he topwater bite
for bass is always
a blast. Whether it is summer or fall, the bite
is fun until it ends when the
water gets too cold; but those
explosions can be extended
much longer if your fishery has
striped bass. In water like the
California Delta, stripers won’t
hesitate to eat a topwater bait
anytime they are present.
So as the cold weather
approaches, don’t put your
topwater baits away just yet;
long-time Delta guide Randy
Pringle loves the fall and
winter topwater striper bite.
Pringle will guide clients on his
home waters, the California
Delta, even after New Year’s.
“You can still catch
topwater stripers well into
January, really as long as the
fish are in there,” he said. “They
are coming from an ocean
with cold water and are still
very active even if the water
temperatures in the Delta are
SHALLOW WATER STRIPERS
Part of the reason that Pringle can fish topwater lures is due to the way the fish position themselves when entering the tidal fishery.
“Most of the stripers will be in less than eight-feet of water, where the food is, the whole time they are in the Delta,” he said. “They can’t survive on little tiny shad out deeper and are up shallow eating bass, bluegill, and catfish. Most of my topwater stripers are in three to five-feet of water, and it’s so much fun watching them wake after a bait before they eat it.”
To locate stripers, he’s looking for keys to the striped bass puzzle.
“A striper needs two things; current and forage,” he said. “They will either be near current, either an incoming or outgoing tide, so that they can find food as it flows to them. They’ll also roam side to side on flats looking for forage, but there has to be some deep water access close by.”
TOPWATER BAIT AND GEAR SELECTION
For late-season stripers, Pringle relies on a trio of topwater baits, the ima Big Stik and smaller Little Stik, as well as the Skimmer Grande. They all have a place in his
arsenal and he selects one over the other based on the conditions and fish size. The Little and Big Stik are pencil popper style baits and Pringle himself designed them. They are popular topwater lures for bass and striper anglers alike.
“I go with the Big Stik when around fish over 10-pounds because it is beefed up and can handle them better,” he said. “For smaller fish in the three to nine-pound range, I go with the Little Stik. It will still catch bigger ones, but you will bend out a lot of hooks because the big stripers are so powerful.”
The Skimmer Grande is a final option for winter stripers on top, a subtle bait that Pringle will pull out when the time is right.
“It’s something that will work on very calm days when there is barely a ripple on the water,” he said. “Stripers generally love an aggressive action, but if it is calm and nothing is moving in the water, the Skimmer Grande will catch fish when it is hard to get a fish to commit to a topwater bait.”
Pringle will also always have a swimbait tied on and ready for any missed fish.
“I keep a four-inch white and chartreuse AAs Bad Bubba Shad on a 1/2-ounce head tied up and sitting right next to