Five fresh water striped bass fishing tips

Who would’ve ever thought that building a dam would revolutionize the sport-fishing industry? Well, that’s exactly what happened in 1942, when work on the dams on the Santee, and Cooper Rivers in South Carolina was completed, and they went on-line, as part of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal. The dams created two new reserviors, Lake Moultrie and Lake Marion. Soon after, it was discovered that Striped Bass, normally an anadramous species, had been trapped in the lakes, and were not only surviving, but actually flourishing. It wasn’t long before they were stocked in suitable lakes all across the US, and whole new fishery was born. They have been called “the Poorman’s Salmon” because of the similarity in habits and fishing techniques. Now, Big-Game fishing is within reach of just about anybody. And the Federal Government has classified the Striped Bass as a protected gamefish, so commercial fishing for the depleted populations of inshore Striped Bass is prohibited, and since most states also consider the Striped Bass a gamefish, they are also protected from commercial exploitation. It is one of the greatest successes in Wildlife Management, ever.

The landlocked version of the Striped Bass (Morone saxatilus) is a very close relative to White Bass, and has, in fact, been artificially crossbred with them to produce sterile Hybrid Bass, also extensively stocked. They cannot tolerate water temperatures of over 80 degrees F, so they are usually found in the deeper water of larger reservoirs in summer. They are one of the most active winter fish there is, providing great fishing, long after the other species grow listless when the thermometer heads south. Since they are schooling fish, where you catch one, you will catch many more. All you have to do is find them. You can rule out any water with structure, because Stripers are open-water predators that cover great distances. They migrate across lakes in search of suitable prey. And if you are wondering what the best bait is, just think one word….SHAD. Landlocked Stripers feed almost exclusively on shad, and follow them everywhere. Anywhere you find a school of shad, there will be a school of stripers (and white bass) nearby, usually underneath them. They attack them with such ferocity that when shad are near the surface, the water literally boils with attacking fish. Any lure that imitates shad, and is close to the right size, will attract vicious strikes at this time. Stripers even hit flies, much to the Fly Fisherman’s delight. Any streamer that resembles a shad, at the right size, place and time, will be savagely hammered.

Here are a few tips:

Stripers are notoriously size-conscious as to what bait they will hit. Your offering needs to be close to the size of the shad they are currently feeding on. And they prefer their shad a bit larger than most other predators. Anything smaller than 3″ will usually be ignored by all but the smallest Stripers (but White Bass school right along with them, and they have no qualms at all about slashing these smaller baits, so it’s a win-win situation). If you are catching mostly White Bass, simply go to a larger size bait.

When shad are being attacked near the surface, the savage mauling they take attracts birds, who swoop down and get their share of the buffet. You can find schools of Stripers by looking for wheeling, and diving birds. Then, just power over to the spot and start casting. The school will go down after a few minutes, and come back up nearby, so a watchful eye can follow a school for quite some time, and get in a lot of terrific fishing.

In the summer months, when Stripers are cruising deep water, trolling with spider rigs (several rods at a time) is the best way to find them. Use jigs, and troll the deep waters over sandy, or rocky bottoms, along rip-raps, channels off of points, or shoals, and river mouths.

You can rig two different colored jigs, one about 2′ under the other, on one rod, and sometimes ‘double up’, catching two Stripers at once. Then, you have your hands full! Sometimes, two jigs trigger more strikes than just one. This is very effective when Stripers are in the fast water below tailraces. Just rig the two jigs under a large bobber, cast them upstream and let them drift down. When the bobber goes down, FISH ON!

When fishing with live shad, place a small piece of soft plastic cut from an old worm on the hook. Then hook the shad through the nostrils. This keeps the shad from sliding up on the hook shank and re-hooking itself in the body, killing the bait, and worse, if a Striper hits it anyway, you will miss the hookset.

No matter how you do it, Stripers make for some very exciting fishing.

Happy fishing.

Daniel Eggertsen
Dan Eggertsen is a fellow saltwater fishing enthusiast to the point of obsession. :) He's been providing solid advice on saltwater fishing since 2004.

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