So striped bass were crushing trolled baits at Lake Gaston this Thanksgiving.
My brother went up the day before Michelle and I, and ruled out the main lake, which was muddy from recent rains. Then, he found some stripers in a creek we fish a lot. He caught stripers and catfish the first day and kept three nice ones for a game dinner the day after Thanksgiving. I was bringing up a backstrap from my first deer of the season, and the striped bass fillets would go great with it. He and my Dad went out the next morning for a few hours and caught more too. From there on out we stayed on them the rest of the trip.
As soon as Michelle and I got up to the lake, Joey and I launched the boat as I hadn’t run it in quite a while. I just wanted to run some of the old gas out, which had been treated with Stabil a few months prior. We figured, why not drop a few baits though, right? Without even getting out all the rods, the first doubled over. It wasn’t a huge striped bass, but we knew they were still in the area.
It was cloudy, overcast and cold, probably in the 40’s, and when the wind blew, it was out of the north and stinging. The trees up there have been dropping leaves a while and there were patches of water that had to be avoided as lines and baits would tangle with pinestraw and dead leaves.
So I called Michelle and told her to get ready as I was coming back to the house to get her. She had never caught a striped bass before, and we had tried a few times on previous trips, but luck hadn’t been in her favor. That was about to change. So we ran back to the house, scopped her up, and motored back to our area.
After a little while the action started. When the first rod started bouncing wildly I handed it over…and she fought it perfectly, bringing the linesider boatside like a pro. I could tell by the look on her face she had the bug. Then, another rod doubled over and Joey fought that one in.
After dealing with the first two, the action slowed a few minutes. We were still seeing birds moving about though (which is a dead giveaway for feeding striped bass in cold weather). Seagulls will often crash the water violently, snatching scraps, when fish are feeding underneath them.
Soon, it was my turn again and when the rod started going off, I grabbed it and started on the fish. Moments into the battle however, the other rod started really bending over. I hollered for Michelle to grab it and we had our first double on! We had to change positions a few times in the boat as she had a biggun on running out drag and trying desperately to escape the situation. I got my fish netted after a few minutes and used the boat to make her’s easier. It hit the top of the water a few times and we could see it had two of the jigs on the Bama rig in it. I had freed the first fish from the net while she was fighting hers, so it was ready when she got the bigger striper boatside. After some hollering it was in the net, and she had experienced her first striped bass double (feature photo).
I’ve taken her fishing a good bit over the last year, and we have caught a ton of fish, on kayaks and in different boats, but every time it’s been her turn, a different species was on the other end of the line. She has caught largemouth bass, crappie, white perch, white bass, carp, catfish etc. And now finally some stripers.
After the double it was time to go in for Thanksgiving with the family, but the fishing wasn’t over…
The next morning it was freakishly cold. Michelle opted to sleep in and Joey wanted to go on his kayak, so I took the boat out alone. It was 29 degrees with a light wind out of the north and cloudy, no sun greeted us at dawn. But the birds were working. It took a while to get the fish going, but we were marking tons of bait and arches on the sonar. Joey started the morning with a largemouth off a point in nearly 30 feet of water.
A few minutes later, I was almost about to go in for coffee and wait a couple hours for it to warm up when the first rod went off. I could tell it was a nice fish, and set in to battle it in freezing conditions…that’s when things got interesing! The second rod started bouncing much harder (just like the day before, a minute after the first fish hit). The boat was moving about 1.5mph, as slow as I can run without knocking off. As I fought the first fish, hollering for Joey to come my way, I watched the other rod just going off. A few times during the fight it almost straightened up and I thought it was off, but it stayed attached. I used the net on the first fish, as it was a nice one, then set in to fight the second. That’s when I realized it was a big one, for sure.
So I dead-boated it. After killing the engine the fish started burning drag and I just held on. Then, I felt the weird sensation striper fishermen sense at times. There was a strange tug-of-war coming from the end of the line. I had two fish on! It took some time to get the mess boatside, and I had already tangled a striper and hooks in the net, so I tried using fish grippers to get the big one, which looked to be a 30″ fish. But it’s mouth was not going to open. So I opted to reach for the Bama rig and pulled both fish over the rail and into the boat. Another triple by myself, man that’s an adrenaline rush for sure.
My hands were absolutely frigid by the time the fight was over so I had to leave biting fish to get warmed up. Joey caught a few more, but by the time Michelle and I came back out the bite was over. It was really a brutal day out so we cut our time short and went in to have a wild game Thanksgiving; a second day of feasting. We released everything from the two days of fishing as Joey had secured three nice fish for our feast on the first day.
We will catch those guys again one day…and they’ll be bigger…