Flat Swamp, Abbotts Creek are good bets
Guide Jerry Hill of Lexington, N.C., offers some simple advice for fishermen targeting High Rock’s winter striped bass this month.
“If you want to catch stripers in February on High Rock, go to the creeks,“ Hill said. “Flat Swamp and Abbotts Creek usually hold plenty of forage, which attracts stripers.”
Hill said the presence of diving birds will indicate where the forage is in the creeks. Stripers can often be found in conjunction with the forage in 12 to 16 feet of water around humps, high spots and points. Sometimes, fish will feed in open water over no structure in particular.
“The fish will go as far back into the creeks as the baitfish go,” said Hill. He trolls bucktails at about 2.3 mph on downriggers and outfits with lead-core line.
“I troll slowly in the winter because the water is cold and the fish aren’t that active,” said Hill (336-247-1265). “I use smaller baits, such as 3/8-ounce green bucktail jigs with green plastic trailers, small Sassy Shad plastics and Alabama rigs with small swimbaits.”
Hill mounts his 8-foot, medium/heavy rods mated with Penn 320 reels on the gunwales and transom of his boat. Between the lead-core outfits with three colors out and the downriggers, he can cover the water column most likely used by stripers, usually 10 to 12 feet.
Don’t waste time looking for gin-clear water
“I rarely catch stripers deeper than 14 feet at High Rock,” said Hill. He finds most of his success on sunny days with a light ripple on the water.
“Water color doesn’t matter,” he said. “High Rock ranges from brown to stained most of the year. The lake is rarely clear. Unless the lake gets muddy and trashy, the fish will bite.”
Hill said trolling speed and depth are the most-important factors for catching High Rock’s winter striped bass.
“You’ve about got to knock the fish on their heads to get strikes in cold water,” he said. “They’re not going to chase baits unless they’re surface feeding.”
Hill always keeps one pre-rigged rod close by to cast for breaking stripers.
“A lot of fishermen pull live bait in the winter with success. But I’ve been trolling for more than 25 years with bucktails and plastics, and that’s how I prefer to fish,” Hill said. “I don’t like to spend time catching live bait or the trouble of keeping the bait alive.”
Hill makes his own bucktails, and a good number of local fishermen use them.
Hill said February is a good month for hooking a striper weighing 10 pounds or more, although anglers may catch only two to eight fish a day.