I Wanna Be Like Mike — "Iron Mike", That Is.

There is a special breed of surfcasters who live and fish in the Northeast.

Guys who in the fall, while others have put away their fishing gear and turned to watching football inside the comfort of their homes, are donning wetsuits and stepping out into the darkest, stormiest nights. Guys who are not just wading to, but also swimming to, the big rocks in the surf that hold all kinds of bait and attract giant striped bass. Guys who know it’s not “if” they’ll slip on the slimy rocks, but who know they and their tackle “will” be taking a dunking and beating on the rocks underfoot sometime during the outing. Guys who have nicknames that are instantly recognized when heard in the tackle shops or seen as they pop up on the Internet’s most popular surfcasting forums. One such guy is Mike “Iron Mike” Everin of Rhode Island.

With the name, Iron Mike, you gotta be tough and this angler is. He says the nickname comes from his competitive wrestling days, but applies equally well to his fishing reputation. Everin lives for nightfishing for big stripers, or as he simply calls them, “bass.” The nearly 40-year old angler has caught a half dozen of the giants in the 50 to 60 pound range. 

Everin, after putting the phone aside to confirm with his wife, Gretchen, says he fishes 7 days a week. He said he’d fish more if he could, and he was serious in making that statement. Yes, he has a real job, but after work he’ll try to get a couple of hours of fishing in before joining his wife and young son for dinner. His son’s name? – Fisher. It’s not uncommon for Iron Mike to return to his favorite fishing rocks later each night, especially during his favorite fishing time of year, late September thru October. He says he really likes the period from 9:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. as the best time for big fish.

Like most serious anglers, Everin is particular about his tackle and lure choices. He has been a big fan of Van Staal spinning reels ever since they were first introduced. “I fell for one of the ‘coming soon’ ads for Van Staal in a surfcaster publication back in the early 90’s,” Iron Mike said. “Knowing the kind of abuse we put spinning reels through, I was always looking for the ‘best of the best,” he said.

The Rhode Island angler said he got the number three Van Staal reel ever made and was immediately impressed with its sealed design and sturdy construction. He immediately put the reel to the test and said it was everything he was told it would be.

“I was accustomed to coming in after fishing and servicing my reel right then,” he explained. “I intentionally didn’t do that with Van Staal because you weren’t supposed to have to, and turns out it isn’t necessary with the reels’ sealed design.”

Everin went on to explain that surfcasters, especially Rhode Island, New York and New Jersey surfcasters, are especially hard on their tackle because of their fishing techniques. He said those who target rocks like he does are even more brutal on tackle because the reels will spend as much time in the water as out, and they do take a banging on the rocks.

“Just about any good saltwater spinning reel is okay for boat anglers,” Everin commented. “But when the reel is constantly being exposed to saltwater, rocks and sand, no others compare to a Van Staal. The titanium construction is tougher than other makes, and the sealed drag is a really big deal for when that big fish does come along. I don’t care whose reel it is other than a Van Staal … get water, sand and grit in the gears and drag and it’s toast. Van Staal reels really do keep all of that stuff out.”

When asked about servicing his Van Staals, Iron Mike said he doesn’t. What he does is return them once a year to the factory for an annual maintenance. “It’s absolutely the best $38 I spend every year,” he said. “It’s like getting a brand new reel each time it comes back because it is in mint condition. Yes, a Van Staal costs more up front, but their long life makes them the best purchase decision overall.”

Everin says he now owns about 30 Van Staals, all of which except for a few collector’s models are still in use. 

Iron Mike’s favorite combo is a VS250 spinning reel on a 10-foot rod. He said the reel’s ample line capacity is a big deal for catching big stripers and he spools up with 20 pound mono, or sometimes 50 pound fluorocarbon. He always uses a 50 pound fluorocarbon shock leader to protect against the abrasion from the rocks and all that grows on them.

His favorite lure is a Hab’s Needlefish, which he uses in various sizes from 1 ½ ounces to 3 ounces. He is more in favor of making relatively short casts to rocks than long casts. And prefers to fish parallel to the coastline than casting out away from it. Everin retrieves the Needlefish using a slow retrieve, broken up with short jerks. Sometimes he’ll let the bait sink a little, other times he’ll hurry it up to make it walk on the surface.

When asked if he thought he and some of his fellow surfcasting specialists might be a little on the crazy side for wading and swimming with rod and reel in hand from rock pile to rock pile, his answer was a quick “no.”

“We’re just guys who love to fish and we’re good at what we do. Now those guys who go ‘skishing,’ that’s what seems crazy to me. Especially when you realize there can be Great Whites in the water.”

Perhaps that can be our next Van Staal story, and maybe the surfcaster with the nickname “Seal” is just the guy to shed the light on that line of thinking. Stay tuned.

Read about the other fisherman in Mike's life (from his wife Gretchen's point of view) >>