Yamaha Pro Captains Offer Tips on Trolling Stripers


News from Sportsmanslifestyle.com


A Trio of Techniques That Will Put Bass In Your Boat Spring Through Fall


“Trolling is the most consistent way to catch striped bass regardless of your skill level,” says Gary Caputi, a familiar face on the Mid-Atlantic striper grounds for over 35 years. He is the author of Fishing for Striped Bass and hundreds of articles on the subject.

Yamaha Pro Captains Offer Tips on Trolling Stripers A Trio of Techniques That Will Put Bass In Your Boat Spring Through Fall

“There are trolling techniques that can be employed throughout most of the year, even in Spring when cold water conditions prevail and bass are in shallow estuaries. In this article, we’ve assembled a group of top captains to discuss the when, where and how of each technique as well as the gear you’ll need to hone your skills. Their knowledge and experience are sure to help you catch more stripers in the coming year.”

Pulling Plugs Produces

The earliest fishing activity for stripers takes place in estuaries, where masses of these popular gamefish tend to winter. As the water warms and their metabolism begins to stir, they start to forge in the shallows. Bait fishermen using seaworms and clams usually score the first bass of the year, whether it’s in the backwaters and feeder rivers of the Chesapeake Bay or further north in the estuaries surrounding the Hudson River. Raritan Bay, tucked between Staten Island and northern New Jersey, is one such place. Not long after the bait bite starts and water temperatures climb into the mid 40s, one trolling technique becomes effective.

Yamaha Pro Captains Offer Tips on Trolling Stripers A Trio of Techniques That Will Put Bass In Your Boat Spring Through Fall

Capt. Brian Rice of Jersey Devil sportfishing out of Fair Haven, N.J., has been honing early season trolling techniques for decades, and he has it down to a science. He runs his twin Yamaha-powered 32-foot Contender® from his dock on the Nevasink River, a short run from Sandy Hook and Raritan Bays. He has the early season fishing dialed in, and the technique he uses to score first is trolling deep-diving plugs.

“My favorite plugs are the Rapala X-Raps® Magnum®, which come in five sizes that run at predetermined depths,” said Rice. “We always have 10-, 15-, 20- and 30- 40-foot models on board so we can cover water depths from shallow flats out to the edges of the ship channels. We start using them when the water hits the mid 40-degree range and continue using them through April and into May. They can’t be beat in the back bay areas.”

Yamaha Pro Captains Offer Tips on Trolling Stripers A Trio of Techniques That Will Put Bass In Your Boat Spring Through Fall

Rice uses 7-foot fast taper, medium action rods because the soft tip helps keep the plugs from rolling over when they hit bottom. You can watch the tip and detect if the lure has picked up any weeds. He uses level-wind reels with line counters so he can set the distance each plug is running behind the boat with accuracy. The reels are spooled with 30- or 50-pound test line, a long fluorocarbon leader and a Mighty-Mini snap swivel for quick lure changes. He runs the plugs between 125 and 250 feet back, and finds they produce best at boat speeds between 2 and 3 mph. His Helm Master® EX system makes running a trolling pattern at such slow speeds computer simple with changes in speed and direction accomplished with the joystick at the helm.

“I like to appeal to all of the fish’s senses with my presentation,” he said. “The plugs put out a strong vibration as they swim and the ball bearings inside emit a clicking sound. To provide scent, I use BioEdge fish attractant. It comes in wands that look like a big chap stick, but it contains bait scents in a waxy base that adheres to the plugs. Menhaden and herring scent work best for me. Color matters too, so I keep a selection of plugs in silver and gold natural fish patterns, along with more basic colors like chartreuse and white for when the water is dirty.”

Yamaha Pro Captains Offer Tips on Trolling Stripers A Trio of Techniques That Will Put Bass In Your Boat Spring Through Fall

As the water gets into the 50s, Rice uses the plugs in a mixed pattern with Mojos®, the next type of trolling lures we’ll cover. These larger, heavier lures run off the transom corners of the Jersey Devil and hang almost straight down at slow speeds while the plugs run further back. Rice commented that it’s a good idea to keep the plugs on your boat as migrating bass move into your area later in the season because there are times when they will produce in ocean waters when all else fails.

Mojo Madness

What has become a super popular lure for trolling stripers in recent years actually started in the fish’s more southern range in the Chesapeake Bay and nearby ocean waters many years ago. Now anglers further north have adopted it, and it is one of the most productive trolling techniques for a good portion of the fishing year, under a wide variety of conditions. If you haven’t guessed, we’re talking about trolling Mojos. Capt. Jim Freda of Shore Catch Charters in Point Pleasant, N.J., has been honing his skills with these striper catchers aboard his Yamaha-powered 28-foot Parker® pilot cabin for years. He’s recognized for his proficiency with them and is a regular instructor at fishing seminars during the winter months teaching other anglers the ins and out of Mojo success.

Yamaha Pro Captains Offer Tips on Trolling Stripers A Trio of Techniques That Will Put Bass In Your Boat Spring Through Fall

A Mojo looks like a cross between a huge bucktail and an even older striper lure called a parachute jig. The front of the lure is a big painted lead head that can weigh anywhere from 3 to 36 ounces. They are tied with a long nylon strand skirt with the strands facing forward so when the lure is trolled, it billows back creating a much larger profile in the water. A large swinging hook is attached to the back of the lead head, and it is adorned with a plastic swim shad that can vary from 5 to 9 inches in length depending on the lure weight. The wide range of weights and sizes are needed to cover the water column from shallow back bay areas to ocean waters as deep as 70 feet.

Freda calls Mojos “prospecting lures” because when the bass aren’t showing on the surface or in pods on the sonar screen (times when his anglers can cast or jig them), he puts the Mojos out to cover ground and entice bass that are holding closer to the bottom. A bonus is the lures frequently get bass that are not actively feeding to strike. He uses specialty rods designed and sold by Tony Maja Products® that can handle the weight of fishing heavy single Mojos or the more popular tandem rigs, which include a heavy Mojo on the bottom and a lighter one running on top. The rods are remarkably light and flexible which makes fighting fish a lot of fun. Each rod is paired with a relatively small conventional reel loaded with 40- to 65-pound braided line with a 20-foot, 60-pound test monofilament leader. He will typically troll just two rods, each with a tandem Mojo rig but if fishing is slow, he widens his presentation by adding two more outfits to the pattern staggering the dropback to prevent tangles when making turns or hooking up.

Yamaha Pro Captains Offer Tips on Trolling Stripers A Trio of Techniques That Will Put Bass In Your Boat Spring Through Fall

“The weight combinations for Mojo tandem rigs varies depending on where I am fishing,” he said. “For example, if I’m in the shallow waters of Raritan Bay early in the season, I’ll run an 8-ounce Mojo on the bottom and a 4-ounce on the top. I find the best trolling speed is between 3- and 4-miles per hour. I try to keep the bottom lure riding within a couple feet of the bottom, which places the lighter top lure above and behind it. I put the rig in the water at trolling speed and start letting out line using thumb pressure to slow its descent until it bounces the bottom. I hold the spool and let the lures ride up behind the boat for a few seconds. Then I let line out again until it bounces a second time and put the reel in gear and place it in the rod holder. Drag setting is just high enough to keep line from coming off the reel at trolling speed, and the reel clicker is on so when I get a hit, the rod bends setting the hook. The click announces there’s a fish on as it starts taking drag.”

Mojos come in a variety of colors, but Jim sticks with the two most productive for him, plain white and plain chartreuse. A little later in the season when ocean waters fill with larger migrating bass, Mojos will produce. Then you’re trolling them in 50 or 60 feet of water. Freda uses tandem rigs with a 16-ounce or heavier Mojo on the bottom and a 6 or 8 ounce on the top. He follows the same procedure for deploying the lures.


Spoon Fed

The third trolling technique revolves around a lure that has been used by anglers in the Northeast for generations. It’s called a bunker spoon because it imitates the most prolific large baitfish in Mid-Atlantic inshore waters, the menhaden, aka “bunker”. Captain Frank Wagenhoffer of Fin Chaser Sportfishing in Highlands, N.J., is a bunker spoon specialist who has used the technique to catch thousands of large striped bass. He was gearing up for the spring bass run as we talked, getting his triple Yamaha-powered 36-foot Contender® loaded with tackle for his first trips of the season.

Yamaha Pro Captains Offer Tips on Trolling Stripers A Trio of Techniques That Will Put Bass In Your Boat Spring Through Fall

“Bunker spoons have been a big part of my striper fishing success over the years,” Frank said. “I’ve devoted a lot of time to tweaking my tackle and exploring different ways to use spoons to stay on top of my game. I still get a kick out of watching a spoon rod get pulled down by a big bass.

“Bunker spoons were always a cottage industry and have been made by dozens of local tackle companies in the past. Most required a lot of patience to learn how to tune them, match them with the right length and action trolling rod, and figure out the exact boat speed to get them to swim with just the right action. That was until a local striper pro right here in Raritan Bay designed and started marketing his spoons and matching 8-foot trolling rods, eventually creating a complete system in which everything works together right out of the box. The man was Tony Arcabascio, and his boat was called the Maja, his company is Tony Maja Products®. Maja bunker spoons, rods and accessories are the only ones I’ve been using since their introduction. I’ve won a number of striper tournaments with them.”

Bunker spoons are big, heavy and require specialized tackle to make them dance. They imitate mature menhaden that can weigh two pounds or more. They are trolled at specific speeds to give them a side-to-side swimming action that sends out strong vibrations through the water calling stripers from a distance. As they get closer, the flash and movement of the lure provides the visual enticement that gets them to strike. Bunker spoons are designed to be fished with wire line (40- or 50-pound test) made from stainless steel or monel, which makes it possible to accurately place the lures at specific depths while trolling. The wire is soft but has no stretch, so it telegraphs the spoon’s swimming action directly back to the rod. As the spoon moves from side to side, the rod tip bends rhythmically and tells you it is running correctly.


“Speed is important, but less critical with the Maja spoons, which are more forgiving and have a smoother action,” said Wagenhoffer. “I run spoons between 3 and 4 miles per hour, but conditions can affect speed. If you’re trolling in an area where there is strong current, you’ll have to adjust the boat speed to compensate when running with or against it. The telltale that shows you have the speed right is the movement of the rod tip bouncing rhythmically. Sloppy sea conditions can cause your boat speed to become erratic, especially if you have a smaller boat. To compensate, you might have to run in the trough of the waves, beam to the sea to keep the spoons running right.”

Frank also discussed depth control and its adjustment, which depends on how far back you set the spoons. Wire line reels are set up with a minimum of 200 yards of backing, usually 50-pound test monofilament or heavier, connected to 300 feet of wire line with a mini-swivel small enough to pass through the guides on the rod. Another mini swivel is used to attach the terminal end of the wire to a 20-foot heavy monofilament leader. The weight of the wire pulls the spoon down at a rate of about 10-to-1, meaning if you have 150 feet of wire in the water the spoon will be 15 feet below the surface. Dump all 300 feet of wire so the backing is just touching the water, and the spoon will run about 30 feet down. Frank keeps a some extra heavy 12-ounce keel weights aboard that he can switch out with the standard 8-ounce weights that come on the spoons. That allows him to pick up an additional 10 or more feet of depth for those days when the fish are holding in deep water. With this flexibility, you can troll spoons successfully whether you’re fishing in 20 feet of water in a bay or in 70 feet of water in the ocean.


“Spoons are my go-to trolling lures during the spring and fall runs, and they work almost everywhere you find striped bass,” Frank said. “They consistently account for more big bass than any other technique. Even if you’re new to striper fishing, with matched gear and just a little practice you can catch big bass, just remember to watch the regulations in your area and release those big spawners that are over the slot limit with care. They are the future of the fishery and the less you handle them the better. Be sure to also keep your hands out of the gill plates.

Capt Brian Rice – Jersey Devil Sportfishing – brian@jerseydevilsportfishing.com

Capt. Jim Freda – Shore Catch Sportfishing –  jfreda42156@gmail.com

Capt. Frank Wagenhoffer – Fin Chaser Sportfishing – capt.frankwagenhoffer@gmail.com

Learn More at Yamaha Outboards.com Today!


Social media & sharing icons powered by UltimatelySocial