It is always rewarding when I reel in large striped bass. However, the last few trips were not rewarding, which led me to wonder whether I was using the right bait.
When choosing bait, there are many options, including various live bait and colorful lures. Each option has its own pros and cons, depending on who I ask. To get to the bottom of the issue, I explored the most commonly-used baits, lures, and fishing gear to determine the best options for catching striped bass.
What Bait Works Best to Catch Striped Bass?
Bait can be divided into two groups – live bait and artificial lures. While most anglers searching for striped bass prefer live bait, artificial lures are still a suitable choice. Here’s the list of baits and lures that you can use to catch striped bass.
- Artificial lures
- Large Surface Swimmers
- Diamond Jigs
- Bucktail Jigs
Bloodworms and sandworms are traditional choices for hooking striped bass. These baits have been used for many years in the surf, bays, and rivers. They are also necessary for the tube-and-worm rig that is popular for catching stripers during any season of the year.
A bunker is another popular choice, as they are easy to catch. A dead bunker is also available at most bait shops. If the bunker is live, the hook is placed through the nose. With dead bunker, the bunker can be cut into chunks.
While worms and bunker are the most commonly used live baits, live eel is considered the most effective bait for catching striped bass in deeper waters. However, they can also be effective bait when casting from the shore or in shallow waters.
When surf fishing or fishing in shallow waters, most anglers use a simple technique. They do not use weight. They simply cast the eel out in the water and slowly retrieve them.
Artificial lures are not used as frequently, but there are plenty of anglers that prefer these options. Some of the most used lures include bucktail jig, poppers, soft jerk baits, stick baits, surface minnows, and jigging or trolling spoons.
Location May Determine the Best Bait for Striped Bass
The best bait for catching striped bass may depend on the fishing location. In a landlocked area, stripers reaching the surface may respond well to minnows. In deeper waters, anglers may have better luck with a live eel.
When fishing from the shore, sand crabs are a great option. Stripers tend to travel closer to the shoreline when the current is strong to look for Sandcrabs. I caught my first striped bass using soft shell sand crabs. Sandworms and bloodworms are also commonly used from the shore.
The chance of success with a specific type of bait may also depend on the types of fish that the striped bass tends to eat in the region.
This means that striped bass in one part of the ocean may jump at mackerel while stripers further south may prefer bunker.
To learn more about the feeding habits of the stripers in a specific region, it is best to ask people at a local bait and tackle shop.
How to Use Live Eels as Bait to Catch Striped Bass
Live eels are widely regarded as the top choice for catching striped bass. Eels also provide the best chances of getting a big striper. You may need something more enticing than a worm to catch a 40-pound bass.
When using live eels, you may need to keep them alive for more than one day. If they are not stored properly, the eels may die. They need to be kept cool and moist.
The most common method is to store them in a burlap sack with a block of ice. The ice slows down their metabolism, making them easier to handle and helps keep them moistened.
Another option is to create a storage container for the eels using three plastic buckets. Holes are drilled in the bottom of two of the buckets. One of these buckets is stacked on top of the bucket with no holes. Place the eels in the upper bucket. The third bucket is stacked on top of the eel bucket and contains ice.
As the ice melts, the water drips onto the eels, keeping them cool and moist. The holes in their bucket prevent them from drowning in the water.
While the ice may make the eels easier to handle, they still squirm around a lot. Some anglers use a cotton glove or sock to grip the eel when hooking it. The eel should be held by the neck.
A circle hook is recommended as this will help avoid hooking the bass in the gut. There are two options for hooking the eel. The hook can be inserted into the mouth and through the bottom of the eel’s throat.
The other option is to place the hook through the mouth and out an eye socket. While this is the more secure way to hook the eel, there is a risk that the hook may kill the eel.
Most anglers cast the eel weightless. However, if the current is strong, a small weight may be added, such as a lightweight sinker.
Using the Tube and Worm Technique to Catch a Striper
While eel is considered the most effective bait, the tube and worm technique is considered the easiest method for beginners.
The tube and worm technique requires the use of a specially-designed tube. These tubes are often called tube lures or tube bait. It is a soft plastic lure that is hollowed out and may measure several inches or several feet. When trying to catch striped bass, most anglers use the longer tubes.
The tube alone is not likely to hook a striper. However, hooking a live sandworm gives the tube an enticing scent to help lure the stripers. You should also never use sandworms that have spoiled. The bass may not go for the dead sandworm.
When using the tube and worm technique for trolling, boaters should maintain a slow, steady speed. Typically, a speed of 2 to 2.5 miles per hour is recommended.
This speed allows the tube to slowly move through the water, helping to mimic the movement of an eel, which is what the long tube is designed to imitate.
Using the worm works best in shallower waters. If you get too deep, the scent of the worm and the appearance of the tube may not be as effective. Try to stick to 20 feet or less. The tube and worm technique may also be used for shore fishing.
Choosing the Right Lure for Catching Striped Bass
For those that prefer artificial lures to live bait, there are a variety of options. Some lures work better in shallow waters or fishing along the surface, while others are best suited for deeper waters.
When fishing the open waters, lakes, rivers, and inlets from the surface, surface minnows, stick baits and prop baits are the preferred choices. The surface minnows are best suited for daylight fishing when the bass are more likely to spot the white underbelly of the artificial minnow.
If fishing at night, dusk, or dawn, there may be less light to catch the reflection of the minnow. Stick baits are useful in moderate light. However, stick baits require the angler to create movement, as these baits do not include any action.
The walk the dog technique is often effective with a stick bait. This technique simply requires the angler to move the rod from side to side to create movement.
In shallow waters, there are other lures to consider. The soft jerk bait is a popular choice, as it has a realistic appearance that helps attract stripers. Like the stick bait, this bait works best when the angler creates erratic movement, such as twitching or skipping the bait below the surface.
Jigging spoons and trolling spoons are recommended when fishing in deeper waters. The jigging spoons can be used in waters that are at least 15 feet deep.
Crankbaits are also useful for catching striped bass. They are often used in the fall when striped bass may be found in shallow waters, but not the surface. If fishing at night, it is important to use a lure that makes noise.
The Best Rod and Reel for Catching Striped Bass
Along with the right bait, anglers also need the right rod and reel for catching striped bass. Fishing for striped bass does not require a long rod, especially when trolling or casting from a boat. Typically, a 9 or 10-foot rod should suffice.
Many anglers make the mistake of choosing a rod that is bigger than they need. This can make it difficult to control the line, especially with a big catch.
An eight-foot rod to eleven-foot rod should offer the length that you need for any situation, including trolling and fishing from the shore.
When using an artificial lure, it is helpful to have a spinning rod. A medium-action rod is recommended. However, when jigging, a fast action rod is preferred as they have less bend, providing more power and sensitivity.
These rods are also recommended for trolling. When surf fishing, anglers may need a medium-action rod to cast further out.
The reel should match the rod. A casting reel should be used with a casting rod. The reel should also hold enough line. In most cases, 250 yards of line is recommended to ensure that there is enough line for hooking a big catch.
Most anglers use braided line for catching striped bass. This line is thinner than the monofilament line, allowing more line to fit on the reel.
The thinner line is also better suited for strong currents and deep water, as there is less risk of the current taking control of the line. Braided line also has less resistance, making it perfect for casting.
When Should You Fish for Striped Bass?
The best time to fish for striped bass is typically the early morning or late evening. Just before dawn or dusk often provides the best time for feeding activity. If possible, you may also want to fish about 2-3 hours before peak tide to 2-3 hours outgoing tide, when the currents are stronger, as the fish may be more active.
Where Should You Fish for Striped Bass?
Striped bass can be found in the ocean, rivers, lakes, and inlets. During most of the year, they may be found in the ocean. By early spring, the bass should make their way downstream toward the shallower waters of the rivers, inlets, and bays.
In some areas, the bass gets landlocked, due to changes in the depth of the river that they traveled to reach the lake or due to man-made changes in the waterways. When landlocked, the bass are often found in the lakes outside of spawning season.
What Is the Average Size of a Striped Bass?
Mature striped bass can weigh between 6 and 40 pounds. Female striped bass reaches maturity at around four or five years of age. At this age, they may only weigh about six pounds and have a length of 23 inches.
In California, the minimum size is 18 inches if the angler wishes to keep it. Most states, the bass must be at least 28 inches. Striped bass does not typically reach this minimum length until they are closer to seven years old.
Male striped bass rarely reaches 40 pounds, while female bass may reach 40 pounds by the time that they are 15 years old. The average life expectancy is 20 to 30 years.
The world record for a caught striped bass weighed 81.88 pounds and measured 54 inches. However, most anglers are hoping to at least catch a bass that meets the minimum length of 28 inches, with most catches weighing between 10 and 20 pounds.
There are many types of bait that you can use to catch striped bass. The most-recommended options include sand crabs, bloodworms, sandworms, bunker, and lures.
While some people do not enjoy baiting live eel, eel is one of the most effective options, especially in deep waters.
If you prefer artificial lures, consider using surface minnows in rivers and jigging spoons or trolling spoons, bucktail jigs, large surface swimmers, diamond jigs, in the ocean.