The techniques to catch these hard to find fish are very similar except stripers demand tougher equipment and bigger baits. These fish are easiest to find during spawning season when they school together in the topwaters to feed. After spawning however, the fish scatter over the open waters and become difficult to find. These fish will normally bite early or late in the day except during spawning season where time is not a concern. Be careful though, if you find a school in one spot one day, you might not find them there the next day since these fish are constantly on the move. Here are some tips and tricks on catching these hard to find fish.
This type of fishing technique is used best when it is later in the summer and the shad have just grown large enough to make a decent meal. When you spot a flock of gulls swooping and diving into the water there is a really good chance that stripers and white bass will not be far. Since the shad will more than likely be centered under the gulls, the stripers and white bass will be attacking them from below.
When you see this type of action, get to that spot as quick as possible but do not motor right up to the school with your outboard or else you will spook the fish. Use an electric motor to edge close to the school of shad, gulls and stripers or white bass and you will have the best time fishing you have ever had. Sometimes these types of feeding frenzies will last over and hour, sometimes they will only last a few minutes.
The best lure to use in this situation is a jig looks even remotely like a shad and you are sure to hook up quickly. Jigs are used because it is easy to unhook the fish and throw in the lure again quickly which is extremely important in this type of feeding frenzy.
Some fishers rig two different rods, one with a topwater lure and one with a diving plug or jig. This way if one fails to produce, they can easily switch to the other rod and not waste time. White bass anglers often rig two or more jigs on the same line. When one white bass grabs one jig, others will try to fight for it but see the other and strike at that. So you end up pulling up a pair (or more) of fish.
There are times when these jigs do not work so you would have to switch to crankbaits, tailspinners or topwaters. Striped bass anglers that are veterans know that a noisy popper that throws water a foot high will attract fish when nothing else seems to be working.
White bass trolling is simple, just throw in a small crankbait, jig or vibrating plug behind the boat and troll through an area known to produce these fish. Trolling works best after spawning when the white bass or stripers tend to scatter. The best bait for both white bass and stripers are live shad hooked through the nostrils. Using an electric motor and moving very slowly while watching your depth finder will make this technique much easier. Once you find the fish set your lines right above them.
Striper trolling becomes a bit difficult though. Anglers normally use downriggers and side planers to spread their lines vertically and horizontally to maximize their coverage. When the water is cool in the spring and fall most of the trolling is done in the upper 25 feet. In the summer you may have to get your lines down to 40 to 60 feet of water when downriggers are the best.
No matter what though stripers have to be fished for very slowly so you do not spook the fish. Once you locate a school of fish switch to a technique that will give you more coverage like jigging. Try casting or vertically jigging so you will cover more area and not spook the fish. Continue to work the spot until the school disappears then resume trolling.
Larger stripers have a tendency for heavy cover so they will often hole up in flooded timber or other cover where it is impossible to throw a lure. Southern stripers anglers have devised an innovative method for drawing these fish out of the cover. Hooking a live 12 – 15 inch shad and let it swim over cover using a balloon as a floater.
A balloon works better than a bobber because it will float considerably higher and has less water resistance. A lively shad can tow a balloon around more easily and cover more water than a bobber.
When you see the balloon start to bob violently or break than a striper has taken the bait. Reel up the slack until you can feel the weight of the fish then set the hook hard. Keep as much pressure as you can on the fish to keep it from diving.
The biggest challenge with balloon fishing is gathering the shad since they are not normally sold in bait shops. Serious striper anglers will catch their bait with a cast net and keep it alive in an insulated bait tank.
Use heavy tackle to fish for stripers in timber or very dense cover. Once you hook the fish it will instinctually make a power run for the thickest cover and if you can not turn it immediately you will not land it. Anglers will use a light saltwater rod and a heavy baitcasting reel spooled with a 50 pound mono or superline to fish in these conditions.
The noise and action made by a topwater lure appeal to white bass and stripers feeding instincts. These topwater lures work the best around spawning time when the fish are hungry and chasing down baitfish in the shallows. Even when the fish are not spawning, topwaters work early and late in the day.
The best choice in lure for white bass are small stickbaits and propbaits from two to three inches long. Fish a stickbait with a walking the dog retrieve but fish a propbait with a brisk and steady retrieve.
Stripers will find large noisy plugs hard to resist. These plugs are normally a foot in length because of the sheer size of these fish. Once you see a fish swirl on the surface, cast the plug a few feet away from the swirl and retrieve it with strong swift jerks to maximize splash. A floating minnow plug will work well for topwater fishing for stripers. All you have to do is cast the lure out and retrieve it slowly enough that it makes noticeable waves.
It does not matter where or how you fish. The most important thing to remember is that fish are attracted to the action of the lure rather than color or what technique you are using. Action is especially important to these fish after spawning when they are more difficult to find. They have to be enticed out of the water and the most enticing thing is action of the lure.