Here in the deep South springtime striped bass fishing on freshwater can be fast and furious, especially during the shad spawns. The shad tend to gather on red clay banks to spawn and the striped bass move in to feed. This is my favorite time of year for the big line sides. Striped bass tend to feed in the early morning hours and late in the evening, their cousins the hybrid bass tend to feed better at night into early morning hours.
Tackle for springtime stripper fishing is really pretty simple. It does not take a tacklebox full of lures to catch these fish. Hooks, large barrell swivels, and egg sinkers will do just fine.
- Use larger bait casting reels such as the Garcia Ambassador 5/6000 series spooled with 17-20 pound test line and a 7-8 foot medium action rod. Were looking for line capacity here. A clicker type reel can be beneficial in these conditions.
- Use 2/0 to 3/0 kale hooks tied to a barrell swivel with a 16 inch leader. Above the swivel add a 1 to 1 1/2 ounce sinker before tying off the line.
- Rod holders are a must! Striped bass tend to hit very aggressively and will quickly relieve you of any unsecured rod and reels.
- A good large dip net is essential.
- A large aerated live well.
- If available in your lake use Blueback Herring or good sized Threadfin Shad. Small trout, where regulations allow, is also a good bait. Green ocean run herring are also a good option, if available. These baits should be readily available at a bait shop local to the lake.
- During the spring bait does not have to be alive, but must be kept fresh. Always buy baits that are alive. Cut bait tends to work very well. Keep bait in a live well or on ice.
Locating the Fish
- Striped bass can be found near the shoreline along shallow points feeding on the spawning shad. The best method to locate fish is by the use of a graph or fish finder.
- Locate larger fish by moving across points and nearby flats. The boats' engine or a trolling motor can be used. Here again were looking for striped bass which tend to show larger images on a graph than black bass. They will also tend to be a little more scattered. (I tend to avoid areas with a lot of trees and rocks) If you do not have a graph or fish finder try and anchor up on red clay banks near points.
- Once you have located the fish move back across the area again to verify the fish are staying in that general location. this usually indicates a good spawn of shad in that that location the fish will stay on.
- Once a good school is located mark the spot with a throw marker. These are high visibility weighted marks that make it easy to return to the exact spot.
- Depth of water will typically vary from 12 to 18 feet, but do not overlook casting bait all the way into the shoreline when fishing.
- Anchor the boat within casting distance of the marker and the shoreline. I like to set an anchor on shore and back off and set another anchor behind the boat. Make sure the anchors are set solid and tighten the rods down.
- Fan cast baits into the marked area. (Do not overlook casting a few close to the shoreline.) Try to keep lines apart from each other as stripers tend to run a long distance when hooked.
- Live bait should be hooked through the nostril. This helps to keep the bait alive and allows for fairly aggressive casts without throwing off the bait.
- Cut baits should be hooked only one time keeping the barb of the hook exposed.
- When a strike occurs it will be obvious. As I mentioned earlier, striped bass like to take your rod and reel as they bite. Set the hook as you lift the rod out of the holder.
- Hold on and tighten the drag slightly if it is too loose. Try not to put more pressure on the fish than your line will hold. Any attempts to stop a big striper on its' first run by locking the drag down will invariably result in a broken line.
- When netting the fish, pull the fish into the net. Do not swipe at the fish with the net. Pull all fish in with the hoop of the net, not the handle.
A word of caution. Do not handle striped bass by the gills. The gill plate is like a knife and will invariably cut your hand wide open. Here's to good fishing!