The entire month of June, from start to finish, is big striper time.
So you want to catch a big bass? Well, you can roll the dice and hope to luck into that trophy cow, but you should know that the odds will be heavily stacked against you. Every season does see some big stripers beached by novice anglers under the most unlikely of circumstances, but it is far from a common occurrence. To give yourself a reasonable chance at catching big bass requires as much skill as it does luck.
The measure of luck and skill varies more as the learning curve increases, resulting in novice anglers relying on a greater degree of luck than skill to be successful. As their skills and knowledge improve, skill becomes more of a factor than luck. However, no matter how good an angler you become, scoring big stripers often requires a certain degree of luck, and this is especially true when it comes to surf fishing. Even the best surfcasters have their share of fishless outings, but even the fishless ones can lead to you becoming a wiser and more skilled angler. Learning something from all of your trips to the beach, whether successful or not, will help greatly in shortening the learning curve. This knowledge gained from these trips will eventually allow you to rely on more skill than luck in your quest for a trophy striper. Hopefully, some of the information here will also help get you started in shortening that learning curve.
The month of June is traditionally the time that most areas along the Striper Coast begin to see concentrations of sizable bass. Fish are migrating from their spawning grounds in Chesapeake Bay’s tributaries and the Hudson River, and setting into coastal areas from the Jersey Shore to Cape Cod and beyond. This is one of the reasons Bill Wetzel holds his Surf Rat’s Ball Striped Bass Tournament during the sixth month. It gives anglers from all along the Striper Coast an equal opportunity to compete in the contest. The entire month of June, from start to finish, is big striper time. If you really want a big one, be ready and dedicate as much time as you can to fishing in June.
A considerable amount of dedication is required to be successful when targeting large stripers in the surf and that means dedicating some serious time to it. This means taking that time where you normally relax and use it in the pursuit of stripers instead. Not just the fishing part, but the preparation and driving aspects of the game as well. Not all locations will hold fish, so covering some ground by car will keep you hot on the trail of the fish. Fish your familiar spots with confidence but move on and find locations that are more promising when the time is right. This is especially true for the novice caster who might be inclined to beating one or two nearby locations to death despite a lack of results. Most seasoned surfcasters will have places that they know will have a good chance of producing large bass at some point during this month.
By covering different locations, you will eventually learn what areas will produce and which ones won’t. Over time, you will cover less ground and be able to focus on waters where you have gained valuable experience. Once you do find those waters, a great deal of focus and dedication should applied to that location. The fish may be right in front of you but they don’t always feed. Sometimes fishing a spot night after night after night is what you have to do to learn the right tide, wind and other factors that turn a particular location on. Remember it is that one bite you are searching for. Sometimes that one thump that can change the whole night from a dud to a winner.
I’m not talking about snacks for you to consume during your mission for large striped bass. I’ll cover that later on. What I’m referring to are snacks that will draw in stripers to a specific area. Usually, these tasty treats for bass happen to be on the larger side where cow-sized fish are involved. Some anglers would be quite surprised what a big bass can consume, and swallowing down a large meal is an easy task for a big striper.
Of course, bunker are always prime baitfish when looking for big fish. Find the bunker and you have a chance to find a large fish feeding on them. Bunker can move quickly and staying on them from the shore night after night can become tough. One prey of stripers that is often overlooked by those hunting stripers is fluke. You’d be surprised at the amount of large bass I’ve caught with whole fluke hanging out of their mouths, and More times than not, these have been fluke in the 12- to 15-inch size range. I’m by no means suggesting you use short fluke to bait a big striper, but to encourage you to seek areas with a healthy population of fluke and you might just find a couple of large bass lurking close by.
Eye On The Sky
A big part of a stripers movements and feeding depends on the moon phase. You will have a full and a new moon during the month. What I concluded in my time of targeting stripers is that these fish will move during these two moon phases more so than at any other time. I believe that faster currents will move and disorientate bait, making them easier for fish to pick off. The key to successfully hooking up is to figure out which side of the moon phase the fish will feed better on. Some anglers like the upside to the moon, relating it to a buildup. Others will tell you the downside is favorable. I’ve found luck on both sides but it can be a bit random as to which one is better during that particular time. One thing I do have to say is that I’ve never had much on the date of the full or new moons. The fish seem to turn off during these phases.
Another important part about moons, more specifically the full moon, is moonrise and moonset. Most will agree that most of the time, a full bright moon will not produce the results that a dark new moon will, and this holds true 90 percent of the time. Keep in mind that while a bright moon may turn off the fish, they may still be in front of you. The key is to keep an eye out for moonrises and moonsets. If you can time a tide when the moon sets or before it rises, it’s very similar to fishing a new moon. I’ve witnessed bites turned on by moonsets and turned off by moonrises.
Throw A Wrench In It
So you think you’re ready to tackle a cow striper? Everything is in your head to land the big one but you’re forgetting something. The ever-so-important gear and equipment that will allow you to beach that cow. The worst possible thing I can think of while targeting big fish is an equipment malfunction that results in losing a beast. Half the battle is finding out where they live. Now that you have come so close, you don’t want it to fall apart because of something that could be prevented from breaking your heart. I’m not referring to breaking off a fish because it cut you off on a rock or other form of structure. Those scenarios are beyond your control. What I am talking about is a reel that isn’t properly maintained with a poorly functioning drag system that causes you to lose a fish. Poor knots can also bring heartache, and poor quality, rusted hooks can also contribute to failure since they are prone to straightening or breaking, and poor hooksets. These are all things you can prevent prior to hitting the suds. Making sure these items are all in order will ensure that the fight will be in your favor when the time comes.
Aside from fueling my truck for these night runs, it’s also crucial to fuel yourself for these middle of the night missions. Take it from me, 7-11 will become your best friend. Being up all hours of the night takes its toll and you need all the help you can get. My buddy and I joke that we need an IV of coffee sometimes to stay sharp.
Some advice I can offer is to keep a case of water in your vehicle. I can’t tell you how many times I fished a hot June night and came back to the truck dehydrated with no water waiting in my truck, resulting in an unnecessary trip to the nearest 7-11. Aside from the water, you should keep a supply of snacks on hand, including your favorite protein bar. Keep them behind your seat just in case you need a little extra fuel during the night. I also like to keep an emergency 5-hour energy on hand in case I’m really running out of gas. Remember that this type of fishing will mess with your sleep schedule if you work a regular 9 to 5. If you are dedicated to catching the fish of a lifetime, you can push yourself to do this and the end result can be worth it. Remember that if you do tangle with a cow striper, properly release your trophy. Support the fish in the water with one hand holding the lower lip and one hand under the belly. Once the fish is ready to go you will feel her clamp down on your hand. That’s when you know it’s time to set her free for another lucky angler to enjoy.