Striped Bass Basics
Striped Bass (Morone saxatilis)
On average, adult striped bass fish weigh between 20-40 lb and are 16-30 inches in length. The official world record striped bass is a massive 81 lb, so there are some real monsters out there.
Also Known As
Striped bass have a wide distribution and so are afforded several names, arising from the different fishing cultures that target them. Striped bass can be referred to as “stripers”, “Atlantic striped bass”, “linesider”, or “rockfish”.
LC – Least Concern
As the name suggests, the most distinctive feature of striped bass is their seven to nine horizontal stripes that run from head to tail. The stripes higher up on the fish’s body (closer to the dorsal fin) are generally more prominent in color and width.
The body of the striper is typically silver in color. Depending on the area, time of year, and the local environment, this silver color can blend into shades of green, blue, teal, or black higher up on the sides of the fish. Regardless of their body color, the underside will remain a characteristic shiny and reflective silver.
The dorsal fin has prominent spines with soft tissue stretched over and between each spine. The dorsal fin is black, though nearly translucent, and has a deep notch that splits the fin in two. The anal fin is similar, though it has three spines that the tissue is stretched between. The striped bass also has two points on their gill cover, not unlike spikes, and two patches of teeth on the back of their tongue.
A Note on Spawning
Striped bass are anadromous, meaning they spend most of their adult lives in saltwater but migrate to and spawn in freshwater. Stripers are able to survive in freshwater habitats, and some freshwater fisheries do stock striped bass. However, freshwater striped bass struggle to reproduce, and most fisheries that host them are restocked on an annual basis with hatchery-produced fish.
Striped bass typically spawn in late April to early June, as water temperatures reach the mid 60-degree point. They do not nest, bed, or lay their eggs in any particular place or structure, a common practice with other bass species. Instead, they engage in broadcast spawning, relying on the current to facilitate the germination of their eggs, and so striped bass only spawn in areas with a current.
The silver color with 7-9 longitudinal lines is indicative of the striped bass fish
How to Catch Striped Bass
Striped bass are unique fish; they move between saltwater, brackish water, and freshwater. This gives them an absolutely massive range: simultaneously, you can catch striped bass from the mouth of the St.Lawrence river and the lakes of the Carolinas. Yet, fishing for them will look very different based on where and when you’re fishing.
The critical factor to base your approach on is how the baitfish of a particular body of water behave at that moment.
Favorite Feeding Spots
In the summer months, you will find striped bass feeding off algae blooms in the shallows. Conversely, when temperatures drop, the baitfish will pull off into deeper water and hold to tighter schools. Any structure that facilitates the growth of algae and aquatic vegetation is still of interest. These places will hold baitfish and so bring in the striped bass fish.
As the seasons shift, anglers that adapt to the changing weather patterns and consistently find different locations which draw in baitfish will have the most luck with striped bass. Flexibility in fishing methods and an intimate knowledge of the body of water are crucial to being a successful year-round striped bass angler.
Striped bass can be caught year-round, but each season has its own nuances that an angler must be aware of to succeed. It may not be expected, but winter striped bass fishing can provide some of the best fish of the year and some highly engaging battles. In cold temperatures, the baitfish slow down and begin to bunch up in shoals, making them an easy target for big bass fish to chase.
In the springtime, the saltwater-going striped bass start their journey from the American south to the waters of the northeast, where they spawn.
The summertime can be a challenge when targeting striped bass. The spawn is over, and the fish are harder to locate. Warm water inlets that connect sea and saltwater often become places of interest for striped bass during this season. Lower energy levels characterize the southern fall migration, due to dropping water temperatures. During this period, striped bass move deeper as they search for baitfish and conserve their energy.
Anything which imitates a baitfish that striped bass would naturally prey on are optimal baits to use. This means crankbaits, topwater lures, jigs, spoons, and soft plastics (that emulate baitfish) are always reliable choices.
The critical point to remember, though, is that you must provide some level of movement to your bait. This could come in the form of a fluttering spoon or the rattling of a lipless crankbait. Striped bass need to see movement to be interested, but try to make it match the natural activity of the baitfish at that moment.
Striped bass love injured fish, which appear as an easy meal. This means any bait that suggests injury will also prove to be a winner for striped bass.
Crankbaits that imitate crankbaits are a surefire way to land a striped bass
When targeting a fish with a vast range of locations and habitats, the successful angler needs to have many techniques to draw from. This is undoubtedly the case for the striped bass; however, some tried and true approaches have proven themselves to be somewhat reliable for striped bass.
Generally speaking, one of the most popular methods for striped bass is to present spoons, live bait, or jigs. This can be done in migration channels or flats when the bass are cornering baitfish, or in open saltwater on the surface. In any case, the main focus should be presenting something that mimics a moving, injured baitfish. The particular way it is done will depend on where the fish are and what time of year it is.
In the northeastern United States, many anglers wade across shallow flats to present tubes, flies, or topwater baits to the feeding bass.
Top Tips for Catching Striped Bass
Tip 1: Know Your Local Striped Bass
Knowing the local fish population is key to catching the striped bass in your area. You must optimize your presentation and approach to what your local body of water offers. In the winter on an Oklahoman reservoir, fishing submerged grass beds with a deep-diving crankbait can be very productive. Yet, fishing flats with topwater baits is the preferred method during the spring in New Jersey. The two approaches are very different and are dictated entirely by the local environment and fish.
Understanding where the fish are in the cycle and how that manifests in your local area is crucial to success
Tip 2: What Are the Seagulls Doing?
Big striped bass will attack schools of baitfish from below and push them to the surface. When this happens, seagulls will descend onto the surface and gather up baitfish for themselves. This is a fantastic indicator for anglers since it takes the guesswork out of locating the striped bass. Simply swim a topwater, spoon, or jig through the boiling water that the seagulls are circling and anticipate a strike within moments.
Seagulls can be one of the best indicators of where to fish for striped bass
Tip 3: Don’t Discount Live Bait
Many anglers don’t want to deal with the hassle of live bait. However, when considering potential bait choices, live bait should be a top contender. Minnows on a Carolina rig or a drop shot can be highly effective; think back to what we said about providing movement that appears natural… What better way is there of achieving this than by using live bait? This is especially useful in saltwater, where the schools of baitfish are much larger. An angler can bring home a stringer of big bass fish for the low cost of $12 per pound of minnows.
Don’t discount the power that live bait can have over striped bass