The diver & bait rig is kinda like the Tom Brady of the salmon techniques world. Brady’s got it all, right? The good looks, 5 Super Bowl rings, tons of money and a super model wife. Well, the diver setup has its own impressive list of attributes too: It’s deadly on river salmon, easy to learn, a ton of fun — and almost utterly fool-proof. And, as far as I know…there are no deflation scandals associated with it either!
Perhaps my favorite thing about this technique, however, is the fact that it is really easy for inexperienced anglers to master. I can get a boatload of rookies fishing like pros in a matter of minutes — something I can’t say about other egg fishing methods like back-bouncing. That’s especially important first thing in the morning when we’re most likely to experience the best bite of the day. With diver and bait rigs, I don’t have waste any of that precious “magic time” training guys a hard-to-master skill. Instead, we just put out the bait diver rigs and let everybody get their roe in the water and start fishing immediately.
When properly rigged up, your hooks will always be anywhere from 6 inches to a few feet off the bottom, so snags aren’t a huge problem with divers and bait – another attractive attribute. I also like the smooth and steady presentation of eggs tracking along behind a diver. Sometimes, I think the bait hops up and down too much when it’s back-bounced, which can turn fish off. Another cool thing about fishing this way is the bite. It’s just so cool to see that first thump on the tip, followed by several good pumps and then a screaming reel. Fish on…yahoo!
To start you’ll want to position the boat upstream of a good looking salmon run. Next, hit the freespool button on the reel and keep your thumb on the spool. Gently set the rig into the water, bait-first followed by the diver. Allow the line to slip downstream at a controlled rate under tension from your thumb. If the water is off-color and/or shallow, I may only let out 40 feet of line. In deeper spots and clear water, I’ll go as far as 75 feet back (be sure to run all your rigs out the same distance).
You can keep track of the amount of line you have out by using reels outfitted with line counters. Counting “passes” of the level wind device as it goes back and forth across the spool is another way (though some reel don’t have this feature). Or, slide a bobber stop knot up the line at a pre-measured distance (40 feet, for example) and then simply let out line until the knot comes out the tip of the rod.
Next, kick the reel into gear and allow the boat to start slipping downstream at about one half the current’s speed. At that point, the divers should do their job and send your bait to the bottom. The proper backtroll speed is one in which you can cover the run without taking too long — but not so fast that your divers start to float up off the bottom. When everything is down and working, you should see the rods dipping and pulsing as the divers track the contours of the riverbed.
Keep and eye on where the lines enter the water. If one starts to look like its at a much steeper angle than the others, it is probably hung up. It’s a lot easier to get diver rigs free if you notice before the boat gets downstream of the snag. Also do your best to keep the boat backing down in a straight line. Diver rigs, should they get tangled up, are a real pain to retie (ask me how I know!).
Putting the rods in the holders is pretty key to turning bites into hookups. We want the fish to eat the bait and turn with it before feeling resistance. The problem with holding the rod in your hand is the decades-old, ingrained fishing instinct that usually kicks in and causes a premature hookset. If you set at the first sign of a bite, you will end up missing 80 to 90 percent of your fish. The rod holder, however, gives you a built-in delayed response time. By the time you get there, the rod should be buried with line burning off the reel. That’s when you know you have him properly hooked!
Now that you have the basic gist of this hot technique, let’s have a look at how to rig up.
There are two main diver styles that I’ll use with this system. Luhr Jensen’s Jet Divers are my go-to divers when I need to get the baits down deep in heavy current. They are very stable and can get down in a hurry (more on that in a minute). Brad’s Bait Divers, which are essentially hookless plugs, work really well in moderate currents and shallower depths. There are days when the wiggling and dancing of the Brad’s Divers will help draw salmon to your offering when nothing else will and the wider lateral travel also helps increase the bait’s attraction radius.
Size & Color
To pick the right diver, take a look at water depth and speed — and the size of your bait. In shallow rivers that are flowing at a mellow speed, you can get away with smaller ones. However, a massive cluster of eggs will overwhelm a small diver, so you have to factor that in too.
Jet Divers come in size 10, 20, 30, 40 and 50. The number refers to how many feet it will dive — the No. 20 dives to 20 feet, the No. 30 goes to 30 feet and so on. On most Southwest streams I fish, the No. 30 and 40 sizes are perfect but when on big, brawling rivers like the Kenai, the 50-foot models are the only way to go.
Brad’s Bait Divers come in three sizes Junior, Standard and Magnum. In Alaskan waters, I’ll use the Standards in water that’s 5 to 15 feet deep and the Magnums with large baits and water that’s 9 to 24 feet in depth.
As far as colors go, I prefer stealth, despite the fact that both companies have some nice pain schemes. My thinking here is: let’s make the bait the focus, not the unarmed diver. So, with Jet Divers I like clear or pink crystal. With the Brad’s I’ll go with clear or black. I just think that the less junk the fish see, the better off you are. I do have friends, however, who swear that they get more bites when using metallic blue or green divers.
Jet Divers don’t need tuning and generally run great right out of the box. There are a couple things you can do however, to make them even run better. As soon as I get a new one, I’ll flip it belly-up and twist off the plastic tab and crane swivel with a set of needle nose pliers. I always run divers off a dropper, so there’s simply no need for that extra stuff hanging off the bottom.
Since Jet Divers don’t snag all that often, I wear more of them out than I lose. The biggest problem that I encounter is a crack in one of the wings. Unless you’re looking specifically for a crack, you may not notice it – until your driver starts doing corkscrews in the water and tangles up all your other lines. When you find you have a cracked wing, toss the entire unit it in the garbage.
Occasionally, you’ll also find water seeping into your diver’s body, which is often caused by a hairline crack (from the diver smacking the side of the boat or a fish flopping on it in the net). It’s hard to get the water back out of such a thin fracture, but you can take a tiny drill bit and make a hole towards the back of the diver to drain it. After everything dries out, hit the drill hole with epoxy and cover the crack with Crazy Glue or AquaSeal.
Brad’s Divers run true as well, but sometimes need a little tuning to get them perfectly dialed in.
Rigging the Diver
I prefer to run my divers off dropper lines. I’ll make my drop line 12 inches to 3 feet in length, depending on the conditions. As a basic rule of thumb, go with a shorter length in fast water and a longer one when you’re fishing slower, deeper water.
The next step is to decide how to tie your dropper leader to your main line. You have two choices here: hard-tied or on a slider.
In most cases, I run my divers on sliders – in other words, I’ll tie the opposite end of my dropper line to a barrel swivel and then run the main line through it. Next, I’ll slide 2 to 4 plastic beads up the mainline and then tie another barrel swivel to the tag end. To the opposite end of that swivel, goes the bait leader. The swivel and beads between the main line and leader keep the diver from sliding down to the bait but it is free to move up the line (towards the rod).
When a fish grabs your bait, he’ll feel less resistance when the diver’s free-sliding. A sliding rig is also a good thing if you happen to get your diver caught in the net while attempting to scoop the fish. Though your diver’s tangled up in the mesh, the fish can still run without the hooks getting ripped out of its mouth.
And if you break off on a fish or snag, there’s a chance your diver will float to the surface, where you can recover it – no small victory considering these things aren’t cheap.
A case can be made for fixed rigs as well, however, especially when you have inexperienced anglers on board. One of the downsides of a diver on a sliding rig occurs when the hooks get snagged. As the boat continues to back downstream, the diver keeps going, working on the bow between the rod tip and the snag. A trained eye can tell something’s amiss, but a rookie may not know anything’s wrong until his line’s upstream of the boat…which is often too late. You can fix this problem by “hard-tying” your mainline, leader and dropper all to a three-way swivel.
THE BUSINESS END
Okay, now we’re going to take a look at what to put on the business end of your diver and bait rig.
Of course when we’re using roe, octopus-style hooks are the standard. On smaller streams, where you are using down-sized clusters, a 1/0 or 2/0 maybe be sufficient. On big rivers where you’re using egg clusters the size of golfballs, 5/0 to 8/0 is the way to go.
In dark, glacial water a 3- to 4-foot leader is fine. If you have clear water conditions, it’s a good idea to stretch that length out to 5 or 6 feet. Kings, for the most part, aren’t leader shy so go with heavy mono. I’ll run at least 40-pound test and sometimes 60 or 80 if the fish are really big.
I’ll always start my day off by running some sort of drift bobber with my bait to give it buoyancy and some extra appeal. My all-time favorite bobber to run ahead of eggs on a diver rig is a lemon-lime Spin-N-Glo. Hot pink is my second favorite, followed by metallic silver/red head and metallic silver/green. When the water’s a little off-color or I’m using larger globs of bait, I’ll switch to Spinning & Fishing Cheaters, which I feel float a little better than do Spin-N-Glos.
In glacial or dark water, a glow Hootchie between the bait and the spinning device can sometimes be the ticket to getting more hits. This rig also seems to work well on fish that are straight in off the tide.
When I want a little more subtle presentation I will pin a Fish Pill puffball behind the eggs, just above the bend of the forward hook. The puffballs are cool because they’re soft – a fish can chomp down on one and not even notice that it’s there.
With Fish Pills, Corkies and Cheaters, I’ll pick a color based on water conditions. When it’s gin-clear, I like to match the bobber to the color of my eggs. If there’s a bit of color in the water, I’ll go with a contrasting color like chartreuse or orange – just to give the fish a little extra something to key in on.
The size of your BFD (bait flotation device) is determined by the size of your hook and bait. You’ll need a large enough one to lift the roe off the bottom, but not so a big that the bite of your hooks is compromised. The way to test that is slide the BFD through the hook gap. If it can pass between the hook point and the shank, you are good to go.
Occasionally, I’ll encounter a situation in which the fish are extremely finicky and won’t touch a glob of eggs unless it’s completely “naked.” In that case, the baits I’m using are generally very small and will stay off the bottom on their own. When I need a little more lift, however, I’ll use a toothpick to peg 1-3 drably-painted Corkies a few feet up the leader away from the bait. That way, the egg cluster still gets some of the buoyancy from the BFD’s but they’re not going to distract the fish’s attention from the good stuff.
Diver & bait rods need to have good backbone down low and plenty of softness in the upper third of the blank so that a king can yank the tip down and not have the hooks pull out of its mouth. In the length department, 8 to 9 1/2 feet is just right.
My Favorite is the Douglas LRS C9652M, which is a 9’6” casting rod that is awesome for divers & bait.
As far as reels go, level winds with smooth, dependable drag systems are the only way to go. As I mentioned earlier, ones equipped with line counter devices are handy. I prefer models that have the freespool release button located on the spool frame (rather than the thumb bar style) such as the Shimano Tekota 300LC. I’ve just had too many clients over the years accidentally hit the thumb bar in the heat of battle when setting the hook…and you can imagine how that turns out!
The good ol’ classic Abu Garcia Ambassadeur 6500 is also a good choice for a no-frills reel.
When it comes to line, braid is the way to go. Because of its small diameter, you can get your divers down deeper in a shorter distance — and the lack of stretch gives you solid hook sets. Braid is also very abrasion resistant which is very useful when dealing with big fish in heavy water thats full of logs and rocks.
I’ve had good success with P-Line’s TCB8 Teflon coated braid in 50- or 65-pound. I like the bright yellow color so I can easily keep track of where all my lines are.
Fresh cured salmon roe is the number one offering to pull behind a diver. Kings seem to really prefer sodium sulfite based cures, particularly when dyed bright red. In smaller rivers, you might use a cluster that’s nickel to quarter sized. On the big fish streams (especially glacial ones), the size of the bait can go from pingpong ball sized up to nearly that of an apple.
There are also times you can also catch kings on other baits. Tuna balls (oil-packed canned tuna wrapped tight into balls with netting) are effective some days, as are raw prawns and sand shrimp. You can also backtroll lures with the help of divers. Unweighted spinners, plugs and Brad’s Superbaits are all effective.
When the kings start piling up in your favorite stream this summer, bust out the ol’ MVP of salmon techniques and give it a try!
Here are a couple of cool new techniques that I like to bust out when targeting shallow water rockfish that really make the fishing fun — and productive.
To be perfectly honest, drop-shotting and butterfly style jigging aren’t exactly new, but they are not widely used in the light tackle bottomfish arena…yet!
Traditional rockfishing — with the baseball-sized leads, thick lines and broomstick rods — could be considered more of a harvesting method than fishing. Effective, yes, and sometimes essential, the heavy tackle route, however, is fairly low on the fun index. You just don’t get much fight out of the fish this way.
But it doesn’t have to be like that! Try these two hot techniques and and you’ll have a blast catching rockfish and lings on light gear!
If drop-shotting sounds familiar, its because it’s a go-to technique for freshwater bass anglers. One thing that makes it great for saltwater fishing is the rig is very streamlined gets down to the bottom quickly. Another benefit is the fact that the sinker, not the hook(s) is the only thing that touches the bottom — so snags are greatly minimized. And because the bait is up above the bottom, the fish have a better shot at seeing it. The action of a drop-shotted bait is also unique and hard to match with any other style.The rig looks like this: Start by tying a hook inline on your leader 1 to 4 feet above the end. A simple Palomar Knot is used, but it’s hard to describe on paper, so just Google “How to tie a drop shot rig” and you’ll get a million tutorials. What’s important to remember is that the hook point needs to be facing up when you are finished. The hook you use will be determined by the size and style of your bait but generally they are similar in shape the the octopus hooks used for freshwater salmon fishing with roe.
To the end of the leader, tie a snap — and that’s where the sinker attaches. I like torpedo style sinkers from 1 to 4 ounces in weight for light tackle fishing. The idea here is to use just enough weight to keep your gear straight below the boat.
Fishing a drop-shot rig is simple. Use your graph to get directly over a school of fish —or a likely looking spot — and drop straight down until the lead hits the bottom. Reel up a few cranks and lightly jig or twitch the rod tip. You don’t need a ton of action here — just enough to get your offering to dance around a bit. Bites generally are fairly subtle — a slight “tick” or bump on the line. Set the hook hard and start reeling immediately to keep the fish from heading back down into the rocks.
Try to keep the boat directly over the spot — it’s much harder to control your rig if the vessel is drifting quickly and you have a lot of line scoped out.
As far as offerings go, the sky is the limit. There are tons of really good plastic and natural baits that work well with this method. Six-inch Gitzit Super Tubes are good, as are Berkley Gulp 5″ Jumbo Leeches. Plenty of hootchie squids and grubs work too. Try Kalin’s 6″ Mogambo.
Big white or brown Yamamoto Senkos get bit a lot too.
You can also run bait on the drop-shot rig. Salmon belly strips are awesome, along with squid or herring.
Rods for drop-shotting should be fast action so you can quickly set the hook on fish that are well below the boat. Some power in the lower end is also essential for keeping big fish out of the rocks. Length can range from 7 to 8.5 feet and is really just a matter of what feels comfortable to you — and the size of the fish you’re chasing.
Reels need not be fancy but some preferred attributes include a large line capacity, smooth drag and high speed retrieve rate.
When spooling up, braided line in the 30- to 60-pound range is really the only choice for several reasons. The thin diameter of braid helps lures sink faster while also giving your reel more line capacity. Braid’s lack of stretch means you get more positive hook sets and better action out of your lure. It’s also much more sensitive than mono so you’ll be better able to feel bites or contact with the bottom. For a leader, tie a 6-foot section of 30-pound fluorocarbon or mono to the end of the braid with a Double Albright Knot and you’re in business.
Vertical jigging with heavy spoons has long been a favorite way to catch rockfish and lings and the new butterfly method takes it a step further and makes this technique even more effective.The origins of the butterfly jigging method come from Japan, where anglers developed it to target big tuna down as deep as 500 feet. The name comes from the fluttering action of the lure you get when fished properly and, scaled down, it works great in shallow water for Alaska’s denizens as well.
It’s important to note, however, that there are a few major differences between this and standard jigging. First, jigs designed for the butterfly method have aggressive angles on one side designed to cause the baits to dance and flutter. The hook rigging is also quite different and so is the retrieve method.
When jigging for rockfish and lings, the standard technique has always been to drop the lure to the bottom, reel up a few cranks and then aggressively snap the rod tip up and then let the lure fall again. At the bottom of the drop, the tip is jerked straight up again and the whole process repeats…lift, drop, lift, drop. Most strikes occur as the jig is falling when fishing this way.
The old school jigging style is still plenty effective, but I think the fish sometimes get tired of watching the lure yo-yo in front of their faces. That’s where the butterfly system really shines — it seems to be able to “light up” stale fish that otherwise don’t seem to be in a biting mood. There’s just something about the presentation that turns fish on!
When first starting, it takes a little time to get the rhythm and the proper rod and reel action, but butterfly jigging is pretty simple once you get the hang of it. Begin by dropping your jig to the bottom and then immediately start cranking on the reel. Your rod should always be in the horizontal position and you only need to lift it slightly — the key thing to focus on is the action comes more from the reel than the rod. You’ll be reeling all the time and it’s a very short, compact motion with the rod hand, almost mirroring the circular motion of the reel hand. If you are getting worn out quickly, you are probably working everything too hard.
Unlike traditional jigging, you don’t ever want to allow the head of the jig to drop. Zooming out a bit, picture the lure hitting the bottom and then you start working the rod and reel at the same time. The jig starts rising but also has a side-to-side action to it. You just keep a nice steady rhythm going until you are up out of the strike zone — at which point, simply drop the lure back down to the bottom and start again. Your cadence should be generally on the slow side for rockfish but I like to speed it up now and then too just to mix it up.
Where you stop your lure’s ascent depends on the fishing spot. If there’s a big pinnacle you want to work for lings, fish from the sea floor all the way to the summit. The same holds true for big edges and drop-offs. Many species of rockfish also suspend well off the bottom, so it often pays to work your jig all the way back to the surface. Plus, when you get up off the bottom, you may also get some bonus kings or silvers too!
Shimano popularized the term “butterfly jigging” with a lineup of spoons of the same name. Their Butterfly and Flat Fall jigs are excellent but there are also many others available on the market today, including the Spro Abalone Sushi Spoon, Williamson’s Abyss Speed Jig and the Mango Speed Spoon.
As I mentioned earlier, butterfly style spoons are different from traditional jigs because they are asymmetrical. A “regular” spoon is flat on both sides while the ones used in this technique are flat on one side and sharply angled on the other — and that’s what produces the erratic action.
You’ll also notice that the hook configuration on butterfly jigs is a dramatic departure from traditional rigging. Rather that having a treble hook on the bottom of the jig, there’s a single hook attached via cord that hangs off a ring at the lure’s head. Called “assist hooks,” you can make your own or buy pre-made ones. They look like they shouldn’t work at all but I have found that assist hooks are deadly effective and far out-fish trebles. They also keep the fish from getting deeply hooked in most cases, which makes unhooking and releasing shakers much easier.
I prefer to rig my lures with just one assist hook — but some folks will run two off the top ring. I have had enough close calls while unhooking fish when one hook was buried and the other was swinging all over the place as the fish was shaking that I’m keeping it to one hook these days. Get one in the hand while the other is still in the fish and you have a situation!
There are a few must-have items to make this technique work properly. Starting with the rod, you’ll need a stick that has a reasonably soft tip to allow the lure to work properly. Fish these jigs with a stiff rod and they just don’t swim as effectively . Be sure not to go too parabolic, though, either. A rod with a lot of bend tends to stifle the action.
While I generally prefer casting gear, spinning rods and reels seem to work best for this technique. At least for me, it’s easier to get into the butterfly style rhythm with a coffee grinder outfit.
Catch & Release?
There is no denying that rockfish and lingcod are some of the best-tasting critters in the sea and I love to fill a cooler with them any time I can. But I also release a bunch. If you are fishing shallow enough, you can simply toss the fish back and they can make it back down to the bottom. However, when you move out a little deeper — say beyond 30 or 40 feet — the fish can suffer pressure damage, or barotrauma — a distended belly is the most common sign, though fish from deeper water may also have bulging eyes and part of their stomach coming out of their mouth.The old school way to release these fish was to poke a hole with a needle at an angle behind the pectoral fin to relieve the pressure. That can more harm than good, though, if you don’t know how to properly do it. Luckily, there are easier and safer methods! For years, we’ve kept a milk crate on board for releasing rockfish. The crate has a 60-foot line tied to it and some lead sinkers to weigh it down. We flip it upside down, put a fish in it and start lowering slowly. The fish will stay in the crate until the pressure has equalized – at that point, it swims off on its own. Usually, about 30 feet is all it takes.
If you search around online, you’ll also find that there are also some products on the market designed for releasing fish from deep water. One that looks interesting and very simple is the one made by Shelton Products (www.sheltonproducts.com) and is only $6.
Shallow water rockfish are more affected by rough weather than their deep water cousins. If there’s a big swell, inshore fish tend to hunker down near structure are are less likely to chase lures. That’s why I like to save my shallow water fishing for nice, calm days. Plus, we’ll often get in pretty tight to exposed pinnacles and rocks so it’s just much safer when seas are flat.
The fishing can also be tough on days when the current is really running. Again, the fish lay pretty low under those conditions to avoid expending too much energy. Plus, it’s hard to keep your gear down below the boat when the water is ripping.
Glide Baits have become extremely popular in recent years. And with good reason: They flat-out catch fish!
They got their start in the world of big bass fishing but striper anglers quickly realized that glide baits were also the ticket for targeting big linesides.
Here are some tips for catching stripers on these deadly lures:
How to Pick a Glide Bait
There are so many companies out there that make quality gliders that it can be a bit overwhelming to try to pick a few out. So, let’s take a look at a few things down here and try to narrow it down a bit.
First off, in my experience, two-piece baits work way better than the multi-segmented kind.
As far as size goes, it really depends on what your goals are. If your only goal is trophy fish, consider going with one of the big 9, 10- or 12-inch baits like the Megabass I Slide 262T Glide,
or the even larger Gan Craft Jointed Claw Super Magnum 303.
These are expensive baits and you won’t get a ton of bites on them, but when you do, chances are they will be really big fish!
If you’d rather go a little less expensive, the River2Sea S-Waver 200 is a good bait for under $50.
I generally run smaller gliders so I can catch the non-trophies as well. The good news is, big stripers will also munch these baits so you aren’t taking yourself out of the big fish game by using them.
The sky’s the limit here on what you want to spend. Generally, the more you pay the more refined the bait is but that’s not always the case. Some companies put out lesser baits and charge a premium just try to get get in on the action.
If you don’t mind spending the cash, the 5.5″ Gan Craft Jointed Claw Kai 148 (around $65) is deadly…
The River2Sea S-Waver in the 168 size is an excellent bait in the $20 range. Also in the less expensive but still effective range is the the Savage Gear Glide Swimmer in either the 5 1/4″ or 6 1/2″ sizes.
Regardless of the bait you choose, be sure that your glider rides balanced in the water. What I mean by that is it shouldn’t be nose or tail heavy and able to stand ups straight without rolling over on its side.
Some baits come with hooks that clearly weren’t designed to handle big stripers so you may have to change them out to stouter models. The trick is to make sure you don’t adversely affect the lure’s action by adding too much weight. On some lures, I’ll add a second split ring between the lure and the hook to give the treble the ability to rotate nearly 360 degrees — this helps reduce a big fish’s ability to use leverage to twist the hooks out.
If a bait seems to be riding a little to shallow, I will also sometimes add a split-ring and barrel swivel to the nose to give it a little more weight forward attitude.
Glide Bait Colors
The best color for a glide bait is pretty subjective. It depends a lot on water clarity, weather and natural forage. My top three favorites are rainbow trout, bone and white or silver with chartreuse. But again, every water is going to be slightly different. Start with finding out what they main food source is and then expand from there.
How to Fish a Glide Bait
Everyone has their own style for fishing these baits, but for me I find I do best when is all the action is imparted with the reel…not the rod. After the lure hits the water, I may let it sink a bit and then, with the rod tip pointed down, I’ll start retrieving it. Some days, the fish like a straight slow and steady retrieve. When you slow grind the lure in this way, it will slowly slide left and right. More often, however, I’ll also impart some stops and starts to the action as well.
By reeling a crank or two and then pausing, the bait will glide off to one side. Then another couple cranks and a pause will send it drifting off the other direction. Sometimes a steady grind punctuated by a couple speed cranks and a pause is the ticket.
You’ll just have to experiment with the action — the fish will tell you on a given day what the want. What you will find is if you go too dramatic with your stops and starts, the bait will sometimes do a U-turn and the hooks will wrap up in the line.
When you get bit, the key is to stay focused and reel into the fish. If you make a quick haymaker, tuna-tosser hookset, you’ll often jerk the bait away from the striper. Some bites are crushing blows, but more often you’ll feel a quick “tick” or “thump” as the fish sucks the lure in.
To ensure you impart the proper action to the lure, don’t wear yourself out on the casts and also capitalize on as many bites as possible, using the proper gear for Glide Bait fishing is really important.
Starting with rods, I like a stick that has enough oomph to cast heavy baits and fight big fish but it also needs a soft enough tip to ensure accurate casts. The top end also needs to be able to “give” when a striper sucks in the bait so she doesn’t feel much resistance.
I use to main rods for this technique: The Douglas LRS C764MF for smaller sized gliders and the Douglas LRS C784F for medium sized ones. You can also check out the Dobyns Rod Champion XP Swimbait series.
One bait rule of thumb to keep in mind is that of your lure twirls through the air like a helicopter, your rod is too still. You know your have the right action when it doesn’t spin through the air.
There are a lot of quality choices out there as far as reels go. In general, I like a big 300-size reel with power handles and a solid drag. Some good choices are the Abu Garcia REVO Toro Beast and the Shimano Calcutta D Series In the more affordable range, some big glide bait fans love the Shimano Cardiff 300A for it’s slow retrieve rate.
Line is a pretty subjective topic — everybody has their favorite. I have found that braid with a fluorocarbon leader works great on the smaller sized gliders but if you want to throw the mega-sized ones, straight fluorocarbon is the way to go. With those huge baits, you are likely to snap one off on the cast with braid and mono ends up getting too stretched out.
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.