The Yakima Bait MagLip 3.0 is a pretty deadly little plug. Here it is in action on rainbows, dollies and salmon…
Spring striped bass season in Nor Cal is heating up! Here’s a list of my must-have lures to catch them with this spring…
Of course may favorite way to catch stripers is up top on the surface with topwater plugs. The blowups are so fun…and I actually get some of my biggest fish of the season this way.
I think the easiest way to get started with throwing topwater is with pencil popper style plugs. They have a great wounded fish sputtering, splashing action that doesn’t take a whole lot of time to learn.
The Cotton Cordell Pencil Popper is a great topwater plug (I usually go with the 6″, 1-oz size) that won’t break the bank (about $9). I like the Bone and Silver/Black patterns best.
The only real drawback to these is they don’t feature wire-through construction so there’s a chance the plug can snap in half on a really big fish. It’s never happened to me before but I know some guys who have had it happen.
Another really sweet option (that’s reinforced on the inside) is the Duo Realis Pencil Popper (148 size) in Neo Pearl or Sardine. It’s a few bucks more, but you get that piece of mind that it will hold together if you hook the fish of a lifetime.
The glide bait revolution started several years ago and now it’s hard for me to get out on the water and not throw these things at least part of the day. The lazy “s-turn” action of these baits really turns stripers (and big bass) on!Grind these things slow with just the reel (not the rod tip) and then do a few really fast cranks and then pause. Mix up the action — the fish will tell you what the want on a given day.
There are some crazy expensive glide baits out there in the $200+ range but I don’t like throwing a lure like that at fish that can possibly take them away from me. :)So to that end, I fish a lot of River2Sea S-Wavers in the 168 and larger 200 sizes. The bone and rainbow trout are my two favorites.
Another good affordable bait for our local waters is the Savage Gear 3D Shine Glide Bait
The Chartreuse Shad is my top getter but I also like the Threadfin pattern. Generally I’ll go with the 5 1/4″ size when I’m looking for the most action. The jumbo 7 1/4-incher is the one if you want to maybe miss out on some smaller fish and just go hunting for the big bite.
Tossing rubber swimbaits towards rocks, tules, sand bars and wood is a great way to search for spring stripers. There are lots of models out there and most work well enough. I’m a fan of softer baits with a square shaped tail on them such as the Big Hammer Swimbait Tails
The 4″ and 5″ models are nice because they have enough profile to entice big stripers but are also not so big that the smaller fish won’t eat them. You can, however, size up if you are targeting only big fish. Great White is my top producer and sometimes, when the water’s off color, I’ll dip the tails into Chartreuse Spike It Dip-N-Glo Worm Dye (unscented).
Most days, I run 1/2-oz lead heads but 1/4-ouncers are nice when the water is really shallow. The Big Hammer Jig Heads work well with these (and other brands of swimbait tails). Normally, I’ll use white heads with white swimbaits but you can also go with chartreuse heads in conjunction with white tails.
When stripers are spread out and you need to cover the water quickly — or you have a nice windy day that’s blowing bait against the points — jerkbaits are very effective.
Probably the most effective (and pricy) is the MegaBass Ito Vision 110. At roughly $25, these puppies aren’t cheap, but man do they work! I like the Elegy Bone, French Pearl and Sexy Shad color patterns for the Delta and rivers.
A step down but still deadly is the Luckycraft Pointer 110 in American Shad finish. Retailing from $12-13 you can buy a couple of these for every Vision 110.
The issue with jerkbaits for stripers is they usually come with light wire bass hooks that quickly get destroyed by stripers. So, I replace all mine with either No. 2 or No. 4 KVD Triple Grips.
The trick here is find a hook that is stronger but won’t affect the action of the lure. I’d like to go with 3X or 4X strong models, but the neutral buoyancy of the lure would be compromised. The KVD hook seems to be a happy medium. They will still get beaten up by stripers eventually but they definitely last longer than the stock models do.
Spend enough time on the water and you’ll see some cool and crazy stuff. The past 20 years of guiding have certainly provided me with an endless supply of interesting things — and some of my favorites are when we catch something totally unexpected.
Take the above skull for example. When we pulled this out of the river (on Halloween Day no less!), we were freaking out. I mean — what in the holy heck could it be? Well, when I flipped it over, I saw “Made in China” written on the underside. Mystery solved!
We sure had some fun showing it to other drift boats as we floated by them. Then, at the end of the day, I chucked it back into the river for somebody else to find!
I wish I had photographed all the kooky non-target species my customers have caught over the years but sometimes I’m just too busy running the boat, netting fish and untangling lines to grab a camera. Digging through the archives, however, I found a handful of shots of that are pretty fun. Here are some of my favorites…
Why wives don’t believe that we are actually going fishing
While side-drifting for steelhead one winter’s day on the American River, my client caught a black bra. You can only imagine the lively conversation such a catch started!
Being an enterprising young fella at the time, I of course snapped the pic and kept it in a safe place — just in case I needed it for blackmail purposes down the road. :)
All Mixed Up!
In California’s Central Valley, Chinook salmon and striper runs often overlap. It’s not all that uncommon to catch kings on striper offerings like crankbaits, minnows, jigging spoons…and swimbaits like this one:
But oddly enough, it doesn’t happen the other way around quite as often. I typically catch a few stripers on eggs each fall but you’d think they’d be all over a sardine wrapped plug. I mean, what’s not to like? A wobbling plug looks like a fish — and with a wrap — it smells like one too, but I just don’t hook all that many bass that way for some reason…
Sucker for a MagLip
Speaking of salmon plugs, I usually catch more suckers in a season on them than stripers. Weird, huh? I’m still not quite sure what suckerfish are thinking when they attack a big wiggling banana.
Perhaps it’s the scent of sardine that gets them riled up — or, in this case, maybe it’s just proof positive that everything’s a sucker for a MagLip!
My buddy Khevin and I were fishing the Trinity River one afternoon off the bank at a popular drift boat take-out spot. He set the hook on a “weird bite” and came up with this unique salmon species: The Pre-Filleted King.
Foul hooked in the tail, Khevin opted to release the fish despite the fact that it looks like there may have been more meat still on the carcass than the angler who cleaned it went home with!
Boondoggin’ eggs for kings on the Sacramento River one August, I had two clients simultaneously snag this unidentifiable hunk of meat. Before I cut the line (heck no I didn’t touch it!), we took a close look at the thing trying to figure out what the heck the backstory was on it.
Clearly the leg bone had been sawed off, which led to a very macabre conversation about folks like Jimmy Hoffa, Freddy and Jason. I’m sure there was perfectly good explanation for why the hideous chunk of flesh was in the river…but we couldn’t think of it.
Well, you’ve got to admire this little guy’s desire! I remember the client asking me why such a small fish would go after a lure that is about its same size. I told him that down there, in the depths, anything you can swallow is one less thing that can gobble you up!
A better question is what’s a catfish doing going for a FlatFish? Well, cats are much more predatory than a lot of folks give them credit for. Now, I’m not so sure that this little guy was actually going for the plug, however. My guess is that the sardine was what he was after.
Getting Jiggy for Sturgeon
Catching a sturgeon while targeting stripers is not at all newsworthy. On the California Delta, anglers routinely catch both species on baits like sardines, pile worms and shad.
I’ve caught plenty of them on accident while salmon fishing with eggs — and even sardine-wrapped plugs. While spooning for stripers like we were doing on this day, I’ve accidentally foul-hooked a few too. But this little fella is the one and only sturgeon I’ve had on the boat that ate a jigging spoon. I suppose it makes sense because they are known to eat live fish like herring and salmon smolt, but I’d hate to try to make a living catching sturgeon on artificials!
This is so rad!