Cool off stripers with umbrellas

Big stripers will be in Clarks Hill Lake’s deeper areas this month, but guide Billy Murphy knows how to go down and get them.

Multi-lure rigs do a great job on deep Clarks Hill Lake stripers in July

In the old days, ladies of means carried a parasol — a type of umbrella made for protection from the sun — when they went out. Striper fishermen have found that a variation on the theme works wonders when the surface water in a lake has been heated to a simmer by the hot summer sun.

These days, when stripers and hybrids head deep to find cooler water, striper fishermen pull umbrella rigs festooned with jigs to resemble a group of baitfish.

“The first part of July, the water is not that hot yet,” said Billy Murphy of Double Trouble Guide Service, who has been fishing South Carolina’s Clarks Hill Lake since the lake was impounded in the early 1950s. “We are down-lining live herring on the humps off the channels in 20 to 30 feet of water. As the water warms by mid-July, we are still down-lining, but they bite early, starting about 5:15 to 5:30 in the morning.”

After the sun comes up, the water heats up quickly, and Murphy moves out to 30 to 40 feet of water and breaks out the umbrella rigs.

“We go strictly to umbrella rigs by the end of July,” he said. “When we pull umbrella rigs, we don’t have to buy bait, and the bait dies so quick when the water is so warm. You might take out six dozen herring and only get to fish maybe two dozen because the water just kills them.”

Murphy (706-339-4784) normally pulls umbrella rigs from the last part of July through most of August because the water gets so warm in Clarks Hill. In fact, he lays claim to being the first to employ the multiple-lure rigs on the sprawling lake.

Unable to find umbrella rigs in local tackle stores, Murphy called Mack Farr, the Lake Lanier striper guide who developed the umbrella rig, and ordered some to use at Clarks Hill.

“When I started catching fish on the Capt. Mack’s Umbrella Rigs, I put it in the paper (The Augusta Chronicle’s fishing report), and now they have them in all the stores around here,” he said.

Murphy replaces the center jig on the rig with a spinnerbait, usually with twin blades to create more flash. The skirt and jigs are chartreuse because, he said, that color seems to work best for the Clarks Hill’s summer fish.

“We run the rigs 120 feet behind the boat at 800 rpms to catch fish running about 20 feet deep,” he said. “As the water warms in August the fish move deeper so we put out more line, sometimes 200 feet, with more lead on it to get down to where the fish are.

“When we start finding fish in 80 to 100 feet of water, we stop and tie on big spoons, 8-inch Ben Parker Signature Series spoons. We have had a lot of luck with those big spoons, especially when the fish get down 80 to 90 feet deep. We have tried jigging with ¾-ounce Hopkins and CC Spoons, but it takes longer to get them down to the fish, and they catch smaller fish.”

Pulling the umbrella rigs, Murphy said, produces bigger fish and often multiple fish on the same hit.

“Last year, I had a guy who caught two 8-pounders and two-5-pounders on one rig,” he said.

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