How To: Dog Days of Summer Part 1: Gear List #190

Gear List – Dog Days of Summer

Let’s face it, mid-summer is the most challenging time of the year to catch trophy stripers by day. It seems that the nicer the weather, the worse the fishing is. It’s ironic that slow fishing happens in mid-summer as it’s obviously when many people take family vacations and host guests here on Cape Cod. In my opinion, it’s definitely the dog days of summer when you catch me saying, “the best fisherman is the one who has the most fun.” After all, we are recreational fishing and fun is the name of the game. With fun in mind, it’s worth a look at a soft-core fishing with hard-core fun. Here’s a playbook I run every time I have company and when I’m limited to “high-sun” hours.

Gear: During the summer, sportfishing typically takes place in deeper water, due to sky-high sunny days and increased water temperatures, so you’ll want gear suited for getting down toward the bottom, maybe up to 75-feet, with the help of lead core or wire line, specialized lures and maybe a little boat maneuvering.

You have five options to help you get deep:

  1. Wire Line: Wire line is the most effective for getting down but can be a challenge to use for inexperienced anglers and a little heavy duty for all. Wire is also challenging with interactive boat maneuvering if you’re an angler like me who likes to take the boat in an out of gear often while also frequently making turns. Wire line has memory and can become a giant spring in the water if there is too much slack and will eventually result in kinks that will break easily on a fish.
  2. Trolling Sinker: A trolling sinker is clunky and picks up a lot of weed.
  3. Heavy Lures: An extremely heavy lure might have an unnatural action and limit you to one level in the column.
  4. Deep Diving Plugs: Swimming plugs tend to hold at one specific depth and limit you to that place in the water column.
  5. Lead Core Line: In my opinion, if given a choice, a lead core outfit is a no brainer.

Capt. Mike’s Outfit:

Rod: The rod I happen to use most often these days happens to be a very short, 5’6” lightweight offshore trolling rod rated for 15lb test and is very striper friendly. I like this rod because it is easy to deal with and stows easily when I am not using it. Any trolling rod suitable for lead core will do. In the past, when I ran boats with outboards, I preferred soft musky rods and a lot of anglers will use musky rods in this application. Musky rods tend to be longer, say 7.5 to 8-feet, and the extra length helps clear the outboards, a nice feature in a world of big outboards. Regardless of rod length, I find a rod with a very slow or moderate action to be best. The parabolic curve is forgiving during the battle and provides some shock absorption during the strike so that the hook doesn’t pop out of the fish’s mouth on impact.

Reel and Line: The reel doesn’t matter that much either, as long as it is capable of holding a spool of lead core and 250-feet or more of 40lb braid. I like braid backing as opposed to the more traditional Dacron as it drops faster. I like to be really interactive with my rod and reel combo while trolling and I am often out of gear and in free spool, dropping on a target I see on the fish finder. The thinner diameter of braid will accelerate the decent. I have Saltist Vertical jigging reels on my rod. I should also mention here that I like reels with high gear ratios as it means that I will get my line in faster during a weed check. For leader, I’ll connect 18-feet of 30lb flouro with a swivel – about 6-feet in front of the lure -in case I end up trolling a tube. If I am marking fish but not hooking up, sometimes I will drop my leader size as low as 20lb test, particularly if I am in very shallow water with good ability on the fish’s part to see leader.

Lure Selection: We know the water is warm, the sun is bright and the fish are deep so that means you’ll want a lure selection that will respond well to lead core. The ability of the lead core to sink the lure to the bottom efficiently when the boat is taken out of gear will give you the ability to target fish you are making on the bottom, for example, in 60-feet of water. You’ll want lures that troll fast, medium and slow.

It’s very important to have a lure selection that allows you to both “match the hatch” and present an “attractor.” There are days when stripers are keyed in on particular bait and you need a lure similar in size, color and profile. While this may be true any time of the year, I find that the warmer and the brighter the conditions, the more selective stripers become. With that in mind, I like lures that can match small squid, macks, sand eels or silver sides – all known summer baits. Other times, often at slack or slow moving tide stages, stripers will span out in sort of a forage pattern. Stripers scavenging will take kindly to a big eel or sand eel on the bottom too in any situation.

Capt. Mike’s Four Light Tackle Favorites for Trolling Lead Core:

  • Hogy Charter Grade Slider: A lipless swimming plug that can be fished at all depths. Suitable for striped bass, bluefish, bonito, albies and ground fish. Can be fished at all boat speeds up to 8.5 knts. The Hogy Charter Grade slider comes in a variety of natural and attractor colors.
Charter Grade Slider
Hogy Charter Grade Slider in Amber
  • Hogy Perfect Tube: This lure is primarily a striper slayer. Troll the Hogy Perfect Tube as slowly as you can as close to the bottom as you can. Don’t be afraid to take the boat out of gear to drop on a fish you see on the finder in a drop off. The Hogy perfect tube has built in action thanks to the preformed stainless steel helix frame installed inside the tube.
Perfect Tube
Hogy Perfect Tube in Wine
  • Hogy Perfect Squid: The Hogy Perfect squid is a bulletproof version of a time honored Cape Cod classic striper lure style. The perfect squid sheds weeds like a champ and can stand up to a number of bluefish you may encounter. The Perfect Squid is infused with UV refactors that will add to its visibility to stripers. The 6” size is the newest addition and the perfect size for mimicking juvenile squid. The 9” and 12” are classic attractor sizes.
Perfect Squid
Hogy Perfect Squid in Orange
  • Hogy Charter Grade Squid Lure: The Hogy Charter Grade Squid Lure is designed specifically to be fished in rips for stripers while stemming the tide. They can be cast or trolled on lead core. The play here is to stem the tide and jig the lure in various positions in the rip.
Squid Plug
Hogy Charter Grade Squid Plug