Among the millions of saltwater fishing lures are a few designs which are considered to be essential for catching striped bass and bluefish along the Atlantic Coast of the USA. These include umbrella rigs, tandem rigs, parachute jigs, bucktail jigs, spoons, and plugs.
This family of lures have a wide variety of applications in saltwater fishing. Jigs are available in sizes for any fishing situation, with the most popular lure weights ranging from 3/8 oz. to monster jigs of 16 oz. or more. Lead head jigs are divided into 2 basic categories; bare hooks and skirted lures. Both types of jigs are standard equipment for catching striped bass and bluefish.
Skirted jigs usually have a painted head and are dressed with a body made of deer hair (called bucktail), feathers or synthetic materials. These jigs can be fished alone or combined with soft plastics or natural strip baits such as pork rinds, squid, bloodworms, fish belly, eel skins, cut crab or other local options.
Bare jigs are meant to accommodate soft plastic bodies or in some cases natural baits. A myriad of soft plastic bodies are available, including designs that mimic shad, herring, bunker, silversides, eels, ballyhoo and other species of baitfish.
Parachute jigs are popular for catching striped bass and bluefish. These special jigs are characterized by their large sizes and unique skirts. The jigs have synthetic hair, tied in reverse so as to create a “parachute” shape when trolled or jigged. Parachute jigs are usually dressed with large plastic shad bodies.
Tandem rigs come in several forms. The basic tandem rig for striped bass or bluefish consists of 2 jigs attached to a 3 way swivel. The rig can utilize matched jigs, or pair a large jig with a smaller but similar lure. The leader lengths are always staggered, which lessens tangles. Other tandem rigs can include combinations of jigs with spoons, plugs, soft plastics or other lures.
Umbrella rigs have been around for decades, but had a surge of sales when striped bass rebounded along the Atlantic coast in the 90’s. These odd looking rigs have 3-6 arms which spread out from a center weight. A snap on the weight allows a connection for the main lure which trails some distance behind the arms.
Teasers can be attached to the arms via rings that are located midway and on the ends. A less complicated variation is a lightweight “mini” 4 arm umbrella which is rigged with a single teaser per arm.
Umbrellas are rigged using a variety of components including shad bodies, plastic grubs, surgical hose, bucktail jigs, parachute jigs, swimming plugs and others. In some cases the teasers have hooks, while other setups have a single hook which is the trailing lure.
Spoons are essential lures for striped bass and bluefish. Used for trolling, spoons come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors. Trolling with spoons is a time honored technique that requires a certain amount of experience. Rigging spoons is critical, with leader length, the use of drails (weights) and proper choice of swivels being important factors.
Speed is a very important variable when fishing spoons. For peak performance, lure speed must be adjusted by watching the rod tip for a tell-tale “thump-thump-pause” action. This pattern occurs at different speeds, depending on lure model, size and other factors. The series of thumps and pauses is created as the spoon wobbles several times and finally makes a complete rotation.
A correctly rigged large spoon will wobble 2-4 times before rotating, repeating this action continually. Depending on the size of fish targeted and prevailing sizes of local baitfish, spoons may be chosen from 2-3 inches to enormous models of 12 inches or more.
The depth of spoons are controlled by speed, line type and trolling weights (drails) which are attached in front of the spoon. A 20-30 foot leader connects the spoon to the drail. Some anglers replace inline drails with large jigs which are connected via a 3 way swivel. The jig provides the necessary weight, while acting as an additional lure. These tandem jig-spoon combos can be deadly in some environments.
Plugs are another option for striped bass and bluefish. Plugs vary greatly in size, shape and action but all share a few common aspects that contribute to their effectiveness. Plugs have a hard body, either one piece or jointed. Most plugs today are produced with plastics which are formed in a mold. This process allows lure makers to insert a segment of wire which includes the front eye as well as connection points for one or more hooks.
A few plugs are rigged with a single hook although most are armed with 2 or 3 sets of treble hooks. The depth and action of the plug is determined by its size, shape, weight and other factors. Some plugs have a lip or cupped protrusion on the front which acts as a steering device. Plugs with large, angled lips tend to run at greater depths while other variations have a small, less angled lip which serves makes the lure sway back and forth rather than track downward.
Anglers that troll for striped bass and bluefish often include a deep diving plug in the spread of lures. Lure selection is limited to high quality, sturdy built versions as either species will destroy cheaply designed plugs. Favorite colors for swimming plugs include red and white, silver, chartreuse or blue.