fishing tips for bass

When you’re chasing striped bass, choosing the right bait can make all the difference. You might wonder if live bait like bunker or eels will outshine clams or mackerel. Each has its unique appeal, from the strong scent of bunker to the lifelike action of eels. But what about artificial lures? Soft plastics, jigs, and spoons also have their time and place. Are you maximizing your chances by using the best bait for the situation? Let’s explore which options could elevate your striped bass angling game.

Key Takeaways

  • Live bunker’s strong scent makes it highly effective for attracting striped bass.
  • Eels’ natural swimming action is particularly enticing to striped bass.
  • Clams, especially soft-shelled or surf clams, have a strong scent that attracts striped bass.
  • Fresh mackerel, cut into strips or chunks, mimics natural prey and attracts striped bass.
  • Soft plastics like Slug-Gos and super flukes offer lifelike action that striped bass find irresistible.

Live Bait Options

variety of fishing baits

When targeting striped bass, it is vital to select live bait that closely mimics their natural prey. You’ll want to choose live bait like bunker, shad, herring, eels, worms, clams, or mackerel, depending on what the striped bass are actively feeding on. The key is to match the hatch, meaning your bait should resemble the natural prey in appearance and behavior.

Live bait needs to be lively and healthy to attract striped bass effectively. When selecting bait, make sure it’s fresh and vibrant. For instance, eels are popular because their wriggling action is irresistible to bass. Similarly, shad and herring are excellent options, especially when these fish are abundant. Worms and clams can also be very effective, particularly in coastal regions where these are native food sources.

Experimenting with different live bait options can help determine what works best under varying conditions. Don’t hesitate to try mackerel or swap out various bait types during your fishing trip. Using high-quality live bait is essential for increasing your chances of hooking big striped bass and making your outing a successful one.

Using Bunker (Menhaden)

When targeting striped bass, using bunker, also known as menhaden, can be incredibly effective due to its strong scent and oil. Striped bass are naturally drawn to the rich aroma that bunker emits, making it a go-to choice for many anglers.

You can use a bunker in various forms to increase your chances of a successful catch. Live menhaden is an excellent option if you can get your hands on it. Rigging live bait on your hook will mimic the natural prey of striped bass, enticing them to bite.

However, fresh or frozen bunker can also work wonders. Cutting the bunker into chunks or fillets releases the strong scent and oil, creating a trail that striped bass find irresistible.

When using cut chunks or fillets, rig them properly on your hook. This presentation helps the bait stay secure while allowing the scent to disperse in the water.

Whether you choose live menhaden or cut pieces, bunker remains one of the most effective baits for striped bass. By leveraging its natural attributes and presenting it correctly, you’ll likely see more bites and a more successful fishing trip.

Fishing With Eels

eel fishing tradition preserved

Fishing with eels is a highly effective method for landing striped bass due to their natural swimming action, which stripers find irresistible. When you use live eels as striped bass bait, you’re mimicking one of their favorite prey items. The key to success with fishing with eels is keeping them lively and healthy.

To maximize your chances of hooking a striper, follow these steps:

  1. Rigging: Use circle hooks to rig live eels. Insert the hook through the lower jaw and out through the upper jaw. This setup guarantees the eel stays alive longer and swims more naturally.
  2. Presentation: Cast your bait fishing rig into areas where striped bass are known to hunt. Let the live eel’s movement do the work, enticing stripers with its lifelike action.
  3. Handling: Keep eels in a cool, aerated bait bucket until ready to use them. The livelier the eel, the more attractive it will be to striped bass.

Clams as Bait

Clam bait’s strong scent is a surefire way to attract striped bass to your fishing spot. When you’re bait fishing, surf clams are a top choice due to their potent aroma and effectiveness. Clams can be cut into strips or chunks, making them versatile for various fishing techniques. Their strong scent travels through the water, drawing striped bass from a distance.

Proper presentation and placement are vital. By making sure your clam bait is securely attached to your hook, you increase the chances of a successful catch. It’s all about making your bait as enticing as possible, and clams do just that. Let’s break down some key points:

Aspect Details Tips
Type of Clams Soft-shelled or surf clams Opt for fresh, high-quality clams
Preparation Cut into strips or chunks Use a sharp knife for clean cuts
Scent It emits a strong scent Use in areas with strong currents
Presentation Securely attach to the hook Ensure it looks natural underwater
Placement Position in likely bass areas Near structures or drop-offs

Using clams as bait is a tried-and-tested method. By focusing on the right clams, preparation, and strategic placement, you’ll be well on landing that prized striped bass.

Effective Mackerel Use

capturing mackerel effectively techniques

Mackerel is a powerhouse bait that greatly enhances your chances of catching striped bass. Its strong scent and oily texture make it irresistible to striped bass, especially when used fresh. To maximize your success, you’ll want to cut the mackerel into strips or chunks, which effectively mimic the natural prey of these fish.

Here are three key tips to make the most out of mackerel as bait:

  1. Use Fresh Mackerel: Fresh mackerel emits a strong scent that attracts striped bass more effectively than frozen or old bait. Always opt for the freshest mackerel you can find.
  2. Cut into Strips or Chunks: Cutting the mackerel into strips or chunks helps mimic the natural prey that striped bass are used to hunting. This presentation can trigger more strikes.
  3. Proper Presentation: How you present the mackerel is essential. Make sure to hook the strips or chunks in a way that allows them to move naturally in the water, increasing their appeal to striped bass.

Artificial Lures

Artificial lures offer a versatile and effective way to target striped bass in various fishing conditions. When you’re out on the water, using the right lure can make a significant difference.

Topwater lures like poppers and spooks are excellent for enticing striped bass to strike on the surface, especially during low light conditions at dawn or dusk. Soft plastics with jig heads are another great option; they mimic natural prey and can be used in different fishing situations, adapting to the fish’s behavior and water clarity.

Metal lip swimmers like the Gibbs Danny Surface Swimmer are perfect for effectively trolling and covering large areas. These lures work well when dealing with clear water and must attract fish from a distance. Needlefish lures, like the Super Strike Super N Fish, are particularly productive in various environments, especially when targeting striped bass feeding slender baitfish.

When choosing artificial lures, it’s essential to consider the time of day, water clarity, and fish behavior. Matching your lure selection to these factors can greatly increase your chances of success.

Topwater Lures

fishing with surface lures

Topwater lures can create an exhilarating experience as you watch striped bass explode on the surface to strike. As water temperatures rise, these lures become especially effective. Topwater lures like the Heddon Spook, with its ‘walk the dog’ action, are great for attracting striped bass. These lures will be a thrilling and productive option in your fishing arsenal.

To maximize your success with topwater lures, consider the following tips:

  1. Light-colored lures: In the early morning, light-colored lures such as yellow or white are particularly effective. Striped bass are more likely to notice these hues against the dim light of dawn.
  2. Dark-colored lures: At night, darker lures like black work best. They create a strong silhouette against the night sky, making them easier for striped bass to spot.
  3. Soft plastics: While we’ll dive deeper into soft plastics later, know that fishing these weightless as a subtler topwater option can be enticing for striped bass.

Soft Plastics

Soft plastics are a versatile and highly effective bait for catching striped bass. Whether using Slug-Gos, super flukes, or the durable Cobra Baits Sad Shad, these lures can dramatically increase your chances of landing a big striper. Soft plastics are known for their lifelike action, which makes them irresistible to striped bass.

When choosing your soft plastics, pay close attention to color selection. Herring and black are particularly productive choices. Herring-colored baits effectively mimic the natural prey of stripers, while black soft plastics can resemble eels, another favored food source. Black soft plastics can be especially successful in low-light conditions or murky waters.

One effective strategy is to fish your soft plastics near the bottom, where striped bass often hunt. This approach increases the likelihood of your bait being noticed and attacked by a hungry stripper. For this, ensure your soft plastic is rigged correctly to maintain its action and appeal as it moves through the water.

Jigs and Spoons

folk music instruments played

After exploring the effectiveness of soft plastics, let’s turn our attention to jigs and spoons, which are also excellent choices for targeting striped bass. These artificial lures offer unique advantages that can greatly enhance your catch rates.

Jigs are incredibly versatile and can be used in various water conditions. Whether you’re fishing in shallow waters or deep channels, jigs can adapt to the situation. Their ability to mimic the movement of injured baitfish makes them irresistible to striped bass. To maximize your success, experiment with different colors and sizes to see what the fish are biting on that day.

Spoons, however, have a flashy design that immediately grabs the attention of striped bass. The reflective surface mimics the flickering scales of a distressed baitfish, enticing strikes even from a distance. Spoons are particularly effective in clear water where their flash can travel further.

Here are three tips for using jigs and spoons effectively:

  1. Experiment with Colors: Different water conditions may require different colors to attract striped bass.
  2. Adjust Sizes: Larger or smaller lures can be more effective depending on the striped bass’s feeding behavior.
  3. Vary Retrieval Speed: Changing your retrieval speed can better mimic the movement of injured baitfish.


To catch striped bass, don’t hesitate to try a variety of baits and techniques. Live options like bunker, eels, clams, and mackerel mimic their natural prey and can trigger their predatory instincts.

If you prefer artificial lures, topwater options, soft plastics, jigs, and spoons can also be highly effective. By experimenting and adapting to different conditions, you’ll optimize your chances of reeling in these prized game fish.

Keep trying, and you’ll find what works best for you.


  • Joshua Wilson

    Joshua Wilson is an avid angler and expert in the world of fishing knives. With over a decade of experience in fishing across various terrains—from serene lakes to the vast open ocean—Joshua brings a depth of knowledge and passion to His journey began as a young boy learning to fish with his grandfather, where he first discovered the importance of a good fishing knife. Over the years, he's tested and collected numerous knives, understanding the nuances that make each type unique and essential for different fishing scenarios. In his free time, Joshua continues to explore new fishing spots, always with his favorite knife in tow, and experiments with knife-making, aiming to create the ultimate fishing companion. Follow Joshua's articles for in-depth advice, reviews, and stories that will not only inform but also inspire your next fishing expedition.

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