While largemouth bass fishing thrills anglers with its acrobatics, striped bass make a spool-stripping run after the hookset.
If you are looking for some striper action this time of year on your favorite lake, head up creek arms where the fish will be feeding on shad. On many of these fisheries—especially in the South–stripers remain in the creeks throughout the winter and hold at depths of 15 to 20 feet. Catching striped bass doesn’t automatically slow down when the winter hits, these suspended fish will actively eat.
Stripers chase shad on the surface in the mornings and are susceptible to topwater prop baits like the Reaction Strike XRM SpyBait, suspending stickbaits or soft plastic jerkbaits. Throw these lures on 8- to 10-pound test, which can handle the powerful surges of stripers if you set the drag correctly.
A limber 6-foot spinning or baitcast rod is better for controlling a striper’s run since a heavy-action rod can break the line when you set the hook or if the striper makes that hard-charging run and overpowers the drag.
After stripers finish chasing shad in the mornings, the fish spend the rest of the day suspending about 20 feet deep or deeper over the creek channels. Trolling shad-imitating stickbaits in blue-and-white, gray or chrome hues is an effective method for catching these fish.
Try medium-diving stickbaits trolled with a downrigger for stripers holding closer to the surface, but switch to deep-diving models for the deepest fish. Ideal gear for trolling stickbaits includes a 7-foot medium-action fishing rod and a baitcast reel equipped with a line counter to help determine the depth for trolling. Using lighter line such as 10-, 12- or 14-pound test helps the stickbaits achieve better action and depth.
Striper action remains consistent throughout the winter since the fish remain deep in the creek arms. Trolling continues to catch fish throughout the cold weather along with vertical jigging slab spoons. When vertical jigging, scan your electronics for baitfish balls and stripers hanging below the bait. Then drop the spoon down to the depth of the baitfish balls and make sure you keep the lure above the stripers.
Topwater action returns in the spring when stripers move to the backs of the creeks in an attempt to spawn. The same topwaters that worked for you in the fall will now trick stripers cruising as shallow as 2 feet deep in the mornings. When the fish leave the shallows later in the day, try trolling with stickbaits and lipless crankbaits for the best results.
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