Cheeky Fishing sat down to talk everything striped bass with Ambassador, Abbie Schuster. We'd call this "Meet Ambassador Abbie Schuster", but well, she's been our ambassador for quite a while now....
But in case you missed it, here's a little background on Abbie to start out with!
CF: How did you get into Fly Fishing?
Abbie: Fishing is my passion. I feel so lucky that I have dedicated my life and career to being outdoors. Fishing connects you to nature on so many levels. We have to pay attention to the wind, moon cycles, tides, bait, migration patterns and so much more. Whenever I land a fish in the ocean I think wow so much had to go right for this to happen. This fish traveled hundreds if not thousands of miles and decided to chomp my fly! I got into fly fishing when I was very young. I grew up fishing Martha's Vineyard, Long Island Sound and the Farmington River. When I attended University of Montana my passion was only fueled. In college I attended Sweetwater Guide School and have been guiding ever since!
CF: How long have you been an ambassador for Cheeky Fishing?
Abbie: I joined the team while I was still working in Seattle, so back in 2014? I feel really lucky to be a part of the Cheeky team! Everyone there is so great to work with and they care about our fishery. Conservation is something I instill in all of my clients in both the shop and on the water. Cheeky does a great job with striper conservation through education and awareness!
Abbie: I've always fished with my dad as my partner - well before I was married, had Isla, or really knew anyone, 7 or 8 years ago! I think back in 2015.
CF: We love having your dad (also a tournament sponsor, with Cross Current insurance) join us - have you ever won the tournament?
Abbie: No, but I caught a HUGE fish at like 6 in the morning a few years ago. BUT I was leaning down to measure it and I lost the tape measure in the canal! I just watched it sink away from me (it was really deep) - and that was our first fish of the day! It was such a nice fish and we couldn't measure it, or any for the rest of the tournament - I think we would have won that year. All we could do was sit back and laugh though, it was so ridiculous. We caught so many fish the rest of the day too. Then the next year we didn't catch many - we kept the measuring device!
CF: Here's a tricky question - would you ever switch up partners and fish with Isla instead of your dad?
Abbie: Hmm that is hard! Maybe - or like as a 3rd wheel... we'll see. Not sure my dad would do well. She came last year - she was like 6 weeks old? So this will be her second Schoolie tournament this year! My dad already got her a fishing pole, this purple fishing pole. My parents took care of her one weekend, and when we got back, they were like we got her her own fishing pole! She's not even 2 yet. Maybe she'll bring it to Schoolie this year! Plus, she already has her first fly reel, the Cheeky PreLoad 300 from you guys. It's so sweet. She's fully equipped!
CF: Let's talk Striped Bass techniques! What are your tips and tricks for wade fishing?
Abbie: I like floating line for wade fishing, especially if there' seaweed around - this way you don't catch as much seaweed and can focus on the fish! I like long fluoro leaders for sure, super long ones. For flies, I really like fishing basic clousers or crab patterns. For time of day obviously this depends on the flats, at least on the island a lot of the time the incoming tide can be better.
Once the fish is on, make sure you have a strong strip set, to set hook well. Keep your rod tip up and tension on. If they need to run let 'em run but get them in as quickly as you can to not stress out the fish too much or disturb the waters.
You also want to make sure you're using appropriate sized rod - 8 or 9 weight - because proper equipment will help to get the fish in as soon as possible. There's no reason you should be fishing with too small a rod and stressing that fish out. A net of course, to not handle fish as much, and keep in the water. I de-barb hooks, especially during schoolie season with so much fish around.
I don't let my clients keep fish, we always release them. I do allow a quick photo, using net to keep them wet, be able to take them up for a quick shot (just a second or two) then put them back in. the water. This way they are less stressed.
I always use this metaphor with my clients: Imagine running a marathon then having your head stuck in a bucket of water - that's what taking the fish out of the water is experiencing.
CF: What's the biggest Striped Bass you've caught wade fishing? Abbie: Probably around 40 inches, it was amazing. Caught on a crab pattern!
CF: Any crazy wildlife encounters out on the boat?
Abbie: All the time. I've only seen 2 great whites, but my friends a pilot but he sees them all the time - I can't see them as they are so stealthy. I've seen 3 hammerheads the past fall - they travel in schools. They are pretty funny looking fish, they followed our boat around but didn't eat any of them. I see a lot of brown sharks, they aren't very scary but one did charge the boat and ate a fish right out of our hands about. That was pretty startling! Dead whales, which is really sad. We also see a lot of giant see turtles, the fish like to hang out with them.
We see a lot in the fall Mole Mole fish, the giant sunfish. One time last fall I was in really sketchy water, deep to shallow pretty rough, and started hearing these bangs, and thought for sure something was wrong with the boat. It was this giant sunfish was just crashing into my boat, not getting out of the way - they are crazy fish.
The cool thing about the ocean, you literally never know what you're gonna see - every day you see something different, we see dolphins, all kinds of stuff!
CF: Ok if you had to pick: Boat or Wade?
Abbie: The cool thing about stripers is, you can do either productively. I do like the boat for the vantage point on the flats, it's a lot easier to see the fish, and that you can get to more places with less effort/faster. Being on a boat with clients is also fun, it keeps you together. Wade fishing is a little harder but definitely a little purer, just you and the fish. They're both good!
CF: And of course we have to ask: what's your favorite Cheeky reel?
Abbie: I use Limitless 425 and Limitless 475 most of the time. They can hold enough backing and have a strong drag system for the crazy false albacore and big stripers. We use Cheeky reels every day guiding and put them to the test. They are used daily in the harsh salt and last season after season.
CF: If someone wants to come book a trip and fish with you, how can they do that?
Abbie: Through Kismet Outfitters! Our season is early May (so we've already started) through the end of October.