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Annette Brown Scott

Hybrid and striped bass fishing during the summer months

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Hybrid and striped bass fishing during the summer months

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Bobby Peoples Outdoor Columnist

Consistently catching hybrid and striped bass during the hot summer has always been tougher at Lake Sinclair than at Lake Oconee. However even at Lake Oconee the summer season has presented different conditions from summer to summer. At both lakes, the hybrid/striped bass are located in different places on the lake from year to year. Unless you are a diehard angler who specifically targets the hybrid/ striped bass on a regular basis, an occasional trip to either lake will likely result in frustration. The location of the fish can change each year but the location can also change from week to week during the summer. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of the pump-back operation at the Wallace Dam. When the Georgia Wildlife Resources Division (GWRD) was stocking very larger numbers of hybrid bass in Lake Oconee from 1991 thru 2004 an angler could pattern the fish much better even though the fish might relocate from day to day. No striped bass were stocked in Lake Oconee from 1991 thru 2004.

From 1991 thru 2003 hybrid bass were stocked in Lake Oconee at an average rate of 19 fish per acre. However, several years during that same period saw over 400,000 hybrid bass stocked. The highest number of hybrid bass were stocked in 1999 when 477,883 hybrid bass were stocked. In those days at Lake Oconee, you could guarantee that the hybrid bass would show up at specific places at specific times of the day. A large number of boats and anglers would gather in those locations and the wait would not last long before hundreds of fish would begin surface feeding.

Whether casting a popping cork with a Thing popper, a casting spoon, a Rat-L-Trap or a Roostertail the action could be nonstop. Taking kids or the entire family to those events was very popular in those days. Many friendships were developed in those days as anglers gathered for some great fun. Unfortunately, the stocking levels that created those great fishing excursions have not been maintained since.

In the early days prior to Lake Oconee’s construction, Lake Sinclair was a decent lake for striped bass due to the influx of cool water. One of the prime locations was Sholderbone Creek which was spring fed. The striped bass would congregate in the creek and the fishing was fantastic.

Once the Wallace Dam was constructed and the pump-back operation began, the great fishing for striped bass in that creek and at other locations on Lake Sinclair pretty much ended. The hot water discharge at the then operational Plant Branch further impacted hybrid/striped bass angling success during the summer in the mid-lake area due to the hot water discharge.

Neither Lake Sinclair or Lake Oconee has developed a good striped bass fishery. The striped bass fishing at Lake Oconee has been better than Lake Sinclair but striped bass have not done well in either lake due to the pump-back operation which keeps the lakes from stratifying and therefore the fish have no cool water zone to live in during the summer months. The current stocking rates at Lake Oconee are 15 hybrid bass per acre and 5 striped bass per acre. The 2018 stocking rates at Lake Sinclair were 8 per acre (118,000) for hybrid bass and 5.5 per acre (81,150) for striped bass. Hybrid bass have done better in both lakes due in part to the larger stocking levels. The hybrids also seem to do better even with high water temperatures. However, angling even for hybrid bass is much tougher during the summer months than in the cooler parts of the year on both lakes. I live on Lake Sinclair and fish more often during the summer months on Lake Sinclair than on Lake Oconee. I do not consider myself an expert hybrid/striped bass angler but I have figured out a few successful ways to catch hybrids and an occasional striped bass on Lake Sinclair. My success at Lake Sinclair is much better during the winter months but I have also developed a couple of successful summer techniques.

My favorite summer technique is to fish points and ledges late in the day when water is being pushed through the Wallace Dam from Lake Oconee back into Lake Sinclair creating water current. At those times the hybrid bass will show up in good numbers feeding on shad. My lure of choice is a deep diving crankbait that will run from 4-12 foot of water and most often casting the crankbait works best. However, trolling a crankbait in those same locations will work. Most of the fish are hybrid bass but an occasional striped bass will show up. Lake Oconee guides often struggle consistently during the summer months to locate the hybrid/ striped bass fishery. The fish show up at different locations from year-to-year but once located the guides have a number of different techniques and lures that will result in good catches. The average angler should pay attention to the techniques used by the lake guides and the locations where the fish are located. Just like at Lake Sinclair, the hybrid/striped bass are easier to catch during the cooler seasons of the year. The summer season even test the skills of the guides at Lake Oconee who rely on catching the fish for their livelihood. This year a good morning bite has been occurring at Lake Oconee near the dam if water is being pumped back into the lake creating a good current. Casting a popping cork with a “Thing” popper will normally be all you need to put both striped and hybrid bass in the boat. As the summer heat continues the fish normally leave the dam and mid-lake and head up the rivers searching for cool water. After the morning bite is over at Lake Oconee, the fish can be found around underwater humps from Sugar Creek to the dam. Trolling is then the preferred method for catching those fish using a 4-arm Captain Mack umbrella rig that can be purchased at the Sugar Creek Marina. If you want to really learn the best techniques for catching hybrid/striped bass, you might consider contacting one of the lake guides for a morning or afternoon trip.

In summary, hybrid/ striped bass fishing during the summer at Lake Sinclair can be really tough while better angling results can occur at Lake Oconee. Nothing gets an angler better results during the summer than spending time on the water and searching out points, ledges and humps.

Good fishing and see you next week.