Every Chesapeake Bay fishing fan and coastal angling aficionado has his or her favorite lures, and that’s one of the best things about fishing — no one’s choices are right or wrong, they’re simply what someone prefers. But there’s no denying that at different times and in different places, different lures are more or less effective. And time has proven that these 10 top picks for trophy rock are winners up and down the Chesapeake Bay and out in the open Atlantic. If your favorite doesn’t appear on this list that’s okay, but the next time Old Faithful isn’t doing the trick, consider trying one of these.
Heavy Tackle Striper Lures
1. Umbrella Rigs – Four arm/eight teaser single-hook-bait umbrellas in white and chartreuse with nine-inch shad have probably accounted for more trophy-sized striped bass hitting the deck than any other single lure. These are workhorses of the trolling fleets, and although they do create a wearying amount of drag while being pulled through the water, countless anglers tow them religiously.
2. Parachute and Mojo Tandem Rigs – A pair of parachutes like Bloody Point Baits and/or Mojos dressed with nine-inch plastic shad, most often in white or chartreuse or a combination of the two, is another staple that few trollers go without. Placed behind planer boards these are deadly, and the ability to mix and match different sizes allows anglers to saturate the water column from top to bottom.
3. The Stretch 25+ – If it weren’t for the tendency of this eight-inch deep-diving plug to snag nearby lines in a crowded spread and thus create epic tangles, it would undoubtedly be used in a wider range of applications. However, for a boat trolling a mere six or eight lines this one’s a winner, with a predictable diving depth, solid hook-sets on the strike, and a variety of color patterns available to match different water and lighting conditions.
4. The #21 Tony Acetta Pet Spoon – Old timers don’t leave the dock without this one in the mix, and even though it’s fallen out of favor in the modern age (probably for the same factor holding the Stretch 25 back — a tendency to create mind-numbing tangles when pulled in one of today’s loaded spreads), the Tony still produces. Oceanic trollers tend to still favor this lure, for its ability to survive vicious bluefish attacks that would demolish other lures in seconds.
5. Tsunami Soft Bait Swim Shad – Though this lure is a relative newcomer, it’s been catching on fast. Often tied into tandem rigs and praised for eliminating the need to constantly clean and comb the skirt filaments found on many other lures, these nine-inch, six-ounce, twin-hook soft plastics have been proven effective. Although their use can get expensive when toothy fish are around, in the early season on the Chesapeake these could make your trolling life easier without reducing the catch.
Light Tackle Striper Lures
1. Nine- and 10-inch Soft Plastics – We hesitate to name brands in this case because there are so many good ones with dedicated followings, but whichever your personal favorite may be, a soft plastic this size rigged on a half-ounce to a 1.5-ounce leadhead gets crushed when pulled past a hungry striped bass. Although it’s much harder to target migratory fish casting these than it is to troll open waters, when you can ID the right spot, choosing a white, chartreuse, or dark purple (in low light) soft plastic is a solid bet.
2. The Neal Cohen (and Topwater in General) – Hand-made by a Maryland angler named (surprise!) Neal Cohen, we chose this topwater as the one among many very good plugs that could be highlighted because its white cedar construction offers a different — some would say better — action than plastic lures. Yes, they’re pricy in comparison to the mass-produced alternatives, but these things draw strikes, period. And in the grander scheme of things, topwater lures in general certainly represent a top pick for countless anglers up and down the Bay.
3. Lefty’s Deceiver – Catching a trophy fish on the fly is no small task, but armed with a nine- to 12-inch Lefty’s Deceiver, you can make it happen. Though your opportunities will be quite limited depending on weather and location, if you’re willing to travel to one of the areas where big fish can be found shallow and put in your time casting (and casting… and casting… and casting), this is an offering you’ll surely want in the box.
4. Rapala X-Rap – This suspending stickbait has a great action, runs shallow (around four feet), and trolls well at slow speeds, which makes it a favorite for kayak anglers on the hunt for big fish. Despite its relatively small 4.75-inches length it’s a proven winner, though we note that in catch-and-release fisheries, you’ll want to either swap the treble hooks for singles, clip off a tine on each hook, or at least crimp down the barbs.
5. Storm WildEye Swim Shad – The Storm WildEye Swim Shad has an advantage over many similar baits in that the six-inch version weighs less than an ounce. That makes it possible to troll them slowly in relatively shallow water or cast and retrieve at a reasonable pace without dredging bottom.
Did you spot one or two or more of your own favorite lures in this mix? We’d be surprised if you didn’t, but either way, one thing is for sure: all of these lures are responsible for fooling countless trophy stripers. And if you want to make sure there’s a 40-plus-incher in your future, you’ll have one of them — or all of them — in your tackle box the next time you go fishing.