Pitchers and catchers show up in February, but it is the exhibition games in March that bring anticipation and promise for baseball fans. So it is with March for the striped bass angler. It is a month that finds you on the edge of your seat with the anticipation of big fish showing up in the suds. It clouds your thinking April brings that beginning of Striped Bass season in the northeast. I know for me, it can’t come fast enough.
Along with the anticipation, March brings many questions that hopefully find answers in the tight lines of the following months. You probably know some of these questions: Have I remembered to purchase everything I will need? Is my gear ready to go and in working order? Which spots should I hit first? What lures should I throw with those first casts? How long will it
take before I catch my first fish? Will this be the year I catch that fish of lifetime?
This last “winter” month before the season starts is the right time to do the last minute planning and shopping that can address the many questions of the upcoming season. It is the time to get fully prepared- the right lures, the tuned reels, the new line, fresh leader material, the right clips, sharpened hooks. Waiting until you hear the reports of fish in the suds is too late to make yourself ready and not being ready could have a very negative effect on your fishing. Waiting too long will only help you discover that the service and repair people at your local tackle shop are backed up with
all the last minute people dropping off their equipment. You could find yourself waiting weeks to get your gear back in working order.
Remember, the fish wait for no one. Waiting until after the season starts to purchase the critical items can result in local tackle shops and even on-line stores not having the needed items in stock. As more reports of good fish being caught roll in, you will quickly realize that your lack of preparation is causing you to miss out on that bite. This is certainly true when you look in your bag and you are missing that certain lure the fish are craving and your local tackle shop has already sold out. The properly prepared surfcaster will simply go to that proper bin in his garage or basement to get that lure that he purchased before the season started. Take advantage of the March shows and pre-season sales and get ready.
Next, if you have not done so already, start laying out the game plan for the first trips of the
season. Check the tides and check your usual spots for any change in structure. Do some research on possible new spots too. You will want to do majority of this research at low tide so you can see the structure that makes up the areas you are looking to fish. This should give you valuable knowledge for the start the season by helping you identify likely spots and eliminate spots with a low probability of holding fish.
Maybe you are asking what types of structure you should look for and which places should you target to start the season? Early in the season you will always want to start in the back bays and creeks. These waters will warm faster than deeper areas such as the ocean. These areas will also tend to produce consistently. Some nice fish may have held over from the winter, while others may have made their way into these areas due to the bait activity stimulated by spring’s longer, warming days. Look to target these areas when there are dropping tides in the middle to late afternoons, especially when the sun has warmed the water all day. Nighttime can also be productive since the bigger Striped Bass are nocturnal feeders and are active after the sun has set. They are always ready to ambush an easy meal.
Now your biggest question, what lure should you use to start? A good starting point for early spring stripers is smaller profile lures. The reason is logical. Most of the baits that will be present in the creeks, rivers, and estuaries during this part of the year are smaller baits. You’ll want to “match that hatch”. During early spring, the back bays are teaming with smaller baits, since larger profile baits such has bunker have not yet moved into the local bays. Appropriate options for small profile lures would be hard swimming baits such as SP Minnows and Yozuri
Mag Darters. You’ll also want to include soft plastics in your arsenal in the spring. Bait such as Hogy pro-tails and Tsunami soft plastics can be deadly this time of the year. Lastly, you’ll want some small bucktails. My favorites are S&S Bucktails as they are high quality and have the durability needed for fishing hard structure- they can really take a beating.
Each year Mother Nature presents a different set of weather factors for the onset of spring- from unseasonable warmth to that late season snowfall. We never know exactly when our first catch will be, or if this is the year you’ll catch that fish of a lifetime. That’s all part of March’s anticipation. It’s what makes this sport so great- the anticipation you feel before each outing. You never know what you might catch with each cast of your lure. However, by preparing in the months leading up to the season, you will find yourself in a better position to hit a homerun at the start of the season and avoid coming home with a strikeout- the proverbial " one that got away”. Play Ball! Throw the line! Live the Passion! Live Authentic!
iBass360 is pleased to feature a monthly surfcasting blog from Bernie Hoyt , a NY State Certified Fishing Guide with over 30 years of experience fishing Long Island's legendary waters. He is well known for informative seminars at saltwater shows in the Northeast. Bernie offers trips along the outer beaches and inlets of Long Island, as well as Cape Cod Canal, Cuttyhunk, and other Northeast Striped Bass fisheries. He is a pro-team member for S&S Buck-tails, ODM Rods, and KastKing, as well as a member of the Long Island Beach Buggy Association and the Montauk Surfcasters Association. You can contact Bernie on Facebook through Bernie Bass Surfcasting Services, on Instagram @Bernie_bass and through his website at https://www.berniebass.com/