Striped Bass fishing is known for its tough conditions, crowded places, pretty fish, and sometimes intimidating fishermen. Although those stereotypes can be true, they really aren’t that harsh and when you do find some fish, you are in for a treat. If you’re planning to chase Striped Bass in New England next summer, this gear list will help get you started, help refresh your inventory, and hopefully help cure some cabin fever!
Rods: For fly rods, look towards a fast action 9wt fly rod. You can get away with a 7-8wt for schoolies (bass under 28 inches), and some people use up to 10-11wts for the 40+ inch cows. A 9wt offers practicality but still has enough backbone to lift the cows. For a medium-priced rod that preforms highly, I would recommend the Scott Tidal.
Reels: A salt-safe, large arbor fly reel is necessary for all saltwater fly fishing. The large arbor allows much faster line pickup along with more leverage to crank the bad boys! The reel should be able to hold at least 200yds of 20 or 30Lb backing. I would recommend the Ross Evolution R Salt or the Nautilus CCF-X2 as higher-end options.
Lines: For an all-around Striper line, I would recommend a cold water intermediate fly line. The specialty coldwater lines won’t stiffen up in the colder North Atlantic. A lot of Striper fishermen have a strong opinion on whether to use a floating or sinking line, but in reality, different line types are best for different situations. When bass are blitzing on top, a floating line is favorable to keep your fly in the strike zone, but when the cows are hunkered deep and you need to sink a big fly down to them, a full sink line is necessary. An intermediate fly line in just a bit denser than water so it sinks slowly, which makes it the golden mean for Striper lines. Some great lines for Stripers are the Scientific Anglers Sonar Titan Full Intermediate or the Cortland Compact Intermediate.
Glasses: Polarized Sunglasses are essential for all fly fishing. They cut down on the glare on the water to make it possible to see what’s going on below the surface. Polarized glasses make sight fishing realistic and very effective. Most brands make polarized lenses ranging from the $10 Walmart variety to the $260 Costas. Like many other things, you get what you pay for, although the cheap ones still work fine, they might just break or fog up easier.
Packs/Bags: A waterproof pack/bag is very useful while Striper fishing. Whether you’re getting tossed around in the surf of keeping your gear on the bottom of a boat, a good waterproof bag will keep your gear, safe, clean, and dry. If you are mainly wading, a backpack would make the most sense but if you will mainly fish from a boat, a gear bag will fit your needs better. My recommendations would be the Fishpond Thunderhead Backpack and the Fishpond Cutbank Gear bag as higher-end options.
Leaders: Leaders can easily become over complicated. You can buy 20 and 16 lb saltwater tapered leaders or just use a straight piece of line from 5 to 9 feet of those weights.
Flies: Reflecting on the many different situations one can find themselves in while Striper fishing, there are many types of flies you could throw at them. When they are blitzing, smaller baitfish and sand eel patterns match the hatch, sand eels rule in the early season, at night a large eel fly can bring out the cows, and when you find yourself on a flat, especially in the Cape Cod area, Stripers will gobble a properly presented crab fly.
The most important thing whenever you are fishing in a new area or even one you have fished before is knowledge. Knowledge of where the fish are, what patterns are producing best, and were to keep out of the crowds can make or break your day. Striped Bass love current, so look for rips, large rocks exposed to current, depth transitions, when estuaries dump out into the ocean on a falling tide, and rocky shorelines or sandy flats where the current is present. While you are looking for these places, keep your eyes out for birds diving at the surface, known as “working birds”.