As June turns into July, the tactics you use to catch big stripers has to change to meet the changing conditions. As the temperature of the water warms it will drive the big fish deeper.They start to feed more at night, change food sources and seem to become more picky. Here are some ideas that might work for you.
When throwing your favorite lure doesn’t seem to be producing the results you want, add a teaser to your rig. This will decrease your casting distance a bit, but often it will increase your hits. The teaser can be a lot of different things, but I like to add a Lefty’s Deceiver, a Red Gill, a bucktail or even a small Sluggo.
To attach a teaser, put a barrel swivel at the end of your line. To it tie on 8-10 inches of fluorocarbon line and your teaser. To the same swivel, tie on 3 feet of fluorocarbon a swivel and clip on your main lure. When you throw this combination, really try to cast it right over your head with power. I am not sure what the trigger is. Perhaps it looks like the bigger lure is chasing a baitfish. Whatever the reason, this combination can really change the day.
If the water is clear, increase the speed of your retrieve. Give them less time to make up their mind. most lures will respond well to the velocity change, but some will just look wrong. Atom poppers, Yozuri swimmers, Cast Masters, streamers, etc. all can be jerked through the water much faster then the original design intended, but such change in speed can often trigger a response.
Work the waves and the white water they produce. Big fish like to feed on baitfish that are hurt or disoriented. This occurs often when the wave breaks and the smaller fish get washed around. Cast to the back of the whitewater and work the artificial quickly. Again, make the striper make up his mind quickly. If he is hungry, he will strike. Remember that “foam is home.”
Examine the water for clarity. If the water is really clear, you get better results if you try to “match the hatch.” The modern lures are so life-like, you should be able to find a lure that comes pretty close to the color and size of the baitfish the stripers are feeding on. Chuck those into the surf and keep changing colors until you get the right one. If the water is murky, bright colors seem to work best. Size may be the most important factor in matching what the big fish are eating.
If you can catch the live bait that is in the water, you will increase your chance of getting a strike. A half hour spent using a Sabiki rig to secure the right bait can make all the difference in the world in the results. We have mentioned in previous columns how to rig live bait, but the simplest way is often the best. Just put your hook through the top of the fish just behind the head. You can add a stinger hook by simple tying a single hook on a four inch line to your main hook and let it dangle freely next to the bait.
Some like to hitch through the nostrils or through the lower lip but I think your bait will remain fresher longer if you go through the back. Others suggest hooking through near the anus. This will get the bait to swim deeper, but again, I like the spot just behind the head. Adding a bobber about six feet up the line can help keep them up off the bottom. Using a teaser with a live bait can also be effective.
At night, try throwing your lure into the surf and let it just sit for a minute. Then give it the tiniest of twitches. Do this throughout the retrieve. I know it contradicts what I said above, but sometimes you just switch it up if nothing is working. This tactic works best in the blackest of nights.
Find the oxygen. As the temperature rises there is less oxygen in the water. look for spots where there is just a little more oxygen than others. For example, the mouths of rivers and creeks, boulders where there is surf, wind-blown banks and spots with vegetation. All of these will introduce oxygen and will be a more comfortable spot for big linesiders.
Keep a log. Try different areas, different techniques, different tides and different phases of the moon. Patterns emerge and you can increase your take as a result. I also have my old charts and write in pencil on them all of the time. They show a lot of the structure you may not see from shore. Be faithful in recording time, method, weather, etc. You will be surprised at the results if you do this over several summers.
Fish at night. I know I keep preaching this, but in the heat of the summer, big fish often only feed at night. Try some of the bigger beaches along the North Shore and don’t be afraid to approach other fishermen. This is a small community and almost everyone is willing to share ideas.
Now, if we could just get it to stop raining on Sundays! See ya out there.