November stripers biting strong at Lake Gaston
Massive schools of threadfin shad bunch together on Lake Gaston over deeper water, attracting attention from hungry stripers working as a team to bust the bait balls. Guide Zakk Royce of Gasburg, VA will either troll or jig the schools that can be easily found with the arrival of nature’s fish finder — seagulls.
“Fishing gets a lot easier when the seagulls show up,” said Royce (919-724-2474), who runs Blues Brothers Catfish Guide Service. “When you see them diving, you want to get there as quick as you can because active stripers are chasing bait to the surface. But, even if they’re just sitting, a big congregation of gulls means that something has just happened or is happening on a regular basis.”
Royce notes that stripers are mainly attracted to the large bait schools and that the underwater structure is of little importance. But, a prime location is the lower end of the lake, on the main body and major creek arms. This is where shad will sink down and spend the winter in deeper water.
“They’re moving all the time,” said Royce. “You won’t necessarily catch them in the same place two days in a row. But, all the best fishing will be around the birds. You just have to figure out the depth of the fish. That’s when your fishfinder is important. They may be down 10 to 15 feet over 60 feet of water or down to 30 to 40. They could be near the surface. But, they will be close to where you’re marking bait.
Jigging and trolling
Royce said the fishing is usually good enough not to need live or cut bait. Vertically jigging spoons and flukes is an effective method for a particularly large school with a well established depth. But Royce prefers to troll to cover more water. An umbrella rig is his go-to bait. Not only does it make a large and visible presentation, but it also mimics the bait balls the stripers are chasing. Between 2 and 3 mph, he trolls through the birds, trying to place the rig’s depth slightly above any fish he is marking.
“I like Captain Mack’s umbrella rig,” said Royce. “I use a 2- to 3-ounce model for trolling. The different rigs carry between five and nine baits and I prefer to stick with natural shad colors for the swimbaits. It’s definitely the best way to find the fish. But if I get over a big pod, I’ll drop down a 1/2-ounce Hopkins spoon in a silver or shad color.”