US Coast Guard Licensed & Insured
Fishing For Stripers with Soft Plastic Baits.
Fishing with soft plastics is quite an art but those who master it
can catch fish at almost any time and anywhere they find bass.
Technique is all-important, its not unusual to have three anglers
fishing on a boat using the same rod and the same soft plastic, yet
only one guy is catching the fish.
What is Jigging.
Jigging is a technique where the rod is rotated towards you to pull
the jig along, then reeled down towards the jig taking up the line
to prevent any slack. This results in a rise-and-fall retrieve for
the jig itself, an enticing action that many fish canít resist.
Under ideal conditions you can raise the rod tip over your head,
then reel as you lower the rod tip, keeping the line tight as you go
down. How long or short or hard or gentle is determined by the type
of jig, depth, and what action gets the most hits.
Keeping the Line Tight.
The most critical part to learn is keeping the line tight on the
backstroke. Any slack at all leaves the fish an opportunity to hit
the bait without the angler feeling the hit in time to react. The
speed of the backstroke should be controlled by your reeling speed
during the backstroke. Only go down as fast as your reeling
speed keeps the line tight. This is the most important point of jig
fishing that many anglers donít understand. You arenít just
whipping the rod up and down regardless of the slack, it is jigged
it up but the going back is done more slowly, keeping an eye on the
line at all times to ensure that no slack is introduced in the
line. If you canít get this part right, guess who's the guy on the
boat not catching any fish.
When it's windy out the wind can put a big bow in your line, making
it much harder to feel when a fish hits the jig. In this
situation you want to keep the line very close to the water by
jigging horizontally. The less line you have out of the water
the better, allowing you to still feel the hit and catch fish.
If you're right handed, it is easier to jig from right to left
horizontally. If left handed, the opposite is true.
One key to jig fishing is the use of braided line. Braided
line has less stretch then monofilament line, making it much easier
to feel a hit. When combined with a graphite rod, this
makes it very easy for anyone to detect a hit, and this allows you
to catch more fish.
Responding to the Hit.
The hit will almost always occur at the bottom of your jig, when you
stop at the bottom to move forward again. This simulates the
natural action of a small fish swimming fast then slowing down
before putting on another burst of speed, and this slowdown is when
a predator will hit.
The typical instinctive reaction when feeling a hit is to haul back
on the rod instantly. This does not always work. Stripers are very
much into the habit of stunning their prey, often side swiping it or
whacking a bait with their cheek or tail then sucking it up while it is
stunned and incapable of fleeing effectively. This means that itís
better to hesitate for up to a second or even drop the rod tip for
one to two seconds as soon as you feel the hit, then raise it and see if
the fish is there. If your jig gets bitten off due
to a toothy fish, consider either using wire leader or not dropping
your rod tip when you get a hit.
How to Fish the Water Column.
Much of the time I see anglers cast their soft plastic out, and as
soon as it hits the water they close up and start working it. This
is fine if youíre working the upper water column because the fish
are high, but if the fish are down deep itís no good. A rule of
thumb for fishing deeper water is to do a count before you close up
the bail and start your retrieve, usually half the depth of water is
your count. So if itís 30 feet deep use a 15 count then close up
and start working the jig. This works for ĺ-1oz jigheads, lighter
ones obviously need a longer count for the same depth and heavier
need a shorter count. Typically I donít use any other sizes,
as I find most of the anglers I take out canít feel smaller weights
during their retrieve. Being able to feel the jig at all times
is absolutely critical to success. The count is also
varied for how deep you need to get in the water column. To
find out when it hits the bottom, drop your jig right next to the
boat and count until it hits the bottom. Now you know what
your maximum count can be for that depth.
Type of Fishing Rods to Use.
I personally prefer to use graphite or graphite-core rods with light
tips and somewhat softer actions. The flexibility in the rod tip
helps soften the effect of most peopleís jigging to make it look
more natural, and less jerky. It is also easy to feel a hit with
this type of rod.
Which Plastics to Use.
Match the hatch. This term is used very often and it is
important. What is used all depends on what the fish are feeding
on that day or at that time. This doesnít mean they wonít hit
anything else, but often they wonít be as aggressive with bait that
does not represent the forage they are eating. Sand eels are best
represented by sluggos, fin-s, or yum houdini shads in the arkansas
shiner color. This is the best color for a typical sand eel. For
mackerel, a green back/silver underbody is best. Bunker are
represented by 4Ē or 6Ē shad baits with the wiggley tails, pearl
with black backs. Iíll say it again, your jighead/soft plastic
combination has to match what they are feeding on that day in the
spot your fishing. Pay attention to what they throw up as the
approach the boat or once they are in the boat, and use whatever
youíve got that best represents that forage fish. Consider
having a couple of types of plastics rigged on different rods so you
can quickly react to by presenting different baits to the fish.
Use the rule of three, three times on one jig vs one on the others
sets a trend, then switch all rigs over. In the middle
of the day when the sun is up high, try white plastics if nothing
else is working.
How to Rig Your Jigs.
Use braided line on your outfits, the low stretch will improve
sensitivity. A 6' section of monofilament leader should be
used before the jig head, tied to the braid using a uni-knot to uni-knot
connection, which can be pulled riht through the rod tip without
damaging the gude like a swivel will. We use Trilene big game
mono in green, this color works best. The mono is then tied
directly to the jig head with a fisherman's knot (some anglers know
this as a Rapala knot). This type of knot allows the jig head
to swing any way it needs to naturally.
What Jig Heads to Use.
My personal favorite are the Lunker City 1oz pro Jig heads. They
have a recess to place 3D stick-on eyes 5/16Ē diameter. I take them
unpainted out of the package, steel wool them to give the jighead a
real shine, place the stick-on eyes and then spray them with acrylic
clear coat to keep the lead from oxidizing. First of all, eyes are
very important for fish to key in on. Yes, they hit jig heads
without eyes, but when the fish get a little fussy it makes all the
difference. Next, most fish are shiny and silvery, and leaving the
lead in its natural color works fine and clear coating keeps it
shiny. Even better, if it gets scratched up, it stays the same
shiny lead color, unlike painted jig heads. Occasionally smaller
or larger jig heads are used, but I find most anglers canít properly
feel anything much less than 3/4 ounce in weight. We will
sometimes use darter or arrowhead jigs, in green or white.
Where to Fish.
All the technique in the world wonít help if there are no fish where
your working the baits. Find the structure that striped bass like
to use as an ambush point and drift or troll that area. For soft
plastics, drift fishing is the most effective technique. Trolling
will work if the water is around 30í or more in depth, unless your
engine is fairly quiet in whuch case you can troll shallower water. Bass prefer ambushing their prey and will
hang around boulder fields, rocky bottoms, or sandbars with drastic
changes in depth. In all these cases there needs to be a running
tidal current, if the tide isnít running the fish usually donít
One last tip for you, pay attention to the tide, wind, fishing
techinque, and what is being used when your fishing is successful,
and donít be afraid to use something different just to see if it
happens to be the hot lure for that day. Noticing trends and
reacting to them quickly will help you catch a lot more fish.