What a week!
This past week I fished Stillhouse Hollow Reservoir exclusively with seven parties between Monday and Friday. Catches ranged from a low of 101 fish to a high of 133 fish, and averaged 110 fish per trip.
The makeup of the catch this week ran roughly 40 percent largemouth bass and 60 percent white bass.
Mornings definitely outperformed afternoons, with the first two and a half hours following sunrise being the best of the best.
During this low-light period, schools of white bass numbering up to 50 fish per school, and smaller schools of largemouth, typically numbering up to 10 fish per school, were found aggressively herding young shad to the surface and gorging on them.
These young shad now range from about three-fourths of an inch in length for those spawned toward the end of the spawning season in late May, up to 1 1/3 inches in length for those spawned in March, at the beginning of the threadfin shad spawning season.
These young shad are relatively slow swimmers and therefore make easy targets for hungry gamefish.
As with most fishing scenarios, location is the key. Wind-impacted banks on the lower two-thirds of the reservoir are home to most of this surface feeding action. This week our winds were primarily from the southeast blowing toward the northwest, so banks facing the southeast were most productive.
Some careful observation is helpful in initially finding such feeding activity. I will typically make some educated guesses on where fish may be found, then I will motor to these areas and do a listening stop.
By this, I mean I will turn off the outboard motor, drift with the wind so as to reduce the noise caused by waves slapping on the hull, and simply remain quiet as I stand, look and listen for signs of fish feeding at or near the surface.
This week’s light winds through Thursday certainly aided in the fish-finding efforts, allowing even small fish and subtle activity to be witnessed.
Beyond location, lure selection is the next most important factor. Suffice it to say that your presentation must be small, shad-like in appearance and of a natural hue. This is no time for throwing buzzbaits, Rat-L-Traps or poppers. I opted for 1½ inch-long paddle-tail and spike-tail grubs on 1/8- and ¼-ounce jigheads presented via spinning tackle with fully loaded spools of 10-pound test monofilament for maximum casting distance and minimum tangles.
For those clients who had difficulty with distance, I put the same small, shad-imitating lures behind a weighted popping cork to give them extra weight and therefore more distance to their casts.
Fast, accurate casts to just beyond the rings on the water’s surface created by the feeding fish draw more strikes than just blind-casting in the vicinity of feeding fish. Also, fast retrieves, which keep the lure near the surface and which deny fish an opportunity to study the lure closely, get more results.
Casting to surface-feeding fish is a “make hay while the sun shines” proposition. Once fish show themselves, the successful angler needs to stay focused and keep casting. This is no time for high-fives, photos or snack breaks.
There will be plenty of time for those things after about 8 a.m., when the surface activity begins to die down.