When guide Tim Biesecker unleashes a long cast with either a Zara Spook, weighted Fluke or swimbait into the rock-laden waters at the upper end of North Carolina’s Roanoke Rapids Lake, below Gaston Dam, he doesn’t know if he’ll be rewarded with a powerful run from a striped bass or an acrobatic leap from a perturbed largemouth. 

What Biesecker (252-532-1846) does know is that the upper end of the lake is the feeding ground for both species, and he’s as apt to catch one as much as the other on cloudy days or when the water is being pulled through the upstream dam.

“In the summer, Roanoke Rapids becomes an upper-lake fishery,” said Biesecker. “The lower lake has fish, but the majority of fish are concentrated at the upper end.”

Biesecker’s tackle for schooling fish depends on water clarity. In clear water, he selects spinning gear, using a 7-foot, medium-action rod paired with a reel filled with 8-pound line; in stained water, he uses a 7-foot, medium-action baitcasting rod  and baitcasting reel spooled with 10- to12-pound line.

In many respects, Biesecker said 4,600-acre Roanoke  Rapids Lake resembles 2,500-acre Tuckertown Lake on the Yadkin River system. 

“Like Tuckertown, Roanoke Rapids is small in size and almost completely undeveloped, and there are only three major creeks,” said Biesecker.

Both lakes are populated with a mix of stripers and largemouth and depend upon the release of water at their upper reaches to improve the fishing.

They’re also navigational nightmares, with shallow stumps, rocks and vegetation. Their treacherous upper reaches can take out lower units in a heartbeat.

Unless striper activity forces his hand, Biesecker mainly targets largemouth bass. 

Like the largemouth at Tuckertown, Roanoke Rapids bass love a properly presented frog.

Biesecker fishes Spro frogs in black or white amidst the thickest vegetation he can find, using stout tackle and heavy line. He favors black frogs on cloudy days; white frogs in the mornings and evenings.

He probes grass edges and pockets with weightless Flukes or Senkos rigged with 1/8- or 1/4-ounce tungsten weights

Much to Biesecker’s chagrin, Roanoke Rapids, like Tuckertown Lake, is no longer a crankbait fisherman’s paradise because of unruly vegetation or algae.

“Roanoke Rapids was an ideal crankbait lake with its numerous stumps and points until the intrusion of grass,” said Biesecker. 

Biesecker now confines his crankbait fishing to mid-lake and lower-lake areas where the water is deeper and where the grass is not as dominant. He cranks stumpy flats and creek channel edges.