Freshwater Striped Bass Fishing Basics
The Striped Bass is arguably the strongest fighting fish of all freshwater game fish. The "Striper" is a native saltwater fish, that has spent the past 60 years or so adapting to a freshwater environment. Stripers can be found in large, deep resevoirs and many fast flowing rivers. The striped bass thrives in cooler water, thus their placement in deeper bodies of water. These fish typically do not spawn in freshwater lakes, but have been known to spawn effectively in fast moving rivers due to the constant current flow.
Striped bass are an extremely transient fish, traveling non-stop in large schools hunting food. The striper is a ferocious feeder, gorging itself on a variety of shad species, panfish and trout. These fish will literally eat anything that will (or won't) fit in its mouth.
Stripers can grow to weigh in excess of 60 pounds as adults, with the freshwater world record striped bass coming in at 67.8 pounds. Fishing for these giant fish requires much different equipment and tackle than fishing for it's smaller cousins. The striper weighs alot, fights alot and does not tire too quickly. They also do not respond well to most typical artificial lures used for smaller bass species.
When fishing for striped bass regularly, I would recommend the use of boat designed for larger game fish. Striper boats in general are big boats (23'+), with center console steering and open decks.
A good striper boat will be equipped with the latest sonar, gps and side imaging electronics, which are essential to locating deep schools of stripers and the bait fish they are after. Striper boats will also have 6-10 heavy duty rod holders for fishing multiple rigs at the same time.
A quiet, rear controlled trolling motor is also a key necessity on board a striper boat, ensuring complete control of the boat even with multiple fish on at the rear.
Striper boats also need to be equipped with a large aerated holding tank for bait fish. A strong aeration system is necessary to keep the bait fish lively and active. Stripers tend to ignore limp or inactive baits.
Heavy duty tackle is a must if you plan to successfully retrieve one of these monster fish. Most striper fishermen prefer the use of saltwater style round reels and large heavy action rods. Large test monofilament line is a standard choice, sometimes paired with a braided leader.
If you choose to go with an artificial lure presentation as opposed to live bait, the options are far fewer than those available for other bass species. There are thousands of baits that will entice a largemouth bass, whereas there are fewer than 10 baits that will consistently entice a striped bass. Here are a few of my personal favorite baits for stripers.
Best Artifical Lures for Striped Bass
- Johnson Silver Minnow (3/4oz - 1 1/2oz)
- Original Rooster Tail (1oz - White/Silver)
- Cotton Cordell C10 Redfin (7" - 1oz)
- Bomber Hair Jig (1 1/2oz - White)
- Spro Silver Fish Swimbait (Slow)
Striped bass feed on a variety of fish species including sunfish and trout, however they prefer large baitfish such as gizzard shad. Gizzard shad are found in most lakes and nearly every river. They feed on plankton and thrive in the warmest waters available, and can typically be found in shallow coves or inlets in huge numbers. These bait fish can grow to be rather large, in some cases near 2 pounds. Stripers can't seem to resist these fish, and will choose to feed on them over any other live bait presentation. The trick is catching them and keeping them alive.
Once you have located a good stock of gizzard shad, you will have to use a casting net to capture them. This requires a lot of practice, and a lot of patience. It could take an entire day to net enough bait for a single trip. The striper fishing guide industry was founded as a result of this complicated process. People would rather pay someone to catch the bait then to try to do it themselves. The only advantage a striper guide has over an average angler is the bait. They have mastered the process, and make a fine living off of it.
Gizzard shad are very delicate fish when removed from their natural habitat, and will not survive long if not properly handled. This is why gizzard shad are not available for sale at bait stores. Proper aeration, temperature, pH and tank size all contribute to how long they will survive. When properly handled, these fish still will only survive a week or two in captivity.
We tackled this 40lb Striper from Lake Ouachita, Arkansas.
Remember, bigger is better when it comes to Freshwater Striped Bass Fishing. Bigger boats, bigger rods, bigger reels, bigger line, bigger lures and bigger bait are all necessary to fight these giant fish.
For information on the Top Freshwater Striped Bass Fishing Lakes in Arkansas click here.