Beginner’s Guide

Stripers do very well living an entirely freshwater existence. Since the early 1900’s, efforts have been made to introduce these fish to large lakes and reservoirs across the country.

In these entirely freshwater environments, stripers spend their year in the main body of the lake but go up into streams and inlets to spawn. These fish can reach massive size and are pound-for-pound one of the strongest fighting freshwater fish you can catch.

Hybrid striped bass also known as “hybrids” or “wipers” are hybrids of striped bass and white bass. They are commonly stocked in lakes and reservoirs nationwide. To tell them apart, look at their shape and coloration. Striped bass are sleeker, larger, and have continuous black stripes on their sides. Hybrid stripers are stockier in shape (similar to a largemouth bass) and have stripes or lines on their sides that are broken vice continuous.

Whitebass or sandbass are miniature versions of striper. These fish are common throughout the southern united states.

How to Catch Freshwater Striped Bass

There are multiple techniques that can be used to catch striped bass and the techniques vary throughout the year based on where the bait and striper are located throughout the lake. Striped bass typically travel in massive schools that are impossible to miss on your graph.

These fish will school and pursue large schools of bait fish creating massive feeding frenzies both above and below the water! When striper push bait fish to the top, seagulls, loons, terns, herons and other birds join in trapping the bait fish between them.

Striper can also pursue fish below the surface and those same birds may be sitting on the water’s surface above the schools waiting for the bait to get pushed to the surface.

Here are some of the most popular fishing techniques

Live bait: Live bait is probably the most popular method. Live shad, herring and even live eels are great bait for striper. The local forage species can either be caught with a castnet or purchased at a local bait shop. Carolina rig the bait with a 1-2 oz weight, plastic bead, barrel swivel and a 2-3 ft fluorocarbon leader and a small circle hook. Either spotlock or drift with this technique. Simply drop the bait to the desired depth and hang on! The fish will either tap the bait and swim off or attempt to pull the rod out of your hands. If using small circle hooks, you do not need to set the hook, simply reel the line until it goes tight and fight the fish. Indicator braid that changes color every 10 ft is a good line option to know exactly how deep the bait is in the water.

Casting with Artificial lures:

My all-time favorite way to catch striper is using topwater lures such as a Cotton Cordell Pencil Popper, River2Sea Whopper Plopper, Zara Spook or other stickbaits. Deeper diving lures such as Mister Twister Sassy Shad on a 1 or 2 oz jighead are also a great choice. Simply cast the lure from the boat toward any actively feeding fish and then retrieve using a start and stop retrieve. Be alert to any line movement when the lure stops as the fish will often strike when the lure is sinking during the pause.

Vertical jigging (slabbing)- Vertical jigging by either burning your spoon (dropping it to the bottom, then reeling it in very quickly for 5-6 cranks) or simply jigging it up and down the water column is another super effective way to catch striper. Jigs such as a P-line Lazer Minnow or a Berry Flex it Spoon are effective tools.

Trolling- trolling is incredibly effective for striper most months of the year. Simply find areas where the fish are suspended in deep water and troll your baits just above the bottom of the water or along the depth the fish are feeding. Trolling across a 30’ flat next to the river channel is a great option. Run your bait about 25’ deep and S-curve back and forth over the drop off. Hungry striper will attack. A Captain Mack’s Striped Bass Umbrella Rig is a great option, but be warned, the rig has 9 jig heads and 3-4 fish on at the same time is a challenge to reel in!

Deadsticking- Deadsticking is a winter technique where Zoom flukes (white, chartreuse and bubblegum) are used with 1-2 oz jigheads and are drifted through schools of cold stunned shad. The striper will inhale the jig sometimes hitting softly like a crappie thump other times bending the rod into the water depending on how aggressively they are feeding. The ideal drift speed is .7 mph, so use your trolling motor or wind sock to keep your speed consistent. Fish are typically shallow on cloudy and windy days and move to the river channels on sunny, calm days. Using spike it or other scents on your baits when the bites are tough.

Seasonal Considerations for Freshwater Striper Fishing


In Summer,
baitfish are everywhere on the lake and striper seem to hang out on the flats along the main river channels, and on the points and humps throughout the lake. Fish may stage in one area for several days or may change patterns every day. Trolling is super effective to cover lots of water and then once you hook up, look for opportunities to drop bait or vertical jig any large schools of fish that you find. As always, keep eyes peeled for any actively feeding birds or splashing fish. Sometimes schools of small striper will be chasing shad on top, don’t forget to look for larger fish deeper below those schools of actively feeding fish!


Fall- As the water temperature starts to school, bait will begin to congregate in the deeper water. Schools of striper will congregate there feasting on the bait fish and putting on weight for the upcoming winter. Fish will be on the flats and points along the river channels. Live bait and vertical fishing is great as well as casting artificial lures to any feeding schools.


In the Spring, most baitfish such as shad will spawn along the grassy and rocky shoreline. Look for schools of bait being attacked in shallow water at sunrise and target those fish with topwater and artificial lures. Later in the morning as the sun comes up, the bait will move to deeper water and can be caught using live bait and vertical jigging techniques later in the morning. Thumpers and splashers are both effective, turn down the thumper speed when fishing in shallow water. After the spawn the fish will still hang out in the warmer shallow water until the main lake warms up and they begin to travel openly across the lake


Winter is when massive schools of bait congregate in the river channels and flats next to the river channels. The striper will be right there with them. Find the bait clouds then look for the arcs of the big striper below them on your graph. Once you find them, deadstick or drift live bait through them and hang on. Thumpers are super effective for deadsticking!

For sandbass, use smaller ¼- ½ oz jigheads in single or tandem rigs and smaller flukes.

Thumpers like the Thump’em Up Fishing thumper and splashers are devices that simulate the commotion created by schools of striper attacking schools of bait. The Thumper mimics the vibrations from white bass, striped bass and/or hybrid striped bass feeding on baitfish underwater. The thumper uses a mechanical hammer that creates the vibrations to attract fish from the surrounding water and bring them directly to you!
The Thumper is portable and is used from your boat by connecting to your battery or plugging it into your 12V outlet. A thumper can be used all year round and is super effective in the winter months.

Splashers are special trolling motor propellers that are designed to create a splashing sound and simulate white bass, striped bass and/or hybrid striped bass feeding on baitfish on the surface. You can buy a splasher propeller and attach it to an existing trolling motor that is dedicated to be used as a splasher. A splasher can be used all year round and is super effective when fish are schooling on top.

The key to catching striper and their cousins throughout the year is to follow the bait!

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