Big, beautiful plugs can catch beautiful fish

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Sunday November 14, 2010


Last Friday evening, I had the opportunity to attend Gary Soldati's talk at the West Stockbridge Library about striped bass fishing and his sideline business which is making wooden plugs. He talked about how he surf casts for stripers in Rhode Island. He is one of those guys that you hear about -- you know, the ones who consistently catch large stripers in the 30-40-pound category. It was interesting to hear how he gets to them.

He usually dons a neoprene wet suit (rather than waders) and wades out into the ocean 50 yards or so and then swims another 50 yards to get to a rock out there on which he can stand. He does this while carrying his 10 foot rod and reel, camera, pliers, rope, a bag of plugs and a head light. He usually fishes all night for them and frequently fishes with others who do the same. His mantra is big bait, big fish. He displayed lots of pictures to prove his success.

During the presentation, he displayed some of the wooden plugs which he individually hand carves and paints. Sure, most of us long time plug fishermen carved a few in our lifetime, but nothing like his; they are truly works of art. He passed a few around so that the attendees could hold and get a closer look at them. Everyone, angler or non-angler alike was amazed at the workmanship and sheer beauty of these plugs.

He illustrated each step in the plug making process, the type wood used, how he molds them, stamps out and bends each metal lip, uses eyes which are manufactured in Germany and how he constructs them.

They sell in the price range from $35 to $45, depending on size, whether the plug is jointed, whether it is a floater or sinker, etc. They may sound pricy, but after seeing the work that goes into each plug, I think they are a bargain. There are fishing catalogs which list some plastic plugs in the price range of $15-$20, but they cannot hold a candle to these plugs. Check out his website at for more information.

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Incidentally, there is a wonderful book entitled Striper Tales, A compilation of surfcasting stories. Written by D.J. Muller, it contains a compilation of 45 tales of surfcasters from all over the northeast. Gary has a couple of stories in that book.

It is quite evident that the book was written by knowledgeable striper fishermen who use language that other serious, knowledgeable striper fishermen understand. The contributing writers give firsthand, blow-by-blow descriptions of fishing battles that they were in or stories which were relayed to them. It is an interesting and enjoyable read which should be on the fisherman's bed stand. The stories are just short enough to read one or two before shutting off the light. An autographed soft cover copy can be ordered from DJ Muller's web site ( for $23 which includes shipping.

What a wonderful Christmas gift for that salt water angler in your family -- a handmade plug or two and the accompanying book. But don't be surprised if the plugs never make it to the seashore. Chances are good that they will be proudly displayed in the den along with the mounted fish and other treasured works of art.

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Dave's Sporting Goods of Pittsfield is once again having its Coyote Contest. Prizes will be awarded for the most coyotes harvested, the largest one harvested and a random draw. The contest runs until the end of the coyote hunting season, which is March 8, 2011.


According to DFW Western District Manager Andrew Madden, area stations checked in 60 turkeys during the fall hunting season. This is "significantly more" than the 14 that were checked in 2009. We shouldn't be surprised, for large numbers of turkeys were being sighted everywhere in the Berkshires this summer, probably due to the good hatching season. And there appears to be lots of them remaining, too. Good thing there was a large acorn crop this past year to help them make it through the winter. Statewide results will be released at a later date.

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The Berkshire County League of Sportsmen (BCLS) held its annual meeting recently and re-elected the following officers for the upcoming year: President -- Mark Jester from Pittsfield, Vice President -- Mike Krusznya from Cheshire and Treasurer -- Dan Krusznya from Cheshire. Kate Levering from Williamstown was elected Secretary. Kate took the hunter safety course last February and then she and her husband Dan joined the East Mountain Sportsmen's Club. She has become an avid bird hunter. They have become very active in the club and she co chairs with Kris Kirby its web site.

Incidentally, the BCLS is the umbrella organization for most of the local sportsmen's clubs, representing some 3,000 local outdoor sportsmen. Each dues-paying club sends delegates to the League and participates in its direction and decision-making. It is a member of the Massachusetts Sportsmen's Council and Guns Owner Action League (GOAL). It has a very capable president in Mark Jester, who has led the League for nearly 20 years now.

So how long has the League been around? Not sure, but a long time. There is a book entitled The Berkshire Hills, an American Guide Series which was compiled and written by members of the Federal Writer's Project of the Works Progress Administration for Massachusetts. The copyright was by the Berkshire Hills Conference in 1939.

On page 280 of that book under local sportsmen's clubs, it states that "most of the clubs belong to the Berkshire County League of Sportsmen's Clubs, which in turn holds membership in the Council of Sportsmen's Clubs of Massachusetts, Inc."

To reach Gene Chague:,
(413) 637-1818.


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