Four baits for striper bass

There are two types of Striped Bass in the US, although they are the same species.

The Striped Bass’s range was originally from St. Lawrence River in Canada, south along the coast to the St. Johns River in Florida, and west to the Gulf of Mexico. However, in 1941, when the Santee-Cooper River in North Carolina was dammed, forming lakes Moultrie and Marion, it was discovered that not only did the trapped Striped Bass in the freshwater lakes not die, they actually adapted and flourished. This created and exciting new fishery, as they were transplanted in lakes all over the country with a national stocking program. It was discovered that they were excellent at controlling populations of threadfin and gizzard shad. They were even hybridized with White Bass, creating a new subspecies! It is one of fishing’s greatest success stories.

Marine Striped Bass are anadromous, meaning that they live in the ocean, but spawn in rivers and estuaries. Chesapeake Bay at one time was the spawning grounds for 90% of Atlantic Striped Bass population. Their range has increased greatly, as have their spawning grounds. Males are sexually mature at 2 years old. Females reach sexual maturity somewhat later, at around 4 years old.

When the water begins to warm up in late winter, the fish move into estuaries and rivers to spawn. After spawning, they return to the coastal waters. Some groups of Striped Bass migrate from New England south to the Carolinas, Georgia and Florida in fall and winter, and back to the northern waters in spring and summer. Other populations remain in the same waters all year.

The eggs hatch in 29-80 hours. The young are born without a mouth, existing completely on the attached yolk sack for 2 to 4 days, after which the mouth forms. The fry then live on plankton until they reach a large enough size to eat smaller fish. They may remain in the river system for up to three years before going to the ocean. Most will begin migrating to coastal waters after 1 year.

Striped Bass are an inshore species, and are found along trenches, shallow water, rocky coastlines, sandy beaches, drop-offs, and bays. They are seldom encountered beyond the Continental Shelf. As adults, they are completely piscavourous, preying on alewives, menhaden, anchovies, croakers, smelts, herring, and most any other baitfish, squid or eel they can chase down. Adult Striped Bass have few natural enemies, mostly sharks, bluefish and weakfish.
Striped bass can be caught on any lure or fly that represents their natural prey, such as herring, shad, alewives, eels and squid. Live bait also is productive. Successful methods include surf fishing, trolling, drifting, still fishing and fly-fishing.

The freshwater variety has created many new and exciting fisheries. And It has greatly simplified the task of deciding what bait to use. Freshwater Stripers dine on shad. They follow the schools of Threadfin and Gizzard shad all over large impoundments, Any lure, fly, or jig that resembles shad, and is the right size will catch stripers in lakes and tailraces.. For some reason, freshwater stripers get extremely size conscious about their food, and will ignore anything outside of the size range of the shad they are eating at the time.

Nothing can make your heart stop faster than a large Striped Bass exploding onto a top-water chugger or popper. This is one of the most exciting ways to fish for them. Any of the various ‘pencil’-type poppers will work. One trick to this kind if fishing is called Jump Fishing. When Striped Bass are attacking schools of baitfish near the surface, they injure many minnows that go uneaten. Sea birds will flock over a school of Striped Bass and pick up injured baitfish. When you see a flock of wheeling gulls, chances are you will find Striped Bass underneath them. You just ‘jump’ from flock to flock.

Diving Minnow lures, such as those made by Rebel, Rapala and Bomber in the larger sizes work well when the bass are deeper. Trolling or cranking these lures can produce some hefty stringers. Work them along drop-offs and along submerged rock piles and jetties.

When bass are deep, nothing beats a bucktail jig in larger sizes. They can be reeled in, fished vertically or trolled. One method of using jigs is to rig two of them on a tandem rig beneath a float, and work them in with short jerks. They can be used without a float as well.

Many Striped Bass are caught surf fishing with a fly rod or lures. This can be an exciting way to catch them, as long as you stay aware of the tide, and your surroundings. Do not keep fish on a stringer or near your body. Large predators may decide to swipe a free snack, and you could possibly catch a stray bite from a shark, barracuda or bluefish.

Striped Bass have succulent white flakey meat and respond to most forms of cooking. They have a red ‘blood’ stripe that must be removed before cooking.
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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