My Top Flies and Lures for Striped Bass
I've been getting a lot of questions from our blog readers about targeting striped bass. So similar to our Pre-Spawn Smallmouth series from last year, I wanted to focus a couple of posts on how you can target this amazing species on both fly and spin gear.. Let's start with my favorite lures and flies. As always, if I missed any of your favorites, let me know @dcflyfish.
You really can't go wrong fishing a clouser minnow for striped bass of all sizes. It does such a simple and effective job of mimicking a variety of baitfish. I like a smaller clouser minnow specifically in early and late season applications, when fish may be keying in on small prey, or wanting a more subtle presentation. I'm typically carrying a variety of sizes, weights, and colors to match depth, current, and determine what the fish want. You can also play around with an articulated variation for more movement and size. I like white, blue, pink, and chartreuse.
Lefty's Deceiver and Half and Half Flies:
I don't want to get too redundant, as most folks have heard about the first three flies (clouser, deceiver, half and half) - and for good reason! If you have these three flies in your box, you'll be set for striper fishing. Lefty's Deceiver is another great baitfish pattern. I prefer to fish it in deeper water, where my fly won't be contacting bottom (since it is often riding hook point down). Unlike the clouser minnow - which tends to have a jigging action due to the dumbbell eyes, and rides hook point up - the deceiver is tied with much less weight and needs a sinking or intermediate line to pull it down in the water column. However, this weightlessness gives it a nice suspended appearance in the water, something stripers love!
The Half and Half mixes the unique aspects of both the clouser minnow and Lefty's Deceiver. This creates a dumbbell weighted fly with bucktail (key aspects of the clouser), mixed with lots of movement from hackle feathers, and a thicker body profile that has lots of movement (all key aspects of the deceiver). If you tie your own flies, I'd encourage you to play around with aspects of these three patterns to create a pattern that works perfectly for your fishing situations. However, if you buy flies, half and halfs should be a go to fly for striped bass!
Striped bass love chasing bait, and often eat baitfish at or near the surface. Therefore, creating some surface commotion is a great way to locate and hook striped bass on the fly rod. My favorite topwater fly is the gurgler. It is mostly foam and bucktail, so it is light, durable, floats high, and is easy to cast. It can be tied in many colors and sizes, so you can cater your flies to the sizes and colors you like. Frank, who writes for the blog, sometimes ties an articulated tail on his gurglers for even more movement.
Soft Plastic Swimbaits:
Soft plastic lures are some of my favorite baits to fish on a spin rod. They come in many shapes, sizes, and colors and allow you to impart many different movements and actions as you actively work them back. You can pair plastics with many different jig heads and hook types to fish all water depths and weedy environments. One of my favorite soft plastics for striped bass is the ripper shad, by Northeast Jig Company. It is a ribbed swimbait with durable plastic, a subtle scent, and comes in a large variety of colors and sizes. Paired with a 3/8oz or 1/2oz jig head, these baits crush fish! Please know that I wouldn't recommend or endorse a product if it didn't live up to my expectations, and catch fish! Check out their products (plastics and jig hooks) and give them a try - they are based here in the Mid-Atlantic and sell their gear for very reasonable prices. Other brands that make good plastics are Z-Man, Keitech, Berkley, and Zoom.
Hardbody Baitfish Plugs:
There are many different varieties of baitfish plugs on the market, and most of them will catch fish. One of my favorites is the Daiwa Salt Pro Minnow, frequently shortened to "SP" or "SP Minnow". This particular plug is a floating plug, that dives to about 3' when being retrieved. It has an awesome side to side swimming motion that attracts striped bass and casts a mile, even on windy days. However, there are a bunch of other reliable plugs on the market by Bomber, Rapala, Yo-Zuri, and many other manufacturers. One word of advice: if you expect to tangle with some big fish, I'd recommend changing out the hooks/hardware that come with the plug to something more durable. For smaller and medium sized fish, the stock hooks are typically just fine.
Topwater Spooks and Poppers:
Nothing beats a striper hit on a topwater lure - it's just awesome! There are many different topwater lures that will work well for striped bass, but I prefer those with a walk-the-dog, side to side action. The Heddon Super Spook (and Spook Jr.) is a go to lure for me. I love this lure in white, with a red head. A close second is the Yo-Zuri 3DB pencil. Both of these baits cast far, walk back and forth erratically, and create a ton of commotion in the water. Striped bass love them! Popping lures also work well, and I will use them from time to time. The Yo-Zuri Talkin' Popper and the Storm Chug Bug are two plugs I always have in my bag.
That concludes my favorite striper lures and flies. Obviously, there are many other that didn't make the list, but if you have a selection of the lures and flies above, you'll be able to find success in almost any situation. As always, if you have any questions - or want to throw your own favorites into this discussion - please comment below or on Instagram @dcflyfish or @surftostreamfishing.