Striped bass anglers who are lamenting Lake Hartwell’s chilly water temperatures need only try pulling an umbrella rig to trigger fish to bite. Guide Mack Farr said he has a hard time explaining why, but umbrellas trigger strikes from striped bass that simply turn up their noses at other baits.
“An umbrella goes against every rule of winter fishing there is,” said Farr (770-271-0851). “It’s fast-paced when the rule is to go slow; it’s incredibly large baits when the rule is to downsize, and it’s heavy line and tackle when the rule is go lighter. Put all that aside and it works by triggering a striped bass’s instinct to strike out when faced with a quick decision.”
Farr said water temperatures in the mid-40s may limit some species’ ability to function, but striped bass are quite comfortable in the cold water. The caveat is that the landlocked fish have ample food choices and don’t have to chase down baits like herring to eat.
“Most anglers recognize that stripers are feeding on tiny threadfin shad, which suffer and start to die in cold water,” he said. “You’ll find large schools of threadfin all over the lake, and when stripers get hungry, it’s too easy for them to mop those baits up without much exertion.”
Farr said he looks for ambush spots. Typically, he will look halfway back in major tributaries, but it is not uncommon to find striped bass all over the lake this time of year when water temperatures are consistent.
“An umbrella rig is a great search tool because you’re graphing the whole time you’re fishing,” he said. “When you mark a solitary fish on a long point or a school of fish holding in a creek, then it’s an equation of line out, boat speed and rig weight to get that rig in the strike zone. Most times that zone may be no bigger than my truck, but when you zoom that rig right in front of his nose, he’s only got a split second to decide if he’s going to eat one of those big noisy baits or let it go by. It’s a reaction that most times goes in the favor of the angler.”