Hybrid stripers are devoid of mercy when it comes to feeding time. They will corral schools of shad and press them against a barrier from which they cannot escape.

Many times that barrier will be the surface of a lake. This type of shallow water opportunity is a lure-chunker’s dream. Acres of water can be involved if the schools are large enough. The feeding frenzy can be spotted from far away if water conditions are calm. The water boils with panicked shad trying to get away and the splashes from the leaping, slashing stripers are readily visible indicators that a special fish-catching opportunity awaits.

Fish eating birds such as gulls, terns and pelicans add to the drama and are a very good signal to anglers at a distance that feeding fish are present. Lure selection for this type of activity is easy. Any lure that resembles a shad will usually work.

Slabs weighing 1-2-ounces in white, chartreuse or chrome are favorite choices because they will cast long distances and sink rapidly. Crank baits in shad-patterns will take fish too. Many guides and veteran anglers use 3-5-inch swim baits on a 1-ounce jig head in glow or chartreuse colors. Horse head jigs dressed in white or chartreuse buck-tail are also proven producers.

Hybrid stripers will move up shallow before sunrise to feed on points, around islands and along wind blown shorelines. This presents anglers with another prime opportunity to catch them on lures. Swim baits such as a Sassy Shad or Storm Wild Eye, and top water lures including Tiny Torpedoes or Zara Spooks worked slowly in the shallows are nearly irresistible to a striper on the hunt. Stay in deep water and make long casts to likely areas. Hybrids spook at the slightest boat noise when they are in shallow water, so stealth is a must.

Another excellent strategy is to target lighted boat docks and marinas at night. The lights attract shad and other forage species and hybrids are quick to take advantage. Typically, hybrid stripers will hover just at the edge of illumination waiting for an opportunity to rush in and ambush any unwary bait fish. Anglers can take advantage of this scenario by approaching a likely area quietly and casting a lure to the outer edges of the lighted water. Let it sink and start a slow retrieve.

Many hybrid striped bass are taken in Texas each year by employing various trolling methods using shad-imitating crank baits, spoons and jigs. This can be a productive strategy when fish are scattered along deep water shoreline structure such as rocky cliff faces or rip-rap along dams, or they are prowling flats with no discernable pattern to their movements. Some anglers who prefer this method use down riggers to make lure placement at precise depths practical. These come in many forms from computer-automated electric models to hand cranks. They make trolling for hybrids easy.

Free-lining a large crank bait designed for deep water applications 75-100 feet behind the boat can also be effective when fish are feeding in depths of 20-feet or less. Other anglers who choose to not use downriggers but want more depth control than free-lining provides, opt to use vertical diving planes that attach to the mainline. These devises function much like a planer board in that they trip to a neutral position when a fish strikes the lure.

Whatever the chosen method of fishing for them, hybrid striped bass provide Texas anglers with thrilling opportunities to catch a fish that asks for no quarter and gives none. Their ability to survive and prosper in the hot summer months makes them an ideal open water game fish for Texas. They can grow to 10-pounds or more and will outfight any other species of comparable size.

There are excellent populations in Cedar Creek and Richland Chambers Reservoirs. And as soon as the water warms up, they will once again provide terrific fishing thrills for Texas anglers hooked on catching them.

Barry St. Clair is a guest columnist for the Athens Daily Review. His columns appear weekly.

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