Now that have had Blackberry winter, maybe we can stash the cold gear away until next fall. The weather forecast calls for a return to relatively average temps, although there are rain chances almost every day until early June. The lake level fell slightly last week and is now .58 feet over full pool, and as of Friday morning the current level was 1071.58. The surface temps are around 72 degrees.
The Stripers are on a good bite, still across the board technique wise, and that may remain the case until water temps warm to the point of pushing the fish out of shallow water. So, be prepared for a little of everything, a mix of downlines and free line/planers, combined with some casting some top waters and Minis! I think the bite still varies from the lower end compared to the upper end, with the fish being more scattered on the lower end, more bunched up and better numbers as you go into either river. The patterns are basically the same as last week, you can just add in your favorite topwater bait as that bite is becoming stronger.
On the lower end, look for the fish to be around points and humps, and there are some fish roaming around the backs of lower end creek channels over a 35 to 50 foot bottom. The fish on the humps and points may be suspended off of the side of the structure, so look for that as you approach the area. The fish may also be right on the crest of the hump/point especially early in the day. Don’t ignore brush piles on these high spots, the Stripers will often be around or over the brush as well. If the you are targeting fish in water over 20 to 25, set up with down lines and see if you can pull the fish up under the boat, if you are fishing in depths of 20 feet or less pull the free lines and boards over and around the hump/point, casting a topwater, Fluke or Mini to the shallowest part of the structure.
If you are venturing into the upper parts of the river, points and humps are still very likely areas to look for fish, but include flats along the sides of the creek or river channels in your search area. Apply the same basic depth guidelines mentioned in the above paragraph, and if you get near a point or over a shallow hump casting one if the previous mentioned baits will generally be worth some bonus bites.
The Bass bite is good and while the fish remain scattered out, they are definitely moving onto brush and off shore structures. There are still some nice fish in shallow water, particularly early or if the weather offers up the cloudy, low light conditions we experienced during most of the last week. Look for the shallow fish around points and humps, sand saddles between the islands and anywhere you can find a bait fish spawn. With water temps in the low 70’s these shallow patterns should continue to produce for a few days.
20 to 25 foot brush is definitely a good place to look for fish, as that traditional Lanier pattern is going strength. Topwater over the brush will get the bite, I am not sure which bait is best? I think almost any of your favorite walking baits or poppers will get the bite. Bone has been a good color with the overcast skies lately, that may change when the sun appears, so factor in the weather when selecting a color. A lightly weighted Fluke has also been an excellent bait lately for casting any over the brush, and makes a great change up to the topwater. Another bait that can be very effective cast over brush is the Steelshad. These baits are a little under the radar, but are very productive. The weight and compact size of this bait allow for long casts, and it can be retrieved fairly quickly and still hold he depth if needed. It is also a very good bait to cast to any schooling fish you may see.
I mentioned that there are fish on many of the saddles around the islands and between the reef poles, and I have had good luck casting top waters and flukes early, switching to Mini Macks later in the day. Try this twist on this pattern, as you approach one of these areas watch the sonar. If you see fish on the down imaging anywhere from 5 to 20 fleet, take the boat out of gear, walk to the back of the boat and cast the Mini in your boat wake. If the bottom is clean, let the Mini sink to the bottom and then start a steady retrieve. It is amazing how effective this can be! The boat will not spook the fish, but you’ll need to do all of this quickly as the further the boat gets from the fish the harder it is to get the Mini in the strike zone. Remember how small an area of bottom you are looking at in the above mentioned depths, so your cast needs to be precise. This also applies to the Striper fishermen, if you see fish on you sonar or down imaging when you approach and area, or when you are pulling a bait spread, make cast right over the motor between your freelines and it is amazing how often you’ll get a bite. The fish you hook will often bring fish with him, pulling them up and into your bait spread which will often account for a couple of extra bites!