Worn out. That’s what anglers who striper fish using Capt. David Hilton’s advice are at the end of a day’s fishing. The stripers are feeding heavily on Santee-Cooper right now, and Hilton, who guides out of Black’s Camp has a few tips for anglers going after the rockfish on Lakes Marion and Moultrie.
Hilton has four main tips to help anglers land stripers this month. The first, said Hilton, is to know and trust your electronics. “I’ve got this Lowrance unit, and it will be a big help to anyone, as long as they know how to use it. You’ve got to be able to understand what you’re looking at on the screen,” he said.
Specifically, Hilton said anglers need to be able to recognize humps, holes, brushpiles, and of course, fish on their electronics. “You start off by sinking your own brushpiles, then paying attention to what that looks like on your screen. Then you need to be able to recognize when you’re seeing bait balls, catfish, and stripers on your screen. They all have distinct looks, and you’ve just got to learn that by experience,” he said.
“There’s nothing wrong with electronics that have side-imaging or down scanning, or any number of the latest bells and whistles. And there’s nothing wrong with an older unit that doesn’t have any of that. They all work and can make any angler a better angler, but they won’t do you any good if you don’t learn how to use them,” said Hilton.
Number two on Hilton’s list of tips is to fish two different ways at the same time, and his preferred two ways are fishing with live bait and fishing with spoons. “This time of year, stripers aren’t going to pass up live bait, and when you’re drifting through them, it can be non-stop action,” said Hilton, who said mullet is the top live bait right now on the lower lake, with shad usually number one on the upper lake.
Hilton determines the average depth of the stripers by studying his electronics, then lets out enough line to cover that depth. While those baits are swimming, he employs a spoon-fishing tactic that is a little different than many Santee anglers are used to seeing. Instead of lowering the bait to the bottom, then jigging it up and down, Hilton (843-870-4734) drops the spoon to the bottom, then cranks his reel as fast as he can, pulling the spoon all the way back to the surface. He then lowers the spoon again, and cranks it back up as fast as he can.
“If you’re jigging, you’re covering just a small section of the water column. If the water is 45-feet deep, you’re only covering about 10- to 15-feet of the water column. When you crank that spoon all the way up and drop it back down, you’re covering the entire water column. You’re also offering the lure at slow speeds as it falls, and fast speeds as you crank it up,” he said.
Tip number three from Hilton: “Use P-Line fluorocarbon line, 15- to 20-pound test. Stripers can’t see it, so you can get away with bigger line than you can with monofilament.” With spoons, Hilton uses 15-pound test; he opts for 20-pound test when using live bait.
Hilton’s anglers have had several 75-fish to 100-fish days over the past few weeks. He expects the striper bite on Santee to stay strong for another several weeks. “The water temperature is about 63-degrees right now. They’ll continue biting strong until it drops below 60, which usually happens around Christmas, but if the weather doesn’t get too cold, it could last well beyond that,” he said.