Striped Bass Fishing with Porgy
Many people refer to them as scup. They are a very hardy bait that is easily caught. One of the advantages to using them as bait over some of the other choices is that they are easy to keep alive in a very basic live well. They don’t require as much water exchange as shad do and don’t seem to care what shape the tank is. Porgy begin to show up on the reefs and mussel beds in May. By June, they can be found at all depths on just about any kind of structure. Porgy and bass go hand in hand; they can both be caught on the same rock pile. In fact, a few years ago, I had my wife on board and she was having a ball catching one porgy after another. I would take one off her hook and put it right back on mine and drop it back down on the other side of the boat and hook up almost immediately.
A simple hi-lo rig tipped with a piece of sandworm or a squid is all you need. Squid stays on the hook much better but on some days, they won’t even look at the squid. Sandworms always work. I try to catch my porgy in as shallow water as possible. Cranking them out of 50 feet of water will usually give them a case of the bends and they don’t live long in the live well. Some days it’s just plain old tough to find legal sized porgy in anything less than thirty feet of water. On those days, I try to use them back in the same depth of water I caught them. The theory being that when they get back down to the depths, the pressure will equalize their air bladders and they’ll come right back to life again. Porgy feed heavily on mollusks and crustaceans found along the bottom. Crabs, mussels and clams are favorite foods. Because of the food they eat, a porgy has a hard, bony mouth. This makes hooking them anywhere near their mouth difficult. I will hook mine with an 8/0 circle hook and go half way between the top of the head and the dorsal fin. Be mindful of the spine when hooking them.
One of the things that makes them such a great bait is that under normal conditions, they are difficult for a bass to hunt down. Porgy spend their entire life cycle in the rocks. Very rarely will you find a porgy far from the protection of a reef or rock pile. When you take that porgy and stick him on a hook and suspend him 4 feet off the bottom he suddenly becomes an easy target for a hungry striper. The porgy knows he is doomed and will struggle like crazy to get back to the cover below. The more it struggles, the more vibration it puts in the water and the bass will home right in on it.
Porgy will let you know the second that a striper moves into the area. Their struggle to get back into the rock will intensify three fold when they feel they are being hunted. Commonly referred to as the “Dance of Death”, the porgy will franticly swim in circles trying to outrun the bass. This dance may last twenty seconds or more before it finally gets blasted. My charter clients that have never fished this way before often think they are getting a hit when their porgy starts freaking out thirty feet below them. I chuckle and tell them that they’ll know when they get a hit. When the bass finally catches up to the porgy, the hit is not subtle. When 3-waying the bait, we fish with the reel locked and do not let the fish run with the bait. With braided line that doesn’t stretch and fairly stiff rods, the hits can be described as bone jarring. I tell my clients to let the striper pull the rod tip down to the surface of the water and then come up to the reeling position without setting the hook. If the striper is not on the other end just freeze and he will come back time after time until you have either hooked him or he’s ripped the bait off of the hook. It’s important not to set the hook when the bass picks up the bait. With bait the size of a legal scup, it takes a second for the bass to get the bait in its mouth. If he doesn’t have the porgy completely in his mouth and you set the hook, more often than not you rip the hook out of the bait. Not only did you lose the bass but you also lost a bait…