What's the best time of the year for striped bass fishing? Most anglers will tell you late May-June, when hundreds of thousands of stripers blanket parts of the east coast on their way to summer feeding grounds off coastal Massachusetts and Maine. It's hard to disagree if you're going for sheer numbers, but for the die-hard few, late September-November is the season they lie awake thinking about. The fall striped bass run is more volatile, harder to predict, and presents considerably more challenging weather conditions, but if you know what you're doing, it's also one of the best times of the year to land that big striped bass. We break down a few essential tips to help you make the most of this year's fall run.
Know the bait
"Match the hatch" is more than a trout phrase, it's an essential part of every fishing style. Whether you're fly fishing or spin fishing, you need to know what the stripers are eating. Here are a few of their favorite fall feasts.
Sand eels: In the fall, sand eels are an angler's best friend. Much more stationary than peanut bunker, sand eels have been known to stay relatively put for days at a time. This means that big stripers can often make long rest-stops on their migration south. Find a school of eels? Stay put and fish it hard.
Peanut bunker: A favorite snack of stripers and bluefish, peanut bunker cause more striper surface blitzes than other other baitfish. They're fleeting, which can be frustrating for anglers from shore, but if you're able to find a school of bunker, there's little doubt you'll find some hungry stripers lying in wait.
Herring: Young herring typically return to ocean in early fall. They're small, generally measuring 1.5" - 2.5" in length, but are a delicious treat for stripers of all sizes.
Know the surf
Unlike the summer season when boats are a must, autumn presents an opportunity for anglers to hook up with a big bass from shore.
Boulder Fields: Look for boulder fields that extend offshore. Rocky outcroppings are a favorite place for baitfish to congregate. Look for places where you can see the water breaking around large rocks to set up shop.
Mussel & Oyster Fields: Big stripers will prowl mussel and oyster flats during high tide, looking for baitfish, crabs, and other food that hides in the beds. Fish the incoming or outgoing for your best chance to hook up with a big bass.
Sandbars: Look for lines of breaking waves just off sandbars. Big stripers will often patrol these deeper pockets while waiting for baitfish to get thrown off by the surf.
Bring the right gear
Autumn's unpredictable weather can pose challenges to you and your gear.
Reel: Arguably the most important piece to any saltwater setup is your reel. For fly anglers, the Limitless 425 Fly Reel is your go-to striper reel for every season. Its fully sealed drag and a massive arbor will make sure you always have the upper hand in a fight. For the spin angler, look no further than the CYDRO 4500 Spinning Reel. Its SaltForce Frame and PWR+ Drag is built for big casts into the surf, and even bigger fish.
Rod: For fly anglers, a 9 weight is always a good choice for stripers. It'll give you enough power to cut through the fall wind, and should still be light enough to blind cast without wearing your arm out. On the spinning side, something in the 7ft-10ft range will give you enough distance to bomb your lure into the surf, and enough power to get the fish to the net.
Line: Fly anglers should be thinking sink all day. Use an intermediate with a heavy sink tip or a full sink line to get your fly down in the zone. For spinning anglers, braid is an excellent choice because it allows you to go up in strength, without sacrificing line capacity. Extra beef is never a bad thing for big stripers.
Waders: Waders are a must for any angler hoping to land a big striper from shore. Make sure to wear layers underneath to prepare for the volatile fall weather, and always, always, wear a wading belt. Wingo Wading Belts are quick-drying, comfortable, and come in fun, fishy patterns, including striped bass.
What tips have you found successful for catching stripers in the fall? Let us know in a comment below, we want to hear from you.