I never thought such an aggresive, big fish could bite with such a light tap....
As the water cools this Fall and into Winter, schools of fish will leave their favorite ledges and humps in search for bait in the open water. Shad will gather up into baitballs in deep cool water and the Striper wont be far behind. The fish's metabolism will slow with the cooler water, so they will want to feed more efficently for the winter months. This means bigger lures and a slower retrieve will get them on the hook.
How slow you ask? How about no motion at all...hence the the name Dead Sticking...Dead in the water on the end of your stick. Imagine a school of fish on your finder in 40 feet of water, marking them from 25 feet down to 35 feet, which is fairly common to see on our North Texas lakes in the winter time. Now remember, fish will mostly feed up, not down in the water column. If your lure is below them, you are not in the optimum strike zone. Using a Dead Stick lure (pictured below) you can now precisely present your lure just above these slow moving fish, who want a meal, but don't want to have to work for it. When these specially designed jig heads are tipped with a fluke, they sit in a natural horizontal position in the water.
If you're marking fish starting at 25 feet down, place your lure at the waters surface, then pull off 2 foot increments off the reel 12 times, and you'll be right there at 24 feet just above the school of fish. I have a mark on all my rods at 2 feet in front of the reel for this purpose. Now, don't do anything, just wait for the tap and set that hook! Sometimes they will drill it and sometimes you'll barely feel a hit. Hook sets are free, so don't hold back....if you feel anything, set her up.
There are a few tricks that can help you out using this Dead Sticking method as well. Since the lure is quiet, adding some scent, like Smelly Jelly, can really help the fish locate the lure. Sensitivity is also a help, so I use a medium heavy rod with 30 lb braided line. The small diamater slices through the water easily when the boat is drifting, but can handle a hog on the end of your rod, and you will feel the slighest of bites. Another trick is some noise...that's right, make some noice, splash the water with a rod tip or trolling motor half out of the water and tap the bottom of the boat with the rod butt, or a rubber mallet. Fish are curious; when they hear some noise, they will check it out, and see your Dead Stick, and end up in your cooler! If you are marking fish, and they are not biting, change the depth a bit, or maybe let your lure all the way to the bottom and reel it up 2 turns at a time, and let it sit for a few minutes til you find that magic depth where they want it. Or, try a different color fluke, or a smaller or bigger sized jig head. When all else fails, go find another school of fish, maybe they will be feeding more agressively.
There are a couple of local lure makers where you can get you some custom Dead head Jigs, as well as the flukes to go with them. Make sure to get a few colors. My favorite color is White Ice, and I will usually have a light green of some sort and one really bright one like pink, for muddy water. Check either of these guys out and they will get you fixed up.
Water temps are just starting to get to the right temperatures in North Texas for the magical Dead Stick bite to start, so get out there and make some noise, and be stealthy with your Dead Stick lures, and hang on, cuz that fish of a lifetime could be one nibble away!
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