Stripers On Top

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This striper couldn't resist a topwater plug walked across the surface.

Sure, you’ll catch tons of stripers with live baits. Yes, jigs can be highly effective for this species. But most anglers will agree that nothing can quite match the adrenaline rush of stripers on topwater. There’s just one thing – it can be tough to get those fish busting in the shallows. Use these tricks, to ensure your best shot at enjoying blow-ups galore.

This striper couldn’t resist a topwater plug walked across the surface.

  1. Go to topwater at daybreak, sunset, and in low-light conditions. These fish are a lot more likely to bust a plug when light levels are low. That’s not to say you’ll never catch striped bass up top during broad daylight, but as the sun rises high in the sky your chances drop lower and lower. During transition periods, look for areas where underwater points provide the fish with an intersection between shallow and deep waters to extend the effective timeframe a bit.
  2. Use tried-and-true topwater plugs, like the Zara Spook, the Bomber Badonk-A-Donk, and the Stillwater Smack-It. Sure other stuff will work – but these plugs have been around for ages and there’s a simple reason why: they work. Two caveats: first off, these days, many anglers will modify these plugs slightly by removing the trebles, and replacing them with single hooks. Will this cause some missed strikes? You bet it will. But it’s also far less harmful to the fish (not to mention less dangerous for the angler) so it’s well worth considering. Secondly, hand-carved cedar plugs will sometimes out-perform the mass-produced stuff. These are expensive (a $20 hand-carved plug is cheap) but they float and zig-zag a bit different from plastics and at times it can make all the difference in the world.
  3. Stick with stickbaits that let you walk the dog, unless it’s rough out. Most guides and pros agree that chugging and popping is not only unnecessary in calm waters, but may actually spook the fish. Topwater baits that create a visual appeal are almost always the most effective in calm conditions. Rough water does, however, change things up a bit. When the wind is whipping and fish may have more trouble finding that topwater lure, a chug or a pop can help them home in.

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