NJ Saltwater Registry

NJ Saltwater Fishing Registry
Wire Line Trolling For Stripers
Written by Capt. John A. Cafiero   
Monday, 04 January 2010 04:24


I must admit, catching stripers fishing with wire is one of my least desirable ways to fish for them. It is tiring to haul them in and it's frustrating to deal with the wire not getting kinked. It almost seems like it is cheating in a way. That being said, I still use wire quite often when targeting big stripers. The reason is simple. Wire line is probably the most consistent way to come home with a few nice bass in the cooler. On some days it is the only way that we are able to come home with those tasty fillets.

My customers expect to come back to the dock with fish in the box. It's my job to make sure that happens. The best part of fishing is coming back to the dock with giant bass and a crowd of people around asking, "How did you do?" Having a few monster bass to put up on the dock is a great feeling.
Now some people will say it is not very sporting to catch bass on wire, so they don't even own wire rods. I will be the first to agree. I only bring them for one reason and one reason only. They produce when nothing else is working. So when there is no bird activity and you have run out of lures to toss out there what do you do? When you have searched and searched for bunker pods and they are nowhere in sight, I get out the wire gear. When all else fails trolling is the best way to turn a bad day into a productive one.. 

I learned a long time ago; when something is not working you need to try something else. I also will confess, as I feel like I am a sinner admitting I use wire line outfits, that I may opt to start with wire trolling to locate where the fish are and then I will switch over to jigging, bait, live herring or bunker. Not starting with wire when you see limited signs of life can be costly. It is expensive to fish these days. I look at each day, as a race against the clock to get my customers into some big bass. I am constantly watching my Raymarine E120 fish finder looking for bait or stripers. From the moment I break the inlet I am in overtime mode to get that first fish on board.....

I have been collecting data in my fishing log spreadsheet for years. I keep track of everything from bait or lure used, weather, water temperature, stomach contents of filleted fish. Fishing is a lot of luck, but there is a definite science to it. Noticing patterns of fish behavior is important to consistently catching fish. So I definitely recommend everyone keep a log. Weather it's electronically in a spreadsheet like I do or just in a notebook, keep a log! If you learn nothing else from this article, start keeping track of what you catch, where you caught it, and most importantly how.

What You Need
So, you are now a believer in using wire outfits for targeting big fat bass, what do you need? I have two different pairs of rods. When trolling bunker spoons, I use Tsunami Trophy Series TSTBC 761 HW Wire Line rods with 4/0 Penn Senator high-speed reels. These outfits are beefy enough to handle that trophy 50-pound bass and light tipped to get the action required for effective bunker spoon trolling. Without the rod tip pulsating you cannot fish with a bunker spoon.
The proper bounce will get the big spoon dancing like a struggling bunker that Mr. lazy bass will just love to swallow whole. These are the best rods I have found that produce that dancing sensation that drives the bass wild. The guides are made of carbolloy, which is super tough. It is a must, as regular guides will be ruined in on outing, as the wire will cut a groove into them.

For trolling umbrella rigs with shads I need something with a little more beef to it. For this I use Sabre rods by Penn, model BCS 2701 RTC 7 foot rod. This is a stiffer rod, but it is needed to hold the resistance of the umbrella rigs. They are strong and reliable to get the job done when the bass are feeding on smaller peanut sized bunker. On these set ups I use the same Penn Senator 4/0 reels. These reels have brass chrome plated spools. Do not buy with graphite or plastic spools, as the wire will destroy them.

Stainless Steel or Monel?
I fill the spools with a good 50-pound mono backing. Doing this is critical; otherwise the wire will spin on the spool. After about 150 feet of the backing I connect the mono to the wire with a haywire twist and then an Albright knot. I never use stainless steel wire, as it is too tough to work with. If it gets a kink in it and you will get those, it is too brittle and will break if worked back and forth on the same point.
So, the next choice available is monel. It is much softer and more forgiving to the abuse it will take. I use 300 feet of Malin soft monel trolling wire hat is marked every 50 feet. In the old days, I had to bring my rods to the local park and had my kids run my pre-measured 100-foot increments totaling 300 feet. I would then take short pieces of different colored telephone wire to wrap around at 100-foot intervals. Much easier these days to just buy the pre-marked wire instead of going to the park and having people give you some really strange stares.

The line markings are so important. It allows you to control the lure and put it in the strike zone where the fish are feeding. Basic rule is for every 50 feet you let out the lure will go down about 5 feet. So, with 300 feet I can get it down 30 feet deep. Of course you can also add weight to get down a bit deeper as well.
Terminal Tackle At the end of the wire I again connect with an Albright knot, about 8-12 feet 0f 80-pound fluorocarbon leader material. At the end of the leader I attach a heavy duty ball bearing coast-lock snap swivel from Spro in the 165-200-pound class with an improved clinch knot. A good swivel is required to ensure no line twist and good lure action.

Lures to Drag

If I know the bass were feeding on larger bunker, then I gear up with my lighter outfits set up for bunker spoons. I usually start with two different size bunker spoons and of two different colors. I will put out a 8-inch and an 6-inch spoon. One being white and the other one chrome is where I like to start. I have tried multiple colored bunker spoons and these two colors usually are all I ever use. Some days the chrome works better and some days white works better. That's why I put out both colors. If I find the bass to be a bit finicky or I may opt to go down in size of the spoons, even as short as 4-inch spoons. Nothing is better however for huge bass than large 10-12-inch bunker spoons. I am always targeting bigger bass, so I always have them in my arsenal.  Nothing beats the action of Tony Majas Bunker spoons.  Besides their incredible action they are heavily weighted which makes even the smaller sized ?Peanut Bunker? troll nicely.  I have also stopped and jigged with them.  Very effective!

When the bass are feeding on smaller peanut sized bunker, I use shad umbrella rigs. These I rig up myself with 6-inch rubber shads on 9/0 Mustad O'shaughnessy hooks. The leaders on the umbrellas are rigged with heavier 150-pound mono. The heavier leader doesn't seem to distract the fish from swallowing the shads. But it is also good insurance to have when the blues are in the mix. I rig my umbrellas with only 5 shads total. Any more and the drag on the rod is just unbearable. Each of the four arms has about 12-18-inch leader with a hooked shad.

Down the middle it is important to rig the leader to trail behind the leading four. I usually make that leader about 24 to 36 inches long. That trailing shad is what the big lazy boys will hone in on 9 times out of 10. Sometimes I will opt to go with a larger 8 or 10-inch shad down the middle when there are larger cows in the area. It is not unusual to catch more than on bass on at the same time or a combination off bass and blues.

I have successfully landed a full house of 5 bass only one time. Getting two or three on at a time is likely when the schools are concentrated. They just can't resist the action of these little swimming schools of rubber. Now as far as color of shads, I run mostly white. I have experimented with many colors and white is my all time favorite. I will still try different colors at times, but my favorite still remains the same as its what they seem to enjoy as well.
I have also used sand eel tube umbrella rigs with some success, especially if there are a lot of sand eels around. Always take notice o what a fish is spitting up when bringing them boat side. If sand eels are in their gut then these rigs are definitely the way to go. I will at times just for kicks throw out a longer tube or banana lure in the mix if nothing else is coaxing a strike.

Where to Go

This is simple. Go where the fish are. 90% of the fish are in only a 10% area of the ocean. So keeping a good log like I talked about earlier is so important. Fish are creatures of habit and instinct. If they were in an area they were last year, then odds are they will probably be there next year. But this holds true only if there is bait there. If there are no bait in the area then there will not be any fish.

Keep one eye on your fish finder constantly. I run two Raymarine E-120's with a HD fish finder. I am constantly tuning the gain and zoom to extract as much detail as possible so I can try and figure out what exactly is down there and what they are feeding on. Looking for good bottom structure is important as well. Bass will lie by structure to ambush their prey with the least amount of effort on their part as possible. So a good bottom contour is a good thing to find. Once you find the bait, I would start trolling. Its worth it at this point to slow the boat down and let out your lines.
I use a rod rigger on each side of the boat and let the lines out to where you are marking fish and bait. I usually start by keeping the lures about 5 feet above the zone of where they are. Use the marks on your wire to get the lures down to the exact attack zone. Keep the clicker on and just keep watching the sonar as the bottom changes. You may have to adjust up or down if you are working fish tight to the bottom.

Fish On!
OK, the reel is screaming what do you do now? MARK THE SPOT! That is the most important thing to remember. I see so many people just keep trolling straight for miles. Where there is one bass there is probably a lot more. After landing the fish, get the line right back in the water. Take note of the color and size of the lure and put it right back out there. I will then circle back around to get right back in there.
Sometimes the fish will only strike when the boat is moving in a certain direction. This is because the bass is so lazy. They are just waiting in a certain direction with their mouth wide open and tongue out for the next fish to come just inches from their face, so they can grab it. If you get consistent strikes from on lure and not the other. Use two of the same lure. Also, keep the boat moving as a lot of times you will pick up another one near by. By not stopping you also prevent the wire line from sinking to the bottom and snagging on to something.

The basic rule here is to change it up. I am very impatient, as I race the clock to get some keeper bass on board. So I keep changing what I use and the presentation if were not getting bites. Don't ever give up. You can catch bass consistently with wire gear. There is simply no better way to cover a lot of ground searching for bass as when you are trolling with wire. When the action heats up, then I switch over to more conventional ways to catch big bass.
There is no excuse to come back to the dock without catching a bass. I never leave the dock without bringing my wire line outfits when I am off to seek bass. Give it a try. You just might become a believer like I did. It works!


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