It felt just like another striped bass that morning. Reeling in a catch from 50ft of water, it was heavy and with no real fight in it. Finally, when I had it thirty feet from the boat, I saw a flash of its side and that’s when the line peeling began. With the rod bent over, I held on as the reel screamed. I had just hooked into my personal best striped bass coming in at 27lbs fishing at San Luis Reservoir, a fresh water
reservoir. What an awesome experience!
Stripers in freshwater bodies of water behave differently from stripers out in the ocean. A freshwater impoundment has an assortment of structure for stripers to relate to and these lakes or reservoirs are typically deep. Trolling for stripers can be intimidating, but finding the right locations to fish them can help you increase your catches. Today, I’ll cover how to best locate and catch these beautiful fish.
Deep Muddy Flats
By far my favorite place to catch striped bass. A lot of anglers bypass these areas because most of the time, they don’t mark anything on the fish finder. The average angler will take one look and see nothing, but with a closer look at the the bottom you can observe little “blips”. Those aren’t rocks or shrubs but fish! Remember these areas are muddy flats.
They’re hugging so close to the bottom that they barely register on the scans. Stripers forage too. They’ll feed off the bottom for sculpin or grass shrimp that live on the bottom. So how do you catch these bottom dwellers?
Depending on how deep these muddy flats are, you may need a downrigger or dipsy diver to reach them. I use downriggers to make life easier. A downrigger will allow me to control the depth of my rig from the surface all the way to 250ft or more. I can keep it at a target depth and troll the entire stretch.
When fishing deep muddy flats, I use an umbrella rig like the Atlas Umbrella Rig which is collapsible for easy storage. An umbrella rig will mimic a bait ball which can attract stripers. Where I fish in California, you’re only allowed three baits with hooks so make sure to check your state and local regulations before using one.
When trolling for these striped bass, depth is very important. The Atlas Rig has depth charts that you useful to tell you how deep you are. This knowledge is critical because since these stripers we are targeting are bottom dwellers, you have to be as close as you can to the bottom.
Troll too high and they’ll never see your umbrella rig. Too low and you’ll be dragging mud all day. Using the depth charts you can hover inches off the bottom for these striped bass.
Another advantage to using an umbrella rig in deep muddy flats is the arms act like weed guards. The arms will keep your umbrella rig up if you drag on the bottom from a change in speed, quick turn, or elevation change. Treble hooks on lures can easily grab debris, which will affect its action.
A good way to see if you’re at the right depth is to incorporate a wireless fishing camera like the GoFish Cam to verify your true depth. By using this underwater fishing camera you can save hours of fishing time by verifying if you’re near the bottom or not. You can also use it to confirm those "blips" I mentioned before.
Underwater humps are submerged islands. Like black bass, stripers gather around structure too. They use these areas to ambush easy prey. With access to deeper water, they can also flee when they feel threatened. I’ve seen striped bass gather at the base, along the edge, at the top, or ten to twenty feet above these underwater humps.
They’ll be found at all levels. What you want to do is find the arcs that are longer vertically, not horizontally. Horizontal arcs usually mean a stationary fish, meaning it’s not very active. A vertical arc means it’s actively moving up and down the water column probably chasing prey. Those are the ones you want to look for.
If you find them active at the top, troll right through them. When they’re active like that, you may catch more than one striper at a time using an umbrella rig.
Sometimes when the bite slows down, you’ll tend to find them by channels. Most catches here are from reaction bites. Stripers holding by a channel are likely staging before traveling to deeper waters or shallower to feed. They’ll use them to travel up and down the lake or reservoir much like how you would use the freeway.
Striped bass are easiest to catch when they are stacked up on top of one another. Often times they’ll relate to the bottom just like how they would on muddy flats. Troll in an S type pattern to maximize coverage of the channel. Use a bigger lure or swimbait in these areas to entice that reaction bite. I’ll also troll umbrella rigs through here because it’s easier for these predatory fish to see a bigger bait. It
will also entice a reaction and hunger strike from nearby stripers.
Trolling for fresh water striped bass can be an amazing experience. These fish can grow to great proportions, even when they’re landlocked. The key is recognizing what locations to target them, getting to the right depth, and executing with the right rig. Tie on an underwater fishing camera to capture all that action and you’ll have a great day on the water.
Now you know. Go get em!
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Contemplating fishing for the first time? Check out our blog on Fishing Tips for First Time Anglers!