I've had a handful of really incredible trips this year fishing for striped bass, but yesterday, I think, was that one trip that was completely indescribable. I got a couple really great nights during the herring run, and one that was really spectacular. The first trip with Mike Roy in late summer was incredible too. But this one. My God, this one was unreal. I think Alec and I both expected some fireworks, but we actually got something better. That rarely happens.
We started out at a spot where there was clearly some action earlier in the tide; birds and blues were working a long way from shore when we got there, some hickories were working through schools of bait, short stretches of shore were littered with bait, and there were some schoolies around. But we were looking for something more than signs of what had happened earlier. We went to take a look at a spot that I knew had a tendency to fish well during the fall but had never put much time into. As we were gearing up I looked east and spotted a tight grouping of 20-30 gulls a fair distance away. I couldn't see exactly what was under them but I knew they had to be on a blitz. I grabbed the rod, strapped on my stripping basket, and ran. I got to a small point near which the birds had been, battled my way out to a rock in the moderate surf, and began working the wash. Alec got his waders on and began working his way down the rough shoreline. After a little while I had noticed that, although there was a lot of rain bait in the water there didn't seem to be any bass, not right where I was. I looked back towards Alec to see where he was, just as I got off my rock, then I looked back east, and saw that chaos had ensued 100 yards away behind a small jetty. peanuts were spraying and bass were slashing through the surf. I ran, not realizing that this blitz was an unusual one. It wouldn't last just a few minutes, like most blitzes. This one lasted four hours. I got into the melee and caught three bass, not big ones but much better than most I've caught this fall, before Alec even got to where I was. In the wind and with the steep course rubble beech behind me, I could only fish the first trough. But Alec was fishing a heavy surf rod and a big wooden topwater plug, and with that he was able to reach the second trough. That was where most of the big ones were hiding. There were whales in the first trough too, and I had a number of the real cows follow the beast fly and slash at it, but where I had an incredible numbers day Alec got the bigger fish. To be exact, 4 over 40 inches, the biggest being about 35 pounds.
When I saw the blitz lasted 4 hours, I'm not exaggerating. Bass were blitzing on peanuts and rain bait in the little cove we were fishing constantly for the vast majority of the time we were there. Peanuts were literally beaching themselves. I even had two in my stripping basket after a wave washed over it. I could see bass right in the curl of the waves. They were not all small, and there is nothing like watching a 40 inch bass cruise in and t-bone the schoolie you have hooked.
I've fished for striped bass regularly the last two falls, and I've caught them in a lot of settings, but there was always something that appealed to me about rocky beaches and heavy surf, and although I had fished these areas a lot this is the first time I have experienced this. There is something special about it, because you know that these fish are not going to be there forever. In a river, or tidal creek, or on the flat, it doesn't feel like the surf. You don't get to see what Alec and I saw today, hundreds of thousands of stripers from 16-50 inches coming in to feed on schools of bunker that must have covered 200 square feet, possibly more. Seeing schoolie bass coming to the inside of the breakers, damn near washing up on shore, and huge fish gulping down bait by the mouthful just 30 feet out... it was incredible.
This was the kind of day I dream about. The wind, the tide, and the air pressure were right, and the cove exploded with life. If you haven't seen it, you don't fully understand. Most people only ever see a striper as a filet on a dinner plate. They don't get it. They don't understand how it feels to watch these fish do what they are meant to do, or how it feels watch a big one swim off after a hard battle. These fish are special.