Basic Tackle and Equipment
Today we will cover the basic equipment used for striped bass fishing by boat in the Delaware River. Remember to check your local regulations for type of hooks to use, I won't pretend to be an expert on the law. I default to using in-line circle hooks for the simple fact that we are fishing in a very important spawning ground. The less fish killed from being gut hooked the better it is for everyone.
I fish with medium/light action rods that have a full flex, which works best for setting the hook on a running fish. The full flex allows for some give if you engage the reel too early, preventing the hook from pulling from the stripers mouth. It also puts the fun back in fishing allowing you to enjoy the fight without over working the fish. We need to protect the stock at all cost. I know guys that fish with light rods and targeting big fish but when you hook one its tough to land let alone releasing it healthy.
My choice of Spinning rods is the Penn Slammer 6'6 10-20 lbs and conventional rods is the Ande jigging rod. Both rods are very inexpensive about $50-$70. I have a room full of St. Croix's I use for personal fishing but I absolutely fell in love with the Slammer and Ande jigging rod.
8-12 foot surf rod 10-20 lbs
If your going to be fishing a circle hook on a fish finder rig you will need a bait runner reel. A bait runner reel has two separate drags. This allows you to have your bait on the bottom and no friction from the reel when a striper runs. Stripers have very sensitive feel, any weight on the other end the line and the fish will drop the bait. The second (bait feeder) drag allows the fish to take line out with out feeling the weight giving you the upper hand. When it's time to set the hook its as simple as reeling or flipping the button. On most reels one rotation of the reel handle will engage your main drag. Once the drag is engaged reel down till its tight and sweep the rod back. This will place the hook in the corner of the stripers mouth 9 out of 10 times. Never, I repeat Never pull back and set the hook like your a pro bass angler, it will only cost you the fish. Circle hooks are designed to be pulled slowly and evenly to make a hook purchase.
To illustrate how a circle hook works, hold the hook in your palm with a closed fist and pull quickly, It won't hook you. When pulled slowly it rotates out of my palm to the index finger where the point will burry. Slow and steady, DON'T get to excite and pull the hook out from stripers mouth, this is the most common mistake. The solution, leave the rod in the rod holder while you engage the reel allows the system to do all the work on the hook set. Once Rodney has hooked the fish pick up the rod and start fighting. Rodney the rod holder has the best hook up ratio on any boat.
This is the most effective way to fish live or cut bait. Below is a picture illustrating how you assemble it. In short the main line threads through the fish finder (the sliding weight holder) then attaches to a swivel. On the other end of the swivel a leader about 24-36 inches to a circle hook.
How it works:
Bait runner reel allows line to be pulled from the reel when fish picks up the bait and runs. The reel dispenses the line and the line slides though the the fish finder which stays put. At this point the only weight the fish feels is the bait and hook. When it's time to hook the fish the reel engages and the weight will stay out until you have all the slack out of the line. Once the swivel hits the fish finder you will feel your weight. The only time this is different is when the fish is high in the water column.
Circle Hooks by law you must use inline circle hooks
In-line circle, they really vary on the type and size of bait. The most important thing is to make sure you have enough hook purchase.
Blood worms size 2-3/0 red
Cut bait Size 3/0-9/0 red
Clams Size 4/0-8/0 red
The great debate about braid vs mono vs fluorocarbon. I love braid for casting, I won't fish with out it. For bait fishing it works but on a charter boat the tangles can be costly and aggravating. I use 17 lb fluorocarbon for the main line. Minimum stretched compared to mono and highly abrasive resistant. It does cost a pretty penny almost as much as braid. You can fish mono effectively but I choose not to.
Casting Plugs: 30 lbs power pro
Bait fishing: 17 lbs Berkeley Vanish fluorocarbon
Bait fishing from shore: 30 lb power pro
Does Fluorocarbon give you an advantage? In most cases yes, but the lower Delaware river is so muddy it really doesn't matter. In the upper river it's a must.
20-30 lb leader 24-36 inches
Triple fish, Seagar, or Vanish