Striped bass are anadromous fish, meaning they migrate to fresh water to spawn. They typically have an average size of 2-3 ft. (10-30lb. weight), which places them on quite a high position of U.S. game fish. They’re actually the top game fish for quite a few states, Maryland, South Carolina and Rhode Island for fresh water, and New York, Virginia and New Hampshire for salt water.
Regardless where you catch them though, out at sea or on fresh water streams or lakes, striped bass are solid fish, that put quite a fight, being a lot of fun to catch. So, here are a few suggestions regarding bait, lures, tackle and fishing techniques for stripers.
Striped Bass – Habitat and Habits
Stripers are present in most of the East Coast waters, beginning with St. Lawrence River in Canada, and reaching to the northern coast of Florida, and some parts of the Gulf of Mexico. There are also many fisheries hosting striped bass, and you’ll find a complete list of them, here.
When it comes to the places they prefer, we can safely say that they inhabit the coast surf, inshore bars, tide rips, estuaries, reefs and bays. They are highly active in places with tidal and current flows, and in the wash breaking waves. They roam in small schools, and their feeding activity is more intense at dusk and dawn. In midsummer however, they tend to become more nocturnal, and there’s a good chance to get better results on striped bass when night fishing.
Fishing Techniques for Striped Bass
Stripers can be caught in various ways. One of the most popular fishing methods for striped bass is surf fishing. Every year, the shores of the Northeast coast are crowded with anglers, practicing surf fishing and targeting stripers. The ones caught via this method typically weight between 10 and 30 pounds. Similar to surf fishing, another method is fishing from docks, piers and bridges, which also requires heavy duty gear.
Stripers can also be caught with top water lures, however this technique fits best to white water conditions. On lakes, jigging or actively fishing with lures for various depths can be very productive.
And finally, two other methods used for stripers are trolling, using heavier gear and various baits and lures, and down-dropping from a boat. When out at sea, whether you’re stationary or trolling, a fish finder of higher performance, such as a Humminbird 600 series, can be a lot of help, in fishing for stripers.
Baits and Lures for Stripers
Although about 90% of the striped bass’ diet consists of fish, they are opportunisc predators, and will grab whatever looks tasty. A wide array of baits can be used to catch striped bass, such as shad, herring, bunkers (or menhaden), anchovies, bloodworms, nightcrawlers, sandworms or even chicken livers or beef liver strips.
Live or cut bait will always get you bites, if the fish are feeding, so for this matter, just about any fish strips should do. I usually go with cut herring or bunkers. Shrimp, clams and squid are also not bad. When it comes to live bait, especially in midsummer, one of the most popular and productive is the eel. However, any of the bait fish mentioned above will work pretty nicely, when presented live and kicking.
Lures can also produce excellent results on stripers, but in this case you have to think big. Among poppers, a few great lures to try on striped bass are Gibbs Pencil or Gibbs Polaris, Super Strile Little Neck, Atom Striper Striker or Yo-zuri Surface Cruisers. Other great lures would be Lunker Slug-GOs, Tsunami Swim Shads, Point Jude Tins. An important aspect about using lures for striped bass, is that sometimes they tend to become rather picky, and when they enter this lure-pickiness mode, it’s best to go with lures that strictly imitate fish, or switch to cut or live bait.
Tackle for Striped Bass
Rods. For surf, bridge of pier fishing, evidently you should be looking for some surf rods, in general terms, something between 9′-12′, heavy action. A few recommendations would be the Shakespeare Ugly Stik Bigwater Spinning Rod or an Okuma Longitude – these rods fitting under the “El Cheapo” category. Or, you can aim for a Daiwa Saltiga Surf Spinning Rod or Tsunami Airwave.
For freshwater fishing, especially with lures, medium power, fast action rods within a 6’7″ – 8′ lenght range, are more appropriate. A good example would be an Abu Garcia Vengeance (another “El Cheapo”).
If you’re looking for a good trolling rod, a Shimano TDR Heavy Trolling Rods are never a bad choice.
Reels. A good reel choice for a Shakespeare surf rod stick would be the Okuma Coronado CD-80a. Penn 320GT or a Shimano Torium 30 are excellent pairings for a trolling rod. Whatever you do, don’t go for a reel with less than a 250 yards of 25lb test line capacity, if trolling or surf fishing.
For lighter tackle, a Penn Battle BTL5000 or Shimano Stradic 5000 (or even smaller), should do just fine.
Line. The best fitting line for striped bass fishing falls within the 20-40lb. test range. Most anglers go with monofilament. However, if fishing in deep waters, braided line may be a better choice. It’s stronger and less stretchy. Also, when fishing in very clear water, fluorocarbon may be a better choice, since it’s not visible.
Rigs. Many anglers use the simple freelining rig when fishing with bigger live bait, which simply consists of a hook at the end of the line, with a live shad or bunker on it, allowing it to swim as freely as possible. Carolina or fish finder rigs are also popular. It’s best though, that the leader is a 3-foot, 40lb. test fluorocarbon, if possible.
Hooks. Circle hooks are maybe the best choice for stripers, and Mustad are pretty cheap and effective. Depending on what (other) fish you’re targeting, and what bait you use, you should go with circle hooks between 7/0 and 11/0.
Photo courtesy to Nils Rinaldi / source: flickr.com