Topwater Time for Huge Striped Bass
Topwater Time for Huge Striped Bass
By Bill Vanderford
Only the occasional splashes and continued "V" wakes caused by the large floater/diver plugs broke the calm surface as the three men made casts toward an exposed island near the main river channel at Lake Lanier. No indication was seen of any feeding fish, and even though both anglers in the front of the boat had already thoroughly fished the area, something made the older gentleman in the rear of the boat cast directly over the stern. Less than a full second after the big lure had splashed down on the water, and the reel had been engaged, an explosion occurred, comparable only to the unexpected fall of a concrete block into a swimming pool from several stories above!
With the possible exception of a musky or a huge northern pike, no freshwater fish attacks a surface lure as viciously as the landlocked striped bass. Though the remainder of the battle is always at or below the surface, when attacking a lure from below, a striper may emerge completely from its watery confines. At times, an aggressive striper may even leap into the air prior to pouncing on the plastic bait from above. Regardless of the way it happens, when one of these linesided monsters engulfs a lure, one has to experience heart flutter from the rush of adrenaline, and this huge fish was no exception!
The battle that followed lasted some twenty minutes, and taxed all of the older man’s muscles. The forty-six inch long, thirty-nine and one-half pound striped bass, however, was a far better experience than the older angler had ever anticipated.
Armed with the proper lures, tackle, and know-how, such experiences and trophy fish can be more than a dream for Peach State anglers at Lake Lanier. Catching big striped bass, however, can be very hard work. When using artificial lures, dedication and hundreds of casts are required, but one monster striper is worth all the effort!
The best chance to catch striped bass on artificial lures is during May and June when they congregate in the shallower water. The accepted method for catching big stripers is by working large minnow-type top-water lures near points or underwater islands. The hours near sunset or sunrise seem to be the most productive, but many are caught during the middle of the day.
In lieu of the larger baitcasting rods and reels and heavy monofilament line preferred by many striper fishermen, the lighter baitcasting, spincasting, or spinning rod and reels with 10 to 12 pound line, similar to those used for casting spinnerbaits, or the jig and pig for largemouth bass, are more suited to making the hundreds of casts that are sometimes necessary to get a strike. The lighter rods and reels, however, are still ideal for casting the larger 6 to 7 long plugs.
The actual method of fishing these baits is relatively simple. A slow steady retrieve that causes a little "V" wake behind works best. It is very important that the lure remains on the surface while wiggling its way back toward the boat.
When using artificial lures, most stripers are caught during periods of lower light, because stripers are sometimes repelled by strong light sources. The lower intensity of light brings them and their huge appetites into the shallows where they’re easier to catch. While in shallow water, however, they tend to be very spooky. Too much noise will make them vacate an area in a hurry.
Trailing live bait behind one’s boat while casting with topwater lures is another way to catch an occasional striper, and during the months of May and June, store-bought shiners seem to work as well as natural shad or blueback herring. Since the bait is usually being moved by the wind or an electric trolling motor, they should be hooked in the mouth.
Thanks to an excellent stocking program and several great year classes of fish, Lake Lanier is definitely the best overall striper lake in Georgia. It is loaded with striped bass that average between 10 and 20 pounds. In the past year, however, numerous stripers have been caught that weighed more than 30 pounds, and the introduction of blueback herring should continue this upward trend. We could once again see the huge stripers that were common in the 1980’s, like the 46 pound lake record caught by Roger Snipes of Gainesville.
Find out more about Bill Vanderford on his website http://www.fishinglanier.com, or drop him an email at [email protected]