Trolling for Stripers Along a Shoreline
Example: Structure: Trolling Along a Shoreline: Today I am fishing in the heat of the summer. Stripers breaking on schools of baitfish have subsided as the bulk of the schools have migrated and the remaining fish in the area are “resident” fish. I also know, that unlike migrating fish, resident fish will scatter, often searching for local forage in or around structure. I also know that in the peak warm water months that stripers move into deeper water by day and will come close in at night.
(Note: This example applies all season long once the water temp reaches 65 degrees.)
Order of Operations
- Lure Selection: Two lures immediately come to my mind in this situation. The first set-up I like is a classic tube and worm situation. I like Trolling tubes for for reasons. 1). They are quite large, often up to 24”, so that means you’ll be offering a very visible target that is easily seen from a great distance, thereby effectively fishing “more” water. Since they are so big, the “return on energy” is there for a striper to go out of it’s wait to eat it. I like the Hogy 24” Perfect Tube for this reason. 2). A tube imitates a giant sea worm. Sea worms are in every beach-like terrain where a striper may travel so it will never look out of place. It’s also a big, fat, juicy sea worm and I am 1000 percent confident stripers have the hardest time refusing sea worms out of any bait. The second lure I like in this situation is a large swimming plug, such as a 7-inch Hogy Slider. Depending on color, it could either look like a pogie, mackerel, herring or scup. What I like in particular about the Hogy Slider for this application is that they are weighted to sink horizontally, which will allow you to take the boat out of gear and the lure will present properly to the fish on the drop. Since there is no bill or lip on the lure, it will stay in the zone the longest when the boat goes back into gear or when fished on wire or lead core.
- Work The Tells: You are looking for fish that are foraging deep in the water column and around submerged structure; therefore, you will most like see few if any signs that there are fish in the area. Do not be discouraged by this. I rely on the fact that based on the season, I am fishing an area that has produced for me at this time of year using the methods and lures I have chosen. In this situation, my eyes are glued to the fish finder looking for stripers. They will typically appear within 10- feet of the bottom.
- Wind: An onshore wind is the best. It will push both the bait and the bass toward the shore and consequently they will be concentrated in a more confined area than they would be if they were in open water. Offshore winds are fine, but make a mental note that they will likely be in a little deeper water, as forage will tend to be pushed out. Picture where bait would end up. That’s where the stripers will be.
- Tide/Current: The peak two hours of moving tide is hands down the best time to troll the shoreline. If trolling a tube I find I do better trolling with the tide. I think a tube is imitating a large sea worm, which would be swept along or swimming with the tide in that scenario. In contrast, if trolling plugs, I find I do slightly better fishing against the tide.
- Light: Although sunrise and sunset hours are ideal, you can count on catching fish all day trolling the shoreline. The less light there is, the closer to shore you want to be. The brighter the light, the deeper you want to be.
- Depth: Your focus is on bottom dwelling fish. Have gear for the depths you’ll be fishing, say 10’ to 50’.
- Approach: There are three facets to shoreline trolling:
- Depth: The first step is finding the depth the stripers are hanging in. Stripers in this terrain almost always find a depth they wan to reside in for the day. I personally think this has to do with the baitfish preferences in low light, but during the day they tend to move to deeper water due to sensitivity tow light. So if low light, start shallow and work deep. If bright conditions, start deep and work shallow. When in “search mode” troll in a long S-pattern across a contour line, this will allow you to work multiple depths on a run.
- Water Column: By making a series of turns and S-patterns, you will also be able to fish multiple levels of the water column with ease. When you turn, the lure on the inside will drop, and the lure on the outside will rise in the water column. Speeding the boat up will also raise your lures. Of course you can let more line out and take more in too, but using boat speed is the most practical and allows for faster adjustments as opposed to letting out or reeling the line in.
- Structure: You are on the look out for reefs, boulders, mussel beds, and other hard structure, as well as changes in the bottom contour, such as dropoffs, holes, and edges. Your Navionics chart and fish finders will help there. If any of these hard structures or bottom/depth variations are near your trolling pattern, be sure to alter your course so that your lures pass close to them. Also study the shoreline. Any topographical features on land such as boulder fields or points will often extend under water and you can maneuver your boat so that your offerings swing close to these areas. Spend a little extra time on spillways (mouths to creeks, estuaries, and channels) if outgoing tide. (see additional diagrams below)
- Trolling Technique: We are targeting bottom dwelling fish, so you’ll want to be close to bottom with wire line, lead core or weighted lures. I hands down prefer using lead core for this technique with the use of lighter lures. I feel the lighter lures are ideal as they swim the most naturally at slow speeds, and you’ll need to be going really slow. I love trolling the shoreline because it is so highly interactive which aren’t what most people think of when trolling. You need to be alert for marks and quick to adapt with the throttles.
- As slow as you can go. Trolling with the tide will get your lures deeper
- Once I mark a big striper on the finder, take the boat out of gear to put my tube or plug on or near the bottom.
- Once I feel I’m on or near the bottom, I put the boat in gear. If you can picture the lures, they will have a slow gradual sink (as the boat is out of gear) then the lures will emerge off the bottom (back in gear) in a very natural presentation, essentially that of bait fish spooked by a big striper and moving out of the trouble zone. This is almost always when the strikes occur.
- If no love, try surging the boat to simulate fleeing bait. This will often trigger a strike from a lazy fish.