Many freshwater anglers feel that it is a whole different world when it comes to fishing in saltwater. There is a common belief that you need a 10’ rod, 4oz lead weight, and a chunk of mackerel to go after striped bass and bluefish. Not so!
For most freshwater anglers, you can use the same setup that you catch smallmouth with for stripers and blues. If you have a smallmouth rod that is spooled up with 10#-12# test line of good condition (line that is less than 2 years old) you can fish for stripers and have a blast.
Of course playing a striped bass will test your fishing skills with some of the fish over 10 pounds but to be challenged is all apart of the fun of fishing. You can land stripers up to 25 pounds or more with good technique, but most fish average 5 pounds, which makes the smallmouth setups perfect.
You need to keep in mind a few good fishing habits if you hook up with a fish over 10 pounds. The drag needs to be adjusted for tension but lets line out before breaking. Rod tip needs to be kept parallel to the ground or lower during the fight, this will avoid the dreaded “ high tipping” that puts too much stress on the tip and breaks it. This occurs mostly when trying to land the fish. Instead of lifting the rod tip to get the fish within arms length, sweep the rod parallel to the water, this will help keep the majority of the pressure on the butt or backbone of the rod that is the strongest part. Of course those of us who regularly catch 5-pound smallies already know this, right?
You may be surprised what hits. My clients and myself love to fish top water plugs. There is nothing more exciting than seeing 3 or 4 stripers fighting over your plug on the surface.
The fishing begins and ends around the same time and the fish are most aggressive at the start and the finish just like fresh. You don’t have to go to the crashing surf to catch fish; in fact the tidal rivers are where all the fish are at the end of May. Just ask some of the fishermen in Waterville who have benefited nicely from the removal of the dam in Augusta a few years ago.
We are very lucky to live in a beautiful part of the country where we can fish for and catch fresh and saltwater fish in the same day. In most cases if we have the equipment for fresh water than you are already set up for stripers. Keep it simple and have fun.
On the subject of caring for your equipment, always rinse your reel, rod, and lures with fresh water after each trip.
We know the rod to use but what about lures? Use the same lures you catch smallies with. Bass are bass and stripers will respond to the same lures you use in fresh. Of course some of the smaller plugs have hooks that are too light, but many of the manufacturers make “saltwater versions”. Just to give a few examples, Chug Bug by Storm, Slug-Go by Lunker City, and Zara Spook by Heddon all make models with upgraded hooks suitable for stripers and are just as deadly.
Present your lure for stripers the same way you do for smallies. Look for the same structure (rocks, holes, rip lines) and pretend your fishing in fresh water.
By Captain Keith Hall
Find some great saltwater and freshwater Fishing Boats here at Hamlin's Marine!