By Cal Kellogg
Striped bass have started pushing back up the system from San Francisco Bay. Right now, pods of stripers are trickling into the West Delta and are providing good action. In the coming weeks that trickle should turn into a flood as the fall run gets going in earnest.
This being the case I figure this is a perfect time to go over the basics of Delta striper trolling. I know there are a lot of aspiring trollers out there in Fish Sniffer Country and I want them to get started on the right foot!
Speed and depth are the two key concerns when it comes to trolling for delta stripers and everything else you do stems from these two conditions. Speed and depth…remember that.
Before we really examine the significance of speed and depth, let’s take a look at the tackle required for trolling. For starters, you’ll need a modern lightweight rod that combines a sensitive tip with plenty of backbone.
Since your rod will be in a holder while trolling, you might be wondering why it needs a sensitive tip. The sensitive tip, displays the action of the plug. If your plug picks up a weed or a piece of grass, it kills the action and you won’t get any strikes. A sensitive tip allows you to constantly monitor your plug’s action insuring that you have an effective lure in the water at all times.
The rod should be matched with a high capacity level wind line counter reel loaded with 30-pound test braided line.
After threading the braid through the eyes of your rod, put a large bead on the line and then tie on a swivel using a Palomar knot. To the swivel attach a 4 to 6-foot leader of abrasion resistant 30-pound monofilament and tip the leader with a medium size lock snap.
Once you’ve set up a pair of rod and reel combinations, it’s time to start thinking about lures. Minnow plugs, jigs and vibrating crankbaits are the basic offerings employed by successful Delta trollers.
Yo-Zuri, Bomber and P-Line minnow plugs are all proven striper producers. Yo-Zuri Crystal Minnows are the current favorite among Delta trollers. You’ll want a small assortment of shallow and deep running Crystal Minnows. Toss in a couple deep running P-Line Predators and a couple shallow running Bomber Long A’s and P-Line Angry Eyes and you’ll be well heeled in the minnow plug department.
In terms of colors and finishes, minnow plugs in rainbow trout, chrome/blue, chrome/black, chrome/chartreuse, metallic gold and red head/white body will all put fish in the boat.
With an assortment of plugs in hand, you’ll need to pick up a package of white 6 to 8-inch straight tail plastic worms. You’ll use these for tipping the rear hook of your minnow plugs.
There is wide range of jigs that will take Delta stripers, but the best of the bunch is a 4-inch pearl Fish Trap teamed with a lead head. For trolling you’ll want to rig your Fish Traps on 1-ounce heads.
Vibrating crankbaits, represent the final piece of the troller’s lure assortment. Rat-L-Traps are the tried and true crankbait of delta trollers, but offerings from Strike King, Cotton Cordell and Berkley work just as well. If you have a couple crankbaits in chrome and couple in white you’ll have your bases covered.
In terms of tackle, once you hunt down the stuff we just discussed you’ll be ready to hit the water in search of stripers and that’s where the concepts of speed and depth come into play. In the eyes of delta trollers there are three kinds of stripers. There are shallow fish, deep fish and fish that are too deep to target.
Shallow fish hold from right next to the bank to about 10 feet deep. Deep fish are found in water that is about 11 to 16 feet deep. Fish holding much more than 18 feet deep become difficult to target and generally the bass that are holding beyond the 20-foot mark aren’t as active as the shallower fish.
Your vibrating crankbaits are perfect for targeting fish in 4 to 6 feet of water, while shallow running minnow plugs are the bait of choice for fish in 6 to 10 feet of water. To attain the correct depth with these lures you’ll want to troll them a specific distance behind the boat in a specific speed range. With vibrating crankbaits, you’ll want to run them 100 to 125 feet behind the boat at 3 to 5 miles per hour.
You can run your shallow running minnows at the same speeds, but you’ll want them 140 feet back. Your 1-ounce Fish Traps will catch fish at these depths too, but I had you pick them up for another application we’ll discuss a little later.