Inshore: Shadow Line Searching - The Fisherman

Inshore: Shadow Line Searching

SHADOWLINE-BASS
A 5-inch Tsunami Swim Shad did the trick for the author in getting a slot striper to come out of the shadow line and take his offering.

Focusing in on fishing bridge structures after dark with soft plastics.

One type of structure that always produces for me after dark when targeting stripers is bridges. Between the moving currents, baitfish attracted to the lights, and the structures themselves, these manmade spans always draw in stripers, making the task of finding them that much easier. The next step is approaching them in a tactical yet stealthy way to get the fish to strike because these bridge bass are not always the most cooperative.

In my opinion, while the pilings themselves draw bait and, in turn, draw stripers, the fish are usually there because of the light that the bridges cast down into the water. If you have ever fished from the top of a bridge and looked over the side into the shadow line created by the bridge lights, you’ll see stripers lined up in that line, usually facing into the current, waiting for baitfish to roll by where the stripers can easily ambush them.

The majority of the baits that these bridge stripers are feeding on tend to be smaller in size. Small spearing, peanut bunker, anchovies, mullet, etc. Right away, you’re going to want to size down your presentations into the 3 to 5-inch range. Some of my bridge favorites include 5-inch Bass Assassins, 3-inch NLBN paddletails, 4-inch Whip-It Fish, 4 to 5-inch Tsunami Shads, and more recently, the Berkley CullShad in 5 inches.

A lot of these bridge fish are higher up in the column as opposed to near the bottom, where we sometimes expect stripers to stage. This means that you do not have to use that jighead weight that will get you down to the bottom. Instead, you will want to use a weight that gets down just enough to where it’s a couple of feet under the surface, where the stripers are sitting and can see the presentation float by. Usually, for me, these weights are anywhere from 1/2 up to 1-1/2 ounces. Currents will slow down and pick up with the tide, so having an array of different weights on hand is key to keeping up with the ever-changing conditions.

For casting at bridge shadow lines, my rod preference is anywhere from a 7 to a 7-1/2-foot length with a 3000-size spinning reel. Remember, I’m targeting schoolies and slot fish for the most part here, so I’m going to get out of the heavy tackle. Fifteen-pound braid allows me to lay off accurate casts to reach different locations in the shadow line but is strong enough to tackle a striper of the sizes mentioned above with no problem. I’ll use around a 30-pound Seaguar Inshore fluorocarbon leader of about 5 feet for this type of fishing, mainly for its better abrasion properties over monofilament. If a fish decides to run downtide, you’ll have to do what you can to stop that fish from sawing you off in the pilings.

The most effective way to position yourself to fish the shadow line of the bridge is to either anchor or Spot-Lock with a Minn Kota about 20 yards off the bridge’s shadow line, upcurrent. Cast directly parallel to the boat or even 10 yards in front of that, depending on the speed of the current, and try to let the rigged plastic almost drift into the shadow line where stripers will be set up to feed on unsuspecting baitfish. You might have to play with the jig weight and position of the cast to get the proper presentation for those strikes, but once you figure it out, the bass will be all over what you’re throwing. Don’t overlook this either – the way that a jig swings into the shadow line is the most important part of getting picky fish to hit. I’ve fished from the top of a bridge before and watched stripers just move out of the way if the jig does not drift in correctly.

To work the different parts of the bridge, simply re-anchor, or if you have a Minn Kota Spot-Lock, you can shift parallel, up or down the shadow line to work different portions of it.

After dark, these manmade structures are, bar none, one of the most productive types of spots. The fish are usually there – the key is presenting right to get them to hit.

Photo caption: A 5-inch Tsunami Swim Shad did the trick for the author in getting a slot striper to come out of the shadow line and take his offering.

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