This section is from the book "American Game Fishes", by W. A. Perry. Also available from Amazon: American Game Fishes: Their Habits, Habitat, and Peculiarities; How, When, and Where to Angle for Them.
The longest cast on record is that of Mr. W. H. Wood, made at the tournament of the National Rod and Reel Association at Central Park, where, with a two and one-half ounce sinker, the average weight of a Menhaden or Lobster-tail bait, he cast two hundred and sixty and one-tenth feet. This has never been approached. I was present as an officer of the Association and saw the cast measured.
The reel used in Bass-fishing is a multiplier-that is, the barrel revolves twice for every turn of the crank-and is made of German-silver or brass, though the finest reels have the caps and sides of hard rubber, thus avoiding the weight of solid metal which is the great objection to large reels. The size varies with the locality. In the creeks and estuaries of the coast, where the fish seldom weigh over five pounds, a reel that will carry a hundred yards of linen line is amply large, but for surf-fishing it should be large enough to carry from two hundred to three hundred yards. The barrel should in all cases run on steel pivots, and be so accurate in its workmanship that the lightest fillip on the crank may be sufficient to set it running for some time. This motion should be perfectly noiseless in whatever position the rod is held-no grating of the gearing or friction of the barrel; in short, it should be as near as possible to perpetual motion, and as perfect in its mechanism as the movement of a fine watch.
About six miles from the New York City Hall, as the crow flies, where the Harlem joins its waters with the East River, lies that pesky, turbulent region of seething currents, eddies, and whirlpools, appropriately called Hell Gate. At slack tide the water will be as placid as a mill-pond, with scarce a ripple to betoken its treacherous character. Sloops and schooners passing through the gate will rest quietly on its bosom, with every detail of sail and spar and cordage accurately mirrored from its glassy surface. Presently little eddies will begin to form, indications of a change of tide; currents will begin to set in contrary directions, and in an incredibly short time the whole scene of placid beauty will change into a brawling, foaming conflict of waters, exceedingly dangerous, as many an unskillful navigator can attest. This was a favorite spot with Washington Irving. To him the whole neighborhood was a region of fable and romance which he delighted to people with ghostly pirates and more substantial old Dutch burghers and their broad-beamed wives and daughters. Many of the localities hereabouts are rendered classic by the glamour of his magic pen. In the whirlpool called "The Pot," a famous lurking-place for large Bass, the gallant tub of the mighty Van Kortlandt came to grief; on one of these rocks the great Ten Broeck peeled himself like an onion and dried his multifold breeches; on yonder island Black Sam, the negro fisherman, watched Captain Kidd and his men as they buried their ill-gotten treasures by the dim light of the ship's lantern. The place is still called Nigger Point, and is notable for the fine Bass caught there. I have heard of no one who has been made suddenly wealthy by the discovery of Kidd's treasure, but many places in sight can be pointed out where the rise in value of land has been so sudden as to verify the legend of Wolfert Webber and his cabbage plot. For instance, below us, its dark outlines broken by many a spire and ambitious factory chimney, lies the great city whose site was the subject of the famous bargain driven with the Indians by Oloffe the Dreamer.
In the eddies forming about the reefs by these turbulent waters, fine fishing can be had, occasionally, for Bass weighing from two to fifty pounds, though many stories are told of monsters of much larger growth having been caught or which have disappointed the angler by breaking ioose just at the moment when they were about to be gaffed. It is well not to place too much reliance on these fishermen's yarns, for many of them doubtless have their origin in the atmosphere of romance which appears to pervade this neighborhood, or in that habit-shall we call it exaggeration?- which seems to be an amiable weakness of the gentle craft. Still the fact remains that more large fish are caught in this locality than at any other place within fifty miles of the city.
Hell Gate is particularly worthy of note, as it is undoubtedly the school from which all of our large Bass anglers have graduated-not intending, however, to say that all who at present fish for large Bass are Hell Gate fishermen, for there are now many excellent anglers from all parts of the Union, members of the great fishing clubs, who have no further knowledge of its intricacies than that obtained from the deck of a Sound steamer; but that the art of fishing for heavy fish with light tackle was first practiced in these waters, and that the tackle used at present for all heavy sea-fishing is substantially the same as that invented for or suggested by the veterans, founders of the great Bass fishing clubs-Cuttyhunk, Pasque, West Island, and Squibnocke-who had served their apprenticeship and acquired their skill amid the boiling waters around Pot Rock. There are many honored names in the fraternity. Frank Forester, Genio Scott, Peter Balen, Robert B. Roosevelt, Ed. Phalon, Phenix Ingraham, William Woodhull, James Vallotton, and S. M. Blatchford --the designer of the jetties now used on the ocean beaches of New Jersey, for Bass fishing, with great success-all were graduates from Hell Gate.
There is an uncanniness about night-fishing in this locality which never fails to produce a profound effect on the mind. The dark, swirling waters, of unknown depth, as they sweep past the stern of the boat, are suggestive of mysterious thoughts which no amount of philosophical reasoning can dispel. On one occasion an angler, while fishing in Hell Gate, had come to anchor off Mill Rock, and having met with considerable success, had prolonged his stay, notwithstanding that the night had grown dark and that thick clouds had gathered overhead, threatening a storm. A cast was made toward the eddies which form about the rock, and as the baited hook disappeared in the darkness he felt it strike and catch in some object which the tide was bearing rapidly away. For a moment the line paid out with great velocity, but checking it gradually, he felt it slacken its speed and come to a stop, though the pressure of the tide still kept a severe strair on the rod. He tried to loosen the hold of the hook by alternately easing and jerking the line, but without success, and finding that the object yielded to a steady pull, commenced reeling it in slowly.