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Fall Stripers make sweet string music

By By Mike Giles / outdoors writer
Oct. 3, 2003
When it comes to string music, basketball players don't have anything on the ferocious hybrid striped bass. Stripers can really make your line sing, and I'm not just whistling "Dixie" either! If you have never had the pleasure of meeting the tough old "line sides," then you have missed a treat.
Almost every October the stripers school along the ledges and drop off areas of the main lake in Okatibbee Reservoir. Where there's shad, there's sure to be hungry stripers lurking nearby. On a recent trip fishing trip, Ken Murphy joined me in search of a fish or two. It wasn't long before we spotted a few bait fish being mauled on the top by some then unknown predatory fish.
Once we arrived in the general area of the activity, my rod suddenly doubled up with a good fish on the other end. To my surprise it was a nice spotted bass. Shortly thereafter, Murphy hooked up with a bass of his own. After catching a few spots and green trout we were really having a ball.
Big bite
Suddenly Murphy tied into a "hawg" that really made his line sing. The big lunker almost had his way with the veteran angler as it went one way and then the other. Funny thing though, this fish never tried to break the surface. By the look of things, it really seemed like there was something besides a bass on the end of his line.
After what seemed like an eternity, the big fish finally came near the surface still fighting tooth and nail for its freedom. Once the lunker came into sight we weren't surprised to see that it was none other than a big hybrid striped bass. And to top it off he was caught right in the middle of a school of largemouth and spotted bass.
Of course the fish was right where it should have been, on the edge of a ledge feasting on sumptuous shad! The only reason the stripers weren't schooling on top was that the wind was keeping the shad down below the surface. It was obvious however, that the stripers were dining on fresh shad in the depths below. Even though the surface was devoid of activity, the depths were obviously teaming with fish.
Although this was our first striper of the fall, it surely wasn't the last. With the cooler fall weather, the stripers have once again begun their schooling and feasting on unwary shad. Once you locate stripers they will usually hit any topwater or subsurface bait that a bass prefers. The trick is to put that bait in front of his nose. Sometimes the bigger the lure the bigger the stripers will be.
Change lures
Although they do get wise to some baits after being caught and released a few times, they will still strike new offerings with a vengeance. The trick is to keep one step ahead of them. Stripers will attack almost any type of lure, but some are more productive than others.
Bucktail jigs, grubs, Whing Dings and other lead-based lures can be retrieved fast and efficiently. That allows anglers more opportunities to get the bait in front of the fish. One thing to remember is to bring some heavy-duty equipment if you're planning to land a big striper. They have been known to break lines, straighten hooks and tear the gears out of the business end of some good reels!
The best time to catch stripers is right now. Don't delay. Head to the lake today. Be on the lookout for shad and baitfish, because that's where you'll find the stripers. Be sure to release most of these fish and you can continue to enjoy them for years to come. When you take one home, just remember that they don't reproduce at Okatibbee and that particular fish won't ever give you a thrill again. If you want to feel the excitement again and again, release them to fight another day and catch some crappie or catfish for your meals. Contact Mike Giles at (601) 626-8843 for more information.