2017-06-01 / Nature

Finding Right Bait for Catching Bass

By James Merolla


Run the point of the hook through the back of the baitfish at an angle between the dorsal fin and the head, back to front, so that the business end of the hook is facing the head of the pogy. This way when the bass swallows the pogy headfirst, the point rides up and seldom buries in the body of the bait. Run the point of the hook through the back of the baitfish at an angle between the dorsal fin and the head, back to front, so that the business end of the hook is facing the head of the pogy. This way when the bass swallows the pogy headfirst, the point rides up and seldom buries in the body of the bait. It’s a test for shore anglers these days, and I’m not speaking about the tensile strength of mono-filament line. Three weeks ago, schools of striped bass roared through Narragansett Bay. I caught more than 25 that varied from 12 to 17 inches in length. But no keepers. There were various reports of schools in the bay, and now in rivers, especially in Tiverton, Bristol and all the way up to Barrington and Warren.

But something else is also filling the rivers: clumps and clumps of seaweed, which is choking lines, lures and bait with every cast from shore. Sure, there have been reports of a keeper here or there, but finding bass from shore is an ongoing challenge. You really need a fish-finding machine from your living room to have any luck at all. My last three times out, in seven different spots from the Tiverton/Fall River line to Portsmouth and up to Barrington, including Swansea and Somerset, I had no bites.

The great game is discovering where the bait fish are, even from boats.

At each familiar spot, including the Taunton, Lee and Coles rivers, the bay under the Mt. Hope Bridge and into Newport County, I asked anglers from shore about the bite. Each time, I received a baleful shrug of the shoulders. Every lure in our arsenal was thrown out: swimming shads, Zoom flukes, poppers, bucktail jigs, other albino soft lures on jigheads, you name it. All came back empty. Squid, mackerel, clam bellies and tongues were also useless, except for catching the occasional eel on the bottom.

The only thing getting any bass action was live pogies (chunk frozen pogies got less response), because schools of pogies (menhaden) are filling the bay. They are also attracting bluefish, which have just arrived. A Portsmouth man caught a 19-pound bluefish, challenging a state record on a livelined pogie.

While writing a story for Newport This Week, I spied a huge school of them, their tiny dorsal fins giving the slow-moving baitfish away, moving ever so gingerly for an hour in the same spot. In other words, no bass or blues were chasing them.

Your best bet for catching blues or bass from shore over the next couple of weeks is to snag live pogies or buy those precious few that remain in area tackle shops, and then live-line them. The fish, by all accounts, are simply not biting anything else.

But, like this merciless May weather, it will change in a week. By mid-June, the blues will fill the canal, the scup will return and we will be ever closer to black sea bass and fluke recreational legal season.

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