Plugging Surf Stripers

Along the Eastern Seaboard, the great Fall migration of striped bass hugs the coastline, offering surf anglers a chance at tangling with fish from 20 inches to 50 pounds. The key to surf success is to mimic the baitfish around with the proper swimming plug. The surfster’s arsenal should include a variety of profiles and shapes to mimic peanut bunker, herring, mullet, spearing and sand eels.   

When bass are smaller in caliber of 5 to 15 pounds, you can get away with a medium to fast action rod such as a St. Croix Tidemaster TIS76MF rated for 8 to 17 pound matched with a Shimano 5000 Stradic reel spooled with 30-pound Power Pro braided line. Larger model bass of 20 pounds and greater require a beefed up set up such as a Lamiglas 10 foot SSS101MHS, matched with a 8000 class reel. For a simple lurecasting rig, start with a 75-pound Spro Barrel swivel, then a 30-inch section of 25 to 40--pound Seaguar fluorocarbon leader to which a 50-pound Duolock or TA snap is tied for interchanging lures. Roughly 18 inches up from the snap, tie a dropper loop to affix a white 2/0 bucktail hair teaser, Vision rainfish or Felmlee eel teaser.

There are more makes and models of surf plugs than there are car models, but surf striper lures should be matched with the hatch in the water at any given time. If mullet, herring or bunker are the predominant bait around, go with Bomber A-Salt plugs in black, chickenscratch, Wonderbread and blurple or Daiwa SP Minnows in green/silver and mackerel patterns.  If long sandeels from 4 to 8 inches are flitting about, the tried and true Boone Needlefish plug works wonders. Spearing and small herring can be mimicked with a 4-inch Mambo minnow or YoZuri Crystal Minnow. Wide profile peanut bunker are best represented with a Rat-L-Trap or Hopkins NOEQL metal.  

Surf stripers usually like a slow to moderate presentation so when casting, a crank of the reel every second is a good general rule of thumb. During night time hours, slow the retrieve even moreso. At present time, the striper migration is hitting the New Jersey shores and will work its way south off of Maryland and North Carolina for the winter months. Fish during sunup and sundown hours and into the night for best shots at bass. Simple plugging tactics will dial you in to some arm-wrenching battles from the sands.