Without a doubt nothing beats the excitement of watching a large striped bass crush a top-water plug at the Cape Cod Canal. However when it comes to consistently catching large striped bass from the “Big Ditch,” concentrating on working the bottom of the land cut can pay off in a big way.
However one can not expect to just toss a jig anywhere in the canal and be rewarded with success. This slim ribbon of fish filled water has its hot spots and dead zones like any other fishing area along the striper coast. Being able to find the dramatic drop-offs, underwater humps, rocky ledges and relentless rips is key to consistently taking big bass off the bottom.
Striped bass flock to areas of structure like bees to honey. Often times the fish will position themselves deep in a hole, or right behind a rock ledge. The structure breaks up the swift current, basically in the same way a building blocks a stiff breeze.
Traditional striper theory states that cow stripers will use current blocking pieces of structure to gain a competitive advantage on their prey. The strong Cape Cod Canal current pushes all sorts of bait fish and prey items downstream. Crafty striped bass will take position behind a piece of structure, and then ambush prey as it tumbles in the current.
What this means for the angler is that being able to offer a well placed jig right around, or better yet, directly in these pieces of structure will increase your catch rate. Often times jigs that bounce just a few yards too far from these hot spots are completely ignored by the bass.
So how do we go about locating these prime jigging spots in the first place?
One of the easiest ways to find areas worth jigging is to pay close attention to differences in the surface water of the canal. Fish holding pieces of structure will often create disturbances in the natural flow of the current. More than likely clues to the location of the fishy structure shows itself as a wake, ripple, whirlpool etc. on the surface of the canal.
Walking the banks of the canal, or better yet riding your bike along the service road, and keeping a close eye out for differences on the canal’s surface is a good way to at least get an idea of where to fish.
Standing waves are arguably the most tell-tale sign of an underwater hump or gulley. If you find an area with standing waves, the actual fish holding structure will be located slightly up current of the waves. This holds true regarding any sort of disturbance on the surface-the fishy structure will always be slightly up current.
It is now time to zone in on the exact location of the structure. This can be done by fan casting an area with a jig or bank sinker. Be sure to use a jig or sinker heavy enough to reach bottom in the swift current. I typically start with 4 ounces and go heavier or lighter depending on current conditions.
Cast up current and keep a close count on the number of seconds it takes the jig to reach bottom. Obviously the shallower the water, the quicker the jig will reach bottom-the deeper the water, the longer.
For example, one fantastic canal jigging spot that I frequent each May and June features a tall prominent peak followed by a deep, steep hole. It takes my jig 7 seconds to hit bottom on top of the peak. However when cast directly into the deep hole, it takes my jig 20 seconds to reach bottom. Due to the difference in the amount of time it takes my jig to reach bottom, I know that I am successfully presenting my offering smack dab in the middle of the strike zone.
Fan casting an area will be easiest during the last part of the west tide, slack tide, and the beginning of the east.
The Cape Cod Canal is littered with fantastic jigging spots. However it can take considerable time and effort to locate the best areas.
Yet if consistently pulling big bass from the canal’s bottom is important to you, then the time spent uncovering these prime jigging spots will be well worth the time and energy required to locate them.