View Full Version : Darter for Open Beach Use

Eric Roach
12-03-2015, 01:56 PM
I am looking to build a darter for nighttime use over calm, shallow, open beaches which hold a lot of squid. I’m just curious if the characteristics of a darter used for this purpose would be different from a standard one designed for current; should it have a wider circumference to allow for more surface area on the cut faces so it darts at a slower speed? I wanted to keep it somewhat narrow so it was closer to a squid’s profile.

Any general advice would be much appreciated.

12-03-2015, 04:40 PM
Make a super strike clone out of mahogany. I did so well with the few that I made. The shallower the angle of the darter's slope dictates for the most part how deep it will dive. sS darter's have a shallow slope
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12-03-2015, 09:48 PM
Eric, I have an old Gibbs 2+ ounce that I painted burgandy and it works great when squid are in the surf. The hardest thing I've found with most darters in the surf are the bars and the undertow on the back side of the waves. Mikes lures has a smaller darter that swims nice in the surf too.

12-04-2015, 09:37 AM
I haven’t fished them a lot but I’ve heard that the old Gibbs 3 hook darters (with the screw eyes) worked really well in shallow and calm water.

12-04-2015, 12:08 PM
I just finished machining an in between size darter I feel will be perfect for that shallower application. Also the next to smallest darter that Musso made, wood of course, was ideal for that application too. George luvs them. He uses basswood I use AYC. I am finding that lighter wood like ayc is an excellent material for darters. I used to use a heavier wood like maple and birch, which i still use for my larger Pichney style darter. The fact it is light allows for it to rise up once the retrieve is slowed or stopped pretty quickly but still digs and swims surprisingly good once it gets under.
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12-05-2015, 07:47 PM
You will have a hard time finding a better darter to do this than the wooden wide Musso 6" plug. The three hooks are annoying but nothing works better that I have found (including the gibbs 3 hook, 2 hook, and the plastic superstrike). I have made two hook versions of this plug but am undecided about its effectiveness so far.

The small 5" 2 hook musso plug thay Paul mentions is an outstanding plug that will outfish any other darter I've copied, but the wide 6" 3 hook plug is better if you are seeking big fish.

The wide musso is a versatile plug since you can also fish it in any type of current but the big Pinchney/BM plug is probably better in this situation.

The trick with using darters in shallow still water has more to do with the retrieve than the plug. You need to practice by day over shallow sand while standing on a low rock or jetty so you can see what you are doing. You give the plug a small tug then 2-3 very slow turns of the handle so the plug dives about a foot, then stop it shake it, take up a little slack, shake or twitch again, pause, and restart the sequence. You will see the plug struggle on top, start to dive then fatigue and float back to surface where it struggles again. Looks exactly like a dying fish or squid that is feeding on small surface stuff. The hits are big surface hits that you typically see/hear out there in the dark before you feel 'em.

The trick with modifying darters to run shallow mostly involves where you place your line tie. The further back the deeper and wider it goes. To a lesser extent the weight is a factor. Each darter shape has a small weight range (usually less than 1/4-1/2 oz) where it will work well. You need to figure this out (too heavy will roll) then use the lightest weight you can get away with.....altough this is more important if you plan to use a slow steady retrieve than the start and stop technique described above.

12-05-2015, 08:02 PM
This picture....which I have posted before.....shows the musso family.
The plug on the left is a Pinchney clone, the top plug a small Gibbs clone (itself a very good plug), the rest are variuos musso's. The plug on the right is the one you want.........and if I could only have one plug to fish at night that is the plug I'd choose without regret. In yellow or parrot.....although purple is also real good.

12-05-2015, 08:57 PM
nice rock

12-06-2015, 07:40 AM
George,I can concur your small 5" swims and catches. Line tie is the key to a darter for depth and action. The 6" Pitchney swims remarkable with a wide sliding motion. On slow current t I use a line tie further back. Sloooow cranking Keeps it shallow and zig zagging. Outflows and rips the front line tie allows the action to decrease and makes dead sticking productive. That's how I use your white 5" with success. So far no fish has claimed it for their own.!

12-06-2015, 09:31 AM
Yes George. That purple of yours works some sweet.

12-07-2015, 02:58 PM
While I know that you said you want to build a darter to accomplish a squid-like motion over a shallow beach, but have you tried a slow-sinking glide bait in this scenario? Something like the Loki sea slider or 247 lures elite fatty would end up in my bag given those variables.

12-08-2015, 09:55 AM
While I know that you said you want to build a darter to accomplish a squid-like motion over a shallow beach, but have you tried a slow-sinking glide bait in this scenario? Something like the Loki sea slider or 247 lures elite fatty would end up in my bag given those variables.

I like this idea although I can't say I've fished glide baits (other than the banana plug) much.

I would wonder if one advantage to darters is that they have better depth control than sinking glide baits. If you bump bottom or a rock you can just back off and they'll rise up over things. The ability to work a plug alternately on the surface and below also seems to attract fish and would seem difficult with a glide bait. Something to try next year and find out, however.

12-08-2015, 11:47 AM
Most of the wooden glide baits that I have used readily pop up on or near the surface on a retrieve. I would label them all slow to moderate sinkers at most. For a floater the Canal favorite stick shadd could be an option. I see what you're saying about the darter potentially bumping bottom and the letting it float up, though.

12-08-2015, 04:32 PM
I'll second the Loki glide bait in 2.7 and 3.0oz (as an alternative to a darter), I haven't used the 247 model that Toby mentioned.

The Loki in both weights has a very slow sink rate, nearly neutral buoyancy, at least the ones I own. I haven't bought one in 3 years, I'll add that the paint and finish have held up well, some yellowing, and hook rash in front of the belly treble. As an aside, I like that the tied flag is separate from the tail hook tied on thin wire.

It is almost always in my bag because of its versatility, it can be fished in shallow water conditions, or to answer Eric's question it is very good in open beach/ bar situations fished slow like George describes the darter with starts and stops.

On stopping the plug it will carry forward in a J shape, an extended glide in a forward motion followed by a fall as the plug slows with the plug remaining horizontal, a twitch will send the plug in a sharp change of direction.

A slow-steady retrieve produces a wide "S" shaped swim, but add a stop to that and it'll continue in that direction, glide and fall. The faster the plug is worked the tighter the S. It works dead sticked too, much like I'd fish a needle.

I tried a 4/0 treble and 6/0 siwash on the tail this year on the 2.7 but IMO it changes the plug too much, and not for the better. 3/0 6x front and 5/0 siwash on the tail works well.

Eric Roach
12-17-2015, 10:10 AM
Thank you all very much for the thoughtful responses-- especially George, whose opinion on darters I greatly respect.

I did very well with tandem-rigged 12" and 9" Slug-Gos in these conditions this past season. I was looking for something I could cast a little further in some spots...and also to see if a different plug type would entice a bass over 40 pounds in these schools I'm casting over. I did see a pic' of a bass over 50" landed in my area on an unknown darter under calm(ish), open-beach conditions.

It's tough to hear the best big-fish darter option may be the 3-hook Musso...I am so tired of damaging fish with trebles. This is one of the reasons I like the tandem-rigged Slug-Gos (though I did inadvertently kill my biggest fish of the year on one).

I will look into the glide baits as well -- I am not familiar with the models mentioned but I appreciate the detailed descriptions.