Brad Wiegmann isn’t one to sit around and wait.
“Look at them,” he says, pointing with his rod toward a guide boat crawling across the massive flat. Every angler occupied a seat and gazed sleepily as lines from the trolling rods cut tiny wakes in the water behind the boat. “I’d much rather be doing this than just sitting and watching.”
Wiegmann is a guide on Arkansas’ Beaver Lake and we are vertical jigging CC Spoons and searching his graph for balls of shad and predator fish.
Instead of long-line trolling with live bait, like most striper guides, he prefers a more active approach and found that spoon fishing is something that everyone can do, regardless of skill level. Drop the spoon to bottom, reel once and start jigging.
Another plus is that spoons produce fish of all types. On the previous day, his clients boated catfish, white bass, striped bass, spotted bass, largemouths and crappies. During our trip, however, white bass dominated the afternoon bite.
That was just the preamble, though. The warm-up act. The nibble before the strike. The real reason we were are here is to await the magic hour when we’ll move to select points on the lake for one of the most exciting moments in freshwater fishing.
“I wait all year for April and late-October/early-November,” Wiegmann says.
His year revolves around those times when giant striped bass move shallow and smash big topwater baits. In the spring, these top predators migrate upriver to spawn in the moving water, then return to the main lake to take up summer residence. It’s during this return trip, when water temperatures consistently reach 65 degrees, that he zeros in on monster stripers.
Wiegmann looks for big flats (10 to 20 feet deep) close to spots where the river channel sweeps against points and banks. This combination forms a perfect “corralling” area where stripers can push shad first against the ledge then up and into the shallows where they can easily attack the baitfish. Typically, the action occurs during the first and last hour of daylight.
After boating another fat white bass, pulls up the trolling motor and announces, “It’s time.” In short order we’re a cast length away from a nondescript gravel point. He hands me a baitcaster with a Cordell Pencil Popper
tied on, then launches a Chug’n Spook
toward the point. I swear I hear him giggle.
The Pencil Popper spits and sputters as I begin to walk it back to the boat. Then, all hell breaks loose. It’s as if the lure were a stick of dynamite when the big fish hit. The drag spins and the battle draws on long enough for Wiegmann to get in two more casts before grabbing the net. Finally, I grip 15 pounds worth of striped bass and give it thanks before releasing it.
We bring another, bigger striper to the boat before the sun disappears under the horizon and we stow the rods and get on plane.
“You can’t describe it,” I say over the roar of the wind in my ears.
“The fight…the strike…you can’t describe it,” I say, and Wiegmann just grins.
I know what he’s thinking: “Told ya!”
Topwater Striper Tips:
-Water temperature should be 60 to 65 degrees.
-Fish only the prime time—the hours of sunrise and sunset.
-Equipment: Medium to medium-heavy, 6 ½- to 7-foot rods, with 20-pound copolymer SilverThread
-Check the reel’s drag to ensure its tight enough to set the hook but loose enough to let a big striper play itself out.
-Use noisy walk-the-dog style topwaters like the Cordell Pencil Popper or Heddon Chug’n Spook.
-Check areas where the river channel sweeps close to the bank, especially if there’s a big flat nearby.
-If a striper swipes and misses, keep working the lure as you were before.
-As always, when fishing a big topwater with multiple treble hooks, wait until you feel the fish before
setting the hook.
-When landing a big striper, keep the fish’s head down so it can’t shake and throw the lure.
-Other lures: Wake a Cordell Redfin slowly across the top, or try a smaller, quieter Spook or even a