Trolling for Lake Gaston’s stripers

Lake Gaston’s lower end is a striper hotspot in November.

Umbrella rigs are the key to November stripers

Although he spends most of his time catching trophy catfish on Lake Gaston, fishing guide Zakk Royce of Blues Brothers Catfish Guide Service doesn’t mind switching gears to target stripers when the 11th month rolls around.

“The stripers become a bit easier to target in November, and a lot of that has to do with all the seagulls and loons that show up,” said Royce (919-724-2474).

With plenty of technology and electronics on his boat, Royce said nothing is better than those birds when it comes to pointing him to where the stripers are located, especially from a distance.

When those birds are diving into the water, that’s a telltale sign that a school of stripers is just below the surface, pushing the baitfish into view of the birds. But even if they aren’t diving, a large collection of birds is still a good place to fish.

“When you see a large group of birds, either flying in a circle or resting on the surface, they are there because baitfish have been on the surface recently, or because those baitfish have hit the surface repeatedly in a short period of time,” he said.

Many anglers like to cast topwater lures into these areas. But Royce uses a different approach that is effective whether the stripers are schooling up top or are staying down.

“An umbrella rig is my favorite lure for stripers here this month,” he said.

It’s about as natural-looking as any other presentation, according to Royce.

Stay above them

“These fish are attacking balls of bait, so an umbrella rig perfectly matches what they are doing,” he said.

And this isn’t a cast-and-wind type of fishing. Royce trolls the rigs at 2 to 3 mph, using Catch The Fever rods.

Once the birds show him where to go, he checks his electronics to hone in on what depth the fish are.

“The depth is important because they could be anywhere from just below the surface, all the way to 40 feet deep, or anything in between,” he said.

As long as the fish are less than 30 feet deep, he trolls the umbrella rigs without adding any weight. Once they get deeper than that, he’ll use a downrigger to keep them at the proper depth.

“You want your rig to run just above the fish. They will come up to eat, and you don’t want your rig running right through them and scattering them,” he said.

Another lure Royce likes to use when the fish are holding between 30 and 40 feet deep is a Mann’s Stretch 30. He trolls these at the same speed he uses with umbrella rigs.

Royce said this time of year, a lot of striper activity is on the lower end of Gaston.

“If there’s bait and birds, that’s what’s most important, he said.

About Brian Cope 2745 Articles
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

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