Lingering warm weather has left fish trapped in the transition between fall and winter. Both smallmouth bass and stripers remain active but neither are providing consistent action for anglers. Fishing now is similar to early spring where storm fronts slow fishing only to have it heat up again a short time later.
Gradually declining water temperatures have changed smallmouth feeding behavior and the way they attack lures. Soft plastic baits that are always the favored bait are more effective now if accompanied by an attractant flash. It seems sluggish bass are more curious about movement if the bait swims steadily. Spinner baits, (safety pin and in-line spinners) especially in the smaller sizes were more effective in Good Hope Bay than plain soft plastic jigs with breezy wind riffling the water. Dead calm periods made fishing tough with all baits. There were short periods, usually in the afternoon, when standard soft plastic grubs worked well. When bass are reacting normally, fish jigs in a bottom-hopping retrieve. If there is no response to the hopping retrieve then swim the bait very slowly along the bottom. Bass are eating both crayfish and other fish. Those selecting crayfish will respond to the hopping motion while those looking for a fish meal will prefer a steadily swimming bait.
Striped bass are migrating in and out of canyons. They remain in a canyon for a day or two and then move on. When located the school will likely be laying on the bottom and be difficult to detect on electronics. In Good Hope shad size was large. There were no 2-3 inch shad found. Many 5-7 inch shad were evenly dispersed around Red Canyon and Blue Notch. Most shad were too big for small stripers to eat and certainly too elusive for thin stripers to catch.
A marked distinction was found among stripers with a small number that were quick, fat and strong. These stripers were able to boil and catch any shad. They responded to surface lures and reaction spoons jigged quickly off the bottom. Small boils were seen at first light on some mornings. After that fat fish were grouped at 50-70 feet near shad holding locations. They were detectable on the graph but would not always respond.
The remaining stripers were not as healthy and unable to catch big shad. These stripers could be caught on bait particularly at night. For effective night fishing, anchor the boat (fore and aft) in 70-80 feet of water at dusk and place a light in or above the water to attract plankton and finally shad. When shad come, stripers will follow. This may take an hour but it is a unique and interesting experience to watch plankton and shad gather in response to the light. Fish bait under the shad for quick fishing. Keep all stripers caught but only fillet those that appear normal. An obviously skinny fish is not good table fare and should be recycled.
Downlake stripers are still located in Warm Creek, Gunsight and Dry Rock Creek and provide good catches on anchovy bait most days.