Catch Your Biggest Striped Bass From the Surf This Spring
38 Days - Stack the Odds to Land a Beast
We are just a few short weeks away from what I consider to be the best time period for connecting with a trophy striper from the surf. If you’re agreeing with me, but picturing yourself finally pulling a big fish out of the teens you’re crushing in your favorite backwater location every year, you’re hoping for a fish to find you—the key is learning to find them. I know it’s hard to focus on the beach when the backwaters are loaded with nice fish, and I’m not saying I’m immune from partaking; I love a good fast-paced hit as much as the next guy, but I try not to get caught up in the euphoria. With that said, I wouldn’t begrudge a single angler for choosing to stay on that consistent backwater bite, after all, it’s probably the only chance you’re going to get at that kind of consistency all year long. But my many years of paying ridiculous attention to surfcasting and stripers has taught me that this time period also represents what might be the best time all year to hang a giant from the beach. So, while you’re Red-Finning and Popping up 15-pounders, 40s and 50s are swimming by you in the ocean, and once they’re gone, they’re gone.
Timing The Sweet Spot In The Spring Striper Migration
I have learned that there is a sweet spot within the spring run, a time when more big bass are swimming close to the shore—all over the southern New England coast—perhaps than any other time during the season. It’s easy to become hypnotized by the calendar. You might be looking at the numbers and thinking you’re too early and then find yourself scrolling through Instagram and realizing that you’re late to the party. My enlightenment happened on May, 17th 2013, I had just gotten a new wetsuit, and I wanted to try it out, so I skipped the river and hit the surf. I remember suiting up at the parking spot and thinking that my chances were pretty low to find any consistent action. My only glimmer of hope was that a few guys I knew had done well on fish into the 20’s at a beachfront herring run a few nights prior, so there were at least a few decent fish out front. Within a few casts with a metal lip I hooked up to a 24-inch beast, I was just happy to kill the skunk. But two casts later I hooked something with some serious stones and after a long battle; I had a fish that looked to be well over 40 pounds coming at me through the shallow waves. She was all of 45 and my best fish for the entire year. After analyzing some of my other early scores of big fish and some stories from trusted friends a formula seemed to be coming together. Something we all have to remember is that stripers don’t count days, they don’t know when April turns to May, and they don’t know whether they’re early or late, they just show up and if you time it right you’ll be setting yourself up to catch a giant. By the calendar, it’s roughly May 15 to June 25, but you can really dial it in if you time it by the moons. I start by finding the new moon that’s closest to Memorial Day for the true start, it could be May 20th or June 5th it doesn’t matter, then I look at the following new moon, it could be late-June or early-July, again it doesn’t matter. Take that four-week block and tack five days onto each end and you have your sweet spot.
The author with a 50-pounder caught May 25th, 2012, just five days after the new moon.
This is the time to bank your vacation time for, this is the time to ask for a light load at work and have your favorite contractor build a Costanza sleep space under your desk. It’s 38 days, tell your wife you don’t exist. Tell your boss you were selected for the next taping of Survivor (don’t worry no one watches that anyway... just make sure you hit the tanning bed before you go back to work). These 38 days have the potential to make all of the arguments, frivolous expenditures and women shielding their children from your unshaven, sunken face and general cloud of stank while waiting in line at D&D’s, worth it. For 2017, the moons fall on May 25th and June 24th, so you’re looking at May 20th to June 29th, and if you want my opinion, that timing simply could not be better.
Tackle and Tactics For The Spring Striper Migration
So, again, you have 38 days to make it happen. How do you go about taking full advantage of this amazing window of opportunity? Step one is to shut off the part of your brain that thinks about the back rivers. Concentrate your efforts on points and prominent shoreline corners. I think of these points and corners as one-sided funnels. They concentrate everything—bait, current, bass—and all of these things have to come around the tip. Digging deeper, I prefer points with a hard transition at the tip—shallow water diving off moderately with deep structure nearby. In a perfect world, they would all have a gradual approach dropping off to a defined edge in about 10-feet of water, but we can’t be too picky. If I had to go out and catch one giant, I’d throw live eels. But over the past five seasons, I have relied on the eel less and less. I will say though, that almost every time I go out with eels, I end up catching something big. But you can blame the eels, or you can blame the fact that I brought eels because I knew that my chances of connecting with a big fish were higher than normal. My more recent weapon of choice has been the needlefish. I lean heavily on a bulky slow-sinking version like a Wadd for shallower waters and Super Strike's Super N Fish for getting down deeper or punching through a hard sweep. The other plug that has found a good share of my bigger fish is the darter, the Super Strike Zig Zag or larger wooden versions—they both have their place. The hardest part is going to be the calls and text messages—just know this now. “Dude, where were you last night, we had more than 20 fish each, topping out at 25 pounds!” But you need to learn how to read them: the translation of the above text is that one person caught a 25-pounder and no one else even came close. But your mantra has to be to stay the course. When you post a picture showing a giant choking on a 9-inch needlefish, your only caption should be the weight. Then shut off your phone. If my experience means anything—these 38 days represent the BEST time to hook a beast all year.
So don’t let it pass you by again—no excuses, no regrets.