December 3, 2006
Cold water, hot fishing Hard to beat fall colors, feisty hybrids at The Rez
By Bobby Cleveland
Bobby Cleveland/The Clarion-Ledger
Hybrid striped bass, those loathsome creatures hated by so many fishermen blind to their charm, God bless their green- and white-striped souls.
For a few days this week when it was:
Too hot to hunt ...
Too windy to sit out in open water and catch crappie ...
Too pretty not to be outside doing something ...
The hybrids came through.
In the cool waters of the upper Pearl River area of Barnett Reservoir, north of Ratliff Ferry to Coal Bluff, the channel was rife with striped activity.
Finding the right places to be only needed a little experimenting. We found ours at our third stop, after my partner's first two choices didn't pan out.
"They were here two days ago, but they've moved on," said John Alford of Brandon. "They are so nomadic when they are chasing schools of shad.
"Here one day, gone the next."
So we went hunting, and, at stop number three, we hit the jackpot.
Fishing a long, straight 12- to 15-foot flat in the channel just north of Flag Island, we found a mixture of true stripers and hybrids (a cross between striped bass and white bass) holding in the current. The deep side of the straight sits below and on the opposite bank of a deeper bend in the river. As the water makes that bend, it speeds up and is funneled down the opposite bank.
Game fish, especially Kentucky spotted bass and the hybrid/stripers, sit waiting for the current to deliver a meal of shad. We offered them a few lures instead, and they liked our assortment.
Tail-spinners, jig heads with pearl grubs and slow-rolled spinnerbaits all produced fish.
The key to finding concentrations of fish was locating the ends of long trees that had fallen off the bank. Hybrids are not structure oriented, but shad are. As shad moved around the cover, their predators moved in for meals. We kept our lures out past the edge of the timber and consistently had action.
In 1 1/2 hours on the spot, we caught over 20, lost about 10 more that used their power to get into the cover and hang us up. Every fish was well over the 15-inch minimum length, and we kept our limit of three each to give to two women who were fishing back at the pier at Ratliffs Ferry.
The hybrid/striper population in Barnett is nowhere what it was back in the 1980s and early 90s, due to a reduction in stocking rates. Both species are produced in fish hatchery laboratories and are released. They are unable to reproduce in the wild.
Bass fishermen, for the most part, begrudge the stockings, preferring that hatchery ponds and money be used to produce and stock only black bass, preferably Florida strain.
But, I challenge anyone to spend a fall day on the upper Pearl part of The Rez, fishing against a backdrop of gold and red leaves lining the banks, enjoying the brute strength of a hooked-up and hacked-off hybrid.
You may be the one hooked hardest.
John Alford of Brandon unhooks a hybrid/striped bass caught
Tuesday on the upper Pearl River area of Barnett Reservoir.
Alford used his wife's red toe nail polish to paint the body
of his tailspinner. Mother Nature provides all the rest
of the color.