Fish Structure for Striped Bass

Punch in isolated wreck and structure waypoints to dial into big bass.

April 22, 2015
Stripers swimming underwater

X Marks the Spot

In my home waters off South Florida, wrecks that barely register a bump on the fish finder regularly produce grouper, amberjack, kingfish, wahoo and even snook — a treasure trove on nearly every trip to exact GPS coordinates, where X marks the spot. Given those experiences, I was surprised to find that few striped bass fishermen focus on artificial structure. Less surprising, the striped bass artificial-structure aficionados I located regularly catch big fish. Ethan Gordon
Two anglers on a fishing boat netting a striper fish in deep water

Big Surprises from Small Structure

One of the go-to GPS spots of Capt. Scott Leonard (Top Gun Fishing Charters, Fire Island), in this photo playing angler, is nothing more than a small piece of wreckage the broke off and drifted away from a ship that beached more than a century ago. But it still produces big fish. Capt. Vincent Daniello
Anglers on a New York fishing boat netting a big striper caught structure fishing boulders or small pieces of wreckage on the bottom

Find a Ledge, Then Find the Fish

Ledges can be great spots for action like this. However, fishing a ledge doesn’t automatically mean fast action; bass can be located at any area along a ledge and move according to conditions, so you need to find the fish once you find the ledge. Tim Smith
How to find the perfect anchor position when fishing a wreck or other structure

Find the Perfect Anchor Position

Determining how a boat will lay once on the hook is critical to successfully fish a wreck or other structure. In No. 1, the skipper stops just windward of the wreck. He drifts to see where the wind-current vector will take the boat (here, to No. 2). Then with that in mind, he motors up to position the boat at No. 3, adjusting scope so the stern is 100 feet up-current (or farther, in deep water or heavy currents). Dave Underwood
Two anglers holding a a big striped bass caught fishing on structure

Finding the Sweet Spot

Many experts find that even one small area of limited structure can hold the big fish and learn to fish that one sweet spot. Tom Lynch
A striped bass hooked on a live eel fishing bait with a conventional fishing reel on the deck of a sportfishing boat

The Real Eel

“If an eel stays on the surface,” says Capt. Bobby Rice of Reel Deal Charters on Cape Cod, “you know there are fish down there.” At such times, Rice adds a small rubbercore sinker. Tom Migdalski
Bunker aka menhaden live bait for fishing for stripers

Bunker + Structure = Bass

Wrecks become even better striper spots when menhaden (bunker) are holding around them. But if the bite proves slow, take time to cut some bunker into small pieces and chunk ’em out sparingly, to get some scent into the water, says Scott Leonard. Eric Medenbach
Banana and kidney sinkers in a boat fishing tackle station

Weight Just a Bit

Scott Leonard prefers banana-shaped drail leads which snag structure less readily than egg sinkers. When drifting, he prefers current that takes him along at 2 1/2 to a little over 3 knots.With a very slow drift, stripers bite less aggressively, and rigs are more likely to hang up. Capt. Vincent Daniello
Small croaker rigged as live fishing bait for stripers

Porgy Alternatives

Some experts, like Steve Weitzen, an independent tackle rep based in New York City, are big fans of live porgies for larger bass, in part because unlike surface-loving menhaden, porgies go down. When not available, a small croaker can do the trick. Capt. Vincent Daniello
Striped bass blitz around saltwater fishing boats

It Pays to Stay Alert

Don’t get so preoccupied looking down (at your sounder) that you don’t look out (at the surface). Blitzes may occur over structure or not, but wherever they happen, be ready! Tom Lynch

(Ed. note: You can read the entire feature on which this photo gallery is based in the May 2105 issue of Sport Fishing magazine for a treasure trove of details that will help you emulate three very succeessful big-bass structure-fishing experts in the Northeast.)


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