I’ve talked about flys for striped bass before. As an avid fly fisherman, I love to catch them on the fly when possible, but it’s also lots of fun catching bass on lures. Actually given their fondness for deep water and strong currents, it’s sometimes the only way to get to them.
Striped bass prey on pretty much anything they come across that will fit in their mouth, although they do seem to especially enjoy preying on eels. Adult american eels are slow and relatively unobservant of their surroundings when compared to many other prey species, making them easy targets for striped bass. Sand eels and young american elvers are so common that any larger predatory fish is bound to have them on their dinner menu.
The following is a list with some of the best striped bass lures to use when trying to imitate an eel.
Savage Gear Sandeel Darter
The package for these comes with a very rugged jighead (which I love) and two soft plastic bodies. If the bodies get chewed up you can use other soft plastics with the jighead if you like (we don’t have bluefish up here but I know they pose a bit of an issue with soft plastics for my fellow anglers down south). The tiny tail paddle on the soft plastic means that the lure will not have much action on it’s own with a steady retrieve. Instead it is up to the angler to impart action on the lure through jigging, twitching, bouncing, and other methods used on the retrieve.
It’s great for situations where finesse fishing is required, but you still want to have some weight to the lure to help it get down in strong current. I like to use them in tidal estuaries or river mouths when the current is ripping (Everyone knows striped bass love to hold in strong current). At 8″ long, it perfectly imitations a young american elver, and you can fish it with quick jerks and drops to mimic a juvenile eels often erratic swimming behaviour. An unexpected bonus is that the size and colour (black and silver) perfectly imitates smelt as well. When retrieved slowly with random twitches and jerks it does a good job of imitating a dying smelt.
There is also a paddle tail version which is available in a few different sizes. It works well enough, but if your looking for an eel lure with a paddle tail the next lure on the list is probably a better choice.
Tsunami Holographic Sand Eels
When I’m surf casting, aside from a white bucktail jig this is my go-to lure. The soft plastic body is moulded around the hook and weight, and is quite rugged for a soft plastic lure. It casts surprisingly far for a soft plastic and the upturned hook ensures it won’t get snagged on the bottom. The proportions and paddle tail give it the best action on a straight retrieve I’ve seen of any other eel lure. That being said it’s no good if you want to impart your own action onto the lure, it’s pretty much swim straight and that’s it. Vary the retrieve speed, but I find a steady retrieve at a fairly fast pace to be the most productive method of fishing these lures. I’m talking about the eel in the picture above, Tsunami makes another eel imitation, but it’s no where near as good as this one.
Berkley Powerbait Eel
I actually caught my personal best striped bass on this lure, so it has a special place in my tackle box. It’s another lure that does a good job of imitating elvers, but it differs from the other lures on this list in a few ways. I’d also like clarify that I’m talking about Berkley’s Powerbait eel, not the Berkley Gulp eel.
The plastic is not as stiff as the plastic of the other lures on this list, and the lure will “S” and bend when you twitch it on the retrieve, mimicking a wriggling elver.
The lure is quite a bit lighter than the others on this list though, so don’t expect this lure to be getting deep, especially if there is any sort of current. The lack of weight allows for a slower retrieve though, and this plastic eel can be fished just under the surface, it’s a good alternative to striped bass top water lures if the bass are feeding near the surface. I like to use it at night, or on an over cast day. I swim it along banks or by structure such as bridge supports or docks, where bait can get pushed up to the surface by either the current or feeding bass below.
The lure can also be fished in a method similar to a carolina rig if you would like to fish it deeper. You could also just put a bullet weight ahead of the lure as well.
Savage Gear Real-Eel
I’m referring to the “Real-eel” with the curly tail grub style tail, not the “Real-eel Slug”. This is a really thick and bulky eel lure that does a really good job of imitating the a real eel. I like this style in their largest version which is a 16″ monster of a lure, some of other lures mentioned on this list are better suited to smaller sizes. I like to use a pretty slow steady retrieve close to the bottom to mimic an adult eel slowly prodding along the bottom looking for a meal. I tend to remove the treble hook as that’s just asking to get hung up on a rock or log. Since this is the most expensive lure on the list, you don’t want to be loosing it to a snag. Also consider using extra heavy test line with this one!
This lure unfortunately It’s to large and bulky to be of much use surf casting, and you won’t get much distance on the cast either. It’s better suited for deep water applications, such as off a boat or from shore where the riverbed/ sea floor drops off quickly.
Some other eel lures to consider
The above list are the 4 eel lures I keep in my tackle box to cover pretty much any fishing situation where an eel lure would be appropriate. Here are a few other eel lures to consider that I’ve seen fishing buddy’s catch striped bass on, but I haven’t tried them out personally.
Texas-rigged soft plastics.
I know many guys fish Texas-rigged soft plastics such as a slug-go or a large ribbon tail worm for striped bass. The rigs most obvious advantage is that it’s weedless, and is a good option for water with lost of seaweed or other debris. I know slug-go has pre-rigged plastics available as well.
You can get ribbon tail worms in a large variety of sizes, try to find some that are thicker, a tleast the thickness of your pinky finger as a rough guide. It’s common to add a bullet weight to the front of the presentation to give it some weight.
There’s been nothing but good things said about Hogy’s soft plastic sand-eels. They come un-rigged, so you have some options as to how you want to rig them up. I haven’t used them personally so I can’t speak to their effectiveness but there’s plenty of good reviews on them.