Trophy Season - Stalking the Big Stripers

Trophy Season Tactics - Stalking the Big Stripers          
      by Tom Nowell

How to fish for Rockfish during Trophy Season

Trolling for big stripers during Trophy Season is unlike any other fishing. There seems to be a natural path that they follow along the channel edge of the Old Susquehanna River bed. I usually fish the western edge of this channel during the early part of Trophy Season. Most of the boats this time of year are trolling North & South. A few are trolling East & West. I have my best luck when I troll at a 45 degree angle to the edge. If the channel edge I am following is at the 55' depth (running North & South), I will troll at 225 degrees until I hit 50' of water. Then, I will turn to 135 degrees until I hit 60' of water. (315 and 45 degrees when trolling in the other direction.) When you make the turn, the lines on one side of the boat will drop down, while, the lines on the other side will rise and speed up. If I don't catch fish at this depth range, I will start trolling from 55' to 65' and continue with different water depths until I find fish.

I use the GPS and the paddle wheel speed indicator on my fish finder to set my trolling speed. I try to keep both between 1.8 and 2.8 MPH. By using both, you are making sure that you are always making headway over land and water.

I use 3/0 Penn trolling rods with Penn 309 reels with 200 yards of 45# Dacron line (I use wire line on 2 rods.). (I find the 4/0 rods too stiff to get good action for the size fish caught in the Chesapeake Bay.) I use the rods with a roller at the tip only on most of my lines, but, I use an all roller rod on my wire lines. The 309 reels are great for durability and the level wind helps if someone excited or inexperienced is bringing in the fish. By using Dacron line with it's low stretch, you can feel every move the fish makes.

I run 2 baits on every line. During the spring, in the diagram below, (a) is 15' of 80# mono leader attached at one end to my main line with a salt water swivel and attached at the other end to a 3-way swivel. (b) is 5' of 50# mono leader attached to the 3-way swivel at one end and attached to my heavier bait with a loop knot at the other end. (c) is 15' of 50# mono leader attached at one end and attached with a loop know to my lighter bait at the other end.

Diagram of how to fish with tandem lures

On my lightest line, I usually run a 24" black snake lure at the end of line (c) and a 2 oz. bucktail with a 9" shad at the end of line (b). About 2' ahead of the snake, I always put a good salt water swivel to avoid twist.

On the rest of my lines, I run a 2 oz. bucktail with a 9" shad on line (c) and a bucktail with a 9" shad of differing weights on line (b) to reach a variety of water depths.

My boat has an 11½' beam and I usually troll 7 rods during the spring. In the diagram below, lines B & C are on portable outriggers. (I usually only use outriggers in the spring. I get most of my hits away from the boat on either lines A, B, or C) Rods D & E are in "Reliable" rod holders which angle the rods out from the boat. Lines F & G are wire lines. The below chart shows the distance I let the lines out in the spring and the weight of bait (b) on each line. By using mostly bucktails and laying out the lines in the below manor, I can make approximately a 90 degree turn without tangling the lines.

Line Letter

Distance Out

Weight of bait (b)



2 oz.



4 oz.



6 oz.



10 oz.



12 oz.



16 oz.



21 oz.


Diagram of how to set your lines to keep them from tangling

I am sure, I must have forgotten to cover something important in this article. So, if you have any questions, I will be glad to try to answer them if you e-mail me at .

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