When it’s tough, think small for huge fish

Cold weather forces guide Wendell Wilson to downsize his baits to get bites from Lake Russell stripers.

During January, the water temperature at Lake Russell typically dips close to its lowest level of the year. When it does — and the big striper bite slows ­— guides Wendell Wilson and Jerry Kotal have found that thinking small can yield big results.

“When the water temperature really dips, I’ll still find fish that I believe to be stripers — marked on the graph in deep water near good bait line — but sometimes, we can’t get them to bite with traditional tactics,” Wilson said. “When (that) occurs, I resort to tiny, 1/16-ounce jigheads with a very strong No. 4 hook. I beef up the hook size by molding them myself, and I use a live, 3-inch shiner as a trailer. When considering the size of fish we’re after, it seems small, but with really cold water and the slower metabolic rate of the fish, this tiny lure can hook up some huge fish.”

Wilson said tackle must be scaled down to effectively fish this light rig. He uses spinning equipment with 20-pound braided line and will work the jighead and shiner out of the back of his boat with enough extra weight above the rig to get it down to the depth the fish are holding.

“Sometimes, I’ve got to scale down the size of the bait presentation and risk losing a big fish,” Wilson said. “But in some conditions with lethargic fish, it’s what we have to do to hook a big striper. We can’t land the fish if we don’t hook it.”

About Terry Madewell 809 Articles
Award-winning writer and photographer Terry Madewell of Ridgeway, S.C., has been an outdoors writer for more than 30 years. He has a degree in wildlife and fisheries management and has a long career as a professional wildlife biologist/natural resources manager.

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