Chase Delta stripers now with topwater
Striper fishing down on the Delta and in the Port of Sacramento has been super hot lately and the absolute coolest way to catch fish right now is with topwater poppers.
There are few bites in freshwater that are more exciting than a topwater blowup! When a striper attacks your lure, it sounds like somebody dropped a bowling ball into the water from outer space. Definitely not for the faint of heart, but oh, so fun!
The other exciting aspect of this fishery is that we often see some of the larger stripers of the year on the topwater baits. Big stripers don’t like to feed on small threadfin shad and instead prefer to dine on larger prey like bluegill, pikeminnow, small bass and carp.
It’s purely an economics thing: The protein gained from chasing small shad around isn’t worth the energy expended. So, the ‘slab bass move into the shallow flats this time of year looking for something a little more meatier… and that’s where they become susceptible to the sputtering and splashing of a topwater plug.
Topwater fishing doesn’t happen just anywhere and anytime on the Delta — you need to have the right circumstances come together for it to work. Let’s take a closer look:
The first ingredient you need for productive topwater fishing in the fall is the right water temp. Generally speaking, you are golden when the water’s in the 55- to 63-degree range. I’ve had them hit surface lures in January when the water was a chilly 46 degrees, but that’s the exception rather than the rule.
The best place to find stripers that will be willing to eat something off the surface is on shallow, weedy flats that have easy access to deep water. The fish will lurk in the safety of the deeper channels by day and then make feeding raids up on the flats. In the skinny water, however, they feel a bit skittish, so that’s why fishing near a drop-off or channel edge is so important.
I prefer flats that are no deeper than 8 feet and have weeds within 2 to 3 feet of the surface.
Stripers seem to like to hunt the flats when there is some current running. I have good success on both incoming and outgoing tides — so long as there is water movement. High slack also has its moments and I’ve had some good days at low water as well.
Try to avoid fishing at the bottom of the out-go on minus tides as the weeds will be a problem.
Time of Day
Stripers prefer to hunt during the low light periods of the day, so the crack of dawn and sunset are your best options for topwater fishing. However, if you can luck into a calm cloudy or foggy day, you can throw topwater stuff all day long. Some of my best trips have occurred during rainy, windless days.
Speaking of wind, surface fishing gets tough after you have about 8 mph worth of chop on the surface. While the broken water and wind waves will make the stripers feel more secure on the flats, they have a tougher time locating lures. I prefer flat calm conditions to just a hint of a breeze.
There are tons of surface baits out there you can try, but here are a few of my favorites: Silver/black back Cotton Cordell Pencil Poppers are my number one, go-to baits. They make a lot of noise, spit good amounts of water and have a nice side-to-side action when swam properly. Super Spooks in shad patterns are also great baits and I also love the new Lucky Craft Gunfish. Spooks and Gunfish require a little more experience in “walking the dog” to get the proper action, but when you get it down watch out!
Give me a call or drop me an email if you’d like more info on topwater striper fishing. II’ll also be running guided trips all through the fall and winter out there if you’d like to go out and see how it all works. (916) 388-1956 I also have plenty of tips for the do-it-yourselfer on my website, www.fishwithjd.com.
J.D. Richey is a 1986 Placer High graduate whose outdoors pieces have been published nationally. His column runs Fridays in the Journal.