Where do striped bass live & how to catch more bass

Striped Bass are one of the few fish that can live in both fresh, and salt water. They can be found in large reservoirs, in the tail-races below dams on larger rivers, and in inshore bays and estuaries. In each environment, they are a well traveled, large-schooling species, covering great distances in their search for their favorite food. In freshwater, this means shad. Bluegills and crappie are also on their menu. But shad is their mainstay. Wherever you find schools of shad in a lake or river, Striped Bass will not be far away. In Inshore bays and such, they look for eels, menhaden, herring, croakers and mullet. They can also be caught on squid.
In salt water, you will find striped bass mostly in bays near reefs, wrecks, rock piles and other underwater structure. They are also regularly caught surf-fishing. They will congregate off of points, especially with sandy bottoms. They also cruise channel ledges and inlets. In lakes, you will find them in large schools off of points and inlets, along channel ledges, old riverbeds and in the tailraces below dams.

Fishing for Striped Bass can be as simple, or complicated as you want to make it. It all depends on how you want to fish for them. Are you going to haunt tailraces below dams, and fish predominantly from shore? Or do you plan on trolling?, Bait-fishing? How about night fishing? All of these tactics require different equipment.

As far as rods and reels go, if you are set up for largemouth bass, you are good to go for most striper fishing situations. You need a 6-7 foot, med-heavy freshwater rod, and a wide-spool bait-casting reel. Good choices are models from Ambassaduer, Penn, or Shimano 400 Series. They should be spooled with a minimum of 30-pound mono. If you plan on using braided line, remember to use a softer rod action to compensate for the lack of line stretch.
For trolling, you will need several Trolling, or Boat rods. These heavy-action, short rods are designed to hold up under the pressure of high-speed trolling, heavy resistance planers, and umbrellas rigs with large heavy lures. Trolling reels, with digital line counters are very handy, or you can use color-coded line. For fishing behind tailraces, you will need a longer rod for casting long distances. 9 to 12 foot surf rods are ideal for this.
Terminal tackle selection is pretty basic. You’ll need a selection of topwater, shallow-running, medium-running, and deep-running crankbaits, jigs and spoons, Circle Hooks, ? to 1 ounce sinkers, planers, umbrella rigs, floats, swivels and beads. Lures should be in the larger sizes because stripers prefer their food big. But they can be very size-conscious at times, so make sure to have several sizes of the same lures. Color selection is basic as well. Stripers eat shad, so any shad colors should work. They also like chartreuse, especially in murkier water. The rule of thumb is the darker the water, the lighter the lure. The exception is night fishing. You want dark lures so the fish below can see them silhouetted against the surface. For bait-fishing, I recommend using circle hooks for several reasons. They result in an ‘automatic’ hook-set, so “crossing their eyes” is not necessary. All you have to do is lift the rod tip, and crank, not yank. Circle hooks result in more hook-sets, and fewer missed strikes. They are designed such that fish are usually hooked in the jaw, so they can be released with a good chance of survival, if desired. Commercial Long-Line fishermen have been using circle hooks since the 1960s, because it allows them to keep the fish alive until ready to be processed.
If you are going to get serious about fishing for Stripers, a boat is a necessity. It does not have to be yacht, but there are certain features you need to make your outings more productive, and enjoyable. Comfortable swivel-seats will make those long hours on the trail not so hard on your tail. A cover is nice to allow you to get under some shade in the intense sunlight on summer lakes, and give you some shelter from rain. A cooler for bottle water and other (non-alcoholic…boats and booze don’t mix), drinks helps stave off dehydration, and allows you to take food, so you don’t have to stop fishing to meet your nutritional requirements. The boat needs to have places for several rod holders, a trolling motor, a sonar unit, and live-tanks for both bait, and harvested fish. A GPS unit can come in handy as well. A two-way marine radio is a good safety feature, even in this day of cell phones. Your boat needs to have a powerful motor (motors), because you will need to be able to cover large distances, fast. And of course, you need all the required safety equipment, such as proper lights, signaling equipment, life vests, First-Aid supplies, maps, an anchor, etc…
I can’t let a discussion go without at least mentioning Fly Fishing. Often over-looked for stripers, fly gear is the absolute, most thrilling way to catch them (or any other fish, for that matter). There is nothing like the rush you get when a big bruiser smashes your fly and makes a screaming run for safety, often peeling 50 yards or more from your line-backing. It requires knowledge, skill, and finesse, and almost puts you doing battle on the fishes level, on its terms. Suitable fly gear for stripers is basic. An 8 to 9 foot (or longer), fast action fly rod of at least 8 weight or larger, with a fighting butt, and a good large spool fly rod with a disc-drag is all you need. I would recommend using Shooting Tapered Fly line, but the various weight-forward lines work well, too. In fact, there are specialty fly lines available from places like Cabela’s, designed specifically for striper fishing. A good 6′-9′ tapered leader of at least 12 pounds, and a 9′ tippet completes the outfit. The only other things you need are flies. Any patterns that resemble shad, such as Matukas, Zonkers and Double-Bunnies will work, as well as some of the classic patterns in larger sizes, like the Black-Nosed Dace, Black Ghost, Mickey Finn, Deceivers, Clouser Minnows, Alewives, and similar patterns.
However, you decide to do it, stripers provide some memorable fishing experiences.

Happy fishing.


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

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