How To Know The Best Time To Fish For Striped Bass

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So how do you know the best time to fish for striped bass? It’s important to have an understanding of the correct timetables, tides, bait activity, temperature. Even though bass are easy to catch, as well as their trophy relatives, striped bass hybrids, as they grow and reach gargantuan sizes, especially in freshwater, they have to be smarter and well adjusted to survive. But experiencing that first monster bass peal line off of your spool will be a life-changer, I guarantee it! Additionally,  having an understanding of the correct time to fish will greatly improve your chances of hooking on to a giant. 

What Do Striped Bass Eat? 

Unlike large and smallmouth bass, stripers are opportunistic. In saltwater, these fish will aggressively forage for crustaceans, fish, marine worms, and squid. It’s not uncommon to watch a school of anchovies suddenly disperse as a 20 lb striped bass torpedos through and reduces them to a cloud of small, flashing scales.  Usually, an incoming tide is ideal for surf fishing for these brutes, and using a surf fishing rig ( or surf leader) with a pyramid weight and bait such as squid or sand crabs or herring will get the job done. Due to this wide natural forage, anglers across the country can make use of a variety of lures and baits, and tactics. But isolating those larger specimens from the school is the goal, so how do we do this? 

 Understanding the Tides 

If we’re talking about saltwater striper fishing, then knowing the tides is essential. If you’ve never determined the tides, don’t sweat it.  Check your local forecast or download the app  Tide Alert to your phone. This will give you a rough idea of low and high tides and when to fish. 

 Incoming Tide 

I try to hit the surf during an incoming tide with low swells. Swells are large waves with no crest that form thousands of miles offshore due to severe storms. As a result, baitfish, bits of carcasses, and sand crabs may be found either close in or further out or even hunkered close to the bottom, and are often being blown around.  It’s not uncommon to use a 6-8 oz weight to stabilize your rig during a large swell.

Evening can be one of the best times to fish for striped bass.

If conditions are calm, I try to fish two hours before a slack tide (the period between high and low)  At this time, the tide will bring in the forage like baitfish. Some easy giveaways are birds diving, seals, whales, and dolphins feeding on sholes of anchovies and herring.  At peak and slack tide, the bass has the ultimate advantage and will position themselves where the current breaks. My area of interest is around rocky outcrops and at the bases of bluffs. Here, I can get eyes on the current breaks and catch anything coming around the corner. 

How To Know The Best Time To Fish For Striped Bass: Fresh Water 

What makes these fish so much fun to catch is that you can get them in freshwater. However,  when transitioning to freshwater reservoirs or large river systems, tackle and tactics change a bit.  I’ve always found that Spring is a great time, as stripers will feed heavily on shad and other baitfish. As a result, receiving a bite is easier. As the water temperature increase, bass will head deep, much the way saltwater striper will head into deeper water. 

How To Know Where To Fish 

Using apps like Google Maps and Google Earth, you can research lake points, structure, cover, topwater vegetation, water access, overhanging trees, fences, inlets, back bays, roads, etc. 

Trolling For Striped Bass In Spring

After checking the striped bass fishing report, the first tactic I’ll consider is trolling. Being that baitfish like shad are in full swing and dispersing, I’ll commit to a steady 2 mph troll with a deep diving Rapala X-rap, and make use of my Garmin to locate fish and mark the depth. At 75 F, striped bass and other species will head to deeper water. At this point, I’ll use a downrigger and a brightly colored ( Chartruease)  bucktail jig and troll it past structure and humps. 

Trolling In Spring And Summer

A crippled anchovy is a perfect bait when the bite begins to slow.  I like to troll it fast and follow the baitfish, either by watching  Baitfish will have grown a bit by this time and dispersed about the waters. This leads me to fish faster in search of bait activity. Once found, I’ll troll around or rip a Rapala x rap back to me. 

Best Time Of Day To Fish For Striped Bass 

On freshwater, especially in Spring, I like to start my day early as the fish will be higher in the water column. I’ll use any combination of trolling and/or anchoring close to a structure and casting and retrieving. I’ll do this until water temps have hit that 65-70 mark. 

Best Time Of Year To Catch Striped Bass 

I primarily fish in the San Francisco Bay Area. In late winter early spring, striped bass will stage in to the bay and soon make their way up freshwater channels to spawn. This can be an awesome time to begin fishing for them as water temps begin to rise. This will primarily begin occurring in March. In the late summer, stripers will travel back to saltwater and into the ocean. 

Fishing From Shore 

It’s entirely possible to get striper from shore. Many anglers will fish reservoirs using the bait-and-wait strategy with a sinker and an anchovy chunk on a 2 OT Octopus hook. If you’ve experienced this type of fishing, then you know you can miss a bite, so rig up a bell clip to your rod. 

Striped Bass Hybrid 

A prized catch to any angler is the striped bass hybrid. Hard fighting, easy to catch, and aggressive feeders, these bass are almost as fun to catch as they are tasty. The striped bass hybrid ( also called the Cherokee bass) is a cross-fertilization between a white and striped bass. As an example of their ferocity, they’re often stocked in ponds and lakes to regulate crappie and bluegill populations. 

Best Time to Fish For Striped Bass 

Understanding the best times to fish these hybrid beasts isn’t quite as important as their striped relatives. However, many rules still apply. Fishing early and in the evening gives you an advantage and is a time when using big swim-baits, weightless flukes, buck-tail jigs, and virtually any shad imitation will produce a savage strike.  





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