How To Know The Best Time To Fish For Striped Bass


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? 

How To Know The Best Time To Fish For Striped Bass: 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.

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 that will head into deeper water. 

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 solid live bait when the bite has faded into summer. I like to troll it a bit faster and follow the bait balls on my fish finder. 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 fresh water, 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 into 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. 

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.  






















The Best Time To Fish: Why You Should Fish The Evening

When is the best time to fish, exactly? New anglers will find themselves scratching their head and wondering when to hit the water. Some seasoned anglers will swear by early morning while others will go straight to the afternoon for some secretive reason.

For me, evening is when the action heats up; there are less people, and, best of all, you’re more likely to get a bite.

1. You’ll Have More Energy

This is a no-brainer. But it’s worth discussing. You’ve already been awake for hours. You’ve had your coffee and your brain is on. I’ve always found the morning hours can be brutal. Especially with a long drive, a boat launch, last-minute logistical planning, and searching the “hottest fishing spots near me” and lots of coffee. By evening, you’re awake and ready to drop lines.

Dusk on a lake in Shasta County, Ca. An awesome time to start loading the boat and targeting larger fish along shore and weed-lines.

You Can Fish Into the Night

Rather than racing to fish before it becomes too hot, try fishing as the sun falls. In fact, some species will drop their guard at night as visibility diminishes. This is great for sticking that stubborn bass otherwise too smart to catch during the day.

2. Best Time To Fish: Better Bites in The Evening

During certain times of the year, the water temperature warms later. By this time, the sun is shining straight down on your fishing hole. As a result, some fish will seek cover in response. By the time evening arrives, fish will emerge from cover and hunt the shorelines and deepwater. Some species like largemouth bass can also be caught at night if you have the necessary lighting. For this, I would have in my possession a power source and a floodlight and flashlights, also. If your fishing by boat, having these connected to your main battery is a good idea.

Best Time To Trout Fish

I’ve always found that the evening bite is better for trout, especially on a dry fly along creeks and outflow sources. The reason for this is the weather. As the Fall gives way to spring and the hatch becomes more robust, the late afternoon / early evening temperatures will bring out the bugs, thus bringing out the predator fish. But be prepared! Check out the top spring trout lures here.

3. Use Low Light Conditions To Your Advantage

With a reduction in light, there is less chance the fish will study the lure and line. If you’re lucky, what little light remains will reflect off your spinner, giving just enough flash to entice a bite, but without presenting your terminal tackle. In these conditions, I like to use a bladed lure like a willow leaf spinnerbait for bass and burn it at surface level. For trout, I like to use rooster tails and Panther Martins of any color, as the evening light won’t reflect too heavily off the metal of your fishing lure.

Great Time To Bass Fish

This is a great time to work your topwater lures and spinnerbaits for bass. With lower light conditions, you can get away with bulky, dark-colored lures as they silhouette well and move water, triggering a fish to activate other senses like sound and vibration. The evening is also a fantastic time to throw a topwater frog around shallow cover.

Nature Comes To Life in The Evening

Have you ever been on a lake in the summer in the evening? Yes? Then you’ve hear the low-toned calls of bullfrogs and their offspring across the water. The insects in full force -mosquitos and stone flies. Over head, bats zig zag across the sky. Everything comes to life and much of these organisms are eaten by fish. This gives you plenty of options to play with different lures and hook sizes.

Fishing the evening will often produce large fish and more action.

Final Thoughts

If you do choose to fish in the evening, you’ll find that you don’t need any special fishing gear, tactics, or skills – just your rod and reel, tackle box, bug spray, and warm clothes. Instead of racing against the sun, you’ll be pressured only by your own desire to hit the sack, as fishing into the evening and low light conditions are easily dealt with by using a headlamp and flashlight. Give it a try. It might be a game-changer for you!