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Winter 2020

February is winding down and we are into March! March has historically been a great month for Stripers, and there is no reason to think this year will be any different, although the patterns may be non typical as opposed to years past? The same statement should apply to Bass fishing as well. The long term forecast is projecting a typical March forecast, some rain with fairly mild temps, so make time to get on the lake and fish! Even with the rain in the forecast, factor in that on many of those days the rain chance is minimal and those cloudy skies often make for a good bite! It looks like the record all time high lake levels are safe for now, and the lake level is currently 1076.07,  5.07 over full pool, the surface temps are around 50 degrees. 

Striper fishing has remained very stable, and the majority of the fish are still holed up in deep water around the bait concentrations. With the repeated influxes of new muddy water the lake received in February, the shallow water and the water in the backs of the creeks and coves has been in a constant state of turmoil. The deeper water offers plenty of stability, and if the bait stays there is really no reason for the fish to move? I am sure that will that change as the water warms, however, in the short term it looks like downlines and/or trolling over deep water will be your best options to consistently find numbers of Stripers. Look for bait concentrations in the back of the creeks, or coves, it does not have to be a live creek to hold fish. The bait may show up anywhere from 50 to 80 feet, so keep your search area broad. Once you find the bait, send the down lines to them, staggering the depth of the baits based on what the sonar shows.  Dropping to the bottom and reeling up a couple of cranks has still been a good technique when you see the bait tight to the bottom, and the timber will allow. Herring have been the preferred bait, but a Gizzard Shad is worth keeping in the spread.

Trolling has been a good technique as well, particularly in the upper reaches of either river. Once you get into the upper part of either river, there is more bait and fish in the 30 to 40 foot range, which makes them more accessible to the rigs. Pulling the Minis or the Big rigs are both effective, and with decreased amounts of floating debris trolling is a more viable pattern. Target the bait concentrations, flats along the river channels, and bends in the river or creek channels. Use the mud lines to your advantage and don’t be hesitant to troll in stained water. A slight stain can be good, and adding flash to the rig can be a plus, and now that the water is stabilized the off color water may be a plus. 

Bass fishing is good, but the fish are all over the place and using a wide variety of depths and structures. The patterns are widely varied, although the bite largely revolves around soft plastics with jigs and crank baits having some application as well. I think the deeper structures are still the most productive, certainly in terms of consistency, although there are some big fish roaming in shallow water. I guess the biggest question here is what is deep? We’ll call deep 25 to 45 feet, and the structures are the usuals, timber edges, bluffs, and brush. Worms are the biggest producers, but Senkos, swim baits and other plastics can also be effective. Overall, worms on the drop shot are very consistent, as are the shakey heads. Bait is also a very big factor, if you can find good bait concentrations the fish should be nearby.

The dock bite is also very strong, great for numbers, with a few big fish mixed in. Depth is the big variable here as well, with dock fish holding anywhere from 10 to 40 feet. To try and narrow this pattern down, try docks in 15 to 25, in the major creek arms. That is a very general guideline and on any given day those parameters may change dramatically. Another general guideline is  if the fish is at home, the bite will come quickly, so fish a dock thoroughly but don’t hang around too long as this is often one and done pattern. Look for the numbers of fish on the docks to increase as the water warms and we move into March. 

Shallow structures are holding some fish, the numbers may not be great bit the average size is excellent. Worms and jigs will get it done, but a spinnerbait or a small crank bait may be a good choice as well.  Both of the latter two options should become stronger as the water warms in the coming days. You may want to try a # 5 or #7 Shad Rap, I know that is old school, but there is a reason that bait has been around for as long as it has. Target the backs of the creeks and coves, and finding stained water will be a plus. I think the fish are easier to trick and a little less weary if the water is dingy, it will often be slightly warmer as well. Cast the Shad Rap to any type of shallow structure adjacent to the bank. A slow steady retrieve with an occasion pause should catch whatever is around, Both Largemouth and Spotted Bass, White Bass and a few small Stripers are quick to respond to the Shad Rap. Light line, 6 to 10 lb test and this is a fun and productive way to fish.