An old bass plug comes out of retirement and heads to Alaska for salmon…
You’d be hard-pressed to find a faster response to a lure from a fish than this one!
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.
Okay, I have to admit…it doesn’t get much more fun than tossing bass poppers for silver salmon on the surface!
When the stripers start heating up this spring, will you be ready for them? Here’s some where, what and how-to info to get you all dialed in!
The first trick to being successful is obviously finding the fish. Luckily, bay, Delta and river bass all seek out very similar types of water. While they are known for being heavily armored, apex killing machines, stripers are actually very skittish and spooky. To that end, they prefer deep water for hiding. Unfortunately for them, however, most of their food lives up in the shallows.
So, shallow flats are key ares to begin your search for stripers…especially ones that have easy access to deep water. As you can see in the diagram below (which is an excerpt from my eBook Light Tackle Delta Striper Secrets) the fish will often hang off the channel edges and then make quick raids into the shallows for food…
To target stripers in the shallows, I go about it a few different ways. If I’m fishing a low light period…dawn, dusk or on a cloudy or foggy day, I’ll work topwater baits over the flats. I’ve caught fish on surface lures in water as deep as 12 feet but I think 2-8 feet is a better range.
There’s a wide array of plugs that will work…I like the 5-inch Cotton Cordell Pencil Poppers in Bone and Chrome/Black and the Luckycraft Gunfish 135 in the Chartreuse Shad pattern. In wooden baits, I love the Katch Fishing Pencil Popper and the 5″ Striper Squirrel from AJ Lures.
When working these baits, vary your cadence until the fish show you what they want. Usually, you’ll see a big push of water behind the bait and then maybe a splash. Most of the time, the fish miss the lure a few times before they actually get it in their mouth, so its important to wait until you actually feel the fish before you set the hook!
Sometimes, stripers will follow your topwater bait all the way in but won’t commit to it. When that happens, try tossing a follow-up bait right back into where the fish just was. These can be just about any minnow-shaped bait that sinks, but I think the best ones are jerk baits like the MegaBass Kantata in Western Clown or a soft bait like the Zoom Super Fluke (pearl/chartreuse tail). Throw one of these guys in and give it a couple twitches and hang on…a lot of times the fish is still there and ready to eat!
Glide baits have really taken off in recent years and are excellent choices when the fish don’t want to hit topwater. They can be fished several ways — all with the reel not the rod: You can slowly crank them in and they will have an “S” type of action. To change things up, do a couple quick cranks followed by a pause and the bait will speed up and then glide off to one side. You can even make gliders turn completely around once you get the hang of it.
As a basic rule of thumb, go slower when the water is colder and pick up the speed as temperatures increase. Mess around with your retrieve…the fish will tell you want they want (or don’t want) on a given day.
You can find a zillion of these guys on the market. I have had good success with the River2Sea S-Wavers in Bone or Light Trout colors; the Original TroutGlider (pictured above) and the Savage Gear Glide Swimmer in Bone.
You can find gliders for $100 and up, but I don’t think stripers can tell the difference…plus I’d never have the courage to throw one anywhere a fish might actually live!
Living on the Edge
As the sun gets brighter or the clouds burn off, the fish will often abandon the flats and head back out to the transition zones. They don’t usually move too far from their preferred feeding areas but will head for a little deeper water, where they feel safer.
Now, referring back to the above diagram, you can see a school of stripers in the bottom right. Those are fish that bailed out of the shallow water and are now patrolling the channel edges and breaks. These guys won’t be as susceptible to topwater and glide baits…Instead, try a lure that can get down better like a swimbait. Try a 1/4- to 3/4-ounce lead head jig and a 4″-5″ paddle tail swimbait body in white or white/chartreuse patterns.
Cast out towards the shallows and slowly work the bait just off the bottom, following the contour of the bottom as it starts to deepen up. When you get bit, keep cranking until the rod loads up. Set prematurely, and the fish will bolt.
Other lures for the edge zone include lipless cranks like the good ol’ 1/2- to 3/4-oz Rat-L-Trap or the Lunkerhunt Fillet Lipless Crankbait. Rip baits like the Megabass Kanata are also great choices here.
Now, just to help you visualize this flats near deepwater concept, here’s a bird’s eye view of a nice weedy flat with deep channels on both sides: A prime spot for bass!
More Striper Hot Spots and Techniques
To get to really dialed in on more places to catch stripers and what to use, check out my ebook, Light Tackle Delta Striper Secrets. It’s under $3 on Amazon and iBooks — or you can download the PDF version.