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There are many ways to fish for striper, or striped bass. They can be caught at any time of year (though the spring spawning season yields the most spectacular bites). You can target them in bays and estuaries, rivers and reservoirs; and for every situation, some lures will work better than others. The question of which is the best lure for striper is entirely subjective and depends heavily on local water conditions and feeding habits. Instead of trying to answer it, this article looks at expert picks across distinct lure categories. So read on and buy the lure that will help you reel in your best and biggest striper yet.
Our Top Picks
Best Topwater Lure: Heddon Zara Spook Lure
It’s difficult to imagine a more exciting way to fish for striper than with a topwater lure that encourages aggressive surface strikes. Especially popular with striper fishermen, the floating Heddon Zara Spook lure was first introduced in 1939, and since then has become a classic choice for targeting all species of bass. This lure invented the walk-the-dog presentation, achieved by casting out, then leaving a little slack in the line and jerking with your wrist while reeling back in so that the bait moves back and forth over the surface.
This unique action draws fish from up to 20 feet away and is often credited with generating more catches and attracting bigger fish. The lure is made of durable hard plastic, measures 4.5 inches and weighs 1/2 ounces. Colors range from bone and black shiner to realistic patterns that replicate natural striper prey, including baby bass, bullfrog and black shore minnow. Two sharp treble hooks complete the lure’s list of attributes.
Best for Saltwater: Daiwa Salt Pro Minnow
If you plan on fishing for striper in the coastal phase of their migration, the best lures are those expressly designed for use in saltwater. The Daiwa Salt Pro Minnow is an excellent choice, equipped with heavy-duty saltwater hooks that won’t rust or weaken even after repeated exposure to seawater. This is a six-inch, lightweight lure with a clever weight transfer system that allows for longer casts — enabling you to cast beyond the surf zone with ease. Use a fast, ripping retrieve to attract schooling striper with an erratic side-to-side action that mimics a wounded baitfish.
A shallow-diving lip allows it to be reeled just under the surface at depths of up to three feet. It weighs 1 1/9 ounces and boasts a realistic scale pattern complemented by 3D eyes. There are colors to suit all water conditions and feeding habits, from sober bone or yellow black to eye-catching chartreuse rainbow and translucent blue mack.
Best Popper: Cotton Cordell Pencil Popper Lure
The popular Cotton Cordell Pencil Popper Lure is ideal for targeting trophy stripers during springtime feeding frenzies. It features an erratic walk-the-dog action exaggerated by its weighted tail, which also helps you to cast longer and with better accuracy. Its concave mouth catches and throws plenty of water, creating as much surface disturbance as possible to act as a siren call to hungry stripers. This attention-grabbing lure also works well for coaxing strikes from pressured bass. Two deadly treble hooks help to translate strikes into confirmed catches.
It is available in six or seven-inch lengths, weighing in at one or two ounces respectively. Both models are ideally sized for big game fish, from record stripers to speckled trout and muskies. A textured body reflects the light and mimics baitfish scales, while color options include pearl/red head, chrome blue/black and chrome black/black. High-vis and ultra-realistic patterns are also sold elsewhere on Amazon.
Best Soft Plastic Lure: Lunker City Slug-Go Lure
Slow-moving soft plastic baits are ideal for when stripers are in shallow, clear water and are likely to be choosy about which lures they’ll take. Lauded as the original soft plastic stickbait, the Lunker City Slug-Go Lure offers a slender, precision-balanced profile and often works when no other lures will. The secret to its success is its erratic darting action, which accurately imitates the invertebrates that stripers like to feed on. Rig it in any number of different ways to suit the fishing conditions on the day. Options include a vertical drop shot rig or a weighted jig head. Either way, the lure can be used for fresh or saltwater game fish.
It comes in seven sizes, each one tailored to different species. Choose from a rainbow of colors, ranging from neutral shades that closely echo baitfish patterns (like albino shad and smelt); to super-bright options such as methiolate or bubblegum. Some colors are impregnated with flecks of glitter that give off additional shine.
Best Swimbait: Sebile Magic Swimmer
The Sebile Magic Swimmer swimbait is a versatile lure that can be cast or trolled and is suitable for use in both fresh and saltwater. It features a tapered nose and humpbacked head which provide maximum forward buoyancy and work in conjunction with the triple-jointed body to give an irresistibly life-like swimming action. The lure’s undulating movement also helps to create turbulence, which is picked up by the stripers’ lateral line, alerting them to its presence and inviting them to strike.
A reinforced body and premium hooks and hardware give the swimbait a high pull strength and enable it to withstand even the most aggressive bites. There are several sizes available, and you can choose from floating, fast-sinking or slow-sinking models. The one linked here is a slow-sinking model perfect for suspended stripers, measuring 6.5 inches and weighing 1 1/2 ounces. A range of metallic and/or iridescent color patterns (including bunker, holo greenie and ghostescent) catch the light and add to the bait’s allure. Ghostescent is particularly popular with striper fishermen.
Best Bucktail Jig: SPRO Fishing Bucktail Jig
Bucktail jigs use a deer-hair streamer that undulates temptingly in the water, creating movement and vibrations that can be picked up both visually and via the fish’s lateral line. The unique head shape and eyelet placement of the SPRO Fishing Bucktail Jig give it a natural gliding action that sets it apart from other bucktail jigs. When jigged, the body stays parallel instead of hanging vertically, allowing for an incredibly realistic presentation. This versatile lure can also be used for cast and retrieve fishing, or when trolling for reservoir stripers.
Bulging eyes, a holographic finish and rich colors ranging from sand eel green to crazy chartreuse or blue shad add to the lure’s life-like appearance. For the best results, choose the color that most closely replicates the primary striper prey in your area. SPRO bucktail jigs come in several sizes, all with super sharp Gamakatsu hooks. Experts recommend 1/2-ounce jigs or larger for targeting stripers.
Best Spoon: Acme Kastmaster Lure
The Acme Kastmaster Lure’s aerodynamic shape makes it the ideal spoon for long-distance casting. Let it sink then reel in slowly, stopping to pause every few seconds for a vulnerable presentation that striper find impossible to ignore. The spoon is perfectly balanced to provide big action without twisting your line, while its precision-machined solid brass construction means that it won’t break or bend, no matter how many big bites you get. It’s also immune to saltwater corrosion, making it a handy option for estuary and bay fishing as well as freshwater lakes and rivers.
The Kastmaster comes in many different sizes, with the larger 1/2-ounce and one-ounce weights being the best choices for striper fishing. Choose metal-plated versions like chrome or gold for a long-lasting luster that catches the light and doesn’t fade over time; or painted shades like brown trout and fire tiger that replicate baitfish patterns.
Best Crankbait: Bomber Saltwater Grade Magnum Long A
Those that are used to fishing for freshwater stripers will be surprised by the large size of the Bomber Saltwater Grade Magnum Long A crankbait. At seven inches in length and 1 1/2 ounces, it’s purpose-built for targeting trophy stripers in saltwater but features the same true-running death wiggle of smaller Bomber crankbaits. Its super high tensile strength polycarbonate body is built to withstand repeated attacks from toothy saltwater predators and is strong enough to lift your catch from the water onto the shore or into the boat.
The hooks and hardware are all saltwater grade, so you don’t have to worry about corrosion or weakness. The lure has a shallow cranking depth of two to three feet and pairs its realistic minnow profile with a range of proven fish-catching color patterns, including mother of pearl, baby striper and bonita. The patterns that are intended to replicate baitfish come complete with flawlessly painted scales, pectoral fins and gill plates, while all colors boast a high-contrast eye.