This is Capt. Johnny Luchka of Long Run Fishing Charters out of Pt. Pleasant Beach NJ and when I am not on the boat running charters you’ll find me walking the central New Jersey Coastline in search of Striped Bass and Bluefish. During the fall months starting in October we’ll see the back bays empty a myriad of baitfish like peanut bunker and mullet into the ocean where they will be met up with adult bunker and this spells the perfect storm for a beach blitz.
I like to walk the beach with a 9-10 foot surf rod loaded with 30 pound braid, tied to 40 pound Top Knot Yo-zuri Fluorocarbon leader, to a fast clip with a 3 ounce Yo-Zuri Holographic Blue Surface Cruiser. When walking the open beach with no noticeable life, I use this as more of a search bait with a high arcing cast to create a big splash and I will work it in a slow walk the dog style cadence to keep it in the surf line longer. When bait fish are being blasted out of the water by Stripers, I will cast in the direction just in front of the melee and work the retrieve to create the most deliberate splash by fast twitching my rod tip while taking line. This imparts some incredible action on the lure.
The (pearl yellow pink) is a great color on overcast days and the newly designed Surface Cruiser with through wire construction is more than durable to tangle with Bluefish too in excess of 10-15 pounds. I always have at least three lures with me as it is always good to have a few backups and one to share with a friend. The key to the surface cruiser is to work it in many types of surf conditions so you can see how to impart action and build confidence when using it.
Capt. Johnny Luchka
On occasion I get asked for recommendations for a “bucket list” or honeymoon destination. There are numerous amazing destinations around the world but my first answer is always Sport Fish Panama Island Lodge. If you’re looking for the total package: incredible fishing, exceptional service and breathtaking views, it checks all the boxes.
Located 12-miles off of the Pacific coast on the undeveloped jungle island of Isla Parida, inside Panama’s Chiriquí National Marine Park, in the heart of the Gulf of Chiriqui, the lodge is truly off the grid. Most importantly the location puts you in the middle of exceptional inshore fishing and significantly shortens the run to the world famous Hannibal Bank. The lodge is operated by owner Capt. Shane Jarvis who has been fishing the area for 20 years.
We visited the lodge last April for filming and product testing and were blown away by the experience. It was a relatively short flight from South Florida to Panama City, where we caught a quick connecting flight to David. The ride to the lodge through the river and out into the bay provided incredible scenery, the type that makes you instantly forget about the daily hostile and bustle you left behind. The boat dropped us off on a beach in a protected cove where we were met by staff who took us up the path through the jungle to the lodge. The lodge is perfect for fishermen, simple, laid back and comfortable. As you walk up you are greeted by a full bar and appetizers under the tiki hut followed by an amazing dinner. The food is all locally farmed or harvested from the ocean, some of the best Tuna, Dorado, Lobster and Conch you’ve ever had. Stepping out of your room in the morning you are greeted with majestic sunrises that words can’t do justice.
The first morning we jumped one of their two 33ft World Cats, yea no pangas with this operation. April is in the prime season for big Yellowfin Tuna and that was our main focus of the trip. It’s roughly a 40 minute run through calm seas to the start of the Tuna grounds. It’s not difficult to know when you find the schools with the insane abundance of frigate birds and spinner dolphin. Once you find the schools the goal is to get in front of the dolphin and get your baits out before the school changes direction. It can be tricky to judge which direction the dolphin are pushing the bait schools and to present your baits correctly but when you do double and triple hook ups of quality Yellowfin are common. On this day a lack of cloud cover made the tuna stay down and it took us a while to get our first bite. When we did it was worth wait, as a 115lb class Yellowfin hit the deck after a short fight. Not long after that a 100lb Yellowfin joined it.
Capt. Shane Jarvis is an expert in positioning the boat to help work the fish up as quick as possible and eliminate the need to move around the boat to follow the fish. Max heat is the name of the game and with the harness and top line equipment we were consistently putting triple digit fish in the boat in under 20 minutes. One of the things I love about this fishery is you don’t have to worry about sharks like you do in a lot of other areas of the world. After hitting the deck Shane’s highly skilled and friendly mate Johnny makes quick work of bleeding and cleaning the fish for that night’s dinner or for your return home. They can to vacuum seal your catch at the lodge and arrange for it to be packed with your luggage.
On the second day we were greeted with overcast skies which resulted in a wide open bite. The birds and dolphin were in tighter packs making it easier to get in the right position. The action on 60-150lb class Yellowfin was non-stop from the first bait until we were too beat to strap into another one. One of the unique experiences of the trip was pitching live baits to Yellowfins off the back of commercial boats. The commercial boats tie floating debris to the side of their boats and become slowly moving FADS. It provides them with a constant supply of live bait and combined with steady chumming they bring Tuna up behind their boat which they catch on hand lines.
When a school of Yellowfin started blowing up behind one next to us we pitched a live blue runners almost under their boat resulting in an instant hook up. The cooperation between the commercial boats and charters working the same school sometimes in tight quarters was something I had never experienced. I thought we might have an issue when one of my fish burned off a commercial line but after giving them a 100+ pound Yellowfin everything was smoothed over.
Sport Fish Panama Island Lodge uses the best equipment on the market for their offshore trips with top end rods and reels, Yo-Zuri SuperBraid, Yo-Zuri Fluorocarbon and Yo-Zuri hard baits, Mustad hooks and Grudens gear. The typical set-up for Yellowfin is a 30 class reel loaded with 65lb Yo-Zuri SuperBraid and a wind on leader of 80, 100 or 130lb Yo-Zuri Fluorocarbon to a Mustad circle hook. This set-up is used for live baiting blue runners or chunking sardines. For live baiting bonita’s for Blue and Black Marlin they upgrade to 50 class reels loaded with 80lb Yo-Zuri SuperBraid and 130, 150 or 200lb TopKnot Fluorocarbon to a Mustad circle hook.
For those that want to cast poppers, stick baits or swimming plugs to the Tuna or Dorado they have 18000 size spinning reels loaded with 65lb Yo-Zuri SuperBraid to 80lb Yo-Zuri TopKnot Fluorocarbon. Some of the top baits they use for casting are the Yo-Zuri Bull Popper, High Speed Vibe, Diving Slider and Mag Darter. The front of the World Cat is equipped with a platform and a waist high railing that makes it very comfortable to cast offshore or around the islands even with a chop on the water.
Sport Fish Panama Island Lodge also offers outstanding inshore fishing opportunities for Roosterfish, Blue Trevally and a variety of Snapper including Mullet and Cubera. Both days we spend a couple hours fishing inshore on our way back to the lodge. The typical set up for inshore is slow trolling blue runners along the drop offs near the small islands, while an angler or two cast plugs along the shoreline and rock formations from the bow. The jungle back drops in these areas offer mesmerizing scenery. The contour of the bottom is dramatic, in many cases you are casting up against land and bringing the plug back into 80ft of water or more. The key is having a plug that casts long distances and has sturdy terminal tackle that won’t bend out with the extreme heat needed to keep fish out of the rocks. On this trip we did very well on Blue Trevally, African Pompano, Roosterfish and epic size Hound fish on Yo-Zuri Mag Darters, Hydro Minnow Long Cast and Hydro Poppers.
When you combine the fishing, accommodations, views, food, service and overall experience Sport Fish Panama Island Lodge is a first class operation. If you are looking for more information on the trip of a lifetime visit https://fishpanamatoday.com/.
It is October and fall may be starting everywhere else, but not here in South Florida. At Okeechobee the fish are still in their summer patterns. First thing in the morning, the bass are chasing shad in the Kissimmee grass all around the lake. My favorite search bait is the new
Yo-Zuri Knuckle Bait. I’ve learned a lot about this new bait and how to fish it. The bait fishes a lot like a swim jig, even though it looks like a spinnerbait. You don’t feel much thump, but that ball just keeps on dancing as you reel. All summer long, we have been able to catch 25-30 fish in the first few hours. I have been burning the bait on the outside grass lines and crushing them. WE found that burning the bait almost doubled our strikes compared to slow rolling.
My “go to” set up is a 7’2” Witch Doctor Surman 50G rod in the medium heavy action. I combine the rod with a Lew’s 6:3 to 1 reel. I then add 20 lb. Top Knot Yo-Zuri fluorocarbon mainline and start slinging!
The bait is in the grass and the bass are actively feeding for the first few hours. My two favorite colors have been black/blue Knuckle Bait teamed with a Gambler Little EZ in the black and blue color. My other favorite color is the white Knuckle Bait with a pearl white Gambler Little EZ. The shad are relatively small, so my most effective size Knuckle Bait is ¼ oz.
Don’t pick up this bait expecting the vibration and thump of a spinnerbait or chatterbait. Even though you can’t feel what the ball is doing, it’s driving the fish wild.
Give it a try, and I promise you will love it just like I do.
If you spend much time fishing bridges at night, then the Yo-Zuri Mag Minnow should be your go-to lure, because it’s simple to use, represents a variety of baitfish and is super effective. Living in South Florida, the lights from the bridges draw a lot of snook and tarpon, which are my main targets. As a rule, both species like to hunt the shadow lines cast by the bridge on the up-current side of the structure, although tarpon will regularly work the down-current side as well.
The fish like to station on the dark side of the shadow line so mullet swimming with the current won’t see them. When the mullet traveling in the lighted areas hit the dark, shadowed sections they tend to be blinded for a few seconds and often slow down or stop. That’s when the fish strike.
The key for fishing shadow lines is to position your boat parallel to the shadow line you plan to fish, then cast parallel to the bridge but 10 to 20 feet up-current of the shadow line, allowing you to slowly swim the lure into the shadows. You can mix up the length of the cast or the distance from the shadow line to make the lure swim through the area in different locations.
The majority of the time I fish a Mag Minnow I just cast it out and reel in slowly back to the boat, giving it no action so it looks like a hapless baitfish just swimming along. Every few casts I’ll change it up and retrieve the lure with a stop and go action, ripping it along with a sweep of the rod and then letting the bait sit stationary for a second or two before moving it again. That will sometimes get reaction bites from fish that aren’t normally feeding.
Since the lighting on bridges is man-made and not natural, there’s a tendency for your leaders to reflect more light than during the daylight hours, so I always use Yo-Zuri fluorocarbon leader. I’ll also drop down in leader size from 50 pound test to 30 or 40 pound test to get more bites.
For a full time kayak fisherman like myself, one of the most sought after characteristics in a lure is versatility. Given the confined space of a kayak, you don’t have the option of bringing boxes and boxes of tackle with you so it’s good to have a few “go to” lures that can be used in a variety of ways. The number one lure on my list is Yo-Zuri’s Crystal Minnow.
The short billed Crystal Minnow comes in several different sizes and can be fished in a myriad of techniques and presentations to appeal to just about any fish in the water. I always have a Crystal Minnow behind the boat when I’m trolling out to my spots and it is typically the first lure that I throw when I get where I’m going.
Whether presenting the lure fast or slow, smooth or with jerks or twitches, there is almost always a way to fish these lures that will trigger a bite. My favorite presentation is a brisk “stop and go” with the “go’s” in the form of aggressive rips. This presentation resembles what I do with a big popper (just sub-surface) and typically gets the same type of bites as a popper. The same presentation can be slowed to trigger bites from more cautious feeders like Snook and Snapper or you can speed it up to appeal to aggressive feeders like Roosters, Tuna, Mahi, etc. The CM also works well on a steady retrieve but I find that I usually get a better bite percentage when adding some light rhythmic action. I have found that with the Crystal Minnow, no matter what I am targeting, there is a presentation that will work. All I have to do is keep giving them different looks until they get hungry enough or angry enough to take what I’m offering.
Whether you are a kayak or beach fisherman looking for a minimalistic approach to your tackle options or a full blown gear head that just wants the best, the Crystal Minnow should occupy a very high position in your lure selection. It has been my bread and butter lure for years and will likely remain so for years to come.
-Lance Clinton, Yo-Zuri Ambassador