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  • Writer's picturealexosen

Napa River Striper Smackdown: Trolling Tactics and Anti-Skunk Strategies.

Updated: May 2

Hold on to your hats, because the Napa River is about to explode with stripers! Sacramento River is already doing really well, but we've been putting our trolling game to the test for the past couple of weeks on the Napa River, and let me tell you, the results have been smokin'. Here's the skinny on how to hook into your own hefty haul of these hard-fighting fish.

Dialing in the Strike Zone

Our last two trips saw consistent hauls of 3-4 keepers each, and we're definitely onto something. Here's what worked for us:

  • Lure Love:  We started with the tried-and-true Wild Things Italian Stallion and Spro Aruku Shad Golden Boy, both pulling their weight equally. But on May 1st, the stripers demanded a change-up.

Temperature Tantrum

The key seems to be water temperature. Both trips saw the bite heat up around 10:30-11:00 AM, coinciding with the water warming from a cool 59 degrees to a more comfortable 61 degrees for the stripers.  Once we hit those consistent mid-60s, buckle up - it's gonna be a wide-open season!

Finding Your Fish Fix

These stripers are creatures of habit, with their movements dictated by the tides. Here's a breakdown of prime locations throughout the day:

  • Outgoing:  Explore the sloughs, with a keen eye on the mouths. Troll and use your sonar to identify those fishy congregations. 

  • Incoming:  These guys favor the main channel, ready to ambush bait flowing in from the ocean.  Cast near banks and slough mouths.

  • Slack Tide:  Stripes use this time to reposition, so don't expect much action here.

Landing Your Loot

Once you've located your scaly targets, it's time to experiment and find the magic combo. Here are some pointers:

  • Trolling Tactics: Start with a 170-foot setback on your Golden Boy or Wild Things lure, and troll at a water speed of 4-4.5 mph. Adjust based on the tide - counter the current at 3 mph and go with the flow at 5.5-6 mph.

  • Lure Language:  Don't be afraid to mix things up! While the Golden Boy and Wild Things are consistent performers, experiment with size and color variations. A well-stocked tackle box is your best friend here. I recommend having 5-7 Spro Aruku Shad lures in various colors and sizes, alongside 4-5 Wild Thing deep diver color combos.

  • Persistence Pays Off:  After 4-6 passes through a marked area, you should be dialed in. If the bites aren't coming, don't waste time - move on to the next slough and repeat your strategy.

Beyond the Troll

Sometimes, the trolling just doesn't cut it. If you hit a wall, it's time to switch gears. Anchor up and cast some swim baits towards those marked fish.  This is where having live bait on board becomes a game-changer. Live ghost shrimp, grass shrimp, pile worms, or XL minnows can be your secret weapon.

The Final Reel

By following these tips and keeping some live bait in your arsenal, those dreaded skunked days on the Napa River will be a thing of the past.  Get out there, find those stripers, and get ready to do battle!

The other day I took a couple of new Sweeney's Sports employees to teach them Striper Trolling strategies and tactics. Click play and join us on this instructional trip.

Let's Go Fishing

Need help with equipment and lures for striper trolling?

Remember, you can use these Striper Trolling Combos for Halibut, Steelhead, and Salmon fishing as well. Support our work and buy online. Our prices are great and we are always willing to help with advice and education.



Striper Trolling Lures:

Live Bait and Bank Fishing Combo

Buy online or visit our shop in Napa to get custom outfitted for your next trip. Or consider booking a guided trip with one of our experienced captains.

Catch Happy!

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