Ready, Set…Stripers!

Matt Nugent with an early-season striper taken on Buzzards Bay.

Think it’s too early for migratory stripers in Buzzards Bay? Think again!

Cape. Terry Nugent of Riptide Charters usually encounters the first migratory schools of bass in the second week of May, so it pays to have your boat and tackle rigged and ready to go.

“May truly kicks off the season,” he says. “You might hear some rumors of fresh fish in April, but these are usually winter-over fish that are dropping into warm-water areas that hold bait, such as rivers. They are not the true migratory waves of bass.”

A variety of soft-plastics rigged on lead head jigs will take early-season bass in the bay.

“Around May 7 or 9, give or take a few days, we usually find the fish on top on an afternoon tide flowing west. By and large, the fish seem to enter Buzzards Bay on a west, or dropping, tide. On the slack or east tide they tend to hang out, marking time, from Bird Island and the West End of the Canal. The warmer water flowing out of the rivers like the Weweantic and Wareham Rivers seems to get them active near the surface. A slack high tide at 3:00 in the afternoon is ideal.”

Aggressive Fish

“There’s a big myth that these fish are sluggish in the early season,” Nugent continues. “We routinely catch them on topwater plugs ripped across the surface, and manage to pull some big fish out of those schools.”

Terry often uses his radar to locate these early fish as they feed under big flocks of birds. The radar can prove especially useful on foggy or overcast days.  The only problem in the early season is that flocks of sea ducks are still on the bay, and will sometimes give “false” readings on the radar as they lift off the water.

It’s possible to find keeper bass moving through the bay in May.

Best Lures, Gear

Terry often enjoys great success with poppers, as well as Yo-Zuri Crystal Minnows. A variety of soft-plastics, such as six- to seven-inch RonZ jigs, Fin-S-Fish, Slug-Go’s and Hogy’s, also work well when twitched just below the surface. When the fish go deep, you can use your sounder to find them. At this point, send down a four-ounce diamond jig, curl-tail grub or a soft-plastic shad-type lure and jig it vertically.

Terry’s spinning tackle selection for early-season bassing includes a 6 1/2- to 7-foot rod and midsize spinning reel like the Shimano Spheros 5000 or Penn 4500 loaded with 250 yards of 12-pound-test mono or 30-pound-test braid. No need to go too heavy on these fish, and the light gear is better for working smaller, lighter lures.

The pearl or bone Rebel Jumpin’ Minnow is a proven Buzzards Bay bass slayer.

Of course, flies can work very well at this time, too, especially if the fish are keyed on small silversides. Skok Mushies, Clouser Minnows, and Deceivers in blue/white, olive/white and all-white work well. Gear up with a nine-weight or eight-weight rod loaded with intermediate or full-sink line and a 20-pound-test fluorocarbon tippet.