Striped bass, or stripers as they are commonly called, are the most important species of gamefish in the Chesapeake Bay between Maryland and Virginia, according to Bay preservationists who have been working to restore the striper population for more than a quarter century. Stripers are renowned for their fighting ability, good size (25-pounders are common) and excellent taste at the dinner table.
Most Chesapeake Bay striper fishing is done by trolling from boats. Here are some effective strategies for hooking a monster specimen of this hard-fighting fish.
Trolling With Herring
Stripers love live herring. They'll hit dead herring, too, for that matter, but the trick is to get out on the Chesapeake Bay with the captain of a charter boat who'll take you trolling. Rig up a baitcasting rod and reel with herring on 2/0 J-style hooks tied to at least 450-lb. fishing line. Some striper anglers tie a three-way swivel to their main line and drop two baits on 3-foot sections of leader behind the boat, doubling their chances.
Your captain will use fish-finding sonar equipment to find the schooling striper, then the trolling begins at about 3 mph.
Targeting Bigger Stripers
An interesting biological phenomenon about school striper bass is they tend to swim in schools in a pyramid formation, with the biggest stripers at lower depths. The little guys will busy themselves in top water, thrashing around for herring, but their smarter older brothers lurk deeper. If you want to catch a striper brute in excess of 30 lbs., you'll want to upgrade your gear to heavy-duty saltwater baitcasting rods and reels spooled with 200 yards of 75-lb. line. You'll want that extra line if you hook into a monster that decides to make a run for the depths.
Use large silver spoons (six to seven inches) that resemble baitfish and have some weight to them so you can troll and retrieve these lures in deeper water.
Jigging for Stripers
When your fish finder shows conclusively that striper schools are congregating near the bottom, it's time to break out the jigs and dance them around the bottom of the Chesapeake Bay. Get a good reading on your depthfinder so you'll know how far the jigs must descend. A 1-oz. weighted jig will fall through the water at roughly a foot per second, so keep count as the line pays out over the stern of your boat.
A deadly jigging rig for stripers consists of a three-way swivel tied to your main line, with a 3-foot leader and a 1 1/2-foot leader tied to the other swivel points. Tie a 1-oz. hair jig to the 3-foot leader and a smaller 1.2-oz. jig to the shorter leader. Chartreuse (yellow green) jigs work well in cloudy water, or switch to white-haired jigs as the bay clears.
Let the jig sink to the bottom and hold your position for half a minute, then retrieve the jig six inches to a foot off the bottom and twitch your rod tip to dance the lures around. Be ready for a savage, rod-bending attack.