Let me start by saying these are the meanest fish in the lake. Stripers school just like all others – except these fish are eating machines. They will eat anything that crosses their path if presented the right way, so let’s start out in the winter.
Stripers love cold water and in the colder months of winter these fish can be found all over lakes in deep or shallow water. When located, one of the best ways of catching these monsters is a simple sassy shad rigged with a quarter ounce or half ounce jighead depending how deep the fish are. The best way to locate stripe is to be there early in the morning or late in the afternoon, because they will surface to feed on shad. Be alert to the seagulls. They will feed on the shad and the stripe will run to the top. If you see a bunch of these birds diving into the water there will probably be stripe schooling there. Be careful when running to this action because the stripers will go down and be a lot harder to catch. Get close with your big motor then get in closer with your trolling motor. If they are still surfacing, throw the sassy shad where they are, and just use a stop and go retrieve. Be ready when you stop and let the bait drop, that is when the stripe hit. If you didn’t get to the fish before they went down, throw to where you saw the fish and let it go to the bottom. Work it in the same fashion, stop and go, and be ready on the fall. I have seen these fish school in fifty feet of water, so be patient. It might take a while to locate the school again because they are always on the move to find food. When you have located an area that stripe are in, they will stay close for weeks. So go back often to these spots at the same time of day and you will be amazed.
As the water gets warmer during early spring, which is around February through April, it is time to move upriver to the mouths of creeks and below the dams. The technique we will be fishing is basically the same except with a twist. If I were fishing the mouths of creeks it would be with crankbaits and sassy shads. As you move closer to the dams then live shad come into play. So when stripe fishing be prepared for anything. Run up to the tailrace water running through the dam. See how many turbines the power company is using that day. This will determine where the fish will be located. Basically, what you will be doing is what everybody else is doing – running up toward the dam and drifting back. This is a very interesting way of fishing and very dangerous. You have to wear a life preserver at all times when fishing below a dam. Now having said all this lets rig for fishing. You will need: a three-way swivel, a number 2/0 or 3/0 hook, and anywhere from a half ounce to one ounce weight. You want to use a two-foot leader from swivel to weight and about a one-foot leader to a hook. Now all that’s left to do is put the shad on, let it fall to the bottom, and wait for the bite as you drift. I’m not real big on this type fishing unless I go with someone very knowledgeable about it.
So lets move on to summertime. This is where I am most proficient. From June until September we will be fishing the creeks. The main thing to this type of stripe fishing is to be able to keep your shad alive. The best combination I have found that is simple and easy to do is rock salt and ice. Always use a round tank to keep them from butting into the walls of the tank and killing themselves. A good pump will keep the tank oxygenated. So, let’s go fishing! All we’re going to need is hooks and corks. I like to use number 2/0 or 3/0 hook and a cork colored cork “brown”. When using just a hook, stick the shad in the nose holes and throw it out toward the bank. The fish can be located in 20 foot of water up to3 foot of water. I like using a cork in any water less than six foot deep. This keeps the shad from burring up in the bottom of the river and killing themselves or tangling up on rocks or limbs. When fishing these creeks you want to move to the upper ends of the creeks or the shoals where the water will be cooler. Like I said, stripe love cold water. They move into these creeks in search of food and cool water.