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Toss Em’ A Chunk
By Rich Johnson

Chunking bait is the technique it seems for catching BIG bass and blues! It’s been around for many years, but in the last five years or so it has become a staple in the industry to a point where anglers don’t even want to use jigs or bucktails anymore. Chunking is certainly not rocket science and is really nothing more than taking fish like bunker, herring or mackerel (depending on season) and cutting them into four or five two-inch pieces (chunks) then presenting them back behind the boat to waiting game fish. Chunking is like fashion, it has a round about way of coming in and out of vogue. Chunking is used everywhere from Montauk Point to Sheepshead Bay and Orient Point to City Island and at present, seems to be favored by anglers fishing Long Island Sound. But wherever you choose to use this method, know one thing…it works.

STORE BAIT CORRECTLY. These days most anglers feel fresh bunker can bring a higher price than gold on the commodities market! Make sure you use only the freshest bunker possible, it will make a difference! Store bunker by laying them on shaved ice. Shaved ice melts from the bottom and will not leave a puddle of water like cubes that melt as a whole. Shaved ice when put into a cooler, can last days and water can be drained from the bottom spigot when needed. Never let your fresh bunker lay in the freshwater from melted ice because they will lose the oils and flavor rendering them practically useless. Try not to push them into the shaved ice either, this can cause surface freezing of the flesh. If you have too many bunker for the cooler, store them in Ziplock storage bags then you can cover them with shaved ice. This way they are protected from the ice or melting water.

TACKLE. The best tackle for chunking bass & blues is a rod with a soft tip for presentation, but with enough backbone to set the hook into a big bass or gorilla bluefish. I’ve found the Seeker BA85-7 or BA30-7 to be the perfect rods for this type of fishing. These are one piece seven-foot glass rods made by the Seeker Rod Co. of California. Right off the rack, these rods are superb. They are rated for 25 to 40-pound test lines and can handle large lead sinkers. The BA30-7 is the heavier of the two rods mentioned.

Some of you light tackle anglers out there may think I took the easy way out, but it is the smart thing to do. You may have to use six or seven-ounce sinkers and large chunks of bunker. When you add the fact you have to "turn" the bass your way, gain complete control and keep the fish away form structure, you’ll be glad you stepped up in tackle.

For a reel to compliment my rod choice, I use the Ambassadeur 7000 levelwind reel, spooled with 40-pound Berkley Big game line. You’re fishing heavy structure and you need a solid abrasion resistant line and Big Game gets the job done. Anglers may want to size down in pound test, but I wouldn’t suggest anything lighter than 25-pound test. I use 40-pound because that’s what I have found to be effective. The 7000 reel also has a light free spool "clicker" which means fish will not feel resistance when he is running with the bait.

RIGGING. Many anglers may opt for fish-finder rigs or three way rigs. I prefer the fish-finder rig, but you can slide a bank sinker up the line, then using a barrel swivel to prevent the sinker from sliding down on the hook. The eye of the sinker is the fish finder! However, I do not trust this method because when lead sinkers are poured you can find small burr’s inside the eye and that can cause line to fray and eventually break. I use what some fishermen may consider a large hook when chunking. I prefer a Daiichi Hooks now in the 8/0 or 9/0 sizes. The model is D18Z, which is an offset beak style hook. These hooks are razor sharp and best of all do not need sharpening or re-sharpening no matter how many fish you catch. They are made with 80 carbon steel and black nickel-plated.

Remember that fish may swim in schools, but they are not taught what a hook looks like. Bass are used to eating large spiny fish, not to mention large crabs and lobsters, so I feel hook size doesn’t matter. Just make sure there are no fish scales on the point of the hook before sending it to the bottom. A simple fish scale can stand in the way of you and a trophy, by preventing a positive hook set.

WHERE TO? You’ll want to look for structure on your fish-finder. Structure can be obvious like wrecks, reefs or bridges or as inconspicuous as a simple drop-off and difference in water depth with bait or fish markings. A sharp drop-off leading to deep water with visible signs of structure is a perfect scenario.

When structure is found, anchor and position your boat uptide of where you want to be fishing with enough room between the two to present your bait. You want to put your menu offering close enough to the structure to draw fish away with the scent of your bait, but far enough so the fish can’t dart back into it resulting in break-offs.

Gently cast your offering back behind the boat with enough lead weight to keep the bait from rolling with the tide. Place the rod in the holder with clicker on and in free spool. When the bass picks of the bait and runs with it, give a three count, put the reel in gear and set the hook as hard as you possibly can! Turn the fish’s head and the battle is on. If you have enough bunker for bait, the right thing to do is change bait every 10 minutes. The fresher and oilier the piece of bait, the better your chances of hooking up. As with all fishing, don’t be cheap with the bait! Chunking can be one of the best ways to catch large bass and possibly put you on a trophy! See you on the water.

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