Tips For Catching Early Season Wipers
Wipers are a cross between a striped bass and a white bass. They are often stocked in lakes and reservoirs in the tri-state area and are aggressive feeders in March as the water slowly increases in temperature. Wipers are a hybrid and can’t reproduce. They still go through the motions and will begin their migration into shallow water earlier than other species as they seek a clean gravel bottom. Early season wipers seek flowing water. Search upper reaches of lakes and estuaries where creeks dump into the lake.
Wipers are very active even when the water temps are low. They can be caught all winter long, but during early spring, when the water temps are inching their way up, wipers begin to feed aggressively to fatten up for their fruitless spawn. It is during this time too that wipers can be more predictable as far as where they might be and
March is a great time to be on the water looking for early-season wipers, one of the most active species at this time. Many anglers miss the best wiper fishing because they wait until the really warm days begin to show and by then the fun is almost over.
Searching your wiper lake in the winter can help you pinpoint places where wipers will be in spring. Look for creek channels that course through shallow flats. Wipers follow these channels as they go through the motions of spawning and the shallow flats provide great ambush areas to feed on shad and other baitfish that congregate as water temps and levels climb.
BOTTOM HUGGING WIPERS
Sometimes wipers will be hugging the bottom of the channel waiting for food to wash by. Other times they’ll move up on the shallow flats and patrol in large schools ripping through balls of baitfish, feeding aggressively. When the wipers are feeding this way almost any lure that resembles a shad will trigger a strike without much effort. It gets a little tougher when the wipers hug the bottom and are less active but they can still be enticed into biting with a little patience.
LOCATING EARLY SEASON WIPERS
The best way to find wipers, when on the water, is with your electronics. Wipers that are inactive will show up as several arches near the bottom. If the wipers are active at all you will see some streaks shooting out of the arches on your sonar, these are fish shooting up from the school to eat something drifting by. Many anglers use spoons and a vertical presentation with a sudden ripping action to trigger strikes from these fish. Oftentimes, deep-diving crankbaits and plastics can also stir up the school. Much like a school of summertime largemouth, you can catch fish after fish once you get them fired up.
When the wipers are feeding aggressively on the shallow flats you will see activity on the surface. They use the surface of the water as an ambush point in the shallows. Wipers will drive the balls of shad into shallow water. They have no place to go except back into the school of hungry wipers. This is when you see the feeding frenzies that wipers are so famous for. When you see such activity quickly cast your lure into the middle of the action and hold on. Usually, your lure will be hammered. I’ve had big wipers jerk the rod right out of my hand.
WIPERS CHASE SHAD
There are times in early spring when small bands of wipers will separate from the larger schools and cruise the shoreline looking for shad and bluegill to devour. This is when I love to throw a shad rap or husky jerk working sharp drops along the shoreline. Black and silver is a great color to start. However, wipers often prefer some of them off-the-wall colors like clown or all gold-colored lures. When the water is murky the clown-colored baits work best. When the water is clear the more natural colors are better. Trolling for wipers is a very popular tactic and can be productive in March but is really used more in the summer when the wipers have moved out to deep and open water suspended with the baitfish.
TACKLE FOR EARLY SEASON WIPERS
The tackle used for wiper fishing consists of a good medium to a heavy rod. A seven-foot rod works great since accuracy is usually not an issue as wipers usually cruise in open water. A spinning reel allows has more control and wipers can take some very surprising runs as they near the boat. I like to be able to maneuver around the boat and keep the line away from outboard props and trolling motors. There are several lines out there to choose from but for wipers, I like the good old monofilament line. Monofilament is best because of its castability and its stretch. This makes it more forgiving on those vigorous runs.
I keep a baitcaster rigged with a heavy topwater bait like a Zara Spook. When there is an explosion of wipers, out of reach of the spinning gear, you can grab the heavyweight. Cast into the fray working it quickly back to the boat for a follow-up.
There are many presentations that will work but nothing can replace time on the water. With time you will learn what to use and how to use it. You will also learn where the wipers reside in your lake. I target wipers when I know they are active. I can catch a few, but many anglers love the aggressive nature and the fighting abilities of these great gamefish so much that wipers are all they fish for. The tri-state area has many lakes and rivers full of wipers and enough fish to allow for full-time wiper fishing. March can be a great time to start the fishing season off and cure those cabin fever blues.