Brad Wiegmann isn’t one to sit around and wait.
“Look at them,” he said, pointing with his rod toward a guide boat crawling across the massive flat. Every angler occupied a seat and gazed sleepily as the trolling rods cut V’s in the water behind the boat. “I’d much rather be doing this than just sitting and watching.”
Wiegmann is a guide on Arkansas’ Beaver Lake and we were vertical jigging CC Spoons and searching his graph for balls of shad and predator fish.
Instead of the long-line trolling with live bait that most of the striper guides, Wiegmann prefers a more active approach and found that spoon fishing is something that everyone can do, no matter the level of fishing experience. Drop the spoon to the bottom, reel one time and begin any variation of “jigging” you want.
Another plus is that spoon fishing produces fish of all types. During his guide trip the previous day, the party landed several varieties of catfish, white bass, striped bass, spotted bass, largemouth and crappie, although white bass make up the majority of this afternoon bite. But this is just the preamble, the warm-up act, the nibble before the strike. The real reason we are here is because in a short time the magical hour will begin and we’ll move to certain points for one of the most exciting moments in freshwater fishing.
“I wait all year for April and the end of October/beginning of November,” Wiegmann said.
Like some look forward to deer season, or young men look forward to the last day of school, Wiegmann’s year revolves around the times when giant striped bass move up shallow and smash big topwater baits. These top predators move upriver in the spring to spawn in the shallow moving water, then migrate back to the main body of the lake for summer. It’s this return trip when the water temperature consistently reaches 65-degrees or more that excites him.
Wiegmann looks for big flats (10- to 20-feet deep) for midday feeding close to areas where the river channel sweeps against points and banks during the topwater migration. The channel ledge and shallow water on top set up the perfect “corralling” area. Stripers can push shad first against the ledge then up and into shallow water to catch them. This action occurs during the first and last hour of daylight.
Wiegmann loads another fat white bass, pulls up the trolling motor and announces “It’s time.” In short order we’re a cast length away from a nondescript gravely point and he hands me a baitcaster with a Cordell Pencil Popper tied on. He launches a cast toward the point with a Chug’n Spook, and I swear I hear him giggle.
I begin working the Pencil Popper back as it walks and spits. Then, all hell breaks loose. Anglers talk about vicious strikes from Peacock bass or redfish, and they’re right, but this is just as heart-stopping. It’s as if the lure really was a stick of dynamite and the fuse just ran out. The drag spins and the battle draws on long enough for Wiegmann to get two more casts in before grabbing the net. I grip 15-pounds worth of striped bass and give it thanks before releasing it.
We bring another, bigger striper to the boat before the sun disappears under the horizon and we stow the rods and get on plane.
“You can’t describe it,” I say over the roar of the wind and motor.
“The fight…the strike…you can’t describe it,” I say, and Wiegmann just grins. I know what he’s thinking: “I told ya.”
- Water temperature should be 60- to 65-degrees.
- Topwater fish only the prime time – the hours of sunrise and sunset.
- Bass-fishing equipment — medium- to medium-heavy, 6 ½- to 7-foot rods and 20-pound-test copolymer SilverThread line.
- Check the reel’s drag to ensure its tight enough to set the hook but loose enough to let a big striper play out.
- Use noisy walk-the-dog style topwaters like the Cordell Pencil Popper or Heddon Chug’n Spook.
- Check areas where the river channel sweeps close to the bank, especially if there’s a big flat nearby.
- If a striper swipes the lure and misses, Wiegmann says to keep working the bait the same as you were.
- As always when using a big topwater with multiple treble hooks, wait until you feel the fish before setting the hook.
- When landing a big striper, try to keep the fish’s head down to keep it from shaking and throwing the lure.
- Other lures to try: Wake a Cordell Redfin slowly across the top, or try a smaller, quieter Spook or even a Spit’n Image 3/4-ounce CC Spoon for spooning.