Inshore: 5 Spring Striper Plastics - The Fisherman

Inshore: 5 Spring Striper Plastics

Soft plastics can be deadly on spring stripers.

Five striper slaying plastics for this spring run

As the spring sun warms the marshy flats of the bays through the Northeast, it brings to life a myriad of smaller profile baits. Migrating and resident fish enjoying higher water temps in the bays are more willing to expend energy and chase the right presentation on the right tides.  I don’t always have the option of my fishing time working in sync with the tides. When I do have a choice, it’s outgoing throughout the early season. Incoming water has had time to warm up and as the tide drops it pulls with it a wide range of small baits from creeks and estuaries.  Year after year soft plastics have produced for me better than any other offerings. The versatility of action and location in the water column creates the best opportunity in so many evolving spring scenarios. Here are my top five soft plastics that have proven themselves throughout the season and especially when I first hit the water.

Z-Man 5-inch white StreakZ Curly Tailz

The little brother of the paddle tails I’ll throw later in the spring. This curly tail option gets the nod for opening cast of the season.  Usually on a half-ounce jighead and a slow retrieve. I really like how the curly tail exudes the action like worms holdover bass have been feeding on during winter months.  I’ve found the best approach is to work these parallel to marshy shorelines or the edge of where the flats drop off.  As water temps in the bays rise, so too will the calls to duty for this soft plastic. It will also still see steady action while tipped on a 1 to 1-/2-ounce bucktail and worked around the open beach jetties from June and throughout most of the summer in daylight hours.

Bass Assassin 5-inch White Saltwater Assassin

As spearing and minnows entice newly arrived bass in the bays, I’ve had great results with these. Work the Assassin on a 3/4 to 1-1/4-ounce jighead both to get to the bottom of moving water to grab the attention of bigger fish that have moved into the area.  Much like working a spook I’ll keep my rod parallel to the water and use a steady series of twitches.  The action is similar to a darter but for a much smaller presentation. The durability of these plastics is a bit disappointing but the number of fish I’ve caught each spring keeps me coming back to them. I’ll always have these reasonably-priced baits in their Ziploc packaging tucked into my surf bag.

Fat Cow 5-inch Finesse Baits Fat Shad

It only took a few seasons for Fat Cow to introduce a soft plastic that became an essential.  While it’s time on the market may be short in relation to other choices, the prototypes have been catching for much longer. Also, a great profile to match spearing and minnows, the body of this soft plastic is wider than a bass assassin and the understated split imparts a slower swim and larger baitfish profile.  Using a 1-ounce jighead and working these in the channels of canals as more fish start to stage in the area will draw many strikes.

Zinger Baits Pearl Manic Minnow

I like the durability of these just as much as the action of them. Not the first one out of the bag as the season starts but as it gets deeper into the spring bite, this is my first choice for a paddle tail. The fish get bigger so naturally presentations need to get bigger. I really like the profile of the Manic Minnow and being able to present it in deeper water as well as shallow water scenarios when larger baits start to creep in. These are available in 5- and 6-inch sizes, and I often go with the 6 inch. The belly of the Manic Minnow really gets water moving to the tail, and in doing so a slow lazy retrieve still imparts enough action to catch a striper’s attention.  I’ll add in intermittent faster cranks to give the appearance of a wounded baitfish. This works well with the sturdiness of the shad, keeping its pattern of movement tight.  Unlike some smaller flimsier paddle tails, the tail doesn’t like the checkered flag at a NASCAR race and imparts a much more natural looking movement.

NLBN (No Live Bait Needed) PaddleTails and jigheads

Much like the Zinger Manic Minnow, the NLBN 5-inch paddletail is a late spring soft plastic I love. It boasts a beefed-up profile as larger baits are present and bigger migrating fish have staged in the inlets and bays. With water temps higher and steadier than in the early spring, night sessions become more productive. Green back and blurple are my top colors in the choices they offer. At this point in the spring when I find myself fishing closer to inlets and the inlets themselves closer to the bay side, retrieve speed isn’t as big as an issue as working lower in the water column. NLBN also offers jigheads to match both their 5- and 8-inch models in 3/4 to 3-ounce weights.  When targeting bigger fish in faster moving water than earlier in the spring, I find a streamlined jighead and plastic is essential for the natural presentation you want.  The added baitholder coil on their jigheads is a huge help in achieving that and holding the plastic in place.



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