We had a late start Thursday but managed to get on the Tugaloo River by 11am launching at Stephens County park. We were supposed to head north about 3 miles up river, but that was for the early morning bite. Being later in the day Don & I decided that since we missed the morning bite we would head about three miles south to the wider river curves at a place where we have done well in past years. Well when we got there we did not see any marks or bait. We put out a spread anyway which consisted of Planer Boards, Carolina Rigged Downlines, Freelines, Directional Bobbers and a mini Mack behind the big motor. We kept our speed between .5 and .7 mph. We got several bites on the Downlines but did not land any fish. We had a quick bite of lunch on the boat thanks to Charles bringing smoked ham sandwiches, chips and chocolate cookies. After lunch we decided to head up river to Prather Bridge where we did well in the previous week. Even though the water depth was 17 feet deep at best and the water temperature was 58 degrees we were marking fish everywhere. We put out the same spread once again. We missed a few more and realized that they had been only hitting the Carolina Rigged Downline all day. So we dumped the Planer Boards and Freelines and set out 6 Carolina Rigged Downlines. The power plant had begun generating but only about 2 miles an hour and with no wind we had out first Striper in the boat in minutes. This was about 4pm. A few minutes later we boated a nice Spotted Bass. We didn’t have much time left to fish and now knowing that the fish were wanting Bluebacks at a speed of 1.2 mph we were running out of time, and with the 5 mph gusty wind it became difficult to control the boat. We started getting snagged on most of the rods so we decided to call it a day.
Traditionally the Hybrid Bass river run takes place on the Tugaloo River Lake Hartwell from March 15th to April 15th. We met at the bait shop this morning at 5:30 and loaded up with Blueback Herring and Gizzard Shad both 3″ and dollar bill sized baits. Next stop was the Rabbittown Cafe for some breakfast. After a good fill up it was time to head to the Stephens County ramp to launch the boat. We headed north through the narrow channel toward the two bridges up the river about 3 miles. As soon as we saw the pylons of one of the bridges we stopped motoring and put out a spread of Planer Boards, Freelines and Carolina Rigged Downlines. The water temperature was 52 degrees and the barometer indicated that fish were eating. After a few minutes we had our first little football on. These Hybrids really put up a fight and you think you are bringing in a monster.
This was Gary’s first river Hybrid caught on the outside Planer Board 30′ from the board, then another 50′ out using a dollar bill sized Gizzard Shad. Shortly after we caught another Hybrid using the Carolina Rigged Downlines a foot off the bottom using one of the 3″ Gizzard Shad baits. Then another came on the other Downline using the same bait.
Now that we determined what the Hybrids were wanting, we began to bring in the other rods that were not producing and change them to Downlines with the same 3″ Gizzies, Carolina Rigged. We continued to fish until our trolling motor batteries died due to sustaining high speeds for more than 10 minutes at a time just to keep up with the water generation. The wind had picked up a little as well making small white caps. We decided to head in and plan to come back another day. Many thanks to Bill Chasey and Gary McConnell for the good times.
Friday January 18th 2019 went Striper fishing with Tom Brown local Striper hunter on a midday trip. We launched from his slip north of Brown’s Bridge at noon and headed to Flat Creek. The air temp was about 47° and the water temp was in the low fifties. A typical day in January, bluebird sky and all. Tom had been fishing Flat for a couple of months because it seemed that this had the most concentration of bait in the area. We found long bait layers along a 60’ bottom and could see Stripers below them. We targeted between 48 to 52’ and the fun began. When I say the hard way I mean fishing with 10lb leaders and this was new to me. With medium light rods and no drag on the reels it was difficult at times not to thumb the reel. But I didn’t, causing the fight to be way longer than what I was used to. Eventually the Striper would grow more tired as the fight continued taking up slack as the Striper slowed down his escape. All in all it was another great day on the water with just a slight wind and very few boats around us. We boated 7 Stripers in the 25 ½” to 26 ¾” range only losing a couple as it was a fast hit and run. Some of the fatter ones took a lot longer to bring in but following the 10lb leader rules we were very successful.
Bait shop didn’t have the large Gizzard Shad I wanted to use up in the skinny water of the Chattahoochee River today. I had to settle for large Rainbow Trout 15” long. I also got a dozen and a half Blueback Herring and got a couple bags of ice to keep the trout at 55° in the bait tank. We stopped at Rabbittown for some nourishment on the way to the Clark’s Bridge ramp. When we came up on the ramp the area was closed due to a large scale regatta that was to take place this morning. Having no other choice we headed for Don Carter state park to launch the boat. Of course this put us way up the river from Clark’s Bridge. We launched and headed north. We put out a small spread including 2 of the large trout out on Planer Boards and a couple of unweighted Freelines with the Blueback Herring. After pulling only ten minutes the port side board went under. Dave grabbed the rod and started reeling like a fiend and pumping the rod. BIG MISTAKE. I tried shouting out commands but was too late. It had to be a big Striper to take that 15” trout. Lesson learned. We continued heading north. Water temperature was 84° and the average water depth was only 13’. Shortly after we started getting Stripers on our Freelines.
When we reached the rock wall it was time to either go on to Lula or turn back towards Clark’s Bridge and run our Lead Core lines in the 50’ depths. We chose the latter and pulled 2 two ounce Bucktail Jigs with Lime Ice paddle tails out 5 & 6 colors. This was a good bet as we got another Striper.
It was a short run with the Lead Core so we decided to go back to pulling boards and Freelines. Almost out of bait and a few rain clouds heading our way we decided to call it a day. We caught 5 Stripers today and had a lot of fun doing so.
We launched from Old Federal Park ramp today at 7:30am. After a Facebook post from a fellow Striper angler who strictly uses Umbrella Rigs and already put a fish in the boat, I took that as a sign to at least start with this technique. Five minutes after putting out a Urig it was Fish On and a double at that.
These two Stripers at 18″ each took the pressure off by not skunking in the tournament. We left Mud Creek and headed to Three Sisters to pull some Lead Core. We put out two 2oz Bucktail Jigs with Lime Ice paddle tail trailers out 9 colors at 2.5 mph and got hit with a 26 3/4″ Striper allowing us to increase our total inches now to 44 3/4″.
We pulled for another hour picking up a 4lb Largemouth Bass but it would not count in this tournament.
We left for more productive waters and on the way to the humps in Young Deer Creek we picked up another fish to cul the other 18 incher we got this morning. We were now at 49 1/4″ total length for the weigh in at 2pm. The weigh in was held at the Land Shark Bar & Grill at Margaritaville at Lake Lanier Islands. We did not get in the money but placed half way down the list of 34 anglers. Upon leaving the event we saw a fellow angler unable to start his motor so we pulled in close and tried to jump start his motor from our batteries. No luck there. He lived very close by so we pulled him to his dock in Shoal Creek.
With Stripers staying down 40′ deep in their comfort zone getting an Umbrella Rig down to them was a challenge. Discussions with Capt Mack brought new light to the topic of getting deeper than the usual 22′ depth using his 9 arm Umbrella Rig. I took off the 1oz jigs and used 9 – 2oz jigs on a 3oz rig making it a total of 21 ounces and then let it out 100′ at 3 mph. That put us down to 40′ and voile Fish On. It was an incredible fight even though the Striper was only 25″. Reeling in all that extra weight along with the fish was intensive. I threw the boat in neutral, struggled to get the rod out of the holder and handed it to Don, frantically reeling in the other Umbrella Rig before it could get hung in a tree. I reached down and grabbed the rig hoisting it up into the boat fish and all. Don and I high-fived, took some pictures, measured him then released the Striper with the Seaqualizer back into his comfort zone.
With a little bit of wind and a plethora of boats on Lanier today it was a bit rough on the water. We left Vanns Tavern ramp at 7am and headed for the Six Mile crossroads. Surface temp was 89.1°. Bait care would be of great concern as Blueback Herring need 50-65° in the bait tank to be lively not just alive and we would have to drop the bait quickly to our desired depth which was 40 to 80 feet over a 100′ bottom, else the bait would die in less than a minute on the hot surface. I kept checking the bait tank temp for the next 40 minutes adding ice until the temperature stabililized at 62°. We staged four rods in the rod holders with enough line to get them 60 to 70 feet down holding the hook at the gunnel. Using the bait net we hooked a Herring and released the bail so that the bait plummeted downward immediately with the help of the 2oz. pencil weights. We had a couple of nice Stripers on within 10 minutes.
We took some pictures and realized with the hot surface temp the fish were not going to make it even with the seaqualizer. So I threw them on ice to be fileted later. We decided to move out to find a little cooler water finding 84° between the last Three Sisters island and the mouth of Big Creek not very far where we just were. By this time more boats were cruising in all directions and the wind picked up causing the water to be like a washing machine. We remained successful with our Downlines and caught 2 more smaller Stripers releasing them to the water torpedo style.
We were almost out of bait. I should have brought 3 dozen instead of two. We were also low on fuel so we headed to the gas dock at Holiday Marina. On our way in we came upon a center console barely moving. We thought they were fishing but realized they were not under much power. We slowed near them and they told us they ran out of gas and that the trolling battery was almost dead. So we towed them to the gas dock which is where we were headed. After grabbing some ice to put on the two Stripers we kept, we decided to grab some lunch at the Twisted Oar. We ran into some club buddies that had been successful pulling Umbrella Rigs. They said they tried some Downlining but with no success. They had five Herring left so they gave them to us. Well our bait soon ran out after snagging some trees. It was either quit and go home or get out the Lead Core rods. We used 2 different color 2oz. bucktail jigs and trailers, one pink and one chartreuse. Since the Stripers were down deep between 40-80′ we needed to seriously change our Lead Core presentation by decreasing our speed from 3 mph to 1.5 mph which would drop the baits to 36-40′, out 9 & 10 colors respectively. After a couple of hours the lake was seriously rougher than when we started. We decided to head back to the ramp to end the day.