Targeting 40 pound-plus striped bass at the Cape Cod Canal

I’d be lying if I told you that catching a 40 plus pound striper from the Cape Cod Canal happens regularly. For me at least, any bass over 40 pounds is something special. Each season we usually get a handful of 40 pounders on live eels and the tube and worm while fishing from the boat. However catching a 40 pound bass on a plug or jig casting from shore is no doubt much more difficult.

And yes I am still waiting on that coveted 50 pounder! Maybe 2013 will be the year it happens for me, we’ll see.

Catching a 40 pound bass from the Canal is very challenging. Hooking a 40 pounder in the first place is pretty rare. Being able to land a 40 pounder at the Canal (a place with jagged rocks, snags and a powerful current) is even rarer.

Yet there are few ways to improve your odds of catching “The Big One” at the Big Ditch.

Before we dive into the nitty-gritty of this post, I think it is important to first take a look at the type of fishing gear you plan on bringing down to the Canal. Using the right reel, rod and line is critical to hooking and landing a truly big bass from the Canal.

If you need a little help figuring out the best kind of tackle for the job, be sure to check out this post.

Time of Year

I’m a big believer that you could end up catching the fish of your dreams on any given day or night. My friend’s father proved this to be true when he caught a 60 pounder from the Canal on Halloween night 14 years ago.

He actually watched as the behemoth of a bass swam in just a couple feet of water, directly in front of him. He placed the chunk of menhaden in front of the fish and the rest is history. He put many years of time in and it finally paid off for him that one Halloween night.

However I have always caught my biggest bass during the first couple weeks of July. Since I was a kid I have for some reason landed more 30 and 40 pounders from the Canal from July 1 – July 14, than during any other 2 week stretch of the season.

I still think that overall the fishing in the Canal is a bit better during late May and early June, but for some reason there seems to be a good push of big fish throughout early July. Maybe these are migratory fish that lag a little behind the rest of the pack.

I also think that part of the reason why this time of the year produces well for me is because I have generally fished a lot during those two weeks, due to time off from work, summer vacation etc.

Time of the Day

During the spring and fall it is not unusual to catch big fish while the sun is up. Plenty of enormous bass are caught each year on top water plugs in broad daylight. I can recall one late morning a few years back when a Canal regular landed a 55 pounder fishing a Gibbs polaris at around 9am. Can you imagine watching a 55 pounder crush a top water plug? Especially at the leisurely time of 9am?

Again if you put your time in there is a good chance that it will eventually happen for you.

Yet most hardcore striper anglers agree that your best chance at a big fish will come once the sun goes down. If you are serious about bagging a 40 pounder then consider becoming nocturnal.

Fishing at night is especially important when fishing the Canal during early July. The hot spring time top water action has usually died down a bit by July, making night fishing the best choice.

The ideal scenario for me in the past has been a hot and humid, dead calm early July night.

One of my best nights ever at the Canal happened on July 4th when I was 19. Instead of partying with everyone else I opted to jig the East End. The bugs were so bad that I left to buy bug spray and decided to make a move to the West. The bugs ended up being a blessing in disguise as my new spot quickly produced 6 bass all over the 30 pound mark with one over 40.
At the time I couldn’t believe it! As a 19 year old, passing on beers on the beach for perfect tides on a perfect July night was a tough decision. Come to think of it, that was probably the toughest decision I made that entire summer- ah to be a teenager again!


Many big fish are taken on plugs, live eels and chunks of bait. However aside from plugging, fishing with live and chunk bait at the Canal has never really been my thing. When targeting real big fish I tend to stick to working the bottom with jigs and large soft plastics.

To keep things as simple as possible, I almost always go with a 9 inch black slug-go super glued to a 4 ounce jig head. I have a ton of confidence in this lure and just can’t seem to get away from it.

The technique is to locate a prime  Cape Cod Canal fishing spot, cast up current and slowly bounce the slug-go right along or just above the Canal’s bottom. Having the right gear is absolutely essential if you want to fish this way without constantly getting hung up.

4 ounces is my all around weight for jigging when the tide is running. However it is a good idea to match your chosen weight with the strength of the current. In other words if the tide is slacking off it’s a smart move to switch down to a 2 or 3 ounce lead head. If the wind and tide is cranking I’ll sometimes beef it up to 5 ounces.

In Conclusion

The #1 factor to catching a really big striped bass from the Canal is the amount of time you are able to put in. If you fish the Canal regularly at the right times, with the right gear and at the right spots then it is only a matter of time until you lock into the big one.

There’s a ton of different ways to catch a big fish from the Ditch. However if you incorporate a few of the above tips into your Cape Cod Canal fishing game plan you will certainly increase the likelihood of catching a 40 plus pounder sooner than later.

Take care and go get ‘em,

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