Stripers occupy November spotlight at Lake Gaston

Big stripers are a common catch on Lake Gaston during late fall, especially trolling an umbrella rig. (Photo by Zakk Royce)

Stripers kick into high gear this month

Lake Gaston, a 20,500-acre reservoir on the Roanoke River along the North Carolina-Virginia border, is well known for a wide variety of gamefish, from largemouth bass to world-class blue catfish.

But it’s the lesser known, yet vibrant, striped bass population that really hits high gear in November. This is when catfish guide Zakk Royce of Gasburg, Va., pulls double duty as a striper guide.

“November is when fishing starts to get a lot easier for stripers,” said Royce (919-724-2474), who runs Blues Brothers Catfish Guide Service. “The biggest thing is that the birds show up. The seagulls and loons that hone in on fish-feeding activity are the best fish-finder a man could have. Even if they’re not actively diving on baitfish that are being driven to the surface by stripers, you know that a large group of birds are there, because something has happened recently or is happening on a regular basis.”

Umbrella rigs are great choices in November

Along with bird beacons that give away their locations, Royce also said that November is probably the best month for stripers to be feeding aggressively. In this case, Royce doesn’t use live bait. That’s because he believes it is unnecessary. He said these fish will hit almost any lure if properly placed. Since Royce’s preferred fishing method for stripers is trolling, this allows him to move at a much-faster pace than live-bait trolling — up to 2 or 3 mph — and put his favorite bait in front of that many more fish.

“Stripers will absolutely kill an umbrella rig in November,” he said. “It goes right along with what they’re doing that time of year  — attacking balls of bait. I use Captain Mack’s umbrella rigs in natural colors, sometimes with a chartreuse trailer. But you have to figure out the depth of the fish. They could be near the surface, down 10 to 15 feet, or even down to 30 or 40 feet. That’s when using your fish finder is important — determining where you’re marking stripers or bait.

“Always make sure you’re trolling above the fish. If the fish are down 30 to 40 feet, using a downrigger will help keep the umbrella rig in the zone. Or you can use Mann’s Stretch 30s.”

According to Royce, many of Lake Gaston’s stripers migrate down the lake in the summer and fall and spend the winter on the lower end. All the major creeks in this area are prime for striper action in addition to the main lake. Bottom structure plays second fiddle to bait presence and bird activity. But Royce said points that jut into a channel are good places to find stripers.

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About Dusty Wilson 268 Articles
Dusty Wilson of Raleigh, N.C., is a lifelong outdoorsman. He is the manager of Tarheel Nursery in Angier and can be followed on his blog at

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