By Luke Clayton, Daily Light contributor
Setting under the covered boathouse at Mill Creek Resort on Lake Texoma last week, several boats loaded with anglers anxious to get out on the water for a morning of striper fishing were sipping coffee and making small talk. I was in one of these boats, along with my grandson Jackson Zimmerman and good friend Jeff Rice. Rain was pounding on the metal roof above us and off in the distance, lightening was popping and thunder booming.
Prudent guides do not take their clients out in such conditions. Guide Chris Carey with Striper Express is a prudent guide; he is also a highly skilled one with years of striper catching experience. Chris held his cell phone up for us to take a look at the weather radar. We could look at the sky, off in the distance and easily identify the two banks of "heavy" weather that encircled the lake that were showing up on radar.
"It appears both these cells are moving around the lake, we might just luck out and get out on the water after all. We could possibly catch fish closer, but a 26 mile boat ride should put us right in the middle of some striper action that you will have to experience to believe," says Chris as the rain continues to hammer on the metal roof.
Chris had briefed me on a pattern he had discovered a few days earlier. He had located some big schools of stripers that were feeding on shad at first light in a big cove. The trick to catching them up in the shallow water was getting there soon after the break of day. Because of the storms, we were obviously going to be too late for this early morning action but with the cloud cover, Chris was hoping the fish would continue chasing shad on top for a few hours.
Another glance at radar and it appeared we were going to get the break in weather that we needed. Thirty minutes later, Chris had the throttle down, feeding fuel to the big 300 hp. engine and we were on our way to the distant hot spot. It doesn’t take long to travel 26 miles with 300 horses pushing on the stern of one’s boat. Chris pulled the throttle back at the mouth of the cove and began glassing the area with binoculars.
"Nothing happening back in this big cove, says Chris. The stripers must have already pushed all the bait out into the open, deeper water." Chris swung his binoculars around to the open water and fixed his gaze on a patch of water several hundred yards distant. I could see a few birds working near the water’s surface. Sure enough, the big striper schools our guide had been fishing the past few days were right on schedule. Normally they would not have been churning the water’s surface on a feeding frenzy this late in the morning but the overcast conditions prolonged the bite. Actually, the stormy weather with lightening earlier could have postponed the bite entirely.
Stripers are aggressive fish by nature, voracious feeders especially when they have a huge school of shad pushed up close to the surface. This was my grandson’s first time to experience a big school of surface feeding stripers pushing bait and Chris handed him a rod with a topwater plug. "Just pick a spot where you see a big fish blow up, throw past him and jerk the bait back so that it will move lots of water."
Jackson followed instructions and his first cast was perfect, it fell a few feet past a big swirl made by good size striper. The fish instantly made its move on the plug and the drag on Jackson’s reel was begrudging allowing the line to peel away in short bursts. A smooth drag on a reel used for striper fishing is a must and the Sixgill reels Chris uses are were idea; light and smooth, they were up to the task. The reel’s drag system, coupled with the steady pressure applied by the medium action rod soon had the big fish of the day alongside the boat and in the net.
While Jackson was enjoying his first top water striper action, Jeff, Chris and I were throwing Sassy Shads. These baits cast like a rocket and they can be fished using several techniques. With the stripers feeding on top, the trick was to make long casts, hold the rod up high and crank fast so the baits would work just under the surface. The fast gear ration on the reels, 7:1 and 8:1, made it possible to easily keep the baits up near the surface. A feeding striper doesn’t "bite" a lure, it attacks it while on the run and if you’re fishing with a bait caster, as we were, it’s important to have the spool tension cranked down, otherwise a birds nest of gigantic proportion is apt to occur.
That first school of feeding stripers kept us busy for a good 15 minutes of steady catching and then they sounded and the action stopped. Then, a couple hundred yards out in deeper water, they began churning the surface again. So the next hour and a half went, periods of steady catching, a lull and then back in the action. I love catching stripers on all types of lures but I love the feel of a striper nailing a lead slab. There is just something sudden and immediate to the "hook up" when slab fishing. When Chris pointed to a huge school of fish holding near bottom, I tied on a 1.5 pounce slab and began vertical fishing it within a few feet of bottom. BOOM! A chunky striper crushed it and made a couple of hard runs, deep. Of course, the other guys were staying busy with their Sassy Shads fished deeper but I just HAD to catch a couple on slabs.
The "slab bite" should be underway by the time you are reading this. During this period, huge schools of stripers begin their morning ritual of pushing shad near the surface on runs that often last for several miles. The drill is to get ahead of the fish, catch them as they come by and then, "leap frog" ahead and intercept them again.
Lake Texoma with its natural striper spawn is the mother of all striper lakes and we here in Texas and Oklahoma are fortunate indeed to have such a fishery close by.
For more information on striper fishing at Texoma, contact Striper Express www.striperexpress.com. Check out "A Sportsmans Life" on YouTube to watch a video of the action.
Contact outdoors writer Luke Clayton via www.catfishradio.org.