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Fishing tips: Best natural baits for freshwater striped bass
Striped bass are an amazing fish, a saltwater species that runs up into the freshwater rivers to spawn. Stripers also have the ability to live exclusively in freshwater and over time many land-locked lakes have come to boast some strong striped bass populations, whether self-sustaining or stocked by state resources.
Freshwater anglers have relished the access to this feisty gamefish which resembles a saltwater fish more than a traditional freshwater species. The hard-fighting, great-tasting striped bass is now one of the most sought-after species on many inland lakes.
A lot of anglers go after striped bass with lures, and you can't blame them as fishing for striped bass with scented soft baits on jig heads or hard crankbaits and topwater twitchbaits is great fun. There are times, however, that stripers are more easily caught with natural baits. Here are the top freshwater baits for freshwater stripers:
In the late winter and early spring the various species of shad make strong runs in the lakes and rivers during their spawn. Some anglers fish for shad themselves, using very small jigs and spoons. But for striper anglers, the big bonus of the shad run is that striped bass follow the shad closely and love to feed on them.
Shad often run high in the water column and are attacked by stripers, bass, and catfish in these areas. The remains from these attacks filter down in the water column where hungry stripers will lurk to pick up the pieces. That makes fresh cut shad a deadly striper bait when the shad run is on.
If you can obtain a shad through lures, snagging or cast netting, cut it up and fish the cut shad on a fishfinder rig with an egg sinker strong enough to take the bait to the bottom. Feeding stripers under the shad schools will smash cut shad baits quickly. Don't be surprised if you catch a catfish or two this way either.
Normally thought of as a saltwater bait for species like spot and sea mullet, or even coastal stripers, more and more freshwater lake and river anglers are learning that striped bass will readily hit bloodworms. You can use pieces of bloodworms for small schooling stripers and whole bloodworms for larger striped bass.
Be aware, if you can obtain bloodworms locally they will not be cheap. One good option is to use the synthetic bloodworm alternatives offered by companies such as Fishbites. Saltwater anglers already know how well these artificial bloodworms work, and they will also catch freshwater stripers while saving you money since they stay on the hook a lot longer than real bloodworms.
Various live minnows and shiners will work as natural striper bait. A good way to fish them is to hook them through the eye sockets either under a float or on a fishfinder rig. Then fish the minnow slowly by casting out and retrieving the bait at a very slow pace. If your minnow is lethargic use little jerks of the rod tip to flash the bait for stripers.
Anglers do catch striped bass on a wide variety of other natural baits, including earthworms and nightcrawlers, cut bream or other fish, and chicken livers. But it is hard to beat shad, bloodworms or live minnows when you go fishing for freshwater stripers with natural bait.
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