That first striped bass of the year is always a special one. Without sounding too melodramatic, I really do enjoy those first few trips of the season. Catching a few nice fish is a great way to shake off the winter.
Around Cape Cod one of the best areas to catch an April schoolie is the Weweantic River in Wareham. Bass usually start trickling into the Weweantic by mid-April, producing fantastic fishing.
Of course the vast majority of these fish will be “micro-schoolies.” Most of the bass I have caught here during April have been less than 20 inches long-which is A-OK with me.
Getting in on the early season Weweantic bite is pretty simple stuff. The river has good access, nice scenery and aggressive stripers.
As a teenager I would fish the Weweantic with my Dad, Mazzola and another friend of mine (and coach of my soccer team) Pete Chilson. We all had a great time catching 10-20 inch micro-schoolies on super light tackle in April. It was a great way to usher in the new season.
So how can you improve your odds of catching an April bass at the Weweantic? Well I am going to go out on a limb and say that the same areas and techniques I used as a teenager will probably work just as well today – so why not share them with you guys. Hopefully one of the following tips will help someone land their first fish of the season.
Think Current and Think Deep
The Weweantic is full of of great fishing spots. The two common denominators amongst the most productive spots I’ve found is that there is access to deep water and a moderate current.
There are plenty of areas in the Weweantic that even a far cast from shore will only reach a few feet of water. I have fished some of these shallow expanses, thinking that they would warm up in the sun and attract fish. Disappointingly my theory did not pan out as I had hoped. I have always caught more fish in the deeper areas of the river as opposed to the shallow flats.
If you’re fishing the Weweantic, try focusing on areas where a long cast will put your jig or curly tail grub in 6 or more feet of water. These could be spots near a bend in the creek, way out in the center of a channel or off a bridge or dock.
Now if you can couple a deep water area with a decent current you are really in a hot spot. The best areas I remember fishing were spots where the current was squeezed through tight narrows in the river. The current ran at a moderate pace in these areas, which seemed to attract the bait which in turn attracted the bass.
Go Light and Small
The best gear for these small fish are light spinning and fly rod setups. I don’t do much fly fishing so I’ll just focus here on the spinning side of things.
Growing up I would pretty much just yank the lightest freshwater setup I had from the basement, tie on a little soft plastic and get to casting. You really are for the most part fishing for the tiniest of striped bass so you really don’t need any braided line and expensive gear.
The best lures for me have included small white curly tail grubs rigged on a 1/4 to 1/2 ounce lead head. Small storm shads and rubber shad bodies no longer than 4 inches have also worked well.
If you’re interested in trying to catch multiple schoolies at the same time then tie on a teaser a few feet up the main line. A teaser could be a fly, some bucktail or a soft plastic like a Red Gill teaser. I prefer Red Gill teasers because they are just deadly on stripers of all sizes.
Rigging up a teaser is very simple. Tie a barrel swivel to the end of your line. Then tie a 3 foot leader to the open end of the swivel. Next tie a 12 inch long section of line to one of the barrels. Tie the teaser to this smaller section of line.
When the fishing is red hot it’s not unusual to catch a bass on the teaser and a bass on the main lure. It’s a really cool and fun way to catch fish.
Other Weweantic Tactics
Top water plugging with very small poppers also works very well at times at the Weweantic. Nothing beats catching bass on surface lures, especially after a long winter of nada.
Yo-zuris and other swim baits also work very well. The swim bait and teaser rig can be lethal. The only problem with poppers and swimming plugs are the manufacturer assembled treble hooks.
If you want to dramatically increase the odds of survival for released bass then take the time to remove the trebles. Replace them with a dangling live bait style hook (we’ll cover exactly how to do this in future blog posts). It’s also a good idea to crimp down the hook’s barbs. Barb-less hooks make releasing these small fish much easier.
Chunking herring has worked very well for us in the past. I’ve actually managed a few small keepers on herring chunks in way back in the Weweantic. Chumming and chunking the creek is a nice way to mix things up and possibly hook that first small keeper of the season.
Good luck catching that first bass of the season!
Tight lines and take care,