Surf Fishing for Striped Bass

Last Updated: March 12, 2022

Striped Bass Surf Fishing

Striped bass are one of the most common large saltwater fish that live in the tidal zones on both the east and west coasts. They’re large and muscular; the first time you hook into a striped bass you’ll know it. The great thing about striped bass is that they can be caught from shore with a relatively simple setup. All you need to do is know where to go, what bait to use, and have some patience. We’re here to help with the first two!

In this article, you’ll learn what exactly striped bass are, where they like to live, and how to fish for them. Striped bass fight like crazy, and are delicious to eat in many different preparations. Next time you go surf fishing for striped bass, you’ll be ready to catch a big one.

What Are Striped Bass?

Striped bass are often called ‘stripers’ and are silvery green with black stripes running down their bodies. They can live in both saltwater and freshwater environments, often grow up to 30 inches and 30 lbs.

The record weighed 125 lbs! Striped bass lives on both the west and east coasts and range from Canada all the way down to the northern Gulf of Mexico.

Their spawning season begins in spring and goes through summer into fall. Striped bass love eating all sorts of underwater creatures. They enjoy eating small fish, various crustaceans, plankton, shrimp, and eels.

Striped bass are ferocious predators and can be seen feeding in large schools where they work as a team to heard baitfish near the surface and thus create a feeding frenzy. The feeding frenzy is easy to spot when in a boat or onshore, and fishing around it is a surefire way to get into some crazy fishing.

Striped bass should not be confused with their smaller freshwater cousins, the white bass.

White bass and striped bass can reproduce and create hybrids known as “wipers”.

When to Surf Fish for Striped Bass

In general, you can surf fish for striped bass year-round. The spring and fall months, however, tend to be the most prolific for striped bass on both coasts.

There are a couple of reasons for this. First, these months are when the striped bass begin to run for their spawning season. This means they congregate near shore in larger numbers and are easier to get your bait close to.

Another reason is that many of the fish they like to eat frequently during this timeframe and they tend to eat more than other times of the year.

As far as time of day goes, it’s best to fish for striped bass early in the morning or in the evening. If your state regulations allow it, it’s also a great idea to fish for striped bass at night as, like many fish, they are nocturnal hunters.

The best tide to fish for striped bass is when there are large swings from high to low tide. The last two hours of the incoming tide and the first two hours of outgoing tide are the best choices for striped bass.

Authors Note: There is some debate on which lunar cycle is best for striped bass, but we’ve found that a full moon is the best. This provides light for fish at night and helps them hunt their prey.

For weather, overcast and cloudy days are your friends. Clear sunshine spooks most baitfish and will force the striped bass to move to deeper water to find a snack.

Pro tip: During cloudy and overcast conditions the atmospheric pressure is also low typically, and this is a key indicator that fish will be in a feeding mood.

Tackle Needed

A standard surf fishing setup should work well for fishing for striped bass. Start with a long medium-heavy surf rod paired with a saltwater surf fishing reel. Since you’ll be casting your bait far out into the surf, a spinning reel works best.

We also recommend getting a pair of saltwater waders – they’ll help you get closer to where the striped bass like to hide.

If you plan on using live or dead bait, we recommend the following species for striped bass.

  • Anchovies.
  • Herring.
  • Eel.
  • Bunker.
  • Small crabs.
  • Shrimp.
  • Shad.

The best type of rig to fish with bait is the fish finder rig. This rig is so effective/popular, we put together a separate fish finder rig how-to guide with everything you need to know on how to fish it.

If you are fishing with artificial lures, it’s important to bring a fairly wide of tested/tried and true striped bass lures.

lures like spoons, glide baits, and crankbaits can be deadly when used for stripers.

be sure that your wide selection is kept as minimal in number as possible since you will want to remain mobile.

It’s also recommended that you have all the necessary tools like a good pair of pliers, a hook cutter, and even a first aid kit in the event of any emergency.

Where to Surf Fish for Striped Bass

school of striped bass

Now that you have your striped bass fishing setup ready, it’s time to figure out where the striped bass are hiding. First, you should consider what season it is. If it’s spring or fall, striped bass tend to hang out in the shallower areas of surf often near a breakpoint.

As the temperature increases in summer, the striped bass like to migrate to deeper/cooler water. This means casting from a rocky ledge over deeper water can be a better option.

When fishing a sandbar, try and identify both the crest of the sandbar (where it’s most shallow) and the trough (where it’s deep). Both of these transition areas can be good for striped bass as it’s often where their prey likes to hang out. 

Author Note: Keep an eye out for birds in and above the water. If birds are diving into the water, that means that there is a ball of baitfish nearby (and most likely striped bass!).

Rocks can also provide shelter for striped bass prey and are another good place to cast your bait. Just be careful not to snag your bait!

Presentation of Your Bait

  1. Once you’ve picked a spot to cast your bait, set up your rod holder and make sure no one is behind you before you cast.
  2. Cast your bait towards the target spot. It should be quite far away from shore/close to as far as you can cast.
  3. Once your bait has hit the bottom, set the bail on your reel and reel in line until you can feel your weight.
  4. Now it’s time to wait. You can either hold your rod in your hand or set it in your holder. We recommend bringing a couple of beers along to help with patience.
  5. If you see anything weird going on with the tip of your rod, check it out and see what’s going on. A fish might have eaten your bait and you’ll need to reel your bait in to replace it.
  6. We recommend checking your bait every 30  minutes if nothing exciting happens. Depending on the type of bait you’re using and the action of the surf, your bait can fall off your hook.
  7. If a location isn’t getting any action, try moving to a different location/feature. This kind of fishing lends itself to having multiple rods in multiple locations (and multiple beers).

General Tips on Surf Fishing for Striped Bass

Here are some general tips on striped bass surf fishing that will help you catch more bass.

  • Striped bass are great at picking up vibrations and disturbances in the water. This is why using a fish finder rig works well; the pyramid weight kicks up sand and bounces around on the bottom.
  • If you can use live bait, use it. We’ve found it to be more successful than any other type of bait or lures.
  • Striped bass cover a lot of ground when they’re hunting, so if a location isn’t working don’t be afraid to pack up and try somewhere else. You should also go back to spot that looks good at a later date since there may be bass swimming through.

Conclusion

Surf fishing for striped bass can be one of the most exciting ways of fishing from shore. Not only are stiped bass great fighters, but they also are delicious to eat. Once you’ve caught your first striped bass you’ll be hooked on looking for more. Be sure to check out our replica fish mount write-up if you want to remember it forever!

Got an awesome striped bass fishing story to share with us? Shoot us a note in the comments below.

Happy Hunting!

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