Cur­rent Trends

Hook more stripers in mov­ing wa­ter with these pre­sen­ta­tion tweaks

Field and Stream - - FISHING HANDBOOK - By Joe Cer­mele

Many rivers have spring runs of striped bass. In some, these fish come straight out of salt­wa­ter and into fresh­wa­ter to spawn; in oth­ers, bass mi­grate out of a lake or reser­voir into trib­u­taries to fol­low spawn­ing shad. In ei­ther case, the lo­ca­tions where these fish post up to feed will be very sim­i­lar.

Striped bass have no prob­lem feeding in heavy cur­rent, but they’re not as likely to hold di­rectly in fast wa­ter for ex­tended pe­ri­ods. Most of the time, the fish will sit be­hind trees or boul­ders, or in de­pres­sions and bank ed­dies that break the flow and al­low them to ex­ert min­i­mal en­ergy against the cur­rent. When a shad or her­ring is washed over­head or down the side of their hold­ing po­si­tions, the stripers can quickly dart out, feed, and re­turn to their quiet spots.

Know­ing where these fish hold is only part of the bat­tle. The other part is get­ting them to eat. Live bait—where le­gal—is al­ways a safe bet. For the guys like me who love to hook up on ar­ti­fi­cials, here are some tricks that will get bass to take a shot at plugs, flies, soft baits, and swim­baits more fre­quently.

TAKE A SWING

Over the years, I’ve no­ticed that one of the most im­por­tant as­pects to draw­ing a strike from a river striper is how your lure swings. These fish are less likely to chase a lure mov­ing straight up or down­stream as they are one swing­ing past in an arc with the cur­rent. With that in mind, choose div­ing plugs and soft plas­tics that dig and main­tain a tight wob­ble with only the cur­rent act­ing upon them. A lure that needs to be reeled quickly may not look ap­peal­ing on a tight line swing and there­fore might slip right over a striper’s head with­out the fish mov­ing even an inch to chase.

MAKE WAVES

Rather take a shot at river bass with a fly rod? Make sure your pat­terns move plenty of wa­ter. I like her­ring-im­i­tat­ing stream­ers with a wide­pro­file head made from spun buck­tail. While the fly swings across the cur­rent, slight pops of the fly line are all it takes to make the fly jack­knife as the flow pushes against the bulky head. The large heads also cre­ate wa­ter re­sis­tance, send­ing a pulse of wa­ter over the tail, help­ing the fly “breathe.” Es­sen­tially, what you’re do­ing is giv­ing it life with­out hard strips, just let­ting the river move the pat­tern in an arc, as you would a div­ing plug.

GO GRAY

Stripers are pretty light sen­si­tive, and if your river is crys­tal clear dur­ing their spring run, get­ting bit on a bright, sunny, day can be chal­leng­ing and frus­trat­ing. That’s why in spring, I pray for over­cast skies and rainy con­di­tions when the wa­ter is clear. You might get a quick bite at first and last light on a sunny day, but over­cast skies seem to get the fish to lose their wari­ness, of­ten mov­ing away from their haunts to ac­tively hunt in rif­fles and across flats. Ide­ally, your lo­cal wa­ter will be stained up dur­ing the peak of the run. Dirty is bad, but stain keeps bass more ac­tive re­gard­less of the sky.

Sil­ver Springs The au­thor with a river bass swung on a chrome Sé­bile Bull Min­now.

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