Anglers in Rhode Island’s Narragansett Bay typically enjoy their best fishing for striped bass in late spring/early summer and again the fall. The spring run can be easy fishing, especially if big bunker and squid invade the Bay, but the fall-run fish have been, at least in the last 10 years, less predictable in terms of where and when they can be found.
Despite these challenges, the fall can offer some great fishing for bass of all sizes, especially if you follow these tips:
1 Fish early, fish late:
In recent years, I have found that the best fishing usually occurs on a rising tide just before and after sunrise and just prior to sunset. These are times when stripers are most likely to move into shallower water to search for food, so mark you calendar and try to plan your fishing trips accordingly.
2 Focus on structure:
Seek out rockpiles, ledges, humps, points and ridges in the Bay, especially those in areas of strong current.
3 Find the bait:
In my experience, stripers tend to roam a lot more in the fall than they do in the spring, but you can narrow your search by finding a large concentration of bait. Remember, too, that the bait is also on the move, and that the bass will follow it. A certain location may have tons of bait one day and be devoid of life the next.
4 Fish deeper:
Over the last 5 or 6 years I’ve noticed that the fall-run fish tend to hold around the deeper (10-20’) structure points in the bay. That’s not to say that shallower spots should be ignored, but generally speaking, deeper seems to be better in the fall.
5 Search mission:
This time of year requires spending more time searching than fishing. Check out rockpiles, humps, ridges, river mouths, rips and channels, and don’t hang around if you’re not marking fish on your sounder or hooking up. Try another spot. Hot spots can change on a daily or even hourly basis during the fall, so stay mobile.
6 Fish the rain:
Cloudy, rainy days with low light often extend the bite longer into the day. Sure, it’s wet, but the fish don’t care. Don some foul-weather gear and get out there!
7 Timing is everything:
As with all things fishing, timing can be critical to success. There’s not much you can do if you’re working 9-to-5 when a hot bite materializes, but it pays to have a flexible schedule. With recent fall runs being so unpredictable, be ready to roll when it goes off.
8 Adapt or die:
At no other time during the season is it more important to experiment and adapt to changing conditions than during the fall run. What worked all season long may not even buy a “swirl” during the fall. Be ready to mix up your lure choices and techniques.
9 Match the bait:
The type and size of the baitfish will dictate what you should be using in terms of lures and flies. Over the last 2 or 3 years, adult menhaden have been noticeably scarce in the Bay, so big swimmers and bunker spoons will likely not catch many fish. Downsize to what the fish are feeding on and you’ll enjoy more success.
10 Best fall lures:
During the fall I like to use small to midsized poppers, Zara Spooks and swimmers, such as Rapalas, Red Fins and Bombers. These lures will take fish of all sizes. They will also withstand the teeth of any bluefish that take a swipe at them. I also use a lot of bucktail jigs rigged with curly-tailed grubs. Almost nothing beats a properly fished bucktail jig around structure.
Once I find a school of stripers, and have determined that there aren’t any bluefish hanging with them, I switch to soft-plastics—my go-to bait. In 2010, the fish have shown a preference for 7-inch Bassassins, 7-inch Fin-S-Fish, 5-inch Strike King Caffeine Shads and 4-inch Gotcha Shads fished on jigheads. I always begin by fishing light colors, then switch if the fish don’t respond. You don’t need a lot of color combinations when it comes of soft-plastics. Stick with solid colors such as white, black, yellow, chartreuse, and pearl. Success depends more on how and where you present your lure and how effectively you fish it.