3 Tips to help you catch more topwater stripers

A nice surface bass from the CA Delta!

Catching big striped bass on topwater plugs is about as fun as those bikini Jello wrestling matches we used to have back in college…oh wait, did I say that out loud? Er, well..anyway, let’s just say having a jumbo striper blow up on your popper is pretty damn fun!

And it’s even more fun when you catch lots of fish! Here are a few simple tricks that should help you do just that!

Double Split Rings

Big stripers can put a lot of strain on a lure when they’re near the boat, thrashing around. Using strong head shakes as leverage against the tension of the line, they can actually rip a lure right out of their faces. To combat that, simply double up on your split rings between the lure and the hook. By doing so, you give the hook nearly 360 degrees of travel and that will help you keep more fish buttoned up.

Use a Loop Knot

Topwater lures, especially walk-the-dog models, rely on action to call fish in. You can stifle that fish-attracting motion by tying your line to the plug with a conventional knot. To give your lure the best possible freedom of movement, go with a loop-type of knot so that the line doesn’t since down against the lure.

Also, I use 30-pound braid tied directly to my plugs. When topwater fishing, stripers are rarely line shy, so there’s no need to use a leader…why intentionally add any weak points to your gear?

Go Barbless

Okay, so this sounds a bit counter-intuitive when we’re talking about catching more fish, right? Well, not so fast! I switched all my topwater plugs out to barbless a few seasons ago and have never looked back. The benefits are numerous: Not only do you not have to mess with hooks tangled in nets, but they also come out of human flesh a lot easier (ask me how I know!).

On the same vein, barbless hooks can be removed from fish much faster…which does less damage to the fish when you’re playing catch & release. And, because you can get fish back into the water more quickly, you’re going to catch more of them! It’s happened a million times: I’m in the middle of a wide open surface frenzy and a striper (usually a little guy) gets every single barb on two or three trebles buried and it takes me way too long to get him off. Sometimes, the blitz is over by the time you get that fish back into the water…

Sure, you’re going to lose a few with barbless hooks, but not really enough to make using barbs worthwhile!


  1. Butch Krauth says

    Most topwater Stripers I’ve caught were at the mouth of the Salinas River near Castroville Ca. where even an 8 pounds fish feels like a monster, and barbless is the way to go for another reason. You don’t have to reel in your plug as often to remove the salad that hangs on the hooks. For some reason the sea salad comes off in the surf with barbless hooks most of the time by simply giving it an exagerated jerk from time to time. San Luis Res. is another story altogether, when the schoolies are thick they hit long before the lunkers do, and you want to be able to shake them off quick.

  2. tim says

    I agree about the barbs. I have spent several minutes unhooking a fish and by then the action is over. Getting the fish off the hook and untangled from a net can be time consuming especially with barbed hooks.

  3. greg says

    im gona go barbless on a couple after reading your last sentence in the post… we’ve had a few schoolies with the *engulfness syndrom , that have taken way to look to de hook …

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