Ask anglers what type of bite offers the most fun and odds are, 90 percent will say topwater.
Nothing is more exciting than a freshwater or saltwater gamefish slamming a topwater lure, and that goes double for striped bass when fishing with light tackle. And that makes for plenty of action in the fall in several coastal North Carolina rivers, especially the Pamlico.
“Resident striped bass will be near bridges at Little Washington in September, hitting Zara Spooks and Chug Bugs on top and Z-Man paddletails on jigheads,” said Richard Andrews of Tar-Pam Guide Service in Bath, N.C.
“You can catch 10- to 32-inch rockfish in Pamlico River tributaries. The US 17 bridge (at Washington) and a bridge across Blounts Creek hold fish.”
Dozens of crumbling docks and pilings at either side of the river at Washington often hold stripers, he said.
“The topwater bite can be excellent as well,” said Andrews (252-945-9715), who said anglers often have 25- to 30-fish topwater days this month. “The top two lures for me have been Storm Chug Bugs and Zara Spooks.”
Spooks are walking lures that zig-zag across the surface like an injured baitfish when an angler twitches his rod tip down, reels up slack line, then wrist-snaps the tip down again. Rods usually are medium- to medium-strong action, 7- to 7½-foot models for making long casts. Main line usually is 15- to 20-pound monofilament with an 18- to 24-inch leader of 20-pound braid.
Chug Bugs are “spitter” type lures with concave mouths that create a splashy, water-spraying action when jerked rhythmically.
“Chug Bugs work better if there’s a little chop on the water,” Andrews said. “I don’t think the stripers can see the Spooks too well when there’s much wave action.”
Water level and wind direction are the main concerns.
“You want the water in the river to be at a reasonable level, medium to medium-high,” Andrews said. “You can catch stripers in as little as 1½ feet of water, but you want the river to be medium to high.”
The Pamlico at Washington isn’t influenced by lunar tides, but northwest winds will blow water toward the sound, lowering the river’s level.
“When the water’s up, the stripers go on the banks to feed, but when the wind tide blows it out, they go deeper and are harder to catch,” he noted.
The recreational creel limit is two striped bass of at least 18 inches per day, but none between 22 and 27 inches. Season dates are Oct. 1-April 30. Catch-and-release is legal the rest of the year.