Hybrid Striped Bass
Head to Dams for Big Wipers
A gigantic flow of gushing water funnelling through the gates of river dam means many different things to many different anglers. For fisherman like me, particularly in the spring, it means one thing, WIPERS! These are some of the baddest fish that swim and are an absolute blast to catch. Basically the linebackers of the fish world, they are powerful and fast, capable of hitting a luring so hard they can knock a fishing rod out of your hands. They break lines, straighten hooks, and most importantly, put big smiles on fisherman who are fortunate enough to get into a mess of river run hybrid striped bass.
What is a wiper and why fish for 'em
A wiper, also known as a hybrid striped bass or simply hybrids, is a cross between a white bass and a striped bass. They are hybrids and are generally unable to reproduce except for a few special situations. These fish inhabit rivers and their impoundments that they have been stocked into by local fisheries agencies. They provide a unique fishery in locations that were lacking an open water predator.
Hybrids are one mean customer. They can reach sizes exceeding 15 pounds. Pound-for-pound I have encountered no fish in freshwater that have a comparable combination of power, strength, and speed. They are extremely aggressive and make screaming runs once hooked. You may have to travel to saltwater to find a fish more difficult to land once hooked. Leave your ultralight tackle at home when chasing these fish.
Where to find 'em
In the winter wipers tend to spend their time in deep wintering holes where their appetite is greatly deminished in the frigid water. As water temperatures rise, wipers sense the urge to procreate. Although they are sterile, the instinct to push upriver to find suitable spawning grounds persists, gourging themselves on baitfish along the way. These fish push upstream until they encounter something that blocks their path, often a dam. Because a dam offers the sanctuary of deep water and the churning current presents opportunites to ambush prey, wipers often stay in these areas. As the water rises and temperatures crest 50 degrees, hybrid striped bass fishing continues to improve.
How to catch 'em
You will need some beefy tackle. Walleye gear will work, but understand that multiple big wipers may be more than it can handle, causing gear to breakdown sooner than it normally would. I recommend a medium or medium/heavy fishing rod in the length range of seven to eight feet. Spinning gear is generally preferred because long casts with light lures are sometimes required. 10 to 12 pound monofilament or 10 to 20 pound braided fishing line will suffice. I prefer braided line, but it mainly boils down to personal preference.
A saying I heard one time, "It doesn't matter what color you use, as long as it's white!" That basically sums it up. Hybrids feed almost exclusively on live fish and shad make up the bulk of it. Considering these fish are white, silverish fish, it is a good idea to match the hatch and make sure your lures look similar. Matching your bait to the size of the shad at different times of the year is more important than switching up colors. Early in the year I often throw crappie jigs. By the time fall rolls around, you will find me using swimbaits as large as six inches. Don't get too caught up in the bait you are using, the struggle is usually more on finding wipers or getting your bait out to them.
Wiper fishing is not always as simple as it seems it should be. Sometimes fish want a lure slightly larger or smaller than you are using. Sometimes they are feeding just beyond casting distance and you need to find a way to get your bait to them. Sometimes they seem like they have disappeared. Be creative in your presentations, be willing search for fish, and check back here for more content on catching wipers.