Happy Labor Day weekend to all! Many questions about the annual Fall turnover, and has it started? I think yes, we have started the turnover process and fishing has reflected that. The Surface temps rose a couple degrees this week, up to 84. The lake level rained stable and was 1071.16, Thursday evening, .16 feet above full pool. The long term forecast says if you can hang on through the weekend we’ll get a little cool down next week as high temps will be in the mid 80’s as opposed to the 90 degree weather we have experienced during much of August.
Although the Striper bite changed drastically in the last few days, there are still a couple patterns that are very productive. A good game plan is to look for fish up in the pockets, as shallow as 30 feet, in the early morning, Then grab the umbrellas and start pulling over 25 to 30 foot points and humps for the remainder of the day, keeping watch for any surfacing fish you may run into. The fish in the pockets will respond to a live bait, Herring on the down line or the pitch line, and I think the pitch bait is the better option. You’ll still need to change out the baits often, so keep them fresh to maximize the bite!
The trolling technique i mentioned in the previous paragraph has been a very strong pattern in the last few days. This technique requires a great deal more effort and attention to detail than the open water trolling we experience during the Summer months. The primary pattern now is to pull the rig over 25 to 35 foot humps, the fish are piling up on these areas, often in big groups, and have been pretty quick to take the rig! The problem with this pattern is often the fish will be in really tight schools, right on the crest of the hill, but that makes for a small strike zone. Think in terms of a school of fish locked onto to the top of a hump, or a brush pile in an area the size of your boat. If you don’t get the rigs in that area you probably will not get the bite. Another point that is relevant to this technique is that the fish often leave after you catch one or two. Once you pull over the hump and get hooked up, you will often pull the whole group of fish off of the hump or point which means you can’t just keep circling over the same place over and over and continually catching fish. Generally, if you catch fish on a place, leave it alone and the fish will often return in 45 minutes to an hour, then you can return and catch a couple more.
There is a lot of schooling activity, and I think we can break this down into two different patterns. In the early am, there are surfacing fish everywhere, but mostly single fish, or small groups of fish, that appear very randomly, and are up and down very quickly. They are hard to target, but if you can get a bait to them quickly they are catchable. Flex-it Spoons are a good choice to cast at these fish, cast it slightly past the fish and if they are still on the surface, reel the spoon across the top of the eater. If the fish are no longer on the surface, reel it up to where you last saw the activity, and then allow the spoon to sink on a tight line. Having the spoon tied on is also plus because you can drop it to any deep fish you see while soaking the Herring. Vertically jigging the spoon should get you a couple of bonus bites from Stripers, Spots and an occasional Channel Catfish.
The second pattern is casting to the big schools of fish that are starting to show up more frequently. These fish are much easier to catch, I would pick the Mini Mack as the Number one bait of choice, but top waters, spoons, Steelshads and Flukes will also get the bite. The schoolers may show up anywhere, at anytime, and the activity is probably best in the afternoon and evening hours. This pattern may improve, or at least you should expect to see more surfacing fish, as the water cools more towards the middle of the month.
The Bass have certainly been moving with the advent of the changing water conditions, so versatility is key. There are fish all over 25 foot humps and points, and those areas with a nice pile of brush will be a plus. Finding fish on those areas has been easy, catching them…well that will vary from day to day. A topwater remains a viable choice, wind and lowlight may make this pattern a little stronger, and your favorite walking bait may get the attention of the bigger fish. Jigs around some of the humps and the brush may not produce the numbers that the drop shot will, but like the top waters it may catch the bigger fish. Spybaits, jerk baits and casting Spoons are also good choices. 25 feet seems to be a really good number right now, with a few fish deeper, but the numbers decrease as you get into 35 to 40 feet.
Like the Stripers, there are plenty of bass pushing bait to the surface. They are catchable if you can get to them, and make a really good cast when you do. Often these fish are so focused on one bait, or one school of bait that it is hard to get the fish to lock in on what is tied to your line. As a general rule, if you can make the bait land in the rings the fish made when it surfaced, you have a good shot at getting the bite, outside that ring, good luck.
Don’t rule out night fishing as an option right now. Fishing around the lights has been producing some good catches, and fishing the humps at night can also be produce well. Humps from 12 to 20 feet are a good place to target, and a worm on the shakey or a Texas Rig can be very effective. If nothing else it is a good way to beat the heat and the expected Labor day Crowds!