Out of all the species I enjoy fishing for, striped bass ranks in my top five. Their sheer size and ferocity makes for an addicting fight, and you can catch them all year round as long as you adjust your striper fishing tactics and spots accordingly with their migration patterns.
When I’m not catching stripers in the surf during summer months, I usually target them in the San Francisco Bay, Sacramento Delta and a handful of reservoirs during the rest of the year.
When fishing tidal-influenced waterways it is important to follow the tide. If you are catching fish for a good 20 minutes and the bite dies out, it’s time to make a move to water that will soon be affected by the incoming or outgoing waters. The most optimal time to hit a spot is 1 ½ hours both before and after the peak of high tide.
Once you’ve dialed in on a school of fish, stay on them! Certain spots will be more productive than others depending on the bottom structure and vegetation. For example, a shallow flat will hold fish both during incoming tide and beginning of the outgoing tide, whereas points and boulders may hold fish during any period of tidal movement.
Lures For Striper Fishing
Let’s go over a few items in my arsenal when targeting stripers. Each lure targets a different part of the water column so you have plenty of options.
|Topwater||Jerkbaits||Hard & Soft Swimbaits||Jigs||Metal|
|Zara Super Spook||Lucky Craft Pointer 100SP||Keitech Fat Swing Impact||Spro Prime Bucktail Jigs||Acme Kastmaster|
|Ima Big Stik||Duo Realis Jerkbait 100SP||Big Hammer Swimbaits||Pucci Bucktail Flash Jig||Mickey Jig|
|Lucky Craft Gunfish||Daiwa SP Minnow||Yamamoto Swimbait 3″||Shimano Coltsniper Jig|
Striper Fishing Setup
- 8’ XH 20-30lb Shimano Crucial Rod
- Daiwa Luna 300 spooled with 30lb test
With the 8’ rod length I am more versatile when it comes to throwing an array of lures, especially topwater walking baits. I’m able to pick up more slack line on each twitch making it easy to work the larger lures.
Locating Striped Bass
Before I learned to read the patterns of striper migration, I would head to a promising area and chuck whatever I thought would work. After learning to mimic the surrounding bait and hone in on key structure I’ve never been more successful.
Positioning is key! Whether you are fishing Sherman Lake, Franks Tract, Rio Vista, Stockton or the San Francisco Bay, you must understand how the fish are feeding so you can choose fish accordingly.
For example, if the fish are sheltered from strong current and hunkered around rocks, edges or points, topwater would not be ideal since your bait would be too far away from the strike zone. I always base my lure choice depending on the depth of water, strength of current, bottom structure and natural forage.
Understanding Striped Bass
At one of my locations where I catch most of my stripers, I have had success on most of the baits listed above. This area holds fish during an incoming tide as it creates a current line that the striper use to ambush any bait that passes through. The current line is created by a slough that expands into open water and is pushed against by a tidal current. The banks on either side holds rock that form the bottom of this ideal feeding ground.
Most of my fish caught are on the edge of the current. Although the shallow depth seems great for topwater, it’s actually not. The reason behind this is that the stripers are in closer proximity to the rocky bottom, waiting for baitfish from the current to be spat out their way.
In this case, a hard swimbait is candy under these conditions. The bait allows you to cast a long distance and swims great even with slow-flowing water. With a slow sink model, you would be able to keep it above the rocks keeping the bait from getting snagged. All other subsurface baits are usually prone to snagging.
If the fish are holding along a weed point next to moving water, it may call for a lipless crankbait, jerkbait, or swimbait. This would allow for the bait to stay down in the water column and causes the reaction strike needed.
Striper will be located along different depths both inside and outside of the current. You’ll need to position yourself accordingly by using the correct setup (rod/reel/lure) and make casts that cover that specific strike zone.
Whether you’re fishing from a boat or shore, remember that tidal striper fishing is not the same as Delta largemouth fishing. In one outing all of your striper arsenal may be needed to catch fish depending on the spot that they are holding to. When fishing the Delta however, you build a seasonal pattern where certain baits will catch the majority of fish. Once you find a productive spot save it because it will continue to produce year after year.
ADDITIONAL TIPS TO REMEMBER
Increase line size. I’ve lost a ton of stripers from either the “death roll” or line rubbing against the sharp rocks. Because of this I now use 65lb braid to a 60lb mono leader.
I don’t use heavy mono leader with jerkbaits because it ruins the action. Instead I’ll switch over to 20lb fluorocarbon to maintain both depth and wobble.
Bring a salmon net. These stripers can get big, and the last thing you want is a handful of treble hooks. It seems like overkill at first but it can be a lifesaver during the right moment.