Knowledge is important when fishing

October 31, 2020

I have been fishing the Indian River Inlet a lot more this year due to problems with my boat and a lack of fish in the surf. This has caused me to come in close contact with a number of fishermen that I would not see when I fish with my friends and family. I have discovered that many of these anglers lack some of the basic skills that all fishermen need to be successful. I would like to share some of these in case you or someone you know could benefit from this knowledge.

When I ran my fishing seminars, I always began each six-week course with one night of basic fishing knowledge. We started with tying three knots – the clinch, the double surgeon’s, and the perfection loop. Unless you were going to be a fly fisherman, those three knots would see you through 90 percent of the fishing situations you would encounter. We did not move on to another subject until everyone in the class could tie those three knots.

The next subject was tackle. Some of the junk I see people using at the inlet is a crime.

Last week, I found a wire top-bottom rig lying on the sidewalk. It had been connected to a cheap mono running line with a safety-pin snap that had opened under pressure. Never use those snaps. Always use the cross-loc snaps. The line was tied to the snap with a good old granny knot.

Indian River Inlet is hard on tackle. If you tie your own rigs, you will save money and lose less tackle.

Begin with a two-foot piece of 40-pound test Hi-Seas fishing line. Tie a perfection loop in one end, and a double surgeon’s loop in the middle and on the other end. I asked Clark Evans at Old Inlet Bait and Tackle what hook the guys were using for tog at the Inlet, and he said Mustad Beak hooks size 2/0 were the favorite. You can thread these hooks on the surgeon’s loop or tie the loop with the hook already in it. Both of these knots can be seen online with step-by-step instructions.

Choose a round sinker, like a bank model, and try to fish the rig as close to 90 degrees from your rod tip as possible. I use a surf rod and drop the rig straight down to the bottom without making a cast. Any cast at the Inlet is going to cause the rig to roll across the bottom until the sinker or the hook gets caught in something.

I see people using triangle sinkers at the Inlet. These are designed to dig in and hold bottom. They do their job exceedingly well and seldom make it back after the first cast.

When fishing for blues, rockfish or shad at the Inlet, you do not need wire leaders. This past spring, I was there fishing and catching nice shad, and was joined by a young man who was casting a large bucktail on a wire leader. I rerigged his outfit on a mono leader with a Stingsilver and a shad dart, and he too began catching shad.

When bluefish are the target, use a metal lure and 40- or 50-pound Fluorocarbon leader. Bucktails and soft plastics will work, but the blues will tear them to pieces.

Rockfish will go after the very popular white bucktail and white plastic worm. They will also hit plugs, eels, live spot and a variety of other baits and lures depending on the available bait.

If you use mono on your reels, tie the cross-loc snap directly to the running line with a clinch knot.  Braided line should have a 10- to 20-foot shock leader of 20- to 30-pound Fluorocarbon line tied to the running line with a slim beauty or an Albright knot. Once again, both knots are findable online.

Another problem that I see is reels that are half full of line. The reel must be full to operate correctly. It will not cast as far or retrieve line as fast when it is half full as it will when it is full.

Mono line is inexpensive, and there is no reason not to fill your reel when the line is low.

Do not use cheap line or line that is too heavy for your reel. Most of the reels we use at the inlet or from the surf or boats will never need line heavier than 20-pound test. Braid is more expensive, but you can save money by backing up the braid with mono line.

Finally, you must be careful. Don’t go out on wet rocks without Korkers or another protective footwear. Even on dry rocks, be careful where you step. Those rocks are not forgiving.


  • Eric Burnley is a Delaware native who has fished and hunted the state from an early age. Since 1978 he has written countless articles about hunting and fishing in Delaware and elsewhere along the Atlantic Coast. He has been the regional editor for several publications and was the founding editor of the Mid-Atlantic Fisherman magazine. Eric is the author of three books: Surf Fishing the Atlantic Coast, The Ultimate Guide to Striped Bass Fishing and Fishing Saltwater Baits. He and his wife Barbara live near Milton, Delaware. Eric can be reached at

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