Tackle and Tactics: Effective Lures for Spring Stripers

spring stripers,

Courtesy of Earl Evans

Early Spring Stripers

Truly tiny stripers arrive in Mid April some years, and most agree these spring stripers have not traveled long distances but rather migrated from local hold over areas. As they start to fill in along the coast and the first migrating fish join them, fishermen will congregate near the traditional early spring striper landing spots at the “right” times and tides. These meetings, however, more closely resemble a reunion of old friends and acquaintances than the collection of determined and secretive bass seekers these very same individuals will morph into as the bigger fish arrive in May.

spring stripers

First casts of the new season for spring stripers

Early spring stripers provide us with the opportunity to once again stand on a rock and feel the movement of the ocean, the warmth of the sunshine, and the taste of the brisk, clean, salty air. The days to look for are a sunny day with light winds and a high tide between noon and 5 pm. Focus on areas with dark bottoms like coves, creeks, and flats. The afternoon tides give the dark bottom a chance to absorb some of the sun’s warmth and will bump the water temps on the incoming tide into the 50’s.

These Spring Stripers Are Our Future

At the risk of sounding like a PETA member, I would just remind the reader that these fish are our future large fish and that the spring is also a time to practice good stewardship of the resource. We have more opportunity to associate with other anglers, many new to the sport, during these particular days than we will later in the season when we take to creeping about in the dark in secrecy. Developing good catch-and-release habits, and demonstrating those habits for the benefit of the resource and other anglers who may have less regard for the resource, are vital this time of year.

It is wise to modify the lures that have multiple hooks. Springtime schoolies are aggressive and small and as a result, a lot of damage can be inflicted by treble hooks. Modify your lures to either a single belly treble with the barbs crushed, a VMC Siwash on the tail with the barb crushed or one of the inline hook options like the Owner Zo-Wire  (try to have the weight of the inline hook match the weight and not necessarily the size of the hook you are replacing). This will help minimize the damage inflicted on the eyes and gills of the small aggressive bass.

rebel jumping minnow

The most popular lure in the store. Spring stripers, albies, roosterfish…

Effective Lures for Spring Stripers

Hardbaits For Spring Stripers

Rebel Jumpin’ Minnows have always been the lure of choice for most anglers early on. They cast great, and the fish love them. Who doesn’t like to see a fish, no matter how small, smash a topwater lure? As mentioned previously, this is the time to experiment with various lures, varying your retrieves, and learning what each will and won’t do. Experiment in the daylight and later in the season, these varied retrieves can be one of your best weapons in the darkness when larger, picky bass that is feeding but rejecting everything in your plug bag. For example, practice “Dead sticking,” or walking, a spook-type topwater plug at a painfully slow pace. Learn the movement and memorize that rate of retrieve. This technique can save a slow night in July.

Other effective hard baits for spring stripers include the Tsunami Talkin Popper in smaller sizes. This is also a great lure to introduce kids to fishing as the surface commotion keeps them engaged. Schoolies love it and you will know when the first bluefish arrive as well!

The Bomber Long Shot is a small profile swimmer built for casting distance. Other similar lures include the Daiwa SP Minnow and the Shimano Coltsniper Jerkbait. They do as described. Good casting distance and a subsurface (1-2 feet) swim.

Soft Baits for Spring Stripers

 

The advances in light, braid-friendly rods and reels allow you to deliver a host of baits that would have been difficult previously. The standard Cocohoe Minnow , Curly Tail or Albie Snax are popular choices for spring schoolies. As for color selection white is all you need with chartreuse a good choice for dark days or if the water is off color. These can be rigged Texas-style with an Owner Beast hook either weighted or unweighted), or mounted on a Mustad Elite Jig Head for additional weight. The expanding line of Gulp products will cover all your bases and can imitate just about every bait, in both profile and scent. The Gulp Swimming Mullet is a good place to start your “Gulp experience.”

The Casting Egg – A Secret Weapon

casting egg

Get casting distance with light teasers and flies

Casting eggs and floats will allow you to deliver small jigs, rubber, and even flies to these early visitors, as well as work them in shallow water and slowly over structure. We asked plug builder extraordinaire Larry Thomas to turn a casting egg exclusively for SWE–check out Larry’s Lures’ Casting Egg.

spring striper techniques

Learn Something New

Spring schoolies provide a lot of positive reinforcement and offer a great opportunity to learn and refine techniques. It is the ideal time to develop your skills as a bucktailer. Bucktailing is a discipline, and one that is easy to move away from as the season progresses, so getting in the habit and sticking with it is a good way to guarantee success later. There is a rhythm and feel to delivering this deadly lead, hair, and rind combination and it’s no coincidence almost every accomplished bass angler is a very proficient bucktailer. Small ones (less than an ounce) made by Andrus , Jeck’s and Joe Baggs paired with a split-tail trailer from Otter Tails or Fat Cow create an enticing meal. This method is as simple as it gets and is often overlooked, but I can promise you that if you invest the time into bucktailing, you will locate more and larger bass than you would have believed were there in the first place. Anyone who has dedicated himself to the lure will tell you that it is an eye-opening experience.

Get Out and Enjoy Spring Stripers

 

Ultimately, this is the time to dust off your gear, reset your “fishing clock” and tune back into the water and the environment in an effort to make productive the time that you are able to chisel out of your schedule.

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