Thanks to everyone for the very kind comments. Let’s hope this wind eventually lays so we can fish! Merry Christmas to all.

  27. Ryan says:


    I can’t thank you enough. What a great site you have here. I’ve fished fresh water light tackle my whole life, and then moved to the Eastern Shore of Maryland a few years ago. This past spring I finally bought a small boat, and thanks to your site I’ve had one of the best years of my life fishing. Everything was new to me, and your site was my go to! Thanks for everything — Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!


  28. Doug M says:


    Thanks so much for sharing and teaching us to be better fishermen. have a great Christmas and a happy New year!!!!can’t wait for next season.


  29. Mike says:


    Thanks for all the great info the entire year. Im ordering the mojo bass rod this week. Would you go with the 6’8” Mid XF or the 6’6 MH F or 7′ MH F?

  30. Shawn says:

    Mike, I prefer the 6’8″ Med/XF for rockfish but I would go with 6’6″ medHvy/F if you will be using 2 ounce jigs a lot or fishing in heavy cover.

    To all, thanks for the comments. Don’t know about you, but this wind is driving me nuts. I’m sure there are still lots of fish at the bridge, the yellow perch are heating up, and it’s time to start checking the warm water discharges. I’m hoping to get out later in the week.

  31. Mike says:

    thanks shawn. im picking the 6’8” friday. A buddy and i were talking about taking the kayaks to the bridge again on saturday. do you think the rockpiles and pilings are still going to hold a few fish? im getting cabin fever already.

  32. Shawn says:

    Yes, I think there are fish there. Last year we had the snow and the runoff washed out the thermoclines at the bridge early, but this year conditions are still very good. Year before last we had fish until mid-Feb. If everyone is nice and quiet, I bet there will be some good fish in the area this weekend. It’s also time for a nice perch bite in 40+ feet.

  33. Rick says:

    Powell website has the 6’8″ med ex-fast @ $99+$10 shipping. Not a pitch but a good buy if your not in a hurry.

  34. Blue Marlin says:

    Powell rods are very popular on the west coast. You don’t see them much around Maryland though. My Powell 7 wt is the best I’ve ever owned.

  35. Mike says:

    Damn, wish i had seen this earlier. I picked up the 6’8” mojo bass last night. Heading out tomorrow morning hopefully brandon shores is pumping out some serious heat…

  36. CAGE RATTLER says:

    WOW, Thats good stuff Shawn!!

    I havent been checkin the websites much this winter so i’ll be doing some extra reading of your articles now.

    That video has me pumped to get out there.

    Ive never gotten an early spring season start so I have even more to learn this season.

    Gimme a shout if you see me out there.

  37. Rick Quigley says:

    As we start to ramp up for another year of LTJ, I wanted to say how much I appreciate all that you do for the the Bay, the Rock Fish and for those who belive in the brotherhood of LTJ.

    SRRKC – Tricky Ricky

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