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Striper sharpies have a mantra: big baits for big fish. Here's proof to back up the theory.
By Charley Soares
Tags: inshore

It took two of us to corral the serpent. Joe struggled to insert a 9/0 golden Eagle Claw under its jaw as I grasped its head with a dry towel. All night long we cautiously poked around the eel bucket, avoiding the wrist-thick serpent that made grunting noises. This was back in the day before there was anything identified as a bass eel. Our fish candy source was an old river rat who potted big eels for market and tossed back beautiful bass eels because they weren’t big enough. The nearly two-pound python in my bucket was the last of the eels we’d purchased from that gent. You can’t cast an eel of those proportions; you introduce it to the water and it swims for the bottom to hide under a rock. Big eels want the bottom while the whips are content to stay on top to twist lines into a slimy, tangled mess.

We had a pretty decent catch so I racked my rod and started stacking bass in the fishbox. Soon my friend called out to me and said he had one running. I laughed and told him to keep paying out line because those were the movements of an eel hell bent on escaping. He yelled at me and insisted that I shine the pen light on the spool of his Squidder. His reel’s Dacron line was making a beeline for Cuttyhunk. I kicked my boat’s gear shift and steered for deeper water hoping to trick the bass into swimming out of the boulders. Five minutes later, a huge striper surfaced. It took the two of us to muscle the fish onto the deck, at which point we gazed admiringly at the biggest striper ever to come aboard the Piscator. As it turns out, that huge fish must have been directly under the boat when Joe dropped the eel. She had swallowed the two-pound serpent before he was ever aware that a fish had taken his bait. That cow pulled the official club scale down to 61.8 pounds and won my friend first prize in our bass club boat division. I was finally convinced that there is no such thing as an eel too big for a broad-shouldered striper.

Those huge porgies would have been a welcome sight on any other morning. My crew was trying to fill the well with bait-size scup for the big stripers that had been holding along the edge of a deep drop-off near one of my favorite boulder fields. The minimum length for the feisty fish was ten inches, a size we refer to as ice cream cones. But we could not find a single one that was less than 13 inches and those were on the smaller side of the ones gathering around my chum pot. I moved twice (unsuccessfully) in an effort to locate smaller fish. I had a young photographer aboard who was astonished at the size of these baits. The third member of my crew was so excited with the action on light tackle he actually said, “The hell with the bass, this is too much fun.” These serving-platter-size scup were one step up from the dinner-plate porgies that rip their jaws and snarl stout rigs, so we had to man the landing net in order to lift them out of the water. I have caught many stripers on big baits but fishing with 15-inch porgies was not my first preference.

"Far too many anglers approach large baits with a misguided hesitation, but I have yet to encounter a striper that will refuse a free (and big) meal."
With a baker’s dozen baits, I set up stout conventional rods for my deckmates. Neither had much in the way of live-bait experience, so I rigged a 4/0 treble (my standard 3/0 hooks did not permit enough barb to protrude) in the bait just ahead of the dorsal fin and lobbed a cast towards the edge of the rip line. After handing the rod over to the senior member of that duo, I set about rigging the second rod and when I turned to check on him, he was mouth agape as his bait was skipping on the surface with a huge bass in hot pursuit. I shouted out instructions that went unheeded as the bass caught up, inhaled the bait and headed toward sticky cover. I reached over and flipped the reel’s lever and my angler braced his knees against the gunwale to hang on. In an instant, the rod snapped back and nearly busted his nose. When he retrieved his line, we saw that the 50-pound-test leader had been shredded over the rugged habitat. The next four lobs into that boulder-strewn cover produced almost identical results.

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