Earlier this year during another one of those dreaded ZOOM calls, The Fisherman editorial staff got together to talk about different story ideas for the 2022 season. As one might expect when striper fishermen get together from three different areas of the Striper Coast (New England, Long Island & Metro New York, and the New Jersey, Delaware Bay) the discussions quickly devolved into tactical reports and personal observations.
There’s a time and place for every lure; a blurple darter under the cover of darkness, a finely-tuned metal lip when peanuts are getting blasted, and of course deploying mojos or striper spoons on the boat when looking for personal best “catch and release” greatness. But as we began debating the pencil vs. the Polaris and the swim shad over the swimmer, the four of us – Dave Anderson, Matt Broderick, Jim Hutchinson and The Fisherman’s publisher Mike Caruso – started sorting through plug bags and tackle boxes to show off our favs from the 2021 season.
After more than 2 hours of arguing, we agreed that the standards – Little Neck Popper, Hydro Minnow, Smoky Joe Redfin, Maja spoon, Rockfish Candy, and on and on – have been covered extensively on these very pages in recent years, by boat or by beach. Truth be told, if you don’t have least two of each of these in your arsenal already, you may very well be behind the Magic 8 Ball already.
But over the course of the past 12 months, we each have added a new wrinkle or two while finding new openings in plug bags and tackle boxes for new and improved striper weaponry. And what started as a Top Five list, quickly became a baker’s dozen; and before we hit the 22 for ’22 wall, our crack editorial team settled upon the following 15 hot “newish” striper candies that deserve some attention from Striper Coast anglers, and perhaps a spot in your quiver.
It could start a few debates, but we plugged the responses into the aforementioned Magic 8 Ball which responded, You May Rely On It, so we’re pretty confident about being in the right neighborhood!
Some of the best innovations for hunting ‘bass’ species come from the multi-billion dollar largemouth bass market. Over the past 10 years fishing very large baits for largemouth has really caught on and these huge baits make perfect sense for stripers. When I first saw a two-piece glidebait on YouTube I was intrigued until I saw the prices starting at $200. Baitsanity crashed the scene a few years ago with the goal of making a premium quality glide that wouldn’t assault the bank account. In short order I bought two. One cast with this bait and you’ll understand why they named it the Explorer, even just turning the handle sends this lure veering left and right, and it sinks so slowly that you can just hang it in the water. My best results have come when I tried my best to stifle the movement of the lure, I actually think it moves too much at times, but it’s so fluid in the water, so expertly weighted and presents such a large target that any hardcore plug guy is going to love the possibilities and find a place or situation where it shines. -DA
Another solid “crossover” from fresh to salt, the slow-falling flutter spoon has been a highly effective match for shiners and gizzard shad on ledges for big largemouth, trout, walleye and salmon. Named after Tennessee Pro Angler Ben Parker – who partnered with Nichols Lures in the design – these big Ben Parker Flutter Spoons were later adapted for “Saltwater Heavy Duty” action in 6-1/2-, 8- and 9-inch versions weighing in at 2-1/2, 3-1/2 and 4-1/2 ounces respectively, in a dozen colors and incorporating saltwater grade VMC and Owner hardware. Not necessarily a casting spoon, just a short flip from the boat when you’re on marks or when stripers are actively corralling bait, with most of the hookups coming on the drop. While the Ben Parker version has been the “go to” offering when flutter style jigging along the Striper Coast, expect to see a “drift” style spoon added to the Tony Maja “trolling” lineup of weaponry sometime later this month. Yeah, the secret is out! -JH
As I made my way down to the beach, I knew in my head I had the perfect tide window for a large striper. I was looking at a last light bite with the perfect moving tide. In front of me, I faced deeper water littered with boulders, rips and back eddies. Since the water was deep in front of me, my cast didn’t have to go any more than 30 yards for it to be in a prime spot. When putting all of these factors together in my head, I needed a lure that would get a cow striper to strike out of frustration and deter any smaller bass from playing with my offering. The lure for the job was the Doc Spook in the 9-inch model, weighing in at 3.25 ounces and equipped with 4/0 VMC hooks. While I’ve had much luck with the 7-inch version, weighting 2.75 ounces also, I’ve found that the big brother outperforms its smaller counterpart when targeting large stripers. In a short time of working the lure in a “walk-the-dog” cadence, I had hooked and landed two fish around 30 pounds—not bad for an hour of casting. After this outing, the Doc Spook earned a permanent spot in my plug bag. –MB
Yo-Zuri 3D Inshore TwitchBait
After spending a couple of hours working a back bay rip with a friend, some advice that was given to me earlier in the week suddenly popped into my head. Another surfcaster friend of mine mentioned he had extreme success with the Yo-Zuri 3D Inshore Twitchbait in the same spot I was fishing. Nothing else seemed to be working that day so I handed the twitchbait I had in my bag to my friend who was in town. Immediately he was into a striper, then another and then one after that. This Yo-Zuri lure outperformed any other in my arsenal that day. The lure boasts power treble hooks, a 3D prism finish, sharp darting performance, an inner hologram sheet, quick response by a fixed weighted center, and tough and durable abs resin construction. You can find the bait in four different sizes that range from 2-3/4 inch (1/4 ounces) to 5-1/4 inch (1-3/4 ounces) and 14 different color patterns. The twitchbait works best with a twitch and pause retrieve. This motion usually results in the most vicious strikes. Try working the bait in eelgrass flats, mussel beds, troughs along the beach and back bay rips. –MB
Shimano Splash Walk
Spook-style plugs have been big in striper fishing for many years now, but the call for realistic-looking, larger spooks has never been stronger. The road paved by previous large walkers has opened doors for other manufacturers and you have to respect Shimano for trying to make something that compliments existing designs instead of trying to make their own version of the same thing. The SplashWalk addresses several shortcomings of other famous spooks – it casts a lot better and it can be fished hard and fast without going ‘full porpoise’ on you. They also have a very fishy profile and come in colors that look almost alive. In my assessment, the SplashWalk is a dead-middle hybrid between a pencil popper and a spook, you can get the frantic jittering of a pencil or break up your cadence with more deliberate pops and get a sliding walk. The color palette gives you options to deal with sun conditions or fish that are locked in on a specific bait species and its action versatility will please any plugger. Stripers have shown how much they love them, try them this year and you will too. –DA
Fishlab Mad Eel
One cold morning in the late fall of 2019 I had the chance to do a little product testing out on Raritan Bay aboard Fin Chasers with folks from FishLab Lures. The stripers that particular November morning were on peanuts, the heavy side-to-side roll of the then brand new Mad Eel offered a great match, enough so that I squirreled away a few in my jacket pocket to hit the beach later in the month to “test” again on the sand eel bite; mission accomplished! Available in seven colors and five lengths from 7-inch (2-1/4 ounces) to 8-inch (5-1/4 ounces), you get one head and two bodies per packages. What’s nice is that each ribbed-belly body has entry and exit holes with a channel running the length of the lure, making rigging quick and easy. Plus, the jig hook keeps fish pinned to the hook, striper after striper. The FishLab Mad Eel has earned a slot in my onboard tackle tray as well as my plug bag, and word is that the Green Mackerel color has been a killer in “ditch” conditions. -JH
Ocean Born Flying Pencill
I credit Nick Honachefsky for this one. The Fisherman’s NJ/DE Bay field editor handed me a couple of these heavyweight pencils in the fall which I left in the console of my truck. During the fall into winter run at the Jersey Shore in 2021, there were multiple occasions when wheeling and diving birds over fish were just a tad out of reach for my favorite big woods; the 4-1/8-inch, 2-ounce Flying Pencill model 110SLD did the trick, making its way from console to plug bag for those distance casting situations. No, it’s not a typo, the trademarked Flying Pencill with two L’s – for LONG distance I guess – has been engineered for longer casts, and can be worked on top with steady retrieve and twitched as you would a traditional pencil, but it also boasts a swimbait style action on slow or medium retrieved; the SLD model can also be jigged, making this a unique boat or beach offering that has a bit of versatility in many different situations you’re apt to encounter on the striper grounds. –JH
Savage Panic Pencil
The name of the Savage Panic Pencil suits it well. If you have used one before, it’s pretty apparent that this lure causes an immense amount of panic (splashing) on the surface with almost effortless motion. It’s internally-weighted with a large rattle that doubles as a weight transfer system, allowing the lure to reach maximum distance on every cast and never tumble in the air. Along with all the water it throws, its “stepped-hull” design draws air in along the plug’s sides to its underside, generating bubbles that signal a visual cue of feeding activity without increasing the lure’s drag. These lures are fully thru-wired, allowing them to hold up to the biggest of stripers, and they come with premium split-rings and 4X hooks that won’t give way when that fish of a lifetime makes one last brutal run for cover. This lure is available in 5-3/4 inch (1-3/4 ounce) and 6-1/2 inch (2-3/4 ounce) models in seven colors. Don’t be afraid the sling this pencil into a headwind when you need some extra distance to reach feeding fish. –MB
Back in October, The Fisherman was introduced a new technique called Vibing. Nomad Designs teamed up with founder Damon Olsen and Capt. Jarad “Dingo” Boshammer to develop Vibing and the required techniques to catch just about every key US inshore species. Well, after hearing so much about this new way of catching fish, we had to put it to the test on our Northeast stripers. We invited “Dingo” out to the Mecca (Montauk) for the peak of the fall run and let me be the first to tell you stripers are quite fond of Vibes. What was even more impressive was that by the end of the trip, six different species were caught on these Vibe lures, including tautog, which are notorious for feeding on natural baits only. The Vibes exceeded our expectations and outperformed the usual Montauk favorites. When selecting a Vibe, you have two options, swim and max. The swim model swims when sinking to imitate a wounded fish and then vibrates when lifted, while the max model sinks fast and level and vibrates harder on the retrieve. Vibes are available from 4/5 ounces all the way up to their 3-3/5-ounce ‘offshore capable’ model. –MB
There are innovations and then there are places where innovation is not needed. The SP Minnow makes this list because it has – in my mind – officially achieved ‘classic status’ and that’s no small feat in the striper niche where nearly every angler considers him or herself a traditionalist. As traditional as we may want to be, we want to catch fish even more—that is the name of the game. Daiwa deserves a lot of credit for incorporating weight-transfer technology at a time when the only weight transfers in striper fishing were coming from the water inside your Red Fin. Daiwa stepped up and gave us a long-cast swimmer that had a tight swim and caught fish, they gave us dozens of colors, beefed up the hardware and even listened to our pleas for a bigger version. The result is a plug that striper anglers from total newbs to highline sharpies all keep on hand. If you haven’t found the SP Minnow yet, don’t wait another day; and if you’ve somehow forgotten how great they are, let this be your reminder. –DA
Tsunami Holographic Sand Eel
Let’s be honest, when stripers are piling on sand eels the standard offering has always been the AVA style jig, presented vertically by boat or on a slow retrieve along the bottom in the surf. There are a variety of molded sand eel baits that have hit the market over the past dozen or so years, but by far the most realistic for my money is the Holographic Sand Eel from Tsunami. Perfectly balanced with a three-dimensional holographic glimmer, the Tsunami sand eel is ready to toss right out of the package (four to a pack of 6-inch models, two per pack in 7-, 8- and 9-inch). I’ve crushed fish by boat on lumps when bass were actively feeding on sand eels by just dropping straight down to the bottom then reeling up a few feet (drop back and repeat). In the surf, the smaller 6-inch is great as a teaser when using a slim metal as your main offering; but the larger the size the better the cast, making the 7-inch and above sizes in either black or olive a deadly primary match for the hatch. Try a 6-inch teaser with an 8-inch primary when bass are in tight. -JH
Spro Power Bucktail
I cut my teeth on the jetty, a notorious spot for bucktail use. The guys who taught me always preached using a quality bucktail, something with ample hair for a slower sink rate, strong hooks to hold up to larger stripers in a ripping moon tide, and forward eye placement. The addition of a larger eye loop helps for effortless swaps in the dark of the night. A few years back, there were some inside developments at Spro because of anglers in the field that answered the demands of the avid anglers in the Northeast. Spro had created a bucktail that combined every one of these key factors that make a bucktail perfect for striped bass fishing. This lure is available in 1-, 1-1/2-, 2- and 3-ounce models in either white or crazy chartreuse. These are some of the best weight and color combinations you can use when targeting striped bass. Try casting the Spro Power Bucktail uptide and let it sink to the bottom; use a slow retrieve in combination with a subtle twitch of the rod for best effectiveness. –MB
Sebile Magic Swimmer
About a decade ago I wrote a story about regional striper lures, at the time, certain lures just stayed inside certain regions despite their effectiveness on stripers. In the decade since, social media has given anglers reach that would’ve been impossible at any other time in striper fishing history. As a result of our viral society, all of the methods I wrote about in that story have found mass appeal all over the coast. But there’s still one plug that doesn’t seem to get any play outside of the place where its ‘magic’ was discovered. The Sebile Magic Swimmer (now made by Berkley) went from oddball on the shop wall, to reputed striper slayer in a matter of a few weeks during the summer of 2008. That all happened in the Cape Cod Canal and it really hasn’t left the rocky embankments of the Big Ditch. Let me tell you, it works, everywhere stripers swim. Whether you’re crawling it through boulders in the night surf or ripping it at warp speed through a bunker blitz, the snakey-swim of this three-piece swimbait has convinced big stripers – inside and outside the Canal – to eat; and it’s not going to stop working any time soon. –DA
A whole other topic of debate for surfcasters relates to plug bags. Personally, I’ve been using the same Bronco Surf Bags and AquaSkinz. Lure Bags for years, and I like a lot of pouches for keeping an assortment of soft offerings and would never hit the beach at any point of the season without some Kettle Creek Swing Shads or new offerings from Z-Man like the DieZel MinnowZ Swimbaits or scented Jerk ShadZ. A package or two of Gulp or Fishbites Fight Clubs tucked inside will come in handy in a lot of situations as well. In terms of jigheads, I started using the Z-Man Striper Eye versions in 3/4- to 1-ounce models a lot this past fall; awesome hook-keeper and super realistic eyes. But when heavier presentations are needed in the 2- to 5- or 6-ounce range, look for bullet-headed MagicTail Killshot Jigs or Joebaggs SPJ’s with ribbed collar to hold your offering; hit your local tackle shop for holographic eyes to enhance the look of those Ron-Z, Slug-go’s and other previously mentioned plastics. You have a lot of plug slots to fill, but for those other empty spaces don’t forget the soft baits. –JH
MegaBass MagDraft Freestyle
Speaking of soft plastics, another transplant from the highly-innovative freshwater bass fishing world is the MagDraft Freestyle from MegaBass. At first glance, they might seem similar to other paddletails, but they’re different because of design innovation. First off, they feature a realistic profile and come in great colors. The tail portion is elongated and narrow with a large paddle, this translates to accentuated action and vibration. The body portion features a deep belly-slit to make hook-setting easier and a channel on the back to protect the point from snagging—you’ll notice that the plastic feels more like a gummy bear than a soft plastic shad and that softer material allows for worry-free hooksets. The MagDraft rigs nicely on a weighted 6/0 Owner Beast Hook, I have really liked using the Owner Flashy Swimmer with them as well. In their current 6-inch configuration, they are a great bait for backwater bassing in the spring and also a phenomenal search bait for the summer and fall. The profile and rigging versatility is why I like them so much, they offer a look I can’t get anywhere else and they catch fish. What else can we ask for? Let this be my official request for the 8-inch version to be released! –DA