This article originally appeared in Kayak Angler Magazine
Up and down the East Coast, striped bass are one of the most popular gamefish, not only due to their abundance but also because they will take a variety of lures. There are many of us who prefer tossing lures over fishing bait—there is something exciting about fooling a large striper with a piece of plastic or a hunk of wood.
The biggest bass tend to come at night and wrestling a 25 pound bass with a mouthful of treble hooks at 2 am in to your lap from a kayak can be a bit treacherous. My solution has been to use big plastics, plastic “worms” in the 10” to 14” range, with single hooks.
A 48" bass that ate a 14" Hogy at night.
Over the years, there have been many revolutions in soft plastics and we are now in the middle of the big plastic revolution. Just a few years ago it was difficult to find any plastic baits over 9”, but today there are a variety of baits available up to 18”. Hogy Lures, my personal favorites, come in a variety of sizes including 10”, 14”, and 18”. Lunker City makes now makes the popular Slug-Go in 9” and 12” sizes.
My go to bait this past summer was a 14” black Hogy on a ¾ ounce jig head. A lure that big looks odd on a jig head because it appears to be all tail and no hook, but a large fish has no problem inhaling a bait like this. The 14” Hogy produced numerous fish in the 25 to 40 pound range for me in 2009.
As more anglers have picked up on the effectiveness of big plastics a variety of rigging techniques have emerged including rigging on double hook rigs, large worm hooks, and jig heads. I have stayed away from the double hook rigs for two reasons: I don’t want to handle a large bass in the dark with two hooks in their mouth and I release almost all the fish I catch, and single hooks cause less damage to the fish and help reduce mortality.
My recommendation is to fish your big plastics with either a jig head or weighted worm hook and here are some tips to increase your catch:
- Use the lightest possible weight for your fishing situation, you don’t want to drag your lure through the weeds on the bottom. Use just enough weight to get your lure to swim down and allow you to keep it in the strike zone.
- Think of your plastics as swim baits, and keep them swimming through the water. Many anglers fish big plastics like they would a plastic worm for largemouths, but stripers are generally not an ambush predator like largemouths, so they will chase down a fast moving bait.
- Find some current and work spots where current meets structure. The structure could be a weedbed, a reef, or a rocky shoreline, but stripers are more likely to be actively feeding in areas with both current and structure.
- Fish the whole water column and not just the surface or the bottom. Stripers have often change their feeding attitudes—sometimes they want a bait on the surface, but usually they want it in the middle or bottom half of the water column.
- Use braided line and a graphite rod. Stripers will generally slam a plastic pretty hard, but a sensitve line and sensitive rod will increase your hit to hookup ratio.
- Speaking of rods, use an appropriate size rod for the lure you are fishing. A 14” Hogy weighs 2 ounces and a jig head will make it weigh 3 or more ounces. You need to fish a rod that can effectively cast the bait as well as set the hook into the tough jaws of a large fish. Big plastics are not compatible with light rods, musky rods make great plastics rods because they can handle the casting weight and can effectively pull on a large fish.