All that bait stacking up in back is a good sign!
As we begin to feel autumn’s brisk, cool kiss, striped bass fishing should begin getting downright electric in the backwaters. Mullet, peanut bunker, and spearing schools are stacking up in the estuaries ready to exit, sparking the impetus for stripers to get on the feed.
Sod banks, bridges and dock pilings are all superior cover where bass gravitate. For effectively targeting backwater bass of 20 to 34 inches, certain lures are musts in your quiver.
When it comes to pitching to bridges and toward dock pilings, soft baits reign supreme. Either lanced on a bucktail or leadhead, go light with 3/8 to half-ounce when the current is slow or bump up to 3/4-ounce if on a mid-tide new or full moon ripping tide. I’ve always been partial to Fin-S Fish from 4 to 7 inches in albino shad, bubble gum, Arkansas shiner and rainbow trout or ZMan Elaztechs. Hop the rubber baits in the water column with short erratic jerks. Paddletails such as Storm Wild Eye shads and Tsunami holographic swim shads are also easier to work with a simple slow retrieve. Soft baits get the nod during early morning hours, but night time excursions really seem to ignite a bite for rubber baits, especially when cast around the shadow lines of dock and bridge lights.
Worked best off sod banks, topwater poppers are cast right up to the edge of a bank and presented with a gurgle-pop back. Most hits will come within 10 feet of the bank as bass hunker down under the overhangs and along the submerged sedge for ambush points. Low-light early morning hours are prime time to work poppers, usually from false dawn until a half hour sunrise as bass splash baitfish off the banks. Some of my go-to baits are the Tsunami Talkin’ Popper, Creek Chub Knucklehead, and Stillwater Smack-It.
Walk the dog style and subsurface plugs can be pulled on and along channel edges where there is some definition change. Inlet areas are also hot spots to toss plugs and swimmers. Top choices include the Rapala Skitter Walk, Yo-Zuri Crystal Minnows, SP Minnows and the tried and true Bomber Long A. Cast near grass flats and around points of confluence where creek mouths empty out, let the plug swim in the current and walk it back to you, many times getting struck when it exits the rip and hits the edge of the eddy where bass stage to pounce.
Sunrise hours have stripers patrolling the flat waters on an outgoing tide. Rushing currents collect sea worms, baitfish and crabs off the sod banks and push them off onto the nearby flats in shallow waters that can sometimes be only 12 inches deep. Dorsal fins are highlighted by predawn sunshine on the flats, betraying the presence of feeding bass, and ultra-light offerings are needed to effectively target the skinny water. Tossing flies is the perfect tool to utilize to tighten down shallow water stripers. Work with a floating or intermediate line and toss any patterns that match the hatch including Surf Candies, Clouser Minnows or Half-and-Halfs.
Fall bass fishing in the backwaters can be accomplished by these big four types of lures. Choose your weapon and head out to the battleground.