The time is now.

Actually, the next couple of weeks, and although it can happen pretty much anytime from early May into October, this late May through June stretch is about as good as it gets when going for the Bay Grand Slam.

Striped bass. Bluefish. Fluke. Weakfish.

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All in one day of plying the backwaters, and we include the ICW beats as well.

This is a light tackle quest at its finest, with some upping the ante by utilizing fly rod. It can be a challenge, for sure, especially with the latter setup. It’s all about the hunt, the approach, the presentation, the hookup and ultimately getting the fish to the net.

Stripers are omnipresent in the backwaters, with sizes ranging to 35-plus inches. Fluke are equally abundant if not more so, and we’ve seen flatties to seven pounds brought up from waters as skinny as four feet. Blues, while nowhere near as numerous as during the mid-to-latter part of the last decade are nonetheless showing in increasing numbers. And they’re big and nasty.

Tom P.
Tom P.

Weakfish are in the clean-up position. Yes, they are still on the rare side, but greater numbers are appearing, with some of the weakies in the tide runner class.

“I’m definitely seeing more and bigger weakfish in my area of Barnegat Bay,” observed Capt. Brett Taylor from Reel Reaction Charters based in Waretown adding, “They’ve been around since late April and are definitely the toughest hit in the slam.

Capt. Brett Taylor
Capt. Brett Taylor

For the bass, it’s plugs, paddletails, and poppers. Ditto for blues, but add metals and, if choosing the troll, the tried ‘n true blue and white ponytail.

Fluke? Gulp! grubs, mullets, shrimp, and yes, peeler crab, all on either a jig head or bucktail. For the bait set, spearing are endearing, as are thin strips of mackerel, the squid/killie combo, or a lone killie.

Weaks whack plastic grubs and paddletails, slug-type plastics like Fin-S (pink is a fave of the species), downsized plugs, and bucktails. They’ll also zero in on sandworms and grass shrimp. Actually, chumming with grass shrimp, if you can get enough, is a surefire way to get weakfish on a binge. In fact, when the chum really gets things going, conditions such as tide and water temps align, and there isn’t any boat traffic churning by, it is possible (we’ve seen it done) to catch all four slam species in one spot.

You can learn more about the Bay Grand Slam by listening to the interview with Capt. Brett Taylor during the May 20 podcast of Rack & Fin Radio.

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