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Sardines Jump to the top of this page

Sardines are one of the top baits for striped bass.  In the lower part of the delta below Walnut Grove, the best time of year to use sardines is during the spring spawning run.  Above Walnut Grove sardines work great year round.  Sardines definitely put out more scent than any other bait.  The smell of sardines can stay on your hands for several days, so if you have a significant other I would suggest using gloves unless you want to spend the night on the couch.
There are many different ways to use sardines.   Sardine
The most common method is to fillet the sardine.  I like to use a 4" section of sardine fillet.  The sardines that you can buy at the Asian markets tend to be smaller than the ones available at bait stores.  Both work, but the bait store sardines tend to be fresher because they are flash frozen when harvested.  When buying sardines at bait shops, look for blood in the eyes.  These are fresh sardines that you want to use for bait.

When the small fish are biting, it can be tough to fish with sardine fillets.  The small fish will pick it off the hook in no time flat.  When this happens, try cutting the sardine into chunks.  Another method is to use the head, skeleton and tail of a sardine that you already filleted.  You can also use just the head or the entire sardine.

There are lots of different ways to up the sardine onto your hook.  Some people just weave the hook through sardine.  I like to make sure the hook point is nice and exposed before casting out.  Stripers are not hook shy!  Try different folding methods to see which one is catching fish.

Sardines are very soft and can fall off of the hook easily. When small fish are biting, some people use wrap thread around their sardine fillet to keep it from falling apart.  I like to use Miracle Thread, which is an elastic thread that can be purchased at most tackle shops.  You can also cure your sardines before fishing.

Miracle Thread

Pro-Cure Brine-and-Bite will toughen up your sardines.  Mix it up and add the whole frozen sardine the night before you fish.  You can also make your own home made brine.  Click here for the recipe.  You will want to buy about 4 pounds of sardines per angler for each fishing trip.

Shad Jump to the top of this page

Threadfin shad are the most popular bait in the delta below Walnut Grove.  Try to buy fresh shad whenever possible.  Avoid shad that are bloody.  When the stomachs are ripped up on fresh shad it means that they have been handled roughly.
Most people butterfly the shad to disperse scent into the water.  

Threadfin Shad on a 9/O Hook

This is done by partially filleting one side of the shad.  You leave the fillet attached with enough skin to keep it from separating.  Clean your knife each time you cut shad to remove scales that will tear up your next piece of bait.  The current will cause a butterflied shad to spin in the water, which will attract striped bass.   Check to see if it is spinning correctly before casting out.  Adding two shad will cause a slower spin.  When small fish bite go to a slower spin.

The best size shad for striped bass fishing is about 3" to 4" in length.  Giant shad arenít as good because they spin too fast in heavy currents.  Big shad are okay in slow moving water.  You will want to use about a 8/O to 10/O octopus style Gammakatsu or Owner hook with shad.  You want the shad to spoon the shank of the hook, so don't be afraid to use large hooks.  With really big shad, you can plug cut the bait by cutting off the head in a diagonal fashion.  You can also leave the head on and use a double hook similar to a bullhead setup.

Cooler Full of Shad
Cooler Full of Shad

After you buy shad, throw them in a small ice chest full of icy water.  Now throw about 1/4 cup of rock salt into the mix.  Click here for a more detailed recipe.  This will help to toughen up the shad, and will preserve them if you end up freezing them.

Try spraying your shad with some Bang Shad scented spray before casting out.  You will want

to buy about 1.5 pounds of shad per angler for each fishing trip.

Pile Worms Jump to the top of this page

Pile Worm Pile worms work well for both striped bass and sturgeon.  If you fish the lower delta a deadly combination is shad and pile worms on the same hook.  Use a 4/O to 5/O bass worm hook if you are using pile worms.  You can use a threader to thread the worm onto the hook.  Pile worms work best upstream from Isleton.  Be careful - these things can bite!

Mackerel Jump to the top of this page

Mackerel are similar to sardines but are tougher.  They will stay on the hook longer but are more expensive than sardines. Mackerel

Anchovies Jump to the top of this page

Anchovies are similar to sardines but are much smaller.  You can butterfly fillet anchovies similar to shad. Anchovy

Lamprey (Eel) Jump to the top of this page

Lamprey is very tough and will stay on the hook when small fish or crabs are biting.  Cut into 4" to 6" strips with scissors, and then cut grooves into the tail end of the strip so it flaps like a pork rind.
You can re-use and freeze lamprey many times.  In fact, you can catch multiple fish on the same piece of lamprey because of its long lasting scent. Lamprey (Eel)

Chapter 10 >