Articles

Clam Chumming Bass

By Capt. Joey Leggio

Clam Chumming Bass Made Easy with Capt. Joey Leggio and "Surfer Joe"

OPENING

You just bought some clams and chum and made your way to the hot spot you been reading about in the local fisherman magazine. You drop anchor and begin to chum. You place a clam on the hook and drop it to the bottom next to your chum pot. You wait, and wait, and wait. You do not get a single hit. You know you are in the right spot by the GPS numbers your buddy gave you that did well the day before. You are in the middle of 30 or so boats that must have read the same report you did. You notice the guy just to the right of you is banging away at Bass after Bass. You wonder and think to yourself, what is he using for bait? Why is he constantly hooking up? We are both in the same area. What could he be doing different then me? Well wonder no more my friend, you are about to learn everything he is doing. If you want to be the guy everyone is watching and you want to be the one constantly having your rod bent on yet another Bass. The one that everyone envies back at the bait station…. Well read on then because I am about to school you on Clam Chum Bass fishing..

LET’S GET STARTED

You just pulled up to where you want to fish for the night, let’s say the Atlantic Beach Bridge or the A. B. dock lines for this article. You are ready to set up. The tide just started running out and you have the whole area to yourself.

I like to anchor my boat over the old bridge and work my baits back to the main span of the Existing AB Bridge. You can also work humps and muscle beds which are scattered all over this fish haven. So my anchor is set and I checked it not once but twice. You do not want to break anchor with strong currents and a bridge just 100 feet away from you. It could get very ugly, very fast and ruin a beautiful night. I then get my four gallon clam chum ready and place it in an oversized chum pot. I like to add extra weight (A 10 pound work out plate works great) in the chum pot to keep it as close to the bottom as possible. Once it hits bottom, I like to bring it up just a few inches so as the boat moves in the current and from the passing boat wakes, the chum flows freely.

I now get my clams ready as my chum slick begins to build. I will only use clams in the shell or the freshest of pre-shucked clams I can find. I won’t even bother going if the bait looks or smells like crap. Scent and taste is crucial as you will read later on. Believe me when I tell you, fresh is the way to go.

FRESH BAIT

Striped bass feed by smell, sight and then taste. This is why you want the freshest, best smelling and best tasting bait you can find. I am not saying you have to taste your bait, but I am sure there are some that may say they have. When using poppers or swimmers, hearing and the Lateral line will be the main way a Bass will find your offering. Now add some BioEdge Menhaden / Bunker sent and the Bass’s incredible sense of smell and taste will kick in. But this article in about Clam Chum Bassin’ and for that reason, it is all about the importance of fresh bait.

A bass will come upon and hone in on the smell of your Clam Chum slick and then work his way up the slick coming up current. As the Bass works his way up current in your slick, he will pick away at the chum particles that will excite his taste buds. Now he is on the feed and comes across your bait offering fluttering back in the chum. Once your bait is found, the Bass will use their eyesight to come in for the attack. A Bass will suck your clam up in the blink of an eye and if he does not like the taste of it he will spit it out just as fast. So you must be ready to set the hook fast and hard.

Bait presentation is so important and yet so many people pay no attention to it. Once I have everything set with my anchoring and chum, next I will get my bait ready. I pull out a few clams from my bucket and place them on a cutting board and spread open each clam. You want to cut the clam into two parts. I cut from the tip of the clam and cut down towards the guts and lips. It is important that you have guts and lips on both pieces. The lips of the clam will flutter in the current and make the bait look alive. Next you want to insert a 4/0 or 5/0 Gamakatsu hook at the very tip of the clam. Thread your hook down towards the soft part and lips of the clam. I usually go through about 4 times and then place the hook once through the guts. A little trick you can use is to leave a ¾ inch of tag end on the hook after you tie it on. If you like to snell your hooks as I do, just leave the extra line that you would pull to tighten your snell. The reason why I do this is when I am threading my bait on the hook I want to have it go over the shank of the hook and onto the mono. Leaving this small piece of line will act as a holder and not let the bait slide back down the hook shaft causing a clam ball. There is no presentation in a clam ball. It is just dead bait. Also, before I forget to mention this. NEVER use a whole clam. You are just wasting bait and all it will do is spin in the strong currents and just tangle your mono. You only want to use clam halves. If you have the bait on for more than two walk backs and you have gotten zero strikes, I would change the bait and start all over again. Remember, SCENT is Key. Now I bet you are saying, “What the heck is a walk back?” Don’t worry; we will get to that as you read on.

THE WALK BACK

What I mean by the walk back is very simple. You do not want to just bait your hook and leave it on the bottom. You want movement because bass and every other fish that swims is attracted to movement. Why do you think a curly tail is curled? It causes movement when you reel it in. What you need to do is find a weight that will hit bottom and then walk back in the current. Let’s say I use a 4 ounce weight and it hits bottom and does not move. I will drop down to a 3 ounce or even a 2 ounce to get it moving in the current. Here is the secret as to why the guy next to you is crushing them and you still caught none. Once the bait hits the bottom, I like to leave my reel in free spool. I will lift my rod thumbing the spool causing my weight to be lifted off the bottom. I will let line flow out till my weight hits the bottom again. The strong current will pull your weight a few feet every time you lift and drop back. Or as I like to call it, “The Walk Back” I will do this over and over till either I get a hit, or just feel I am too far back and want to start over again. If you get a hit you must thumb the spool and swing back hard and fast. People like to let bass eat. A Bass will suck down a clam offering so fast that if you blinked, you would have missed it. When it comes to Clam Chumming, There is no waiting. Letting a Bass suck down and eat a Clam Bait will only get you a GUT hooked Bass. When you get a hit, thumb the spool, swing hard and fast. You will know if a Bass is on the other end of the line so be ready to engage the reel or put up the lever drag to strike. Reel in the slack and begin your fight. If you swing back and there is nothing there, do not worry. Reel your line back in and re-bait it. Here is another little trick I have learned over the years. Keep a paper match stick, a gum wrapper, a small piece of bright colored fishing line or something to that nature in your pocket. If you are real good, try to remember how far back you were. If you get a bite and miss the fish, place the wrapper or paper match stick on the spool under the line. Once you begin to reel in the line will go over your marker. Now you know exactly how much line to let out to get you back to where you missed that fish. I have seen it many times, once you’re baited up and letting line back out, Bamm, you a get hit in the same spot you just were hit before. The bass will still be hanging in your chum slick waiting for more clam offerings. As long as they do not get scared, they are not leaving.

Also with this scenario of fishing into a bridge or structure, you want to fish with tighter drags because you have to stop the fish before he gets you in the pilings. My Good friend Surfer Joe can tell you what happens when your drag is too loose. He lost a 35 plus pounder at the AB Bridge last fall. He got hit on the Bucktail and set up on the fish text book style. The fish came to the surface and showed us his whale like tale then ran for the bridge. Joe could not stop it in the current and he got wrapped up in the pilings and the fish snapped him off. After that he put some more pressure on the drags and landed five more Bass to 23 pounds with no problem. But, he did lose a beautiful Bass. There is no finesse fishing when fishing into structure.

RODS, REELS AND EVERYTHING IN BETWEEN

For Clam Chumming, I like a rod that has backbone to drive a hook deep yet, is also sensitive enough to feel the lightest hits. For this I use Star Rods Stellar Lite, model # PG1220ISM. This rod is rated for 12 to 20 pound test and when matched with a Shimano Tekota 500, there is nothing this rod can’t handle. The light weight of this combo makes it easy to fish all day and not feel fatigued. These rods retail for $109.95 and a Tekota 500 retails for $169.99 so for under $300.00 you will have an all around setup you can use on Fluke, Togs and maybe even a 50 pound Bass…believe me when I tell you, this is the all around go to combo.

It is good to pre-tie a dozen or so rigs prior to your trip. First decide what hook you will use. For the Atlantic Beach Bridge, I like a 4/0 Gamakatsu bait-holder hook. I snell it onto a five to six foot section of 30-40 pound Seaguar 100% fluorocarbon line. Remember to leave the tag end on. On my forty to fifty pound fluorocarbon leader coming from the reel, I will slip an eighty pound Spro swivel onto it. Now tie a dropper loop with the swivel on the line. It is easier then it sounds. Once you have the five to six turns make a small opening in the twist to form a loop. Now just pull the swivel through, moisten the line and snug it up. I will tie a second loop about six inches below the dropper loop with the swivel. This is where you will place your weight. Now take the hook you pre-tied and tie the end to the swivel using your knot of choice. I just use a simple improved clinch knot and it works just fine. You are now done with a very simple yet very effective rig. This rig I use is very simple to tie so don’t be freaked out. You may need to do it a few times to get it but once you got it, you got it. If you are having trouble tying this rig you can buy a dozen or so three-way swivels and do the same thing. Just make your line for the weight lighter then the hook line. This will help out if your weight becomes snagged in the bottom. The lighter line will break away leaving you the hook and three-way and maybe even a fish on the other end. If you want to Clam Chum the surface, just tie your four to five foot section of fluorocarbon leader to a swivel off of your main line. You can add rubber core weights above the swivel to the main line if you need to sink the bait a little in the current.

THE FIGHT AND FINAL GAME

One thing I love about fishing the currents of the bridges is that a small 10 pound Bass fights like a 20 pound Bass. Once they open their mouth and the current catches the fish,, HOLD ON Brother. Although I will fish with tight drags, I do baby the fish. I always say to my buddies I fish with, enjoy the fight and take it all in.

You will notice the fish will go deep then come to the surface then run across the back of the boat. Even with tight drags, you will still have line ripping off of your reel. Take your time and get the fish to the boat. Have the net man ready if you are going to keep a keeper. (As of this article, Bass have to be 28 inches to be legal and you can keep a second trophy Bass over 40 inches.) Bring the fish to the side of the boat and just guide him into the net. If you are going to release the fish, try to use a Boga grip or just use a de-hooker and let him go. Try not to handle the fish. The more slime a fish loses, the more risk of the fish getting an infection or some other funk. That nasty slime is the fish’s protective coating. Well you just got your keeper in the boat and you are going to take him home for dinner. To really preserve your catch the best, cut the membrane that connects the gills to the body. This will bleed out the fish of all its blood. Rinse your catch and get him in ice and you are done. Once you are back at the dock and are ready to fillet your catch try to get a bucket of salt water. Rinsing your catch in fresh water just kills it. To better preserve your fillets use saltwater to rinse them. You will also notice that there is much less red meat since you bleed your fish prior. All that is left is to go home crack open a cold one and cook your catch.

Oh, and one more thing. If you got a good recipe that I could use at my Firehouse in Queens, NY, drop me an email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . I am sure the guys will love it. Well, I hope you enjoyed this article and found it helpful and I look forward to seeing you all smiling in pictures back at the weigh station.

 

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