Six Species Slab Smackdown

 

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So this afternoon was a no-brainer to go after some slabs.

I wanted fish tacos and I was lucky enough to find the ingredients today. The weather was what I call perfect for fishing. Light winds, overcast, rainy-at-times and cool with constant approaching weather.

I got on the water around 2:00 and started catching fish right off. There was bait on top of the water, but I never saw any surface activity. I launched and headed into the back of a cove I’ve had plenty of luck in over the years and hit a keeper striper before I could get all three lines out.

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I had two rods spooled with leadcore already out and was dropping back a crankbait in the center of the spread when the first rod doubled over. It was a decent fish and fought hard, digging deep repeatedly in 20 fow. I lip-gripped the striped bass and brought it into the yak. It was about 21″, so I took a quick pic and released it. I was only planning on keeping whites or crappie.

I trolled through the area a while and picked up a few small catfish before landing the first white bass. I thought it was a striper, as usual with the bigger whites. It was almost 14″ (feature photo) and hit the ice. Then, I trolled right back through the same spot and hit a nice crappie, just about 12″ and it too joined the white bass.

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Then, the sun popped out, the temperature went up and the bait and fish vanished. The wind picked up a bit too, so I trolled across the lake and hit a different area. Once there, I found fish on structure and started jigging after a few passes with no takers. I caught several bream, with one nice one first. I thought about keeping them, but turned them back.

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Then, I caught another striper, it was short and also quickly released.

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Right afterwards, as the the bait sunk back to the bottom I pulled the first time and felt a huge bite. I was sure I was hung then felt the shaking and new I was on a nice fish. It dug good and shook its head several times before I turned it upward and was able to bring it to the side of the yak. Awww. Anyway it was nice fight…

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The afternoon started getting late and I was headed back to the ramp and the wind died. The clouds covered the sky again and I decided to tie on a chugbug. I love those things. Rivers, lakes wherever. I chucked it along a bank a few times and had one blow up. I figure it was a maybe two pounds, but it was fun for the sixth species of the day.

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After that the wind started up again and I split. Only kept the crappie and white bass but it was just enough. I love overcast calm days on the water.

 

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Jordan Lake Stripers

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I got out on Jordan Lake today to chase striped bass and white bass and found the fish feeding readily.

I started out jigging in about 18′ of water and hooked the only striper I kept on a piece of metal. The fish fought like a much bigger striped bass, but once I landed the 21″ specimen I knew I had a grilled dinner, so I put it on ice. All I needed at that point was a fresh lemon. This fish had a fair amount of broken lines, but it was just a striped bass.

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But after a few more minutes of jigging and no takers I could see action on the surface of the water around me. The wind was light and I had trolling gear aboard, so it wasn’t long before I started pulling hardware. I started off in 15 FOW and had marks all around.

And I was quickly rewarded for the change of tactics. Clouds had been moving in from the west, and as the afternoon progressed, the colors changed from reds to purples tinged with orange as the sun found its way to the horizon. The wind slightly changed to a WSW and it wasn’t five minutes into the pass when the leadcore rod with a sassy shad doubled over. I fought the fish while keeping the other line moving and landed another nice keeper striped bass before releasing it after a quick pic.

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After I turned around to make another pass through the area I immediately found my sonar lit up again. And after another few moments the same rod doubled over again and I fought a really nice white bass to the boat. I thought it was another striper the way it fought, but once I boat-flipped the large panfish I knew I had another cooler fish. It hit the ice and I set back out.

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There was a slight lull and I changed jig heads as I was running through the same general area. At times I would pull cranks and at times I didn’t. But after a while I decided to change colors and ran a chartreuse Bomber over shallow structure. I’d been running a white Bomber as my prop-wash bait, but it was a deep crank, so I opted for a 6′ – 8′ model and quickly found fish receptive.

This was my first striper double of the year (feature photo) and after fighting the fish to the boat, I released them after taking pics. I only planned on keeping 1 striped bass for a grilled dinner over the weekend and the white bass was a bonus. As you can clearly see, one fish was caught on a sassy shad and one was landed on a crankbait.

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I caught a few others, but released everything else. All my fish were caught in 14′ to 24′ of water and almost every fish was caught using white sassy shads on chartreuse jigheads.

Good luck!!

Chasing White Bass

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I’ve been out a few times recently trying to see what the white bass are doing.

With the impossible-to-predict-weather we’ve seen so far this past sprinter and spring, the anadromous fishes have been off from their normal upriver spawning runs.

So I went this past Sunday on the kayak and found striped bass, white bass, crappie and more on Jordan Lake, then I took a stroll through a scenic area on the Haw River earlier this week and searched the pools and eddies for the small-but-ferocious fighters, and finally rushed to meet up with Captain Stu Dill yesterday after work to see if we could find any fish on the main lake before the weather hit.

So Sunday was awesome…

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I found and caught six species. Released all the perch, bream and smaller whites and crappie and largemouth bass, but I did release one big striper…check out the video.

 

I don’t like to keep freshwater stripers over 22″ for the table. So I usually release the bigger fish. And I’d already put a 22″er in the ice box along with the whites and crappie. So that was a great day; probably caught 30ish fish, almost all on jigs and sassy shads trolling in 20′-24′ of water.

Then, I got the itch to seek out the creek dwellers. I walked to a cool spot on the Haw River and took some pics before catching one little male, which was photo’d and quickly sent back to the river…

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The fishing was slow, but the afternoon was priceless.

Then I decided to hit the water yesterday after a half day of work with Captain Stu Dill and we worked as hard as we could. We employed a run-and-gun strategy; knowing we didn’t have a lot of time before storms would hit. Stu drove and I tied and re-tied rigs, trying to see if the fish would eat. But the rain quickly arrived and the air cooled considerably. We figured we were golden; barometer dropping, cloudy and overcast, no wind, blah,blah,blah.

We almost got skunked; if not for the hungriest white bass in the world yesterday, which also hit a small jig with a white sassy shad trailer. (feature photo) It was quickly photo’d and released as well. But the storms ran us off the water less than 2 hours after we launched, so we didn’t even get to fish any prime time.

So the moral of the story is the same as usual with spring fishing. Get out there and do it, but don’t be too disappointed when the sure thing on a spring day turns into a non-starter. Just breathe in that fresh air and enjoy the time afield and afloat.

A Trip to the River, A Trip to the Taxidermist…

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Photo by: Tom Sullivan

So with recent daytime temperatures reaching into the 70’s and 80’s, water temps are on the rise.

The high waters from this past winter have all but receded, and the lakes and rivers are coming to life.

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Driftwood like this can be found all over local lakes in the trees anywhere from 10′ to 15′ in the air from this past winter’s flooding. Photo by: Tom Sullivan

And with the mercury rising, the river dwellers are waking up; white bass in particular. Every year around the end of March or the beginning of April, white bass begin their spawning run up the creek arms and rivers which feed many of our NC lakes and reservoirs.

These small to medium sized specimens are voracious feeders, and many who chase them throughout the year in NC swear they are, pound for pound, among the hardest freshwater fighters anglers can target.

And I would have to agree.

It’s not just how hard they pull, but how long they can go on feed. They are often found schooling, or busting the top of the water column chasing bait fish on cloudy and windless days. And they are also fantastic table-fare. I prefer them fried but they are also great grilled or even pan-seared.

So I went to fish the northern creeks of Jordan Lake this past week, before the temps took a nose dive this week. I figured the run could be starting, even though notes in my journals suggested to wait a while longer. I couldn’t wait it out any more.

Upon arrival I noted the water was still cool, and started to fan cast around some areas that have been good to me in the past. Nothing. Not a sniff. I paddled to a few different areas and was afforded the same luck. Too cold I thought. It was last Monday and I’d played hooky from work (it’s ok I’m the boss), and I was starting to think I might ought to rethink the days’ activities.

But then I decided to try a little trick I’ve learned will fill a stringer on days these particular fish seem lock-jawed. I opted to troll the shallows with a weightless in-line spinner. It’s a delicate strategy, but often proves beneficial when cast and retrieve techniques aren’t panning out. One does not need a lot of line out, nor will you need to paddle fast.

I prefer to let out about twenty feet of line and paddle around 1.5 to 2 mph.

I was quickly glad the boat hadn’t found the bed of the truck prematurely.

Within moments of starting to troll in an area I had confidence in, I had a big fish on. I thought it was probably a large mouth bass; until I saw the stripes.

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Photo by: Tom Sullivan

The fish fought hard and after bringing it to the kayak, I realized it was a really big white bass. I didn’t have a scale but I was planning on keeping fish for the fryer. So I would weigh it later. I didn’t even have a measuring board, but I knew this fish was a big female.

White bass have no size minimum for the creel, but I try to release any fish less 12″. This one turned out to be 17.5″ and just under 3 pounds; a trophy by length and weight from NC waters.

I trolled another few hours up until the clouds finally broke and caught several more big females. I caught all the fish on a brown haired, #3 inline spinner. The fish seemed to completely disappear when the sun showed itself around midday, but I had a nice stringer of fish for the fryer and one in particular I needed to weigh.

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Photo by: Tom Sullivan

Once home I found a digital scale and realized I had indeed caught a citation white bass. The minimum length and weight used to be exactly the same as a crappie, but the length has recently moved up an inch from 16″ to 17″. I’ve released multiple whites over the last few years that have been trophies and regretted it, so I took this one to Howard Walters at Furs, Feathers & Fins Taxidermy. Howard did a deer mount for me this past winter and has become my most trusted taxidermist. His quality of work, pricing and timeliness are second to none in my book.

I have been out to the lake 3 times in the last 2 weeks and caught whites each time. They are biting in rivers and creeks that feed lakes or impoundments with white bass present. I hear the bite is going really well on the Eno River as well.

These fish will bite when others are lock-jawed, but I do prefer to fish for them on cloudy days with light winds. So get out there and take some in-line spinners with you. You’ll most likely get a stringer full of delicious tasting fish, and you might just get a wall-hanger for your troubles as well.

 

 

 

 

Trophy Hybrid Bass on the Cape Fear River

Photo by: Joey Sullivan
Photo by: Joey Sullivan

Area rivers are still high and stained from recent rains, but the water temps are heating up, and with it the action for hard fighting current dwellers.

My brother and I hit the Cape Fear river today for the afternoon bite and the action was steady. It was cloudy for the most part with occasional periods of sunny skies. I started off fishing some fast water and the first fish was a bruiser. After throwing a crankbait over a boulder and slowly pulling it through the hole I felt a vicious strike. The fish instantly peeled off drag, and I had to brace the rod with my off hand to keep the pole from flattening out and breaking off over the rocks my line was rubbing. I maneuvered around the rocks and managed to tighten the drag a touch without losing pressure on the fish and started to gain some line. It probably took five or six minutes of nerve-wracking fighting to get it close, and after a few more runs I netted a 25″, 8lb plus hybrid bass. A nice first fish for the day for sure.

My brother quickly started catching too. He first caught a white bass and then soon enough he also had a citation fish. He was throwing a crankbait as well, and hooked into a nice spotted bass. It was well over 15″.

We both caught our share of carp, fishing corn in small holes here and there, before heading back to the swift water as storms approached from the west. There I caught a citation, 16″ white bass close to 3 pounds, and Joey hooked into a huge largemouth bass right afterwards, but it broke him off after chaffing the line on a rock.

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Joey’s spotted bass
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16″ white bass
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22″ channel catfish
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23″ carp

 


All fish were released very much alive.

We started for the truck when the storms caught us and we had to load the vehicle in pouring rain, hail and several bolts of lightning right on top of us. Spring is great for fishing and some days will be awesome, but don’t mess with the storms. They’ll sneak up on you quick this time of year. We were fortunate enough to see a turkey and a double rainbow on the drive out too. Quite a lucky day.

We fished and had success with square bill crankbaits, Texas rigs, and Carolina rigs. Inline spinners were unproductive, and poppers as well, which was surprising as they have been quite effective lately. Slow rolling the cranks through the swift water was the key. I’ve been fishing inline spinners and poppers a lot lately and they have been producing consistently, but not today. Always bring an assortment of baits along on spring time trips because your plan may be solid, but the fish just might not agree. Be ready to switch it up.