The type of surf or pier bag you carry to Jones Beach will depend on what type of fishing you generally do. I like to keep three different surf bags, one for the sandy beaches, one for the jetty and one for pier and bait fishing. If you are a new angler one main bag will suffice and you can carry all you need to fish any where on Jones Beach so we will start with an all in one bag. The main thing is you want to carry as much tackle as you will need but make it easy to carry because you may find yourself doing a lot of hiking. The basics will be your bag of course, hooks, weights, terminal tackle, lures, leader, and accessories. So think about what you will be cramming in your tackle bag before you purchase one because it will all have to fit. This article is geared on the wide range of items you will need to carry. We will get into specifics about fishing lures and bait in later articles.
If you plan to do bait-fishing you will have to consider carrying a good assortment of hooks, weights, leader and terminal tackle while considering how you plan to carry your bait and keep it fresh. In a all in one tackle bag I would carry a nice range of hooks from sizes 4 to 8/0. When you pick your sizes you don't need the whole range but skip a few sizes to keep the numbers down and carry at least a half dozen each or more if you are going to be fishing in areas that are known to snag tackle. For instance I would carry size's 4, 2, 2/0, 5//0 or 2, 3/0, 5/0, 8/0. You can carry a few less sizes if you are mainly casting lures. If you are planning to do only bait fishing I would suggest a wide full range to cater to your bait as the most important aspect of bait fishing is to match the bait to your hook. There are today a million different sizes and styles of hooks to choose from which are a personal preference. I prefer the inline circle hooks myself. Remember, if you plan to only toss lures you can save the weight and leave the hooks and sinkers at home. Most important part of deciding what type of hooks you need zero in on what you plan to fish for and how you plan to fish.
The same theory goes for carrying sinkers. You will feel the weight of your bag go up in pounds fast as you load them in your surf bag. If you plan to exclusively bait fish again be liberal with your choices but always cater to how your gonna be fishing. If your gonna be tossing big chunks in the ripping surf you will need 8 ounce pyramids or sputniks. If you plan to be throwing and actively working say spearing and strips the 2 ounce range will suit you. If you plan to be trying all different baits you will need to carry a wide assortment. In a general bag try a few 2 to 6 ounce weights in your preferred style. I like the banks all around or sliding beads myself but if I am tossing big chunks at night i will bring 4,5,6 and 8 ounce only. I try to stay as light as possible with the weight but some days you need that extra weight to offer you bait just right. and once again try to keep the weight of you bag down by only bringing what your intend to fish.
When considering leader first ask if you intend to mainly fish lures or bait. If you are going to be tossing lures mainly consider the new fluoro carbon types of leader. They are super clear and abrasive resistant very much more then traditional leader but the cost is about four times as much. If I am tossing lure I will only use fluoro carbon leader but when bait fishing I generally use the standard leaders. I like 40lb pound flouro carbon leader for fishing lures almost exclusively. You can try 20lb to 60lb but I prefer to stay away from the 20lb because there are just way too many bluefish around and the higher strength lines will take action away from your lures. Some guys do swear by 30lb but I just like that extra protection the 40lb pound fluoro carbon line offers. On quick tip to save your expensive line supply from dwindling while fishing is that if you feel you need to re-tie a new leader is take as little off and use a quick surgeons knot. Not only will you be using less line but it is a quick knot to tie and will get you right back out on the fish in a jiffy during a blitz and you will catch a few more. When bait fishing I like the traditional monofilament lines as I find it cheaper and it does the job well. I will carry basically 2 sizes either 30lb and 60lb or 40lb and 60lb. I never went above 60lb line even for bluefish because I have found the circle hooks set perfect most the time, but if they are exclusively around you can use a 30lb wire leader but I never do. The 30lb is great for fluke, the 40lb perfect for bass and the 60lb I use when the bluefish are thick. To finish one reminder, if your bait fishing try to carry two sizes if your tossing lures pick one good size which fits your need.
In addition to your hooks, sinkers and leader you will need a selection of swivels, snaps and fish finders. Luckily these are very small items and you can carry a nice range if you like. The come in many shape's, form's and variety’s to pick from. One main note I would like to drill here is to match your snaps and swivels to your line class. I see way to many angler's on the water using 120lb snaps on 30lb leader. There is no reason for that, all you are gonna do is take action away from your lure or sensitivity from your rod tip so stick to the class of leader you plan to be using or just slightly higher. The packages are marked so if you plan to be using a 40lb leader use a 40lb snap and match your tackle. These little details will make the difference in your days fishing.
With so many types and styles to choose from you can find yourself racking up a $300.00 bill easy when buying surf fishing lures for the first time but it don't have to be like that. There are a handful of lures you can start off with and take from there. First thing is you want to carry a few bucktails in different weights. Try 3/4 ounce to 2 ounce sizes and if you are on a limited budget stick to the colour white because you can always add a red trailer. The cast well in the wind and you can use them in almost every application. You also want carry a few diamond jigs with tubes on them. The colour can be any on the tube but most angler's prefer the green or red but I have found black, yellow and white just as effective. I like to stick to the A17's or A27's but will use the 37's and 47's in certain conditions and the bigger diamonds I will carry a handful in my big bait bag when fishing chunks. There are many variations on the diamond jig like the Hopkins, Deadly Dick's and Kastmaster but they will all produce. I have just found the old fashion A17's are half the price but I do like to carry other type's as well. When the fish are up on top you want to make sure you have at least one surface popper on hand to throw at the fish. The little neck style popper's tend to do well and I have had much success with the big 1900 Creek Chub's as well when the water is calm. You can also try any other type of popper as long as you have something to work on the top when the fish are looking up. The swimming plugs will cover that middle range of water and there are so many styles and shapes to choose from. You may want to add some swimming plugs to your bag and there are so many to choose from but one comes to mind the Bomber. The Bomber Long A's have been proven deadly for decades when thrown from the surf. Some guy's throw them exclusively and customize them by adding weight. Them come jointed and straight and a million different colour schemes but I would be one out of two surf bags will have a Chicken Scratch Bomber in it either size 16 or 17. The Bomber will cast poorly in the wind and most day's you can't use them but some angler's will drill holes and fill them with lead or oil to give them a little more weight. I myself don't mess around with them because in windy condition I find myself reaching for other lures to toss but they do have a place in my bag. You can use any swimming plug but the Bomber is a widely used lure, it's durability, low cost and range of colours make it hard to pass up. One thing to keep in mind when choosing lures is the there are basically 3 levels of water to fish. The top or surface, middle and bottom. When choosing lures make sure you have something to cover each area of the water column and you can fish the whole range. Any lure you but should produce but just make sure you have something in your bag that will cover the area of water the fish may be at in the column. If you really like to keep things slim just grad a handful of bucktails and diamond jigs, that’s all you really need to catch fish from the surf. On a final note make sure you bring at least a few teaser's along. Many days they will out-fish anything you have in your bag and you will be better off throwing a cheap 99 cents teaser with a two ounce bank sinker.
There are a handful of accessories to top you bag off to make your trip go smooth. I like to always carry some sort of needle nose pliers with a cutter. It will help aid keep those toothy ones away from your hands. You don't want a bluefish chomping down on you, it will rip a hunk of flesh and I have seen it happen. If your using braid you will either need a pliers that has a cutter made for braided line or carry an extra nail clipper. Any case I take a nail clipper regardless they are small and I do find myself using them time to time for all sorts of things. A very important item I always carry is a fine quality sharpening stone to sharpen my hooks with. It would amaze you how many folks do not carry a sharpener and let alone have ever sharpened a hook. To check your hook you can tap or the barb lightly on your fingernail, it should stick and at the least scratch it. If it does neither you need to sharpen it. If it slides off like a ball point pen, well that’s what it does in a fishes mouth. Your catch rate will drop substantially if your hooks are not sharp, check a few out now if this is new to you and see what I mean. Of course if your fishing with bait you will need a knife to cut bait with. I carry one too if I'm tossing lures because they do come in handy if you decide the lures and working and you need to strip down some bait. In addition I like to carry a fillet knife if I am bait fishing. A fillet knife will make cutting strip bait cleaner and smoother plus you get beautiful strips and its there if your gonna clean your catch. You should bring a tape, here are so many rules and regulations so carry a tape measure with you if you intend to keep your catch. It will make your life easier and you wont have to run up an down the beach with fish wondering if you can keep it or not. These are the basic items you should bring with you. There are many other items that come in handy to make your day go easy. You can bring a stringer to keep your catch fresh and lively, take a large plastic trash bag as it may make carrying a 40lb bass easier for you, a towel to sit on in the sand, and matches - you never know when someone will need a light.
You may be wondering what you should use for a fishing bag? The best thing for that would be anything you can cram all that stuff into. There are expensive fancy bags you can buy, but get a few cheap tackle trays and zip lock bags and fill up. Your bag should be a bag of bags to make your life easier. If you intend to do a lot of hiking you should consider a backpack, your free arms will go a long ways, plus it will make it easy to fish while carrying your gear. Shorter trips you can use any bag with a strap that slings over your shoulder. one of the most commonly used bag is not a bag at all but an old 5 gallon bucket. It will have all the ample room you need to throw your gear into, plus you can load it up with fish and bait and use it as a seat. I personally can't see the point in buying an expensive bait bag or tackle box when you probably already have a half dozens old bags home that will suffice.
Make sure your bag caters to your needs. Like I said I keep at least three different bags at a time for different situations but you only need one good all around bag that has a nice assortment of items including a good variety of hooks, weight and terminal tackle. Make sure to bring proper tools to make you life easier and add any extra items you feel will make you at home on the beach.