Striped bass is some of the hardest-hitting fish that’ll tear line and taste great off the grill. They’ve got a wide-ranging habitat and a veracious appetite, making them a popular target across the county.
They’re diet is broad, ranging from smaller fish to crustaceans, squid, and octopus. This allows anglers to play with all sorts of lures and baits that’ll produce action during a striper run.
But there are some dependable baits worth throwing year round that every angler needs to know when surf fishing. These baits will cover organic baits, some found at your local sport tackle – others totally free!
I like having a bait that’ll stay secure on the hook with a smell that’ll entice a bite. The surf can make cowards of us all – it’s rough and unforgiving at times.
Even with the right amount of weight anchoring your rig, bait such as shrimp and mackerel will tear off after it begins to soak.
Squid is tough and remains on your line during kelp interference and even after a hook set, which makes it a highly effective bait.
When I’m in the surf and begin to see the birds diving on a school of anchovy followed by a dolphin pod, pushing the fish within feet of the shoreline, I want a bait that’ll not only be there on the hook when they tear through the area, but will send out a stench to entice a few fish to peal off the school.
When surveying the surf, the best sign of a good day to come is diving pelicans, hovering seagulls, and dolphins corralling schools of bait- fish close to land – really close. So why not match the hatch? If possible, depending on where you live and what resources are available, live anchovies serve as your best option. Try researching your local bait and tackle shops.
If you are unable to obtain live fish, frozen trays are just fine. Another option is to cut your fish into chunks. Providing striper with the closest (or literally the same) bait, in my opinion, is the way to go.
Matching the hatch couldn’t be more applicable when dealing with Sand Crabs or commonly known as San Fleas or Pacific Mole Crabs. These smooth little crustaceans are mouthwatering to striped bass and are abundant along the western coastline from Alaska to Baja California.
As you would imagine, they burry in the sand, hence their long, smooth shell, and powerful shovel-like back legs are used for kicking up sand. When trying to locate them, look no further than the glossy sand below your feet – they can be found almost everywhere, and require only that you scoop your hand deep in the sand.
If you prefer efficiency, try using a mesh sand rake. Plant the net into the sand and allow a few waves to pass in and out. If the net is empty, move further out. Generally, you’ll find a good handful of these crabs left in the net. Try to select the biggest and softest. Having a bright orange egg pouch on the bottom side of the crab is a plus.
Striped bass will forage these crabs on an incoming tide – your optimal strike zone. But before I say more, you should know what crabs get the bite over others.
When a mole crab has recently molted it leaves the shell soft and easier to consume for the striper. When hooking a sand crab, punch your hook through the back of the crab, missing its organs and keeping it alive longer. I like to have a natural flutter as the bait rises and falls with the current.