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Striper Fishing Articles > Live Bait for stripers

Live Baiting for stripers
By the Pro Staff at Core Fishing Tackle

Most seasoned freshwater striper fishermen know that live-bait is definitely the best technique for catching the big stripers. Live baiting for stripers is not hard, but for those who are just starting it can be a little overwhelming, so we would like to provide some tips for those just getting started.

Terminal Tackle - To begin with, the right terminal tackle is essential for presenting live bait, hooking up and actually landing a monster striper.

What's the best rod for live bait fishing? A 7 foot medium, medium-heavy action rod is the norm around the freshwater striper arena, but there's so many different ways of live baiting that each technique can require a different rod. These techniques include; down-lines, planer boards, floats, free-lines, light-lines, etc.

For down-lines, we've learned that by having a rod that has a fast action tip will allow for many more hook-ups. When a striper hits a down-lined bait, a fast action tip will allow the striper time to get the bait in its mouth before the rod loads completely up and then yields resistance. When down-lining and you're having a lot of misses, it could be from using too heavy of a rod because it will actually jerk the bait and hook out from the striper's mouth before it had a chance to get it in its mouth. We prefer 7 foot to 7 1/2 foot medium, medium-light rods for down-lining stripers.

For planer boards and floats, many people use a stiffer rod in order to get a quicker hook-set since there is so much line between the rod and the fish. When using monofilament, you have a lot of stretch that needs to be compensated for, so a stiffer rod will play well into this technique.

For free-lines and light-lines, a very long, limber rod is the ticket. Most of the time when free-lining or light-lining, the striper will chase the bait for awhile before eating it and the limber rod will allow the bait the most range of motion. The fast action rod will also allow the striper to hit the bait and arrange it in its mouth before the rod loads up and sets the hook.

We've tried many rods and our sponsored guides have used many rods, and the new Ugly Striper rod from Shakespeare has been the top choice for all-around bait fishing. This rod has a very light action tip that allows for perfect down-lining, but has a strong backbone to get a hard hookset when using floats and planers. Core Fishing Tackle carries these 7 foot, Medium-Light Ugly striper rods.

What's the best reel for live baiting? For reels, this will be mostly a user preference, but the prerequisites are
1. a large spool of holding at least 150 yards of 20lb monofilament,
2. a bait clicker and
3. a smooth drag.
An extravagant braking or anti-backlash system is not necessary. Striper fishing with live bait requires simply a TOUGH reel that can take a ton of punishment. Although we do not carry Abu Garcia at this time, they were probably the most popular striper reel up till now. Now there are two other players that have begun to take the confidence of striper fishermen. The Okuma Magda Pros are very nice reels that incorporate a line counter. The Magda Pros are very affordable which allows a striper fishermen to rig out their boat with many rods and reels. The Okuma Magda Pro is a big favorite of striper fishermen who use Umbrella Rigs and need to load up a reel with braid and need to know the amount of line that is out for determining depth.
Our new favorite live bait reel is the Pflueger® Trion Machined 66. We've become huge fans of Pflueger reels because of their smoothness and reliability. The Pflueger Trion 66 reels have 5 ball bearings and an INSTANT anti reverse which to us is critical. They've also got a bait clicker which was a great step by Pflueger.
We hate to turn our backs on Abu Garcia, but they've come out with new models in 2006 in which we had problems with each reel, especially the brake and drag systems. They're not the same reels that we grew up with, that's for sure.

For the best monofilament line for you main line, well, that's a beast that we'd rather not tackle, because each fisherman has their favorite and they will fight to the death defending that line (which is great!). Some of our Pro Staff love Stren and some love Trilene, but we believe stick with whatever you have confidence in. There's a new player in the monofilament game and its called Sufix. They are gaining a lot of respect from striper fishermen everywhere. Sufix isn't as expensive as the other brands and it's a very dependable line. Regardless of the manufacturer, the general pound test of main line is 20-25lb test for filling your reel.

Now for your leader material. Fluorocarbon is it, period. Most freshwater fishing guides now have switched to using fluorocarbon for their leaders. Fluorocarbon is virtually invisible underwater which leads to many more strikes. It's a fact. Again, there are many manufacturers of fluoro, but we stand behind P-Line and Yo-Zuri fluorocarbon line. The most popular of the two is the Yo-Zuri H.D. Carbon Disappearing Pink. Yes, Fluorocarbon is expensive, but since you're only using 3 feet at a time for your leaders, then its not a bad investment. IMPORTANT, fluorocarbon is very susceptible to the elements and its critical to keep your line out of the sun, cold, etc when possible.

What's this leader you're talking about? The leader is simply a barrel swivel with about 3 feet of line that is tied to a hook. If you're using a sinker or a bead, these will go on your main line above the swivel.

Now on to hooks. Everybody knows these days that Gamakatsu makes the sharpest hooks out there. They're not cheap but they are the best. If you're getting hung up a lot, say in submerged trees or on the bottom, then you may be looking for another hook that is cheaper. We love the LO42 Bronze hooks by Eagle Claw. Many conservation-minded fishing guides are using Bronze hooks because they will rust extremely quick. This is a Pro and Con of the LO42 Eagle Claw Bronze hooks. The Pro is obviously that it will rust out in a fish's mouth if the fish swallows the hook or line breakage occurs. The Con is you can't leave these hooks out in the open because if they get damp they will rust, and quickly at that. Our Pro Staff use the 100 pack of Eagle Claw LO42's and just grabs a dozen or so keeps them in a spare hook box/bag and leaves that on the boat for a period of time. Core carries the 2/0 and 3/0 version of these hooks and these are specific to big bait. These hooks are too big for using with Alewives or other small baits, but they work perfectly with medium and big gizzards. For using Alewives and other small baits, we've noticed over the years that most stripers will not swallow these because they don't have to hit these little baits head-first in order to eat them. For smaller baits we like to use Eagle Claw's O85 Classic hooks in the 1/0 and 2/0 size. These are Nickel plated hooks that stay extremely sharp and do not corrode any. Again, these Eagle Claws are very inexpensive and very dependable.

What's the best way to hook a bait? All of our Pro Staff agree that when pulling baits or putting downlines out, the best way to hook a bait is up through the mouth and out through just 1 nostril. Some fisherman hook a bait through the lower and upper lip. We have noticed that this will drown a bait, or simply kill it quicker than the through-1-nostril method. The other method that we don't like is hooking the bait through both nostrils although we do have to do this method sometimes. We've learned that by hooking through both nostrils, it increases the chances of the hook getting turned back into the bait which means many more missed hook ups. The only time we hook through both nostrils is in the spring when stripers are so aggressive that they will slap a bait many times before actually eating them. When this happens we'll hook through both nostrils to ensure the bait stays on the hook longer, even though we will have to check our baits more frequently when using this method.

What's the best weight to use when bait fishing? Our simplest answer is to use the lightest weight that you can get away with and still keep the bait at the desired depth.
Obviously if you're running 6-10 downlines around the boat with big gizzards, then you're going to need 2-3 ounce weights to keep the baits from getting tangled in each other. Baits have a need to school up, and believe us, they will try to even when on a hook. But generally speaking whenever using downlines, we use 2 ounce weights for medium to large gizzards and 1 ounce weights for alewives. But when using Redi-Rigs and planers, try to use the lightest weight you can. A typical spread of 8 planer boards (4 on each side of the boat) will be; 1. Outside planer will be freeline 2. Next to outside will have a 1/8ounce weight 3. Next to inside will be a ¼ ounce weight and 4. the inside planer will have a 3/8 ounce weight. This allows you to cover the entire water column and using lighter weights near the banks will keep the lines from getting hung up on the bottom. When running Redi-Rigs our farthest Redi-Rigs will have no weight or a 1/8 ounce weight. Then we add heavier weights to the floats that are closer to the boat. Here's some selections of available weights.

The Pro Staff at Core Fishing Tackle