Up and down the East Coast, striped bass are one of the most popular game fish, not only due to their abundance but also because they will take a variety of lures. There are many of us who prefer tossing lures over fishing bait—there is something exciting about fooling a large striper with a piece of plastic or a hunk of wood.
The biggest bass tend to come at night and wrestling a 25-pound mouthful of treble hooks into your lap can be a bit treacherous. My solution has been to use big plastics—plastic worms in the 10- to 14-inch range—with single hooks.
Over the years, there have been many revolutions in soft plastics and we are now in the middle of a big plastic revolution. Just a few years ago it was difficult to find any plastic baits over 9 inches but today there are a variety of baits available way up to 18 inches.
Hogy Lures, my personal favorites, come in a variety of sizes including 10-, 14- and 18-inch. Lunker City now makes the popular Slug-Go in 9- and 12-inch.
My go-to bait last summer was a 14-inch black Hogy on a 3/4-ounce jig head. A lure that big looks odd on a jig head because it appears to be all tail and no hook, but a large fish has no problem inhaling a bait like this. This rig produced numerous fish in the 25- to 40-pound range for me in 2009.
As more anglers have picked up on the effectiveness of big plastics, a variety of rigging techniques have emerged including rigging on double hook rigs, large worm hooks and jig heads.
I have stayed away from the double hook rigs for two reasons: 1) I don’t want to handle a large bass at 2 a.m. with two hooks in its mouth, and 2) I release almost all the fish I catch, and single hooks cause less damage to the fish.
My recommendation is to fish your big plastics with either a jig head or weighted worm hook. Here are some tips to increase your catch:
- Use the lightest possible weight. You don’t want to drag your lure through the weeds. Use just enough weight to get your lure to swim down and allow you to keep it in the strike zone.
- Think of your plastics as swimbaits and keep them moving. Many anglers fish big plastics like they would a plastic worm for largemouth, but stripers are generally not ambushing predators like largemouth, so they will chase down a fast-moving bait.
- To find stripers that are actively feeding, find some current and work spots where current meets structure, like a weed bed, a reef or a rocky shoreline.
- Fish the whole water column and not just the surface or the bottom. Stripers often change their feeding attitudes. Sometimes they want a bait on the surface, but usually they want it in the middle or bottom half of the water column.
- Use braided line and a graphite rod. Stripers will generally slam a plastic pretty hard, but a sensitive line and sensitive rod will increase your hit-to-hookup ratio.
- Size the rod to the lure. A 14-inch Hogy weighs 2 ounces and a jig head will make it weigh 3 or more. You need a rod that can effectively cast the bait as well as set the hook into the tough jaws of a large fish. Big plastics are not compatible with light rods; muskie rods make great plastics rods.
Featured Photo: Eric Harrison