Scott Wood can’t believe anglers ignore the striper fishing in the Neuse River near and a few miles upstream from New Bern, N.C., in early summer — because it’s so good.
“The only people who fish for stripers use cut bait,” said Wood, who operates Driftwood Charters out of Cove City. “They anchor and soak baits on the bottom.”
However, stripers — or “rock” as the locals call them — school in the river from March through June as they head upstream to spawn, then filter back downstream toward New Bern.
“I’ve caught stripers from November to June in the river,” said Wood (252-671-7836.
Anglers only need a sturdy boat, outboard engine, a reliable trolling motor, rods, reels, some 15-pound line, a bell anchor and a collection of topwater and soft-plastic lures.
“The topwater striper bite can be special,” Wood said. “It usually happens the first few hours after daylight and the last couple of hours before dark. Stripers get around the (US 17/US70/NC 55) bridge supports in New Bern in summer. Most people use cut bait or jig around the bridge pilings. But I’m always looking for a close-by topwater bite.”
Although many fishermen think there’s nothing like a Heddon Zara Spook or Spook Jr. bait to walk-the-dog across the surface for stripers, Wood said Neuse River fish will hit Rapala Skitterwalks more consistently.
“My top colors are chartreuse, white or orange,” he said. “At times, I’ll try a MirrOlure or Top Pup, but I have more bites on Skitterwalks.”
Wood fishes with a 7-foot-2 TFO medium-light rods, Quantum Smoke reels, FINS 20-pound braid and 18 to 24 inches of fluorocarbon leader.
Skitterwalks come equipped with BBs inside them that rattle,and the braid allows him to throw the Skitterwalks a country mile.
“It’s an advantage when you see a school busting baitfish on top,” he said. “You want to get a bait to them as soon as possible, but you don’t want to run your boat right into a surface-feeding school. When they go down, I like Z-Man StreakZs on 3/8-ounce jigheads to bump off the bottom or a LIVETARGET Buzz Shad swimbait.
“But the main thing you need is current to trigger bites. We get more current when it’s been raining a lot or big storms have happened upstream, even near Raleigh. The only tides we get are wind tides.”