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July 08, 2010

5 Winning Eel Tactics

Stripers love live eels; here are five ways to fish them.

Eels are deadly striper baits, both at night and during the day. They can be fished a dozen different ways and are effective almost anywhere these great game fish are found. The challenge is using a delivery system that matches the conditions. With 30 years of chasing stripers behind me, I've seen more ways to fish an eel than you can shake a graphite trigger stick at. I've culled them down to five methods that can get an eel in front of bass almost anywhere they are found, taking into consideration structure, depth, tides and currents. If you want to catch more bass, add eels to your repertoire.

Joe Mahler /

1. Casting

Casting live eels and swimming them on a slow retrieve is deadly. The tactic can be used from shore or from a boat, in back bays and inlets, and along open beaches, any place bass are working shallows, but it is particularly deadly at night. A friend of mine caught a monster 57-pound bass by walking the sod banks at night in Barnegat Bay, New Jersey, casting a live eel with spinning tackle. I've used the technique from my center console for years, casting to beach and inlet jetties and near shore rocks, pretty much anywhere I might throw a plug, but because the eel's a live bait with an enticing wiggle and scent, it's usually more effective than slinging plastic or wood.

The rig I use consists of a 7/0 circle hook tied to a 30-inch length of 50-pound fluorocarbon leader with a mini barrel swivel attached to the running line. I rarely add weight, because the eel is being retrieved slowly to keep the line tight. A light- to medium-action spinning outfit will cast the average eel far enough to be quite effective.