From the Southern Tackle Box (December Angler Magazine)

“It’s all about sight in December”

If there is one major attribute that I can say increases my success rate on any of our major striper lakes in the south in December, it would have to be my sight. Even if I had to, I couldn’t read a newspaper today without my glasses, but if you put me in a boat, I can still see a striper roll from a mile away on a glassed over lake on a clear December morning. For me, December is all about the birds and rolling stripers. The birds have been my guiding eye for stripers for years and I couldn’t begin to count the times birds have helped me in tournaments on strange lakes.
Last weekend we were running down lake and as I scanned the lake I caught a few circling birds out of the corner of my eye. As I looked closer I saw several loons popping up and quickly diving back down as the gulls hovered and darted into the water’s surface. I watched for signs of rolling stripers and soon I saw a tail and a dorsal followed by several surface splashes from other fish around the area. I knew these fish were on the move and the frenzy wouldn’t last long so time was critical. As I approached, I started thinking about what I should throw and settled for burning a bucktail through the area if the fish were still on the surface. The bucktail allows me the ability to cast from a fair distance away and speaking from experience, this kind of fish feeding activity was better observed from a distance. These fish would spook as soon as a boat approached on previous outings and I wasn’t going to take a chance this time. From a fair distance away I cut the motor and quickly dropped the trolling motor. I cranked up the trolling motors speed and got up to the bow platform with my half ounce bucktail at the ready. I picked out a good boil on the surface and put the little bucktail just beyond the boil and started the quick burn back to the boat. Seconds later two quick jerks on the rod tip told me a striper had fell for the little bucktail offering. After setting the hook I was fighting a decent striper on light tackle.
I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve been in that scenario. Not only on my home lake here on Lanier but on numerous lakes throughout the south. The best part about that scenario is that at times the stripers will stay in that general area as long as the bait is there. Last year I was returning from a run up to Browns Bridge from the south end of Lanier and a saw a few gulls and loons working the surface in a pocket in the back of a large bay. I was using live bait at the time, so I put out a spread of planer boards with large trout and gizzard shad as bait behind the boards and my biggest trout straight out the back 150 feet. It didn’t take long till one of my boards was headed back towards Brown Bridge at breakneck speed being towed by a large striper. I fished that general area for the next two weeks and netted four fish over 20 pounds and some nice teenage fish to add to the mix, and the best part was that I had the place all to myself. That is another scenario that plays out for me year after year on our lakes. Just find the birds working the bait and that should be the start to good things if you are a live bait fisherman. If I’m live bait fishing in December I like using a good mix of large and small baits such as trout, gizzard shad and blueback herring on planer boards, downlines and freelines. But whether you’re a live bait fisherman or you enjoy the challenge of using artificial tackle, December is the month of the birds so let them guide you to some great striper action. Happy Holidays!
Jim Farmer is an avid fisherman and is the owner of Cast Away Bait and Tackle, a custom tackle shop located just off the shores of Lake Lanier in North Georgia.

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