We’re in the heart of Striper season here in the Northeast with plenty of action from Long Island Sound up to Maine. Striped Bass is what we’re known for in these parts, at least to anglers, but for the uninitiated getting out there can be a little daunting. Not only are you looking for fish in lots of water, but the wind, weather, and salt can take its toll. Not surprisingly, the right gear makes a big difference. Here’s our guide to getting geared up for Striper season.
The first thing you need a good rod with a fast action. There are a lot of options out there but the key is getting a fast rod that can rip a sinking line out of the water. If you are fishing from shore then a 9wt is ideal. A lot of anglers have opted for an 8wt only to discover that a 8wt is not heavy enough to cast weighted flies. And if you plan on fishing from a boat or want to chase Albies in the fall as well, than a 10wt is even better. It will have plenty of power to turn over big flies and also have enough backbone to fight bigger fish or Albies. A 10wt may be a bit heavy for schoolies, but you will never run the risk of not being able to cast a bigger fly into the wind. Our favorites are the Scott Meridian, Sage X, Sage Igniter, T&T Exocett, and G Loomis Asquith. The Redington Predator is another good option that won’t break the bank. Regardless of what brand you choose, make sure the rod is fast and stout. Remember, the rod does all the casting. It is better to spend money on the rod and save on other gear.
A quality reel is also critical in any saltwater situation. Not only because the fish run and fight harder, but because saltwater itself is tough on a reel. Something “sealed” is certainly preferable for two primary reasons: first, a sealed drag will keep saltwater out of the drag and prevent corrosion. Second, having a sealed drag will keep sand and particulates away from the drag as well. The Hatch Finatic Gen 2, Nautilus NV-G, or Tibor Riptide are the best readily available options. All of these reels are incredibly well made and are the industry leaders. All have sealed drags with the exception of the Tibor, which has used a cork drag for years and it remains one of the most rugged and dependable reels ever made. Sage also makes a great reel for the money in the Spectrum C and LT series. A little less expensive, these reels have great performance at lower price point. Another battle tested company is Lamson. Their Cobalt reel is phenomenal however, the Remix, Guru, and Speedster are all saltwater grade. What's more, all of the drags are the same in their reels with the exception of the Cobalt. So if you are looking to save a few bucks, you can get a Lamson and rest assured you have a great drag.
Now in terms of a fly line, there are a number different lines to suit a wide variety of situations, including standard floating, intermediate, and full sink options. And we probably have more tapers available on the market than ever before. In general, our recommendation is to keep it simple. The most versatile line out there is an intermediate sink. You can do almost everything with this line and will fish well from shore or a boat. Especially if you are just getting started, this is generally the most useful option. Both Rio and Airflo make great intermediate sinking lines, so it’s worth looking at Rio’s Striper Intermediate Line and The Airflo Ridge Striper Cold Salt Intermediate. You can’t go wrong with either of these lines.
If you are fishing from shore you will want waders for sure, but equally important is your choice of footwear. Having a studded rubber boot is critical. We do not recommend felt as it will not grip algae covered rocks. Any good quality boot will work as long as it will take a stud, which will keep you safe and make your time on the water much more enjoyable. Rock Grabrz are a great option. These studs have become very popular with surfcasters because of their durability and the traction they provide.
As far as other equipment you will need, you will definitely need a stripping basket. Especially if you are throwing a sinking line, a stripping basket will make all the difference when casting while wading. Some anglers will make their own which is relatively easy to do (there are lots of videos on the web about how people have done this). However, if you want to purchase one, the Orvis Stripping Basket is the industry standard. Yes, it is expensive for a what basically amounts to a plastic box, but it does work very well. This stripping basket has raised cones that prevent your line from tangling and a sturdy belt that you can attach gear to. It is also very durable and unless you lose it, you will only need to buy it once.
Lastly, pliers and a Boga Grip are also something you should invest in. When looking at pliers, make sure that they are stainless steel. The Van Staal Titanium pliers are some of the best on the market but if you don’t want to spend that much money, just make sure that you get a stainless-steel pair. The Boga Grip is great tool for any saltwater situation and especially Striper fishing. The Boga will allow you to handle the fish without fear of putting a hook into your hand. It is also extremely useful when it comes to Bluefish. The Boga will keep the fish at a safe distance and allow you get the hook out safely with a pair of pliers.
When it comes to leaders and flies, you don’t need to go crazy. This is not trout fishing. “Matching the Hatch” is not nearly as important and there is really no need for thousands of flies and 8 different types of tippet. Saltwater fly fishing in the Northeast is fairly user friendly in this regard. For schoolie sized fish a 9’ tapered 15lb or 20lb leader will do it. You can add Fluorocarbon if you want but you don’t necessarily need it. For larger fish, we recommend 7’ of straight 30 or 40lb. No need to taper leaders unless you expect to fish a 9’ leader or longer. Just tie a loop in your 30 or 40, pull out 7 feet or so and connect the loops. For flies, having a few options is really all you need. Deceivers and Clouser Minnows in sizes 1, 1/0 an 2/0 and in a few different colors are as effective as anything out there. Olive/white, chartreuse/white, olive/brown, and a bunker color are the must-haves. For bigger fish, a 5 to 9” bunker imitation is a good place to start. I will caveat this by saying that, at certain times of year imitating other forage species such as Sandeels and Cinder Worms can often make or break a trip. However, this not normally the case and a good ole’ baitfish imitation is quite reliable. It is more about getting the fly to fish rather than fly selection.
Can you go beyond this in the gear department? Of course. There are plenty of saltwater anglers who have whole basements and tying rooms devoted to their gear. But if you are just getting started and want to know what basics you need, this is the list for you. As always, if you have any questions about striper gear, or striper fishing in general, don’t hesitate to give us a call. We love striped bass fishing, are fortunate to have done a lot of it, and are happy to share what we’ve learned over the years.
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