Luke Clayton, Outdoors writer and Radio Personality, recently spent the day fishing with Striper Express and wrote the following column.
TEXOMA STRIPERS HITTING TOPWATERS Luke Clayton
Pottsboro- Lake Texoma guide Chris Carey with Striper Express eased his boat out of the protected waters of Highport Marina recently and pointed it's bow into a steady 25 mph breeze. Conditions weren't idea, at least by most schools of thought, for fishing with top water baits but Carey was exuding optimism. “We tore the stripers up yesterday, and the wind was blowing just as hard. Striped bass are saltwater transplants and they often respond to turbulent weather and waters by going on a feeding frenzy. We’ve been catching them on top waters with regularity during the first couple hours of daylight, regardless the wind. We should get our lines stretched this morning,” he added.
Carey maneuvered the boat downwind of a small island, positioning us on the leeward side a long cast away shallow water. “Throw up into that 2 foot water and really move some water with those big Chug Bugs, the bait and stripers are in here but you’ll have to really churn the surface with those plugs to attract their attention.” says Carey. The strong wind pushing the water onto the shallows gave the appearance of a rip tide with a strong current. We began throwing hard, placing the baits as closely as possible to the bank. I noted a blue heron setting on the bank, occasionally stabbing it’s beak into the water, occasionally snagging a shad, just about the size of our top water plug. My confidence level was building; baitfish were obviously here. Our plugs perfectly matched the size of the shad the bird was feeding on and… Carey was here the day before under similar conditions and the stripers were aggressive.
After a couple of casts, I noted several shad jumping completely out of the water, followed by a couple of big ‘splats’: stripers were in hot pursuit. Then, a big school of stripers moved into the shallows with the obvious intent of devouring every shad they could catch. Mini topwater explosions were popping up all around the bank, sometimes in water that appeared to be just deep enough to cover the striper’s dorsal fins. Times like this, I have to force myself to be calm, make good casts and avoid backlashes. I instinctively cranked the line tension know down a bit on the reel’s spool and made a hard cast up toward the bank. My Chug Bug had no more than hit the water when I saw and HEARD a big striper attack the bait. In the excitement, I committed the cardinal no-no of top water fishing. I jerked back to set the hook before the striper had the bait well into its mouth, resulting in slack line and that sinking feeling of loosing a big one. After a lifetime of fishing, I knew I should wait until the fish took the bait and loaded the rod before I pulled. I guess that’s one reason I like top water striper fishing so much, the sport has the potential to turn even the most veteran angler into a bundle of nerves, especially when one actually sees and hears the fish taking the bait.
Up in the bow of the boat, Carey was hooked fast to a hard fighting striper, he obviously had given his fish time to commit before he set the hook. After landing several stripers in very shallow water, the action slowed and Carey studied his electronics, noted a submerged ditch between the bank and a hump about fifty yards out and noted the fish had pulled out into water a bit deeper. “There is a cloud of shad laying on the side of this little channel and also plenty of stripers, if we really jerk those Chug Bugs and move a lot of water, we should be able to draw the fish up to the surface, if we can’t do that, I have a plan B that will work.” It soon became quiet obvious to me that plan A would work just fine. We were fishing the top water plugs in swells a couple feet high but stripers were having no problem finding and attacking our baits. I am continually awed by the amazing things I encounter while hunting and fishing. How a striper can locate and keep track of a fast moving bait in even faster moving water is a mystery to me, but they certainly can.
The water we were fishing was around 6 feet deep and the top water action lasted for at least half an hour, then the sonar’s screen went blank and the action stopped as quickly as it had began. “NOW, it’s time for Plan B.” says Carey as he handed me a Riptide Sassy Shad rigged on a half-ounce jig head. “The sun is up and the stripers are moving to deeper water. There is a series of submerged humps sheltered from the wind not far away, We’ve been having good success by working the Sassy Shad’s slowly along bottom. Expect to catch a mixed bag of stripers and white bass on this technique.”
With the protection of a shoreline tree line not far away, the waters here were a lot less turbulent. Carey would run the boat upwind of the submerged humps and allow us to drift back over the fish attracting bottom structure. “Some days, the fish are on the leeward side of the humps, sometimes on the windward side. It won’t take long to determine their pattern.” The instant our baits approached the windward side of the hump, I set the hook on a white bass and watched Carey land a chunky striper. We were fishing in an area with a series of humps. Almost every time our baits approached the windy side on one, we would set the hook on a striper or white bass.
By ten in the morning, we had plenty of stripers and white bass for the evening cook out and were in route back to the cleaning tables at Highport Marina. Carey predicts this steady shallow water top water bite will hold for a few more weeks, then the shad will disperse into the deeper water and schooling action will begin widespread over the lake. I plan to make a return trip when this occurs, and promise to keep you attuned to the action in an upcoming column.