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BIG BAITS FOR BIG BASS

Striper sharpies have a mantra: big baits for big fish. Here's proof to back up the theory.
By Charley Soares
Tags: inshore
I moved the boat around to the weather side of the structure, which can be a dangerous place to set up with wind and tide pushing us into the white water. I took a rod, rigged it with one of our mutant baits. The big porgy went directly to the bottom and began swimming toward cover but a bass quickly slammed it. (Stripers must take these baits head-first or pay the deadly consequences when a lively meal turns and its deadly dorsal lodges in the bass’ throat.) I cranked up the drag and lowered the rod tip before dropping the lever and hanging on. The line came up tight as I handed the rod to the novice angler and told him to keep the rod tip up while I moved away from the white water. By that time, I’d made up my mind to break off a fish on my own terms rather than giving them their head and hoping for the best. This was a place I had named the three-for-five because that was the average of the escape rate for stripers hooked in this craggy environment. We didn’t gain line but we put the brakes on this fish. With all that pressure, the bass was forced to the surface. A hush fell over the cockpit as my deckmates stared at what was obviously the largest striped bass they had ever seen. This was a nail-biting adventure but we’d bested a husky 38-pound linesider. Four more hook-ups and three textbook escapes later and a 41-pounder came aboard.

My friends departed tired and elated, and with a greater appreciation for the power and insatiable appetite that permits big stripers to ingest baits of enormous proportions. We didn’t have a problem because our baits were too big. Not one of those jumbo scup was refused because of their size; our problem was those stripers stressed our tackle and destroyed our leaders.

Perhaps the most compelling argument for the employment of large baits occurred on the morning of June 5th, 1997. That was the day of the testimonial I organized for Bob Pond, so my bride thought it was ill-advised to take off for the ocean when I had such a huge undertaking ahead of me. My objective was to catch a large striper, remove the head and place it on a tray with a lobster in its mouth. Was there a more fitting way to welcome guests into banquet hall to fete Mr. Striper? Happily, my guest caught a 34-pounder on an eight-inch Danny plug with a four-inch hackle tail, a fish that had an unusual bulge in her gut. While eviscerating the fish, I discovered a 16-inch striper in her stomach. I washed that fish and put it on ice alongside the head. Even some striper sharpies were reluctant to believe that this fish swallowed a 16-inch bait, while others were disturbed that their revered striper was a cannibal. Over the last several years with legal scup in short supply, I have discovered that a hungry striper will eat just about anything it can get its maw around and that included 16- to 20-inch Hickory Shad that stripers ingested with alacrity. Far too many anglers approach large baits with a misguided hesitation but I have yet to encounter a striper that will refuse a free (and big) meal.


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