March 20, 2021
Captain Ross is the owner and operator of Cape Cod Charter Guys, one of the Cape's premier fishing charters. Having caught numerous 60-lb class striper, Ross is a local expert with plenty of tips to make anyone a better angler. He has extensive experience fishing Cape Cod Bay, Buzzards Bay, Vineyard Sound, Monomoy, Chatham, and more.
Captain Ross is one of the most passionate and knowledgeable charter captains on the Cape, and the Guidesly team fished with him in October of 2020. We had the late-season striper bite dialed in during conditions that would leave many anglers skunked. We're grateful that Ross has taken the time to write this comprehensive article about Cape Cod striped bass fishing, and we hope that it will help you catch more fish!
My goal in writing this article is to help Cape Cod fishermen catch striper more consistently by providing knowledge about the most productive spots, techniques, and lures, as well as general tips for landing more fish. First, I’ll start with a little bit of background about myself, so you know where my passion derives from and a little about the experiences I’m drawing from.
When I moved to Massachusetts 13 years ago, I’d had a little bit of fishing experience on the West Coast, but it certainly wasn’t my passion. When my wife suggested I get into fishing, I had no idea what a pivotal moment it would be in my life. At this point, my impression of fishing was the classic old guy sitting on a dock in a chair with a bobber. I had no idea how exciting, addicting, and nuanced fishing really was, but I headed down to the tackle shop anyways and purchased a cheap rod and reel.
Many locals suggested checking out the Cape Cod Canal, and so that’s what I did. With no real knowledge of the area or what I was doing, I somehow managed to hook into a massive fish. By the time the fish had made a couple runs, it had broken the eyelet on my cheap rod. Unable to use my equipment, and with the fish still pulling at the other end of my line, I had to think fast and be resourceful. Luckily, I had brought some Kevlar gloves with me and was able to handline the fish all the way into shore. My adrenaline was pumping, and I was hooked. That’s when I said to myself: “If I’m going to do this, I’m going to do this right.” I decided to put in the time and buy high-quality gear.
Shortly after that, I bought a house on the canal and began to fish day in and day out. I put in the time; I would ride back and forth for three tides in a day to see how the fish were moving and where they’d hold. In doing so, I learned a key lesson about fishing the canal, which also applies to all fishing in general. Many anglers have a paradigm they’re stuck in (like “You have to jig at night”). Not being married to one spot or technique – being a versatile angler -- is crucial your ability to catch fish consistently throughout the whole year. And it’s a big part of what helps me consistently catch big fish.
Another reason I love fishing is that it’s broadened my relationship with my son Jayden. Ever since he was eight years old, we’ve bonded over our passion for fishing. We used to fish from the shore and from our 20’ center console. When he first started at eight years old, Jayden could hardly land any sized fish, but even as he got older over the next few years, we were able to consistently catch 30-lb and 40-lb class fish that he could barely pick up! This consistency catching big bass led me to pursue a stint commercial fishing, during which I caught striper weighing in at 65, 62, 59, and 58 pounds, all weighed in on an IGFA-certified scale after they had already bled out on the dock.
Eventually, I decided to take the next step and get my Captain’s License so I could have more knowledge about the water. Now I’ve upgraded my boat to a 26’ Sportsman. Being a charter captain is truly my dream job, and now I love watching my clients catch fish more than anything. I’m incredibly blessed to be on the water every day, and it’s my mission to pass on my fishing knowledge and, more importantly, my passion to clients every single day!
Here's a list of my favorite Cape Cod fishing spots, in no particular order. I hope you'll find the advice and tips for each spot helpful.
There are a ton of spots in Buzzards Bay where you can find breaking fish, even as late as October if you know where to look. Some of my favorite lures to cast at breaking fish are swim shads, rubber shads, and Game On Lures’ EXO jigs. Fishing high low rigs for bottom fish is also productive here. In Buzzards Bay, we often catch bottom fish coming up even when we’re fishing for striper.
The shoals and the flats of Cape Cod Bay are incredibly productive. We fish here all the time in June and July. When the fish are running and it’s before the Great White sharks are here, there’s always the opportunity to find big pods of larger fish. We catch a ton of fish at Race Point and Provincetown. When casting, you should have success throwing plugs and swimbaits. Cape Cod Bay is also the only place we really use live bait since the fish key in on mackerel so aggressively.
Monomoy often gets foggy, but the shoals fish well in July, August, and even September. If you’re going to venture to Monomoy, you need to be an experienced boater and know your boat since the seas can get really big. I like to cast rubber squid setups into the waves (I handmake them myself). Swimbaits are great too, and there’s nothing like watching the fish come out of the rip to grab your lure. If you’re new to the area and want to fish here, it might be wise to go out with an experienced captain. I’d be happy to show you the ropes!
When the fish are here, it’s by far one of the hottest spots on the Cape. Snapping wire and vertical jigging out of Chatham have yielded some of the most consistent big bass fishing in all of New England. Back in the day, we fished Chatham for five years straight, day after day, coming out of Ryder’s Cove. Recently, the fish have been filling back in.
There’s an extreme amount of rocks around Gay Head off the west side of Martha's Vineyard, and you’ll lose a lot of gear if you don’t know the area. This is also another area where you need to be an experienced boater, thanks to the potential for huge swells and breakers. This area to Cuttyhunk can be incredibly productive for bass, and it’s another area it might be smart to explore with an experienced captain first.
This is without a doubt the best thing you can do to become a better angler. If you’re reading this article, you’re already on the right track! Every single charter that I run, I make it a goal to help my clients become better anglers. Whether that’s by answering questions, passing on local knowledge, explaining what we’re doing and why, or giving tips (like retrieval speed, how to fight the fish, etc.), I do my best to not only help you catch fish but make you a better angler. The funny thing is that I often find myself learning new ideas and concepts from my clients too!
Like I said in the introduction, never being married to one spot or technique has been key to my development as an angler. Being a versatile angler gives me the best chance to catch the most fish day in and day out… every day of the season.
Matching the hatch is cliché but crucial both in terms of the color and the size of your presentation. I make my own custom jigs with this tenet in mind. Oftentimes, after seeing this concept in action, people are clamoring for my custom jigs after we use them on a charter. Depending on the time of year, striper are keyed into different bait, so always take note of what you see in the water.
Keep your head on a swivel. The ability to know and recognize what the water looks like when there’s fish makes a huge difference. Breaking striper look different than blues or slashing albies, and being able to recognize the difference is key.
Let the fish do what it needs to do. Don’t crank down on the drag. Your tight drag might be fine for the schoolies and slot-sized fish you’ve been catching all day, but you should always have the drag set so you don’t pop the line or straighten the hook when you hook your best fish of the summer. I’ve heard, seen, and experienced firsthand too many stories of this going wrong.
Finding and fooling big fish gets 90% of the attention, but it’s really only half the battle. The other half is getting the fish to the boat! Much like the previous tip, taking care of your gear will allow you to capitalize on big fish opportunities when they arise. Always wash down your gear (lures and rods/reels) so the salt doesn’t corrode them. Respool regularly and make sure there are no nicks in your line, especially if you’ve been catching toothy bluefish!
When you’re fishing in the right spot and using the right techniques, magic happens on the water. For example, I’ve got a family that comes out with me every year – the Costa family. We had them up at the Race, and our boat literally looked it was being carried by striper. You could look down, and there were thousands and thousands of fish in crystal clear water, and then the whales came up. We were catching bass on swimmers and mackerel, one after another after another; all five anglers were hooked up on numerous occasions. It’s days like this that I’ll never forget. The beauty of nature, close to 100 fish, happy clients with a bucket full of fillets, sore arms from constantly reeling, sore throats from shouting “Fish on” … there’s truly nothing like it in the world!
Black Sea Bass