Now the fun stuff! There are several different ways to approach striped bass fishing. Each varies based on the time of year, tides, location, and obviously whether or not you have access to a boat.
During the spring, I recommend heading towards the back bays and brackish waters. I find using 4 to 5 inch rubber imitation lures are most effective in targeting schoolies in the spring. There are many different brands out there so shop around to what you can afford. I like to use white, pearl, pink, and silver colors.
If I’m fishing at night, I’ll use swimming plugs and rubber shads in black, yellow, blue, or red. I love using rubber shads as they look and swim so realistic you won’t believe your eyes. These however are tricky at first to use. You’re going to have to test various speeds and depths with this lure. Many people claim that they are most effective when used towards the bottom. It’s also important to remember that when you’re using a rubber shad to wait a few seconds before setting the hook. You want to make sure the bass is not just inspecting it and actually swallows the lure. After a few seconds, and tugs, then by all means go for it! Remember to let the drag out. Don’t be surprised however if you start pulling up blues too. I love catching blues, but not with a rubber shad. They tend to get torn up pretty bad with their razor sharp teeth. My suggestion, use them when you know the blues aren’t around.
Tins and spoons are great lures that are extremely versatile in allowing you to target a variety of species. I like to use ¼ ounce up to 1.5 ounce tins depending on the current speed as well as the size of the baitfish swimming around. I use a moderately quick retrieve varying the speeds and depth with each cast. You will find that you will pull up some blues with this lure as well. I recommend using these lures during the day primarily, however don’t be afraid to try them at night too.
Drifting is an effective way to cover a lot of territory and depths when searching for your catch. You can drift in a boat or kayak. Basically, you head up the current, drop your line in and then allow the current to take you back down the flow. The spring is a great time to drift clams and bunker while the fall is perfect for both bunker and live eels. Fall nights always use eels!As mentioned above, in the spring I make my way around the bays and inlets drifting clams and bunker. Most people when drifting use a conventional rod and reel set up rather then a spinning rod. I like to rig up a circle hook with a 4’ fluorocarbon leader, and attach a fish finder swivel with 1 to 5 ounces of weight depending on the current’s speed. My goal is to be able to get my line down to the bottom. During this entire time, I keep the bail open with my thumb holding the line on the reel. Once I feel the first couple tugs, I take my thumb off the reel and let the line go. Wait a few seconds before setting the hook. Then at once, pull up hard and start reeling!
It’s important to hold off on setting the hook right away because striped bass tend to play with or examine their food before swallowing it down. If you try to set the hook too soon, it will scare them off. It’s going to happen, don’t get frustrated. You’ll get the technique down with practice.
I highly recommend using circle hooks as they are more catch and release friendly. To give you an idea how they work, the fish actually swallows the hook and rather then tearing up its stomach and gills, it glides effortlessly towards the side of the mouth unharmed.
A great way to fish for striped bass is to work the flats. “Flats” refer to sandbars and shallow waters within the bay. This is probably my all time favorite! You first need to locate a sand bar in the bay where there are some good troughs building up against it. Some of my favorites are in Moriches Bay, NY as well as in Tiana and Shinnecock Bays, NY. You can boat, kayak, or wade out to the flats. No matter how I get there, I set up just about where the deeper troughs meet with the flat itself. I like to use a 7 ft graphite rod with 12 lbs monofilament line rigged with a 20 lbs fluorocarbon leader, and a 1.5-ounce top water popper. I then cast onto the shallow flat, popping the lure vigorously allowing the current to move the lure closer and closer to the drop off. Make sure you are popping the lure hard enough that you are splashing and creating as much action as possible. If you can see distinct details of your lure, you’re doing it wrong. You want splashes! You’re trying to mimic a baitfish escaping the ambush.
Depending on the time of the year, one might also see massive feeding frenzy or blitz’s happening either on the flats, or up against them. This is a method striped bass use to feed. They push the baitfish up into the shallows with no place to hide. This allows them to feed at will. Its also a great opportunity for us fisherman to toss a plug or lure nearby to get in on the action. Don’t however toss right into the middle of a blitz; this could scare the bass away. I recommend getting your lure as close as possible though.
During the fall, one of the most popular ways to fish for striped bass is in the surf. Surfcasting is a fun and exciting way to hunt down monster bass. It can however be very difficult and dangerous.
First, you’re going to need some waders. Neoprene or rubber. Hip boots will also work as will anything to keep you dry. Don’t go out too deep, just stay within ankle depth for now. You can get more daring later on once you build some experience.
Most surfcasters use a rod set up of 10 ft to 12 ft long, with about 15 lb test of monofilament line, and a 4 ft, 30 lb fluorocarbon leader. Bucktails and plugs are probably the most popular here on Long Island.
Surfcasting takes practice and patience. You are going to have to learn the contours of the beach, the tides, the lure of choice, and most of all how to cast into a stiff wind. Always, look for birds diving down into the surf! Start tossing plugs, poppers, and bucktails, whatever you have in your bag to see what produces. Everyday is different.
- Striped Bass caught on a clam
- Top water plugs and poppers usually produce well for me in the early mornings and late afternoons when the sun is going down. Swimming plugs produce better for me during the night and darker hours. White bucktails with split pork rinds work pretty decent during the day. Some people even like to use a dark colored bucktail at night. Like I said, every spot and day is different, so be prepared to try everything. You are going to have to experiment. Lastly, it’s always best to have a fishing buddy with you if you’re going to be hitting the rough surf. Accidents can happen, and you never know when you might need help.