Nothing much has changed for me over the past couple of weeks, with the exception of a few more stripers showing up with the bass. I’ve been trying my best to find a shallow bass bite but it’s just not happening for me because I know there are still plenty of fish cruising the ditches so that’s where I’ve been spending the majority of my time. Last year I started reading more and more about ditches so this winter I’ve been determined to find these mythical “ditches” and conquer them and the massive schools of fish that reside in them during the coldest months of the year. I’ve spent the last month in the deep underwater valleys and I think I’ve finally located and slayed the mighty ditch this year so it’s on to the next thing.
Lately the best approach for me is to cruise right down the deepest part of a cut or pocket off the main creek and look for the presence of bait and/or fish. This week a friend and I got my structure scan and side scan working which helps tremendously in the search. Usually if there is going to be fish or bait it will start showing up around the 60-70 foot mark and then run into the shallower area of the ditch. When referring to a ditch, it can be nothing more than a submerged valley between two hills. It doesn’t really have to be a defined “ditch” that has been scoured out by years of run-off before the lake was created.
If the fish are present they have been showing up around the 40-55 foot range with a few out even deeper and some much shallower. I’ve been crisscrossing the ditch and if I find fish around I’ve got 3 items close by. The first is my new favorite striper bait, the Lucky Craft suspending Pointer 100 in Aurora Black. I bought this bait from Hammonds for bass but as luck would have it the stripers love them, the bass… not so much. The second bait I’m using is a 1/4 or 3/8 ounce underspin or Fish Head Spin in white or pearl with a all white fluke trailer. I lost all of my Fish Head Spins so I had to got to my low budget homemade version of an underspin. The key to using this bait is to fish it slow. Just when you think you’re fishing it slow enough, slow it down more. Sometimes just letting it set and taking a quick nap will do the trick. I know it takes a while for the 1/4 ounce to sink but you really have to take your time with it. Let it go all the way down and crawl it back, pausing every once in a while to make sure it’s still relating to the bottom. I’m throwing it in the ditch and along the edges where I’m marking fish. The third bait I’m using is a white spoon, about 2 inches in length and I’m not really dropping it unless I’m right over a few fish or a school. I’m just dropping the spoon down to the bottom and bouncing it along in small hops along the bottom. Yesterday, 4 out of 5 of our first keepers in the tournament came from the spoon. Here’s a picture of the three primary baits I’m using right now..
*Note: I would recommend changing out the hooks and all slip rings including the oval tying ring on the Pointer if you are targeting larger stripers. I just replaced mine with two #4 Eagle Claw nickel plated 375 trebles with 30lb stainless slip rings.
So basically, I’m working the jerkbait and underspin all around the boat when in the area of fish and dropping the spoon when I feel like I can quickly get it close to the fish I’m marking. Very early in the morning the stripers are showing up, usually cruising near shore so there have been a few times I’ve chased them down and picked one off with the Pointer so you need to have it at the ready when they show up. A few more baits I’ve got tied up and ready is the dropshot and Shakey head for the bass and the Bone Vixen for the topwater stripers. If I don’t feel like the bass are responding to the first 3 options and I’m still marking fish, I break out the Shakey head or the dropshot. Both may work at any given time, and a week ago it was a primary bait for me in the ditches and around the docks. There’s been a few fish in the backs of the ditches in shallower water and that’s where the Shakey head has been working the best for me. Water temps have been around 49 very early and warming into the lower 50’s by afternoon.
Here’s a few pics from the last few trips out: