Why Tonight is the Night for a 50 Pounder from Shore

The largest striped bass I have ever caught from shore weighed 45 pounds. Catching that fish was an incredible experience, but needless to say, I am pretty eager to break the 50 pound mark. Recently I was able to hook and land a 30 pound bass from the beach, which tells me that big fish are indeed moving along Cape Cod’s shoreline. I think there is a 50 pounder out there, and I think tonight presents better than normal odds of catching that 50, because 3 important ingredients are coming together perfectly.

I’m far from being an expert at catching big striped bass from the surf, but so far this season I’ve noticed 3 things that seem to be having an impact on my level of success from the sand. These 3 ingredients are:

Changes in structure
Tide and time of day
Based on the current conditions here on Cape Cod, I believe tonight presents a real opportunity for a 50 pounder, because these 3 ingredients are all gelling together perfectly. In this post I’ll do my best to explain why.

Changes in Structure

There’s a ton of shoreline here on Cape Cod, and the bass could really show up anywhere. It can be easy to become overwhelmed and difficult to find a place to start.

Therefore I like to at least start around pieces of structure. Bass are not always present around structure, but I think there’s a better than average chance that they will be. Especially if that piece of structure is the only structure along a stretch of coastline.

On some Cape Cod beaches there may be a lot of structure. For example in Buzzards Bay there are miles of rocks and boulder strewn coastline. Finding structure is not much of a problem in these types of areas.

However on other beaches, such as along the National Seashore, visible structure is a lot more challenging to locate. At first glance the untrained eye might not notice any structure whatsoever.

In both instances the structure itself is not the most important thing to be looking for. Instead it’s the changes in structure that you really want to find.

These changes might be dramatic, such as when you find a section of sand along an otherwise rugged and rocky coastline. Yet in other instances the change may be much more subtle-such as a small sandbar that juts out into the Atlantic ever so slightly.

Either way in my opinion, when you find change, you increase your odds of finding the fish. For whatever reason bass seem to be attracted to spots that are slightly different than the surrounding area.

Over the past couple of weeks I have been fishing a particular structure change that has held fish on about half of my fishing trips. The bass are not always present here, but it’s as good a spot as any to at least start my surfcasting trip, and I plan on starting in this same spot later tonight.


I think the most desirable surf fishing scenario occurs when bass pin big bait against the shoreline. The fishing can be downright nutty when this occurs.

A great idea for targeting big bass is to fish a beach where you know big bait is holding just offshore. Depending on the wind, tide and time of day, this big bait may make a charge for the shoreline. I’ll admit that it’s a bit of a long shot, but if you happen to be on the sand when this happens you certainly won’t forget it.

Most of the time big bait is not present, or the big bait that is present remains well offshore. In these situations, keep in mind that bass also love scouring the bottom for a meal of crabs, lobsters and other near shore fish like scup and sand eels.

If you can find an area within casting range that supports an environment where this type of near shore bait lives, then you will be in a great place to tie into a big striper. Conveniently, the areas of change mentioned above often attract these near shore prey items.

I know for a fact that the area I plan on fishing tonight is loaded with lobsters and crabs, and I bet those crustaceans are just the tip of the iceberg with regards to the food that is present in the area.

Tide & Time of Day

Night time is the right time for targeting big stripers from shore. Of course you can catch a big fish during the day, but your best bet will be after dark.

In some areas the fishing will be pretty good an hour before high tide, until an hour after high tide. After which the bass vanish, as if they were never there to begin with. Maybe this particular area has structure close to shore, and bass only venture in close when the structure is submerged underneath plenty of water.

In other spots low tide or midway through the tide may be best. Perhaps there is an estuary nearby that dumps bait out into the ocean during the outgoing. Or maybe there are sand flats nearby which are exposed during low tide and fish well during the start of the incoming.

No matter what, 90% of the time your best bet for a truly large bass will come during the night. Next best option is sunrise/sunset.

Tonight’s Fishing Trip

All of the above is coming together nicely for my surf fishing trip later tonight. According to a friend of mine there is plenty of big bait holding just offshore the beach I plan on fishing. There were even bluefin tuna spotted not too far from this location, which tells me there is plenty of food around.

There should be plenty of near shore bait around too. A couple of years ago I snorkeled for lobsters not too far from tonight’s fishing spot, and managed to do fairly well. I’ve been seeing lots of crabs crawling around too, which bass also love to snack upon.

In addition, if we take a glance at the calendar we’ll see that it’s mid-September. I think the first schools of migratory bass have already left the Cape Cod area, and that plenty more are not too far behind. Bass will be around throughout the month of October, but I’m convinced that at least a few masses of fish are already prepping to head south.

Therefore I think any bass I do happen to stumble across tonight will be more than willing to eat. Gone are the days of lockjaw (hopefully!).

I’ll be fishing tonight, and probably tomorrow night as well. Regardless of how it goes I’ll have a report up here on the blog by tomorrow or Wednesday at the latest.

What do you think? Let me know by leaving a comment below.

Tight lines and take care,


CapeCodToday.com welcomes thoughtful comments and the varied opinions of our readers. We are in no way obligated to post or allow comments that our moderators deem inappropriate. We reserve the right to delete comments we perceive as profane, vulgar, threatening, offensive, racially-biased, homophobic, slanderous, hateful or just plain rude. Commenters may not attack or insult other commenters, readers or writers. Commenters who persist in posting inappropriate comments will be banned from commenting on CapeCodToday.com.