Lake Hickory stripers seeking cooler water
Let’s be frank. September is not the most-beloved month for fishing, whatever the species you target. Early September mimics the dog days of summer, with sweltering temperatures and lethargic fish hunkered down in deep holes. Late September offers some promise of better fishing, with slightly cooler water temperatures — but not cool enough to trigger a major movement to the shallows to unleash the bite.
The gradual transition period in late September makes locating the fish a painstaking challenge that can be intensified by the recent trend towards hotter, wetter summers.
“There’s not going to be any one area on Lake Hickory that’s a real hot spot for stripers in September,” said guide Colt Bass of Colt Bass Fishing. “Any spot you can find with a little bit cooler water than the rest of the lake might be productive.”
For that reason, Bass keeps his eye on his temperature gauge and his sonar unit, looking for potential places.
“It could honestly be something as simple as a deep hole, a shaded spot or a place where a creek feeds into the lake,” said Bass (www.coltbassfishing.com). “Hickory may only be 4,223 acres, but it’s a river-channel lake with numerous feeder creeks.”
Look for subtle temperature changes
Bass said some fishermen make the mistake of looking for dramatic differences in water temperature.
“It doesn’t take much; as little as 2 to 5 degrees can pack a bunch of stripers into one spot,” he said. “I’ll be looking for these cool water spots and fishing them with 4- to 6-inch live gizzard shad, the main forage for stripers at Hickory.”
Bass said stripers in these cool spots will be in 25 feet of water or deeper.
To catch them, he uses a 7-foot, medium-heavy Shakespeare Ugly Stik rod paired with a 6500 Ambassadeur reel filled with 20-pound line with a Carolina rig at the business end. The Carolina rig features a 3- to 4-foot leader of 17-pound fluorocarbon, a 1-ounce egg sinker, and a No. 1/0 circle hook.
“A circle hook and a quick release is necessary for a live release in September. because of the warm water,” said Bass, who arranges four to six rods around his boat, vertically dropping his baits to different depths.
Other factors affecting striper fishing include current and water color.
“The fishing is always better when the lake is being pulled and when the water is clear,” Bass said. “Dingy water will hurt you at Hickory.”
Bass said the best bite will be from daylight until 10 a.m.
September fishing won’t yield many strikes, but the ones you’ll get will be from quality fish.
Bass said Hickory stripers run from 7 to 9 pounds, with plenty of fish in the teens. The lake also holds trophy stripers weighing 20 pounds or better.
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