Lake Oconee right now, despite the weather’s manic behavior, is getting into some of the best fishing we’ve had every year when it comes to striper bite. Frankly, anyone with a boat of any size and with basic electronics can find fish. With a few basic setups, you can catch fish!
Let’s look at what is needed and how to achieve it.
You really only need two things in a sonar: traditional sonar and good charting software. Traditional sonar is essential for locating fish in an area. If they are not there, you can change location. This is a visual game. If you’re not looking at baitfish, tagging larger fish, or looking at the number of fish, move around until you find them. You can tap on the boat and get them to come up, sometimes from everywhere. Unless you understand what you’re doing with this technique, just move around until you mark the fish on your sonar.
Mapping is important because at this time of year you will start to find hybrids and white bass in particular pushing fish against the edges of the channel, flats along the edge of the river or in deep creeks where they can ambush them. View the contour lines on your GPS map and monitor those specific locations. It will work, I promise. Not every one of them is going to hold fish and the type of structure they will relate to that day. Keep looking at your card and keep hitting points. Never forget the Dam, East Rim or Long Shoals this time of year either.
Equipment. Personally I use Striper 7′ and 7’6″ medium light rods from Ugly Stick. My reels are Okuma or ABU Garcia depth meter reels and I spool with 10 to 15 mono line and use a 10 pound fluorocarbon leader. The length of the leader depends solely on the fish of the day. I never run less than 18 inches and in the summer I sometimes run 6 feet or more. I use fishing weights at 2 oz trolling but guide Kevin Harris likes to even get to 3 oz when he can find them Hooks for me are 1/0 Gamakatsu circle hooks for big bait then Gamakatsu 2 or 4 mosquito hooks .
Bait. Until the shad spawn, bass minnows are still very productive. Once he hits you can take chances on them. I always catch fish on them, but I know guides who don’t use them and catch their own shad. You can throw shad around most bridge piers at Lick Creek, for example. Look for clouds on your sonar or flipping bait on top.
How to deploy the bait. Pay attention to your electronic devices here. Find the depth at which the fish are feeding (ie: look and if the fish all appear on the screen between 15 and 20 feet, that is where they are feeding) and place your bait at the above them! Stripers feed in the water column. It’s not that you can’t be hit below them. It’s that your odds are better above them. Drop the bait to the desired depth and drag slowly with your trolling motor or sit and wait. Both will work and both will have their days in the spring.
If you want to go with someone on Lake Oconee and learn how to do it, try a new guy, Kevin Harris. Check out his website and youtube by searching GoFishLakeOconee.