The striped bass season in New York is some of the best fishing of the year, especially when the bass are migrating during the spring and fall. Stripers can average around 50 pounds, and often get up to 80 pound with the biggest fish in the fall.
If you can find a migrating school of stipers, you can expect fast action, a good fight, and several photo-worthy catches. But much of this action depends on the types of bait you are using.
Stripers have a reputation of being prodigious eaters. During the spring, they are eating extensively as they migrate, recovering from winter. During the fall, they need to put on weight in order to survive the winter.
With this appetite, striped bass will go after many different types of bait – except for the days when stripers seem completely uninterested in any bait you have on offer. Knowing what baits stripers are likely to go after and how and where to use them, as well as some common troubleshooting ideas when fish do not seem to be biting, can help improve your catch in terms of quantity and the size of your fish.
Live Bait Versus Dead Bait Versus Artificial Lures for Striped Bass Fishing
The best way to catch stripers will always mimic what striped bass eat in the wild. This is a predatory fish that largely feeds on smaller fish, as well as occasionally shellfish and invertebrates. They rely extensively on sight when hunting, looking for movement and color to indicate prey. But smell is also an important factor for attracting stripers.
Striped bass will often find large schools of fish and, under the right conditions, can start a feeding frenzy. Not only is the school of baitfish the best location for you to cast your line since stripers are likely to be plentiful nearby, but these are also the type of fish you want to imitate with your bait.
Live fish perfectly imitate what striped bass naturally go for, and are therefore most likely to provide results. However many anglers still have good success with dead bait for striper fishing as well as frozen bait. Working bait through the water or letting the current move it will create a similar appearance to live bait, and so long as it is still relatively fresh, it will let off a scent that is attractive to striped bass.
For this reason, many natural baits are also a good choice for chunking and you can place a piece of bait on your hook or trolling with little pieces of bait.
Artificial lures are another option that can be highly successful but will sometimes require additional work and occasionally more skill in order to effectively attract striped bass. The wide variety of lures available will also need some consideration to be sure the one you are using is close enough to a bait that striped bass like.
The result is that you can potentially be successful with any type of beat depending on your level of skill, with live bait offering better results on average, followed by dead or frozen bait, and finally artificial lures.
Best Live Baits for Striper Fishing
These baits are generally the ones that will produce the best results when striper fishing, as well as how to use them most effectively.
Baitfish – Bunker, Porgy, and Mackerel
Using any of these fish as a live baitfish is considered a top way to catch striped bass. You can catch your own at the beginning of a fishing trip or purchase them. The primary challenge will be to keep them alive throughout the trip, or at least arrange to keep them fresh. If you have frozen or dead baitfish, you can also chunk them.
Some of the different ways to use these live baitfish for striper fishing include:
- Casting – Simply put a live or dead baitfish on your hook with a light weighted rig and cast it out into an area where stripers are active and then reel it back towards you. The movement along the way should tempt stripers to bite. Do not cast too roughly as it will cause some baits to slip the hook.
- Drifting – You can drift your bait in either a natural current or from a boat that is slowly unanchored. The current should hold the bait in place under the water and cause it to mimic the natural movement of baitfish.
- Trolling – Chunk up a baitfish or attach live fish to a rig and troll it behind a boat. It can take some time to find the right depth, but when you get to an area where fish are plentiful, this is a fast way to catch them.
One technique to increase the appeal of baitfish is to chop off the tail and then letting the line out so the bait will float at just the right height for the school of fish you are over. With the tail missing, a bait fish will sink somewhat but still be active, making it appear like an easy catch for a striper.