Now’s the time to go local for Spring stripers.
Lure Recommendations from Local Fishing Experts
This month, we all lean a little west, looking for dark grey fins, small swirls, or flocks of black-tipped gulls tipping us off to striped bass movements east and north. Before an age-old game of telephone tag begins, alerting all of New England that someone heard that someone maybe caught that first fish, we should have prepared our gear and loaded our bags with plugs and tricks. Locals have their favorite spots so why not use their favorite lures? Locals have their favorite spots so why not use their favorite lures? This month, go local for spring stripers with advice from the best local sources.
Klondike Customs – Pencils & Poppers
Stripers will run high on cloudy days or after a few sunny ones warm the surface. This is where you work pencils and poppers. Klondike Customs’ Matt Thayer creates a brilliant line of fresh and saltwater lures and a personal favorite is his blue and white pencil popper version. Perfectly balanced and rugged enough to catch well over time, tie them directly. They float nicely on a steady retrieve, resembling a tired wounded fish with an attractive wake sure to draw in bass. Matt Thayer takes tremendous pride in his art so they are finished with strong clear coats and are just plain beautiful.
If you can find one, Mike Yarworth of the Narragansett Surfcasters Fishing Club turns some highly fantastic wood poppers. Spring bass and bluefish poppers are similar in design and often are best retrieved on a three count, with a pause after three handle turns. Even a missed strike is exciting when it gets tail slapped then you see a wake and you get shaky watching it turn away then come back and you reel a little more quickly, then the whole ocean explodes with a strike and a splash and you’re in the fight and your hand is still shaking after decades of fishing. If you can find a Yarworth popper in someone’s tackle bag, especially a white or blue over yellow pattern, ask to borrow it, for a long time.
I firmly believe fish key in on certain colors on particular days and skies but more importantly, I believe shape is more critical than color, especially in the middle of the water column. Those old timers surely caught loads of bass off the beach with simple wood lures because the form was the ticket. When bass are lurking, hunting behind boulders, or cruising a sandy stretch, that instant instinct to attack relates to shape. They see a fish, they attack. For midwater fishing, Cape Cod’s Fish Snax Lures’ Albie Snax in pearl white and blurple are pure gold because they have a simple shape that works in many conditions. I’ve had good luck rigging them with Massachusetts’s Joe D’Agostino’s Joe Baggs jig heads. The 5/16 ounce model is long enough to secure most plastics and they resist a tough saltwater environment. Rig Albie Snax with ¼ ounce jigs then long cast for larger, wiser fish on the outside of the school. Albie Snax are available in a variety of colors, from Lemon Meringue to Bubble Gum and are four season striper lures. If you know fish are in but can’t buy a strike, try a Gravity Tackle GT 91/2” eel.
They come in a variety of colors and if bass are still not knocking at your door, cut the tail back an inch or so to add some flutter. Something so simple as having a 5” Albie Snax or 9.5” Gravity on a steady retrieve, one solid and one tricked out with a split tail can make all the difference.
Double-blade Spinner Bait
Taking another page from the Klondike Customs catalog, I have absolutely loved fishing Matt’s double-blade spinner bait for winter holdover bass. Based on his successful largemouth design, it has an Indiana blade setup with stainless parts to finish a well-balanced striper lure that can absolutely be retrieved slowly in icy waters. You’ll need a rod with a little muscle in the tip to keep them straight while they hit all the marks: flash, vibration, and wiggle. Many fun things in life come with a good wiggle. There’s real truth in Matt’s nickname as the “Spinnerbait Man of South County.”
Point Jude Lure Company Po-Jee
For deeper waters, a Point Jude Lure Company Po-Jee with a spinner and single hook will work the bottom with shine and glitter-like small bait. Po-Jee’s also produce a bit of vibration which will strike right at a striper’s lateral line. At 1 ½ ounces, you’ll easily cast past the crowd but keep the profile real. No early angler worth her salt would leave without a perennial North East favorite, the bucktail.
Rosie’s Bait & Tackle
Rosie Clifton of Rosie’s Bait and Tackle ties them by hand, incorporating hollow deer hair with fine threads built to last. “We always start with a quality jig head and then tie in the bucktail toward the rear of the jig body, allowing enough room to add a paddle tail or similar soft plastic if desired. White seems to be the go-to color for stripers, but we have had success with pinks, greens, and reds.” Rosie said.
Local’s Tip: where people seem to be hammering fish is not always the only place schools are focused so bounce them off those sandy Charlestown Breachway sides while the masses walk that brief and weird break wall rotation. Try Rosie’s Clouser pattern flies as teasers ahead of egg and squid strip setups. At just eight years old, Rosie catches with her own creations and there’s no better way to go local for spring stripers than by supporting a young angler. Visit her website to purchase or see what she’s up to on Instagram.
Swap Trebles For Singles
The best local tip may be to change trebles for singles when possible. Trebles, especially up forward, can damage young fish, tear soft tissue, become lodged in throats and worse, snag gill plates when fish fight back. And please release fish as gently as possible. Rough reentries decrease their chances of survival and we should all know by now how catch and release keeps stocks healthy, anglers happy and tackle companies busy.