We spent 15 minutes on the phone with Capt. Jason Dapra to discuss the best sand eel lures for Montauk striped bass. Here's what we learned...
Capt. Jason Dapra
Location: Inshore Montauk – Looking for blitzing fish along the beach, out to 30’ of water.
Tides: As long as the tide is moving, the fish will bite. Later in the season, the incoming tide tends to produce a better bite for fish feeding on sand eels.
Approach: This year, the sand eels have been very thick inshore. It seems the thick concentration of sand eels have kept the bay anchovies out, which has kept most of the albies away from Montauk.
This season, the fish have not been blitzing on sand eels, but you can mark tons of bait balls near the bottom. It’s common to see striper tails slapping the water surface as they are attacking the baits from above while stunning the sand eels and eating the wounded baits.
This requires paying very close attention to your fish finder while running in the “sweet spot,” which is from the beach out to 30-foot depths. If you do see fish busting on top, make sure you do not drive right up to the school; this will always put the fish down and shut off the bite.
Long drifts up to a mile can be used to work over an area where fish are showing on the fish finder. You’ll want to make sure your motor is quietly idling or off and you’re drifting quietly across the shallow areas.
Rigging Selection: 3/8-ounce, 6/0 Barbarian Jig Heads are ideal for casting and jigging in shallow water with the 7″ Sand Eel Series.
Bait Selection: The Hogy 7inch Sand Eel
Why This Bait? The Hogy 7-inch Sand Eel is a perfect imitator of the sand eels that school up around Montauk. The bass are selectively feeding on these baits and tend to ignore other offerings.
Colors: Dark or Light Sand Eel color.
Retrieve: I like to use two styles of retrieve while chasing these bass. I’ll have one guy on the bow casting the sand eels to fish boiling on the surface. As soon as the lure hits the water, close the bail and let the bait sink on a taunt line. You can give a couple light twitches on the drop, which imitates a wounded sand eel. These baits usually get picked up right away.
When fish are showing on the finder, but not boiling on top, it’s been very productive to almost drag the sand eel across the bottom. Keep the rod tip low and use very short hops to keep the bait dancing during the drift. The ratio of fish caught down deep compared to surface feeders has been about 6:1 this season, but the average size fish caught on the bottom has been running a little smaller.
Rod: 7’ 6” G-Loomis Pro Blue Medium Action
Reel: Van Staal 100
Line: 20-pound test Power Pro – Green
Leader: 48-inch, 20-pound test fluorocarbon leader connected to the running line with a uni-to-uni knot; loop knot connecting to bait.