Most people think trout fishing when they think of warming weather and melting snow. Across much of the US, spring brings active trout, increased bug activity, and longer days. In New England, however, we gear up for something a little different. Trout fishing is great and all, but the month of May means Striped Bass are almost to the end of their long migration, a migration that ends on the Northern Atlantic Coast.
The Striped Bass has long been a popular gamefish on the eastern coast of the US. Every Spring, Stripers travel from the Chesapeake Bay up the east coast to feed and to spawn. Smaller fish, or ‘schoolies’, arrive first followed by the larger spawning Bass. Striped Bass have a large size variation; smaller Bass are 1-6lbs and larger fish can reach weights of over 50lbs!
Needless to say, a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach doesn’t work when choosing a fly rod for Stripers. Trust me, you don’t want to fight a 1lb fish and a 30lb fish on the same fly rod. That being said, fish size isn’t the only consideration when choosing a fly rod for Stripers. We’re here to offer some advice and to highlight useful recommendations.
Many anglers will tell you that a 9’ 9wt is the most versatile Striper setup; a 9wt is large enough for fish above 10lbs and not overkill for smaller fish. A 9wt can also throw floating lines, sinking lines, and intermediate lines well. This is important in a Striper rod because fish can be found anywhere from 1-2ft deep marshy areas to 20-30ft deep coastal cliffs. A rod that throws a floating line when fishing for smaller fish in shallow water and a heavy sinking line for fish off the coast allows the angler to diversify tactics.
A 9wt is also a great boat rod. Many anglers prefer to target Stripers from a boat. A boat makes coastal fishing easier and allows the angler to forgo tricky tidal wading. When choosing a boat rod, the ability to quickly pick up and put down fly line is paramount. A fast action 9wt rod makes quick casting from a boat easy and efficient.
If you find yourself wading the marshes or doing the majority of your Striper fishing in estuaries, a 9wt may be overkill. Smaller fish in shallow water typically eat smaller flies. Estuary fishing can be some of the most thrilling Striper fishing, but a fly rod that’s too big won’t allow you to get the most out of your time in the marsh.
Smaller fish, smaller flies, and smaller water call for a smaller rod. A 7wt or 8wt rod lets anglers efficiently cast floating lines and small flies to estuary fish. A lighter rod generally makes delicate presentations and accuracy casting easier. If you don’t need the extra lifting power or distance casting ability of a 9wt or 10wt, stick with a 7wt or 8wt rod.
A smaller rod will also make ‘schoolies’ and shallow water fish more fun to catch. It’s no secret that a 1-2lb fish fights a lot harder on a 7wt than it does on a 10wt, so if you’re after ‘schoolies’, stick with the lighter rod.
But… if you’re after trophy Bass, you may want to upgrade. Stripers in the 20+lb range are often found in deeper water. Deep water necessitates the use of heavy sinking lines and big, wind-resistant flies. As you can imagine, a 10wt is built for these heavier lines and larger flies.
A 10wt is also going to give you the ability to turn a larger fish. Lifting power is important when targeting trophy Stripers, especially in areas with currents or strong tides. If a 20lb Striper turns her body into a heavy current, it’s going to take a strong rod to keep fly line on your reel. A fast action 10wt works well in a situation like this.
Lastly, a 10wt is the ultimate boat rod. If you need to cast long distances or quickly throw to blitzing Stripers, a 10wt with a stout butt section is stellar at picking up line and making long distance casts. The wind is another factor when saltwater fishing from a boat, and 10wt rods deal with gusts well, too. If you’ve been in the Striper game for a long time and have graduated from chasing ‘schoolies’, a 10wt is the rod for you.
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