Santee’s stripers are in a fall feeding frenzy

Capt. Leroy Suggs is one of the top striper guides on Santee Cooper, and he's catching plenty of fish in a range of sizes right now.

A variety of techniques will catch these fish

Striper season is open on the Santee-Cooper lake system, and the bite has been on fire. Anglers are catching these fish with a variety of methods.

Capt. Leroy Suggs, who fishes out of Blacks Camp on the Diversion Canal, prefers fishing on the lower lake. And he’s put his fishing parties on several 100-fish days already, despite the season being open for just over a week.

Suggs primarily uses three techniques for catching stripers this time of year.

“My favorite way to catch them is to follow the birds. When you see a group of them diving, they’re catching baitfish that the stripers have pushed up to the surface. If you can get to those in time, you can catch the fish on just about any kind of lure until the fish go back down. It’s fast action that can result in fish of all sizes. And you can catch them on topwater lures, Rat-L-Traps, swimbaits, grubs on jigheads — really any kind of lure that you can get to them while they’re busting the top,” he said.

When Suggs sees fish holding close to the bottom with his depth finder, but doesn’t see fish busting the top, he either uses live bait, or “spoon feeds ‘em.”

Stripers will hit lures no matter how fast you’re reeling them

Suggs will put a live herring on a hook, lower it to the bottom, crank the reel handle a few times, then place the rod in a rod holder. Then he leaves the rod alone until it doubles over.

“Stripers like to feed up. So you don’t want the bait right on the bottom. You want to crank it up a few times so the bait is above them. They’ll come get it when they’re ready,” he said.

The third method he uses is jigging a spoon straight up and down. With a Berry’s Flex-It Spoon, Suggs suggests anglers lower the spoon straight down, then pull up on the rod tip quickly, reel the slack in, then jerk the rod tip up quickly again, reel in the slack, etc. He said anglers should be aggressive when doing this. It’s not possible to jerk or reel the lure in too fast. Stripers will hit it on the fall, on the rise, or when you’re reeling in the slack line.

Stacy Atkinson shows off a healthy Santee rockfish. These fish will feed strong throughout fall and winter.

The Flex-It Spoons are flexible. Anglers can bend the spoon to give it more or less of a fluttering action while it falls through the water column. Jigging these spoons is highly effective. Suggs said sometimes he’ll make long casts with the spoons, let them sink, then jig them back to the boat.

“Chasing the birds is my favorite way to catch stripers, but when the birds aren’t working, you can still catch plenty of fish, and spoon feeding them is almost just as much fun,” he said.

Click here to read about the topwater striper bite at Clarks Hill Lake.

Brian Cope
About Brian Cope 1400 Articles
Brian Cope of Edisto Island, S.C., is a retired Air Force combat communications technician. He has a B.A. in English Literature from the University of South Carolina and has been writing about the outdoors since 2006. He’s spent half his life hunting and fishing. The rest, he said, has been wasted.

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