Striped Bass Game Plan of Summer
by Capt. Jim Freda
Shore Catch Guide Service
ame plans are important in any sport and so it is with striper fishing. We need to know where to go, when to go, what to use, etc, etc, etc. During the spring and fall these plans are usually simple as we all know where the fish are and information is easy to come by. But during the summer doldrums months of July and August finding and hooking into fish can be much more difficult.
Summertime brings new thinking to the game and a fair catch of bass if you know where and when to go. There are specific locations that hold bass during July and August that one can target from either the beach or the boat. In my guiding area from Sandy Hook to Island Beach State Park these are four of my favorite locations that are on my playing card where I have consistently caught bass. Two are from the beach and two from the boat. Now these aren’t the only locations that will produce but are locations and times that can serve as a good starting point. So don’t take your summer siestas just yet. Read on for your two beach locations this month and your two boat locations and more to come next month.
1) Where: Jetty Tips, Monmouth County, When: False dawn to one hour after sunrise.
The jetty tips in Monmouth County hold a resident population of striped bass all summer long. These fish are not the big bunker bass 30+ pound fish that we have been catching during the month of June but are still exciting to catch as they range in size from small fish to the low 20 pound range. Most of the bigger bass will be in the 12-18 lb range.
Since most July mornings will be windless and calm with oil slick water the best way to catch these bass will be by casting a surface popper directly out front of the jetty tip. Most jetties in “Jetty Country”, that is Monmouth County, have tips that are submerged and these rockpiles will extend outward for an additional 25-50 yards. Here is where the deepest water along the jetty will be found along with the most ambush points and whitewater if present.
When surfcasting I like to use either a Polaris Popper in white or yellow or one of the prismatic Stillwater Smack-Its in white, silver, or yellow. Both of these poppers cast very well so you can throw them quite a distance from the tip. Increasing the speed of your retrieve while raising your rod tip when the popper comes back close to you will keep it out of the rocks.
When fly fishing, my number one choice for a popper is a Bob’s Banger. This banger is just one of the many creations of Bob Popovics. This fleye is simply constructed and easy to tie. There are no tools, epoxy, paint, or glue required. For complete tying instructions check out pages 108-109 of Bob’s and Ed Jaworowski’s book Pop Fleyes: Bob Popovic's Approach to Saltwater Fly Design. (Publisher: Stackpole Books, 2001; ISBN: 0811712478)
Fish these fleyes on floating lines and work them around the entire jetty casting them to both the north and south sides and out in front of the tip. Strip using two hands and pull up on the fly line on your retrieve after every third or fourth strip. This will dig the banger causing it to generate a bigger splash. Also allow the banger to remain motionless for several seconds at some point of your retrieve. This will mimic a stunned or injured bait making it appear an easy prey. Best colors to use for your bangers will also be white, silver, or yellow.
2) Where: Island Beach State Park Surf Zone. When: Sunny Calm Days.
In the last several seasons Bob Popovics has been mastering the art of sight fishing for striped bass in the Island Beach surf. Every July and August striped bass will cruise right along the beach in this area in front of or west of the outer bar bringing them in reach for surfcasters or fly fishers. These bass are looking for invertebrates such as crabs and sand bugs that are being dislodged or scurrying around on the sand.
During the summer the surf zone at Island Beach can take on an almost tropical appearance making spotting fish not difficult if you know what to look for. The water can become gin clear with an azure appearance. To spot striped bass you will need to step back away from the water’s edge and try to elevate yourself on the berm behind you. You will also need a good pair of polarized sunglasses to eliminate surface glare. The sunglasses that I recommend are Spotter Shades www.spotter-shades.com. These are the best polarized sunglasses that I have worn and I have tried them all.
Striped bass can be seen occasionally rooting through the sand while cruising along. When a bass is located stealth is required to approach a fish as to not spook it away to deeper water. You will need to determine the direction that you think the fish is heading and position yourself ahead of the fish. While standing back from the water’s edge you will make a cast to the approaching fish. Timing is important so be patient and wait until the fish is in range.
Fly fishers have an advantage here in that flies can easily emulate the invertebrates that are indigenous to the Jersey Coast. Popovics’ Jersey Crab Fleye is the best choice for fly fishers to use. Surfcasters can also cast these flies by using a small rubber core lead sinker placed directly above a five foot fluorocarbon leader to which the fleye is attached. The sinker will provide enough weight to cast the fleye.
Surfcasters can also try small swimming plugs or any of the small weighted soft plastics. However the best bait for surfcasters to use will be soft shelled calico crabs. These invertebrates will shed or molt their shell during the new and full moons of the summer months. When they do they will give off a distinct scent that stripers will zero in on.
Calico crabs can be obtained by raking the surf with what’ is called a calico rake. When raking, you will be looking for calicos in specific stages of their life cycle. The crabs you want to gather are the softies, shedders, and tin backs. Identifying these stages will take some practice.
Soft- shell crabs will are easy to identify. Their bodies are totally limp and soft. Shedders and peelers are identified by color. As molting occurs, the new shell will begin to form and become visible from underneath the hardening shell. Male shedders have a pronounced lavender color on the bottom claw.
The last stage of the peeler is not recognized by color but a physical condition of the hard shell. A split develops under the lateral spines and along the posterior edge of the shell. At this stage, the crab is called a buster and; it has begun molting and backs out of its shell. This is a very soft “prime bait” for striped bass. As the calicos begin to turn hard; in this early stage, they are called tin backs or tinee’s. They too are also very productive baits.
When obtaining calico crabs you should begin raking two hours before low tide. Look for pockets of soft sand along the beach, also as well as working the areas along the north and south sides of the jetties. The best times for raking calico crabs are during the new and full moon phases.
To fish calicoes use conventional tackle and an 8-foot medium action rod. This outfit is spooled with 20 lb -pound-test mono or 50-pound lb braid. The most popular rig for using calico crabs is the fish finder rig. For hooks use a Gamakatsu number 0241 Octopus- style, size 7/0, which are chemically sharpened.
Lay the hook along the underside of the crab and tie the hook to the crab body with elastic cotton thread or spider thread. Spider thread is almost invisible. By tying the crabs’ legs along the leader, the bait will be presented naturally. Strike quickly upon a take a bass will inhale the bait in one gulp.
So get out there now and keep the bass honest. If you put your time in you will be pleasantly surprised to see how many bass you can actually catch. For the boat enthusiasts here are two locations in Part II.
3) Where: Shrewsbury Rocks. When: Daylight during the changing tide.
4) Where: Sandy Hook Rips out to Ambrose Channel. When: Nighttime
Go to: Striped Bass Game Plan of Summer - Part II
Copyright © 1998 - 2014 Jim Freda, All Rights Reserved
Articles by Captain Jim Freda
- A Quick Lesson for a Little Night Flying
- A Word to the Wise...Wader
- August, More than Meets the Eye
- Bang'em Up
- Beach or Bait? Perspective on Surf Fishing & Beach Replenishment
- Bunker and Trophy Bass
- Bunker, Bunker, and More Bunker and Big Bass Too!
- Busting the Blues
- Clams, Bunker, or Herring for Springtime Trophy Stripers
- Coldwater Stripers, Dredging with the Fly
- CPR for the Fly Fisher - Color, Profile and Retrieve
- December’s End, Watching or Catching?
- December's Grand Finale
- Fall's Surf Smorgasbord
- Fly Fishers-Pick Your Tools Wisely When Getting Started
- Four Baits to Know For Your September’s Surf Success
- Get'em with Sand Eel Imitations
- Getting Started in the Salt
- Know Your Baits and Flies
- Jump to the Back for Early Spring Stripers
- Longest Yard, The
- More Lines Less Flies
- My March Madness
- New Jersey’s “Striper Bounty”
- November Trophies
- October' Harvest in the Surf
- Peanut Bunker Blitzes-Jersey Style
- Running and Gunning, Proper Boating Etiquette
- Saltwater Fly Fishing Perspective
- Saltwater Fly Fishing in the Surf
- September Surf
- Shooting the Suds, Albies on the Fly
- Simplifying Fly Lines
- Slack Water Explained
- Springtime Big Bass
- Spring Baits and Flies
- Stretching into Spring
- Striped Bass Game Plan of Summer
- Striped Bass Game Plan of Summer (Part II)
- Stripping for Success
- Surf Scanning
- Tackling Big December Bass on the Fly!
- Take Me to Your Leader
- Ten Degrees of Blitzes
- Tips and Tidbits
- Trophy Tactics
- Trophy Weakfish on the Fly
- Try for that Trophy Bass on the Fly!
- Wind Direction and its Localized Effect on the Striper Bite
Jim Freda is a highly respected charter captain, author, outdoor writer, seminar speaker, and photographer. His first book Fishing the New Jersey Coast,
has been a best seller and received the “New Jersey Center for the Book Award” as one of the most notable NJ books. He co-authored a second book Saltwater Fishing a Tactical Approach, A Guide for Northeast Beach and Boat Fishermen,
with his Shore Catch associates Capt Gene Quigley and Shell E. Caris.
Jim has weekly fishing columns that appear in the Bergen Record, NJ's second largest newspaper and the Coast Star and Ocean Star newspapers of Monmouth and Ocean Counties. Nationally, Jim is a contributing editor for Fly Fishing in Saltwaters magazine and also writes for Fly Fisherman magazine, Saltwater Sportsman, Eastern Fly Fishing, Big Game Journal, and StriperSurf.com. Regionally he writes for On the Water magazine where he has is own monthly column, The Fisherman magazine and the NJ Federation of Sportsman Clubs newspaper.
As a seminar speaker Jim is featured as one of the celebrities on the Saltwater Sportsman National Seminar Series, as one of the “Stars of the Show” at the Fly Fishing Show in Somerset, NJ, the Northeast’s largest fly fishing show and is on the National Pro Seminar slate at the Toyota Saltwater Expo also in Somerset. He is also regularly featured each year at many of the local fishing clubs in the surrounding area including the State’s two largest clubs the Hudson River Fishermen’s Association and the Saltwater Anglers of Bergen County. Capt Jim has also been a guest speaker at all the Trout Unlimited Clubs in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Jim has also been a special guest speaker at the Bloomberg Network in New York City.
He is a member of the National Factory Pro Team for St. Croix Rods and pro staff for Fins Fishing Line, AVET Reels, Spro, Gamakatsu, Hogy, Korkers, Costa Del Mar, Columbia Sportswear and Aquaskinz.
For more information, please go to Shore Catch Guide Service www.shorecatch.com