July has the potential to yield some quality stripers but they don’t come easy.
If hunting down a big striper is on your agenda, do not discount the month of July. There are places where the odds of catching a quality bass remain very much in your favor but you may have to travel to do it. Finding that big fish in July can be a grind, with many fishless nights in between big catches, but those long nights are easily forgotten when that big one comes along.
Where To Look?
Where you fish will play a big role in determining the average size of the fish you’re likely to hook into during the month of July. Places like Cuttyhunk, Montauk’s south side, Block Island and the Cape Cod Canal have a history of producing big stripers during the summer months, but there are lesser known stretches of shoreline along the Striper Coast that can also produce stripers during the summer months, though the quality of the fishing may vary greatly from year to year. If you are just happy putting a bend in the rod and topping out at 30 inches, put your time into the sand beaches and throw small swimmers, soft plastics and needlefish. But if you’re looking to hook into fish of 30 pounds or better, focus your efforts on hard structure and deep, cooler, moving water. Can you catch a big fish from the sand? Absolutely – the sandy back beaches of Cape Cod have produced many trophy stripers over the years, but fishing in the rocks will increase your odds of crossing paths with bigger fish more frequently.
The reasons behind favoring the rocks is because the hard structure, say a boulder-strewn point or jetty, will have a lot of characteristics that appeal to large bass. For starters, a point that juts out into the ocean will usually have deeper water on either side, which seems to make larger fish feel safer when they swim into the shallows. Rocky points also form rip lines on both the incoming or outgoing tides in most cases, providing a good flow of current for the bass to set up in and pick off any bait swept over the point. Keep in mind moving water will usually be cooler, which is more comfortable for the bass and makes them more likely to feed.
Now that the location has been determined, what are you going to throw? Well, it all starts with what bait is likely to be around. Along most of the Northeast Coast in July, you are likely to find four types of bait around hard rock structures. The menu usually consists of bunker, mackerel, sand eels, and groundfish (ie: porgies, blackfish, sea bass and fluke). The lures I choose have the same profiles and actions as these baitfish species.
Knowing that most of these baits fall into the 6- to 8-inch size bracket, I always have darters and bottles from Super Strike, some kind of minnow plug like a Hydro Minnow or Red Fin, and several styles of needlefish. If the area I’m fishing has deeper water nearby in the 10- to 15-foot range, I’ll also bring some kind of deep diving metal lip which will allow me to cover the lower water column where the bass may be patrolling for a blackfish or porgy. I never hit the rocks without a few bucktails since they can save a night if there’s a hard wind in your face and any plug you attempt to throw gets rejected by the gale.
I’ll usually start fishing with a needlefish, minnow plug, or a bucktail. I consider these my fishfinders. These three lures allow me to cover water faster and help me determine whether there are fish in the area. Once I am confident that fish are present, I can start working other plugs into the equation to dial in exactly what they want.
One last note is to make sure your terminal ends on both your leaders and lures are up to the task, so when you do hook a good fish you won’t have a “fish tale” to tell. I use extra strong hooks and the best swivels and clips I can get. As a result, I have the utmost confidence in my tackle and can put the heat to a large running bass and stop it from busting me off in structure.