In the fall, at sunset and through the night, big striped bass move into the shallow boulder fields of New England.
The best nights are calm and quiet. Before I launch my kayak, I’ll shine my flashlight in the water looking for baitfish. Later, when I’m fishing, I’ll adjust my retrieve to match the bait. For example, if I see crabs, I’ll work the lure with a stop and go retrieve. Needlefish will encourage me to bring the lure in steadily.
I choose my location based on how the current is flowing around structure. I like to target shallow rocky points with good current flow. Big striped bass hide behind the rocks waiting for lobster, eels and other bait to flow past.
One of my most important tools is a nine-inch, Lowrance HDS Live fish finder and GPS combo. The GPS allows me to track my drift, measure speed and mark locations. Side-scan sonar shoots to the side of the boat to expose boulders and other structure where the bass hide.
The trick is to swing the lure around the rock where the striper is waiting to ambush a meal. I match the weight of my lure to the strength of the current and the water depth.
The best fishing is in shallow water, between three and 10 feet deep. I fish a 14-inch GT Eel by Gravity Tackle on a weedless, weightless hook. Dark colors are best at night; black and purple create a more defined silhouette in low light.
On inshore reefs and deeper water, I rig the softplastic on a 1/2- to three-ounce jighead. The strike zone is usually close to the bottom.
To fish for big striped bass with big lures, I use a medium-heavy, acid-wrapped Lamiglas GSB rod. The acid wrap guides twist around the rod to give me more power to lift a big fish. I match the rod to a Lews Super Duty 300 reel. A conventional reel is easier to let out line and work the bottom.
Using this setup, I work the rock fields focusing on the down-current side of the structure. When I hook a big striper, it’s a boxing match to keep the fish out of the rocks. Keeping my kayak over top of the fish with the line straight up and down prevents the striper from wrapping me around boulders.
In recent years, striped bass fishing has improved in the Northeast with trophy striper moving into the shallows. Bass up to 50 pounds are within range of kayak anglers willing to sacrifice sleep and fish all night.
Stay late for fall striper. | Photo: Shawn Barham