Anglers are catching schooling stripers at Santee

Schooling isn’t common this month, but they’re doing it

The striper bite is hot on the Santee Cooper lakes. Kevin Davis, owner of Black’s Camp in Cross, said these fish are doing something he’s rarely seen in March.

“The stripers are schooling, and that’s something I don’t know if I’ve ever seen on Santee this time of year. In the late afternoons and early evenings, once the wind dies down, they’ve been schooling good,” he said.

Capt. Leroy Suggs guides out of Black’s Camp, and chasing schooling stripers is his favorite way to fish. He catches them with two different methods. His preference is casting to them with a variety of lures like bucktails and hard plastic lures that run just below the surface.

“A lot of times, I’ll anchor down and fish for stripers I’m marking on my fish finder. I’ll use live bait for those rods, and I’ll bait them and put them in the rod holders. Then I scan the area for diving birds. When I see a group of them diving, it’s time to head that way,” said Suggs.

And when he approaches those diving birds, Suggs wants every angler on his boat to be casting toward the surface mayhem.

Quick casting is essential for schooling fish

“Baitcasting gear is best for this situation. You can cast quickly with them and this is a fast-paced game when they’re schooling,” he said.

On some days, Suggs moves from one school to another constantly. On other days, the stripers school less, and he’ll have a break in between schools.

Once a schooling bite dies down, Suggs (910-995-1168) has a number of places that have been producing with live bait. He’ll head back to one of those. Here, he’ll have his anglers continue casting lures. But he’ll also put some rods out with live bait on them.

“It’s more fun to catch them on lures, but sometimes, the live bait is far more effective. I like putting both options into play when possible,” he said.

When using live bait, Suggs puts the baits slightly above the depth he’s marking stripers on the fish finder. At this point, it’s a waiting game.

“Sometimes they’re all around the bait but won’t bite. Then all of a sudden, every rod on the boat will double over. You just have to be ready when that happens,” he said.

Last fall, Suggs said the striper fishing was the best he’s seen in a very long time. He expects this spring bite to be just as hot.

“Those new regulations they put in place a few years ago have really helped the stripers here. Last fall was the best striper fishing I’ve had in many, many years. I think this spring is going to be just as good if not better,” he said.

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Brian Cope is the editor of Carolina Sportsman. He has won numerous awards for his writing, photography, and videography. He is a retired Air Force combat communications technician, and has a B.A. in English Literature from the University of South Carolina. You can reach him at