Catch more striped bass with the right bait at the right depth

Guide Colt Bass said cooling weather brings out the best in Lake Hickory striped bass.

Cooler weather recharges Lake Hickory

November can stack up to be one of the best months for stripers at North Carolina’s Lake Hickory, according to guide Colt Bass of Colt Bass Fishing.

“They’ve had a long, hard hot summer and are trying to put on as much weight as they can before the water dips into the 40s and slows them down for the winter,” said Bass (, who focuses on the lower end of the lake, where stripers can be anywhere from 5 feet to 35 feet deep.

With so much water to cover, Bass sets out a big spread to sample various depths, exclusively using live bait.

“I like the biggest gizzard shad I can get,” he said.

Most of the shad range from 5 to 7 inches, but Bass rigs at least two shad 12 inches or longer on two lines — if he can get them.

“The water is cold, and baits will live at least an hour or more this time of year, so I put out eight rods and do not have to worry about changing baits constantly,” he said.

The spread Bass uses consists of four down rods sporting Abu Garcia 6500 reels spooled with 20-pound Berkley Big Game, positioned horizontally in rod holders, coming straight off the sides of the boat carrying 1/2- to 2-ounce sinkers depending upon the wind, with Gamakatsu circle hooks completing the rig.

Bass sings the praises of circle hooks for stripers, using No. 1/0 to 5/0, depending upon the size of the bait. The hook size shouldn’t make the shad nose-dive unnaturally. If it does, Bass selects a smaller hook.

“You will have more hookups using these, and they will be in the corner of the fish’s mouth where hooks are supposed to go,” Bass said. “The fish is not harmed and can be released to grow.”

The other four rods, positioned vertically in rod holders, employ unweighted free lines with circle hooks, with the lines attached to planer boards running far out from the sides of the boat.

“How deep these baits go depends on how much line you let out before you clip the planer board on,” he said. “If you want the bait to go deeper, let out a lot of line behind the board; if you want a shallower running bait, don’t let out as much line.”

Bass said his spread covers the water column from the surface to as deep as he spots the fish on his graph. Ideally, baits will run a few feet over the stripers because they usually move up to feed.

Bass targets shallow places with deep water access, such as points, sandbars, rock shoals, and underwater humps.

“These are good starting points, but don’t forget that stripers are constantly on the move so you are apt to find them anywhere even out in the middle of the lake,” he said.

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