How to fish Needlefish
I like needlefish. A lot. I fish them in all kinds of conditions and have done very well with them. However, they are not the answer to catching fish. It's how you use them that
is the answer. That's my thinking at least. Since they are so versatile, you need to adapt how you are using them to the water depth, current, wind, etc. Here's a few tactics I use and a description of the conditions I like to fish my needle fish.
First, lets talk about structure. There are two main types of structure, fishing from the shoreline and fishing from jetties and rocks. I could write forever about some of these, but here's a brief outline of how I fish them.
There are three main structure conditions I fish from the beach. Here's a brief description and how I like to fish needlefish.
Cuts: If the water is shallow, I will look for a cut in a bar and fish the edge. You can identify this as the edge of a large bowl or as intimate as a few feet wide where water is converging as it is dumping into or out of a trough. Cast just off the moving water and drift the needle into the current. I generally let the needle sink and then start my retrieve.
Troughs: Sometimes you will see bass tailing or slurping spearing on the surface in a deep trough. I like to stand on the bar and face the beach casting right on the edge of the bar bringing the needlefish as parallel to the bar as possible. Often extending my rod into the trough to make sure I can keep the angle for as long as possible. More time than not, the bass are hugging the edge of the bar tight and not roaming through the middle of the trough.
If the water is from mid-tide through low, or depending on the depth of the trough you can't wade onto the bar. Then I will fish it from the shoreline. I will approach it in a similar manner. However, I will cast a few feet onto the bar, preferably into the back of a wave, and let it get pushed into the trough. In this condition I found it is important for the fish to watch the lure get washed in.
The Front: When fishing the front of the bar, I am typically fishing the edge of a cut, a point, or a sweeping current. I fish it in similar manner as what I outlined above. Find the moving water and drift over the structure. The only thing that I might do differently is fish deeper. For a point, cast over the up current side of the point, and expect the fish to strike just on the down current side of the point. If it is a sweeping current without much structure, I will make a few casts and see if there is life. Typically, most fish seem to be just roaming the bar and you might find small schools, but not the mother load where you will pick at fish for hours. Sand eels dug deep into the bar can change that theory though, so always keep it honest for a few casts.
Jetty's and Rocks
In this structure, Current is usually a dominant feature, whether its coming along side a jetty or pushing across the front of a boulder field. In these cases, I like to first find the slack water. That's where I believe the fish are hanging around. It can be the edge of a sandbar, a boulder the size of your truck, or the back water of a rip. I like a heavier needlefish in theses conditions so it doesn't get pushed through the current too fast. Cast up-current and let the needlefish drift along the slack water. Often the bass will move out of the slack water to strike the lure.
How to Retrieve
I wish there was a simple answer to this question. I like to vary my retrieve a lot until I find how the fish want it. Generally, its a very slow to non existent retrieve. When I think the plug might to be to high in the water, I will let it drop back down. If I think I am right on some important structure, I'll give it a twitch or two to make the hard sell. I caught too many bass when I had given up on a cast and within 10 cranks of me starting a fast retrieve so I can make my next cast, the needlefish gets slammed. There are no rules with needlefish, you get to make them up as you go.
And then there is how and where I like to fish the needlefish I make:
5/8 oz Needlefish
I fish this lure on the sand mostly. It sinks slowly and will get pushed
in the white water when you want it to, but will drag in the sand on the
bar just like the fish like it as well. Its good in low water from the bottom of the tide till mid tide and the
reverse. It will sit on top, or you can let it sink and fish it in the
middle or bottom of the water column, depending on its depth. It can
also be used around the high tide casting them into the shallow water
coming over the bar. I will also use them on rocks when I
feel the fish are sitting tight the structure and want something pushed
across the structure.
1 1/2 oz Needlefish
This is more general condition needlefish. Works well on the sand
and in the deeper waters around jetties. It holds better than the 5/8
oz in more moderate waves or turbulent waters and fishes a bit better
around the top of the tide. It will sink faster than the 5/8 oz. It
casts well and should reach the bar when you need to.
2 oz Needlefish
I fish theses from jetty's and in current. I will also use it on the sand when
the tide is up and I want to reach the bar, or the other side of it. It
sinks faster than the other ones, so it holds better in the current
across the jetties, or when the water is deeper.
1 oz. Stubby Neddlefish
This needlefish will work well on jetties or fishing the beaches when the water is a bit more turbulent. It is tail weighted a bit more, so I will fish in in conditions where the 5/8 oz Needlefish is getting pushed around and I still want the same basic profile.
I hope this was helpful. Needlefish can be an intimidating lure. They don't thump in the current like a bomber or lipped swimmer. You don't watch a fish swirl on them like a danny or popper. You just have to have some faith in them. Good needle-fishing to you!