Early Spring Striper Fishing Tactics
By Tom Reynolds STR Outfitters
Winter in the Ozarks this year is the worst I have seen in 17 years of living here but it will be over soon so it is time to start thinking of early spring striper movements. The current water temperature is the lowest since 2000. That year we had a large shad kill and I expect the same this year. Striper fishing in 2000 was outstanding, the fish were hungry, and with reduced shad population, the bite was on. Starting in late February we typically will see the winds switch to the south and a gradual warm up of air and water temperatures. The stripers will begin to move from the deep water following the shad. There will multiple opportunities to catch stripers at that time. Both live bait and artificial baits will be very effective. The night bite will begin once the winds blow from the south. You will want to fish the northern and northeastern banks of the bays and main lake and main arm points. Some excellent spots are the points near the near the Norfork Dam, Koso Bay and Point, the Hudson area, Frog Pond, Diamond Bay, Cranfield Island, and the points north of the Cranfield area heading towards Red Bank access.
The best time to night fish is a half hour before dark until about 10 pm. The best bait historically are 5” or 6” Rouges. The color of the Rouge varies with black/gold, clown, & blue/black combinations seeming to work the best, but experiment with the colors until you find the one that works best that night. Bone color has been hot the last few years. Make long casts parallel to the bank and reel very, very slowly. A lot of the bites will be right next to the boat so always have a big net ready. Stripers, Hybrids, & Walleye are all active during this time. Watch the water temperature. As it moves up towards 60 degrees, the bite will get stronger.
During this time of year live bait, shad & shiners, are also very effective. The stripers will be roaming the shoreline looking for food. I use shad but everything I do can be done using shiners. Most days I will run a large spread of lines. I begin with 2 inside planner boards, one near the shore and other out 20 to 30 yards. These board lines will have large gizzard shad in the 4 to 8 inch range. Out of the back of the boat I will have two lines with floats, shad on the hooks, with no weight at varies depths from 10 to 30 feet from the floats. These lines will be set back from the boat between 30 to 60 yards. I then set out two free lines with a split shot weight on one line and nothing on the other. Both will have large shad on them and will be set 40 to 60 feet from the back of the boat. The last outside line will have one planner board with a large shad out 40 yards from the back of the boat.
As the water warms the stripers will continue to move into the larger creeks to spawn. The magic water temperature number is 60 degrees. Your tactic to catch stripers should be to keep moving with the fish and continue to experiment with your techniques.