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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
| 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
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
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.
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.
| 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
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 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 are similar to sardines but are tougher. They
will stay on the hook longer but are more expensive than sardines.
Anchovies are similar to sardines but are much smaller. You can butterfly fillet anchovies similar to
|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
|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.