“Flexibility”- Key To Catching Lake Norfork Stripers
By Roger Boskus – Owner Fish & Fiddle Resort
One of the biggest misconceptions for striper fishing is thinking you need heavy tackle and/or downriggers to catch striped bass. You don’t need either of these and at certain times of the year you will do much better on Lake Norfork without them.
What you will need is a good quality rod and a precision reel with a very smooth drag (either bait casting or spinning). In the spring and fall, leave that 20-pound line at home and spool up with 6 to10 pound test low visibility line. Lake Norfork has very clear water, especially during cooler temperatures.
During the spring, when stripers start to move into the shallows, light test low visibility line is a real plus. Using the light tackle allows your bait minnow to swim freely, which draws the striper’s attention thereby creating a lot more action. With quality equipment and patience you can play the striper long enough to land him. You may loose a few, but the extra action is well worth it.
This light line low visibility method of fishing for striped bass proves very effective on Lake Norfork when the balloon and down rod methods are not proving successful. When striped bass move into the shallows where they are easily spooked by the boat and any unusual sounds, the lighter line works best. There have been many other times when using the balloons is very effective, but there are also times when it is not. I have seen times when the striped bass feel too much resistance caused by heavy tackle and balloons, and they let go of the bait before the fisherman even realizes he has had a hit. By using the light tackle, you are able to feel the fish sooner, thus increasing your catch.
As the weather warms during the summer months, the striped bass will naturally move deeper until they are at the thermocline, usually between 40 and 60 feet deep. During this summer period you will need to change back to heavier tackle. Sometimes downrigging with lures proves very productive.
I lived in the Chicagoland area and spent many years trolling Lake Michigan. I had my fair share of catching some really nice Coho, Chinook, lake trout, and steelhead, my largest being a 25 pound Chinook. On my first fishing trip to Lake Norfork, I was very skeptical as to how well the striper fight would compare to my experiences on Lake Michigan. Boy, was I ever surprised when I caught my first striper! Their endurance is unbelievable, and just when you think you have him, he will run again, usually 3 to 4 times.
After that first striper fishing trip to Lake Norfork I made a point of learning all I could about these salt-water-turned-fresh-water lunkers, and feel confident now as to knowing their monthly patterns. When we first purchased the resort I was spending most of my spare time trying to catch stripers. I learned a great deal after much hard work and shared that knowledge with guests willing to try my ideas. We figured out how to catch stripers!
Coming to Lake Norfork for stripers is a good bet as the lake is one of the best fresh water striped bass fisheries in America. The Arkansas Department of Fish & Game has been stocking Lake Norfork with stripers every year for almost 30 years. The average Lake Norfork striper weights about 16 pounds, with the lake record weighing in at a little over 50 pounds. Several 40- pound fish are caught each year, and 30-pound stripers are not uncommon. Fish population counts continue to show large, healthy populations of striped bass feeding on Lake Norfork’s shad. There are plenty of trophy striped bass here to be caught. The lake never freezes so you can catch these lunkers year round.
Keeping an open mind and being willing to change is the key to striper success on Lake Norfork. Be flexible. Don’t get stuck on one method of fishing. So many times I hear people say, “but I caught a 20-pound fish 5 years ago doing” . . . . . they can’t seem to comprehend change.
So take out that rod and reel and don’t forget to spool up one rod with light line, come here to Lake Norfork and hang on for the fight of a lifetime!!