The Southern Tackle Box By Jim Farmer
Well, it’s happened again. The finish line is within sight. After a winter that will certainly go down in history as one of the very worst, there are signs of warmer weather and spring approaching. At last glance the jonquils in the back yard have begun to bloom and I notice that the sun is staying up just a bit longer these days. Now I’m sure we’ll see our share cold fronts blasting through the south this spring just to remind us that old man winter is still alive and kicking to our north. That’s fine, just give me a few warm sunny days in between cold fronts so I can enjoy some spring fishing.
Things are shaping up to be a banner spring for some shoreline striper fishing. The lake is very near full pool and the bait is still plentiful. I’ve been netting Blueback Herring from my dock and there have been plenty in a variety of sizes. Last night under my dock lights there were schools of large mature 6-10 inch Bluebacks circling under the dock lights. The night before last, the bluebacks were very small and rolling under the lights by the thousands. March and April are months that shallow water fishing is at its finest and some of our biggest fish will be lying in wait along the sundrenched shores waiting on a meal of big juicy protein packed Blueback Herring. Our lake stripers are starting to warm up and get back to business, and business is eating bait. The shad die off is winding down and the stripers are starting to get very aggressive when finding a meal. Scores of Blueback Herring are cruising the shoreline in search of warmer water and a food source to prepare them for their spawn later this spring. The herring are feeding along the shore and the stripers are right there with them. Sometimes stripers will lie in wait on a warm afternoon in just a few feet of water just off the shore just waiting for a big fat Blueback Herring to make the mistake of swimming in front of him. With a quick lunge and an open vacuum mouth, dinner has been served for a hungry striper.
With this scenario of striper feeding in the spring, my plan of attack involves planer boards. The planer board is the one piece of gear that can get your bait right up against the shore without the boat being too close to the shore. Pulling Blueback Herring behind planer boards along the shore is a great way to increase your chances for a big strong spring striper. As these big stripers start to warm, they start flexing some muscles that have been dormant for a few weeks as their metabolism slowed in the coldest part of winter. They are like bulldogs in the spring and they really can make the drag scream. For this reason you really need to have your gear ready for some hard pulling fish. I like to start gearing up my leaders to 15-17lb test fluorocarbon with a good octopus hook at the end of a 6-8 foot leader and a 25lb test mono main line. You may want to use this time of year to re-string some reels if your gear has been through a long hard winter of abuse. Having new line on my reels eliminates the worry of break-offs when the drag starts peeling at breakneck speed from a big hungry striper.
So here’s the plan; make sure your gear is in good working order and you’ve got a good set of planer boards. I prefer Cast Away reversible planer boards. Head down to your local bait shop and pick up a few dozen Blueback Herring and head to the lake. Take one of those herring and put it on a hook and run it out 30-60 feet. Hook up the planer board and troll along the shore at .5 to .8 mph and keep that planer board just a few feet off the shore. If you do this in March and April, there’s a good chance you are going to wind up with some exciting spring fishing and some great striper memories. Get out and enjoy the warmer weather and some spring planer board fishing!
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.