Striped Bass Mania by Randy Rowley, updated 8/24/13


If you’re looking for a fishing challenge – an elusive quarry that gobbles down perch sized shad, wrecks hooks, line, rod and reels and often leaves you gasping for breath – the striped bass, AKA striper, is the fish for you.

Unlike black or largemouth bass these bass usually travel is schools.  They also grow bigger than largemouths.  Make that quite a bit bigger – the current state record is over 45 pounds! Keeper sized fish (minimum 18″) weigh around three pounds.  They feed primarily on shad but have been known to wolf down small bass, trout and just about anything else that swims.  They also are vivacious early morning and late evening top water feeders.  A school of stripers can make the water boil in an area the size of a football field when feasting on surface schools of shad.  The shad are often assaulted on two fronts – seagulls will swoop down and grab shad that have surfaced.

Stripers, like most game fish, have seasonal patterns.  They usually suspend (25 – 40 feet) in deep water near dams during middle and late summer but can be found on the surface early and late.  During these dog days they usually have lockjaw but can be enticed to bite by a feisty shad or 1/2 – 1 oz.  bucktail jig with a plastic rippling tail trailer placed in front of their faces.  Electronics can make or break a summer striper fishing trip.  If you can’t find the fish you will go home with empty coolers.  Look for clouds of shad. Summer stripers often congregate in large schools and can be found near ledges, humps, trees and deep holes.  Spotting diving seagulls is another way to find summer stripers.

As the weather turns cooler the schools will begin to travel down the lake.  Look for them in the flats and near points.  They will still be deep in the fall but will stay on the surface longer in the morning and evening.  Late fall and early winter are regarded by many as the best time of year to fish for Stripers.  Striped bass are originally from the Atlantic Ocean.  Cold water doesn’t bother them, and they will actively feed during this time of year.

Trolling works well during the late fall.  If your electronics show them to be 25 feet or more down, use downriggers with shallow running stick baits such as Cordell’s Red Fin, Bomber’s Long A, Storm’s Thunderstick or Rapala’s Floating Rapala.  Other popular lures include bucktail jigs with plastic trailers and Sassy Shads.  White, yellow and chartreuse are the best colors.  If they’re under 25 feet use deep diving crankbaits such as Norman’s DD-22, Strike King’s Pro-Model 6XD, Bomber’s Fat Free Shad, and Luhr Jensen’s Hotlips. For even larger offerings you might give Strike King’s Pro-Model 10XD a try. This monster dives down to 25 feet!

The winter is also an excellent time of year to jig for stripers with slab spoons.  The slabs flutter down like wounded shad.  Big stripers will often suspend under schools of smaller stripers that are attacking shad.  They will gobble up the dying shad that are fluttering down from the surface.  When pulled up a slab will also imitate a shad that has recovered and is fleeing.  Stripers will often rise from great depths to chase a jigged slab.

As the temperature warms in the spring, the stripers will move up the creeks and onto the flats in preparation to spawn.  They usually spawn between mid-April and mid-May.  The spring is another excellent time of the year to catch stripers.  Female stripers are especially hungry after the spawn.  Fortunately for the stripers, their primary food, shad, follow their patterns.  The spring is an excellent time of year to use live shad.

Topwater lures work well also in the spring (and fall). My favorite topwaters include Heddon’s Chuggar Spook, Zara Spook, and Baby Torpedo, Lucky Craft’s Sammy, and Storm’s Rattlin Chug Bug and Big Bug. For stripers Zara Spook’s will work better than the smaller Zara Spook Jr’s and Zara Puppies and the Baby Torpedo will work better than the Tin Torpedo or Teeny Torpedo. In other words – go big or go home! Many striper pluggers have the philosophy that the bigger the bait – the bigger the striper it will attract. The Chuggar Spook, Sammy, and Big Bug have been discontinued, so eBay might be your best bet for finding them.

As the weather and water temperatures warm the stripers will again move up the lake towards the dam.  Look for them on the flats and points in early summer.

Regardless of the time of year that you fish for them, stripers are a whole lot of fun.  On some lakes they have replaced largemouths as the most sought-after game fish.  One thing about stripers is sure, if you ever hook one you’ll be a striper maniac for life.

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