It’s no secret that striped bass aren’t as abundant as they once were along the eastern U.S. coastline, but that only means anglers must learn to fish smarter, according to brand ambassador Capt. Dan Wood.

“That’s because the fish are getting smarter,” said Wood, who operates Connecticut Woods & Water Guide Service. “They have good eyesight and the water is clear, so you have to be somewhat stealthy.”

The charter captain operates out of Port Niantic on the Connecticut side of Long Island Sound, and ranges far and wide to find fish in the structure-rich waters. “Anglers need to understand the tides because moving water is key to catching fish,” he explained. “Then you have to figure out which shoals, submerged points or boulder fields will most likely hold baitfish on an incoming tide, and on the outgoing tide.”

Stripers and other predators set up on the structures and wait to ambush prey as they move with the flow. But it’s not as simple as it sounds. “At peak tide the water can be moving up to 7 mph in some spots — fast enough to blow baitfish out of the area. So, you not only have to know where to fish, you have to determine when to be on a particular spot.”

Stealth-mode comes in the form of a rig that, as Wood put it, “is not clunky.” It starts with a 7½-foot rod strung with 15-pound braided line. But rather than the typical swivel and wire leader, the angler opts for a fluorocarbon leader tied directly to the main line. Most anglers lean on wire, he explained, to avoid bite-offs by toothy bluefish that swim these waters in abundance.

Instead, Wood uses a 2-to-3 foot step-up leader consisting of 3 equal lengths of: 20-pound fluoro tied to the main line with a double-uni knot, a mid-section of 30-pound fluoro blood-knotted to the first section, and finally a 50-pound terminal section, also attached with a blood knot.

“I know this catches more striped bass,” he said, “and strongly believe it produces more bluefish, too. Fluorocarbon resists abrasion and can stand up to the abuse.”

Soft plastics, such as the Pearl White YUM Houdini Shad play a major role in Wood’s striper strategy. But he’d prefer to fish topwaters.

“It’s my favorite method, and if the fish are willing to hit surface lures, a 5-inch red-and-white Creek Chub Knuckle-Head or red eye Striper Strike can’t be beaten. Be sure to maintain stealth-mode, though; tie the lure directly to the line without a snap or swivel.”