It can be one of the most challenging pieces of water that wraps around the Long Island coast. When fished smartly, the rewards of drilling out a trophy striper in the 40 to 50-pound range is more of a reality than wishful thinking. Welcome to “The Race” where striper fanatics know their next bass can be one for the books.
Situated between Little Gull and Fishers Island east of Orient Point, The Race is a 3-mile wide deep-water channel of turbulent passage, which is the primary area of tidal exchange between the waters of Long Island Sound and Block Island Sound. It shares this duty of tidal exchange with Plum Gut, another waterway further west situated between Orient Point and Plum Island.
The bottom contour in the Race is like a roller coaster in an amusement park; underwater hills with depths that vary from 17 feet on the shoals at Valiant Rock, to nearly 300 feet along the gullies. Most of the bottom and ledges consist of rocks, some the size of houses.
However, the area is also home to several unmarked wrecks that are scattered along the bottom. The combination of rocky bottom, deep turbulent waters and shallow shoals of The Race provides significant and diverse habitat for all kinds of species, especially stripers and blues. Blackfish, sea bass, porgies, and many other types of structure-reliant forage fish reside here providing plenty of eats for the gamesters.
Because of the massive amount of water that flows through this waterway, currents often push more than 4 or 5 knots. When conditions such as wind against the tide exist; the shoals in The Race can become quite chaotic as white-water waves and chops can make for some challenging conditions, especially for smaller vessels.
During the months of May and June, stripers are responsive to baits and lures both day and night. As July and August approach, the hot days of summer along with intense boat traffic convinces the bass to do much of their munching towards the more tranquil nighttime hours. In fact, many of the largest bass of the season from the Race are usually taken on the July full moon. Therefore you may want to consider a trip if a cow bass is the target.
Drifting live eels on three-ways rigs is the most common and effective method used during the nighttime hours. Daytime is bucktail time with the 3-ounce Smiling Bill or open lip jigs on a three-way rig the way to go. This style of bucktails is the standard balance which makes them ideal for vertical jigging. Black, white, purple, maroon and green, all in 3 ounces are best. Sinker size will vary depending on the given conditions at the time. On average, 12 ounces of lead will keep in touch with the bottom on normal tides. Make sure to have a good supply of the lead as it will be inevitable that a few will succumb to the merciless bottom.
As for rods and reels, make sure to employ gear to handle the elements. Remember good navigation maps and good electronics are the keys to navigating in the area safely.