Roanoke Rapids bass and stripers

When the sky is overcast and Dominion Energy releases water through Lake Gaston Dam, the fishing gets hot on Roanoke Rapids Lake. (Picture by Tony Garitta)

Fish bite strong on overcast days with running water

When overcast days coincide with pulled water, the upper lake of Roanoke Rapids features exciting action from schooling largemouth and striped bass.

“In the summer, Roanoke Rapids becomes an upper-lake fishery,” said Tim Biesecker, who’s retired from guiding but not fishing.

Upon sighting feeding fish, Biesecker unleashes long casts with heavy baits, like a 3/4-ounce Zara Spook or a 1/2-ounce Rat-L-Trap, so as not to drive the fish down.

Whether his casts connect with leaping largemouth bass or plunging stripers is anyone’s guess. But that’s part of the fun. Neither species will be large. Schooling largemouth and stripers at Roanoke usually run from 2 to 4 pounds.

For schooling fish in clear water, he favors a 7-foot, medium-action spinning rod and matching reel filled with 8-pound line. In stained water, he prefers a 7-foot, medium baitcasting rod spooled with 10- to12-pound line.

Most of the action takes place within sight of Lake Gaston Dam, an area gutted with rocks in shallow water. So anglers should navigate with care.

If sunny conditions prevail and there’s little current, Biesecker targets largemouth bass in the vegetation which dominates the lake.

“In 1978 when I started fishing Roanoke Rapids, the lake was ideal for cranking. But that type of fishing is almost a thing of the past with the intrusion of vegetation,” said Biesecker.

His grass and stump tactics involve light spinning tackle with light or weightless plastics and stout baitcasting tackle for frog fishing.

In the mornings and evenings, he tosses a weightless Zoom Fluke.

Once the sun comes up, he works the outside edges of grass and open pockets and stumps with Senkos using 1/8- or 1/4-ounce tungsten weights.

He also adds 1/8- or 1/16-ounce jigheads to Flukes to probe the grass along with weedless Sebile Magic Swimmers or downsized Carolina rigs featuring Zoom Baby Brush Hogs in pumpkin or cotton candy colors.

For the other plastics, he chooses white and pearl hues.

When fishing thick mats and heavy grass, he selects a white frog on sunny days, a black frog on cloudy days. His tackle consists of a heavy-powered rod paired with a reel spooled with 65-pound braided line to winch fish from heavy cover.

Cranking is restricted to mid- and lower-lake areas with shallow- and medium-running crankbaits where the water is deeper and the grass less pervasive.

Since most stripers run only 3 to 4 pounds, he limits his striper fishing to schooling fish.

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