In my local back bays and other backwaters around the region stripers have revisited and are feeding on an array of baits before moving on along the coast to their next destination. Just for reference when reading this column, the water I’ve been fishing in the bay this fall for stripers off my skiff is 5 to 13 feet with minimal current and the primary forage for the stripers in the area is peanut to full size bunker (menhaden). I’ve been playing around with a variety of different lures that I found the fish reacted quite well to when fished around the schools of bait. Here they are with some personal insights about each.
This lure has been a staple among the anglers in my area and honestly areas all over where stripers are feeding on small to medium sized bunker. The two lures of choice that I’ve done extremely well with the past few weeks are Tsunami and Storm swim shads. Both lures have a paddletail that creates a bit of action when reeled back in. I found that shads from 4 to 6 inches have been working best based on the size of the bait around. Also colors like white, pearl and chartreuse have gotten the most looks. These shads are relatively simple to use. Just cast around bunker schools or where you can visible see stripers visibly feeding, let them sink a bit and start a steady retrieve. Sometimes they like a simple retrieve like this or other times I’ll add a little twitch to get them to strike.
Spook Style Lures
I always like using these types of lures for getting those picky fish to strike when they normally would shy away from a lure. There’s something about that rhythmic back and forth motion that either gets a striper to feed or just annoys them enough that they hit the lure out of spite. Some of my recent choices for this have been the Yo-Zuri Top Knock Pencil in light and natural colors and the 6-inch Doc Spook. The Yo-Zuri is a smaller profile good for when smaller baits are around while the larger spook offers a good profile when bigger bunker are in the water. My method for fishing these lures is getting on the bow platform of the boat and working the lure with the rod under my arm “walk the dog” style. I found that sometimes the fish will pop these lures right out of the water and miss. Just keep working the lure in that rhythmic motion and they usually come back and commit themselves fully.
Another topwater lure like the spooks but more violent is how I would describe the pencil poppers I’ve been using. They have a back and forth action like the spook but they’re not subtle like them. Pencils throw a lot of water each time they sway from side to side. I enjoy using these when I notice the stripers are feeding a bit more aggressively. They usually will have no problem tracking down a pencil worked aggressively on the surface when they’re on the feed. One lure that I’ve been fond of for its ability to work easily and its ability to cause a large surface disturbance is the Savage Gear Panic Pencil Popper. The lure is also equipped with super sticky BKK hooks making it almost a guarantee connection when setting the hook.
Worked very similar to a swim shad for me, the bucktail is another great pick for fishing around the bunker schools. Usually I go with the color white with a red, white or yellow trailer. When selecting a bucktail I like to go with a densely tied one while fishing the bay for its larger profile and slower sink rate in the shallower water. Simply cast out, let sink a bit and retrieve like a swim shad. Incorporating some twitches along the retrieve helps get those picky fish to commit. The once piece of advice I can offer with a bucktail is not to go too heavy. A slower sink rate will help get more hits as most of your hits will actually come on the initial sink at times when fishing around feeding stripers. Keep a semi-taunt line and wait for the sharp strike before setting the hook.