Striped bass, stripers, rock fish and line siders. There is a certain mystique about the striper that makes everyone want to catch them. It's a beautiful fish, anyone who has seen one fresh out of the water with the sun shining off their silvery sides will agree. Catching them can be another matter entirely, though. There are a lot of "bottom fishermen" who may be switching to bass fishing in 2008 due to the possible regulations that could be applied to flounder, scup, and other species as a result of lawsuits by environmentalist groups. Fishing for bass is quite different from bottom fishing.
Bass are aggressive feeders at certain times of the day and also when large amounts of bait are around. This is usually pretty easy to spot, as bait will be jumping as the bass feed upon them. It’s a matter of motoring up and slowing down before you get too close and casting an appropriate lure in among them. Don't make the mistake of going right into or through the area of feeding fish, this is the quickest way to put an end to the fishing. Under these conditions a top water plug or soft plastic that matches the size and shape of the bait is a good choice. Cast in, and as soon as you hit the water, close up and begin a retrieve. Don't move it too fast unless they are bluefish.
Early morning is normally a very good time for bass, they will feed in the shallows near some kind of structure (rocks, drop offs, humps), usually when there is a current to sweep helpless bait past them. At this time top water plugs can be very productive because of the low light conditions. If it going to be overcast or foggy that day, so much the better for the bass fishing. Top water plugs should be surface swimmers, poppers, or walkers in white. They should be worked as if they are injured, occasionally stopping them during the retrieve. It's so cool when the fish smashes that surface plug, splashing, rolling, then running like hell. My favorite kind of bass fishing.
Once there is a good amount of light and the top water plugs stop producing, it’s time to switch to soft plastics and probably move into an area of structure in deeper water. Current is again important, the bass depend on this to sweep food past them and when the current is weak or non-existent you can normally expect that the bass won't be aggressive, you have to bang them off the nose then to get a strike. When drifting with soft plastics, first you get up drift of the structure with the boat and position the boat so you will drift over it, then turn the motor off. Next, consider the depth the fish may be holding in. If the structure is in 30 feet of water, cast out, leave the bail open and count to 15 (one thousand one to one thousand fifteen), then close it up and start your retrieve. You should also vary your retrieve, try slow, try fast, try jigging and reeling, until you find what the fish like. If you get a hit and don't hook up, work the bait very slowly with!
Short jigs as if it is injured. This will normally bring on follow-up strikes. The tendency is to haul back and reel hard, but this will only result in another strike with a bluefish, if it's a bass they most likely will not chase it. It's also possible to have a bluefish hit and bite part of the plastic off and then as you work it as if injured a bass will take it. This is because bass love to pick up after the bluefish, who tend to be messy eaters and will chop up a bait without finishing it off, leaving the pieces to fall to the bottom.
What soft plastic do you use? Well, you try to 'match the hatch', as it were. If you know what their feeding on, use something that approximates that bait. For sand eels, use green/white zooms, sluggish, or fin-s on a jig head. If they are feeding on bunker, use a 4", 5" or 6" Storm swim shad bait in bunker color. If they are feeding on herring, use a 6" Storm swim shad in pearl.
Trolling is another way to fish for bass. The hard part is knowing what to do when you not catching them. Most trolling is done with weights, down riggers, or wire line rods. This is because bass go into the lower part of the water column once the sun is up, so you need a way to get your rig down to where the bass are. We fish an area along the RI south shore which has lots of boulders and is around 28 feet deep. When trolling, we use wire outfits with 200 feet of wire on them. This gets the rig down about 20 feet or so, which is close enough considering how shallow the area is, and how the boulders stick up. We troll umbrellas, tube and worm rigs, or parachute jigs. Usually though we'll only resort to this method when we having trouble getting soft plastics down to the fish. It can be very productive. Speed can be anything from 2 knots to 6 knots, usually we vary it throughout the time we troll. It is not at all unusual to get hits right after changing speed. When it is not working, your speed is wrong, your rig is at the wrong depth, or the fish are gone. However, I always make the first assumptions before assuming the fish are gone. If you go half an hour without a fish, it is time to hang it up and move onward or try something different.
If you keep some of these tips in mind when you're out there then success can be yours when fishing for Bass.