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Plenty Of Stripers
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Texas Sportsman
Here Come The Stripers!

"After some serious surface feeding by a big school, the surface is often dimpled with injured shad that make short, frantic runs. When I see several crippled baitfish on the surface, I mimic their action by jerking the big topwater plugs a foot or so across the surface. Of course, it's important to watch for blow-ups and sight-cast just past the surface explosion."

When Read spots wakes caused by stripers chasing shad near the surface, he makes sweeps of the rod that drag the plug 3 or 4 feet across the water's surface. This fast retrieve is all it takes to dupe a striper into thinking that its prey is escaping.

When the surface water stops churning and the school sounds, don't think for a minute that the action's over. The school often suspends a few feet below the surface and moves in the direction of the school of shad. As gulls have the uncanny ability to stay up with the feeding activity, their movements are the striper fisherman's most reliable natural clue to the direction in which the stripers are heading.

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When the stripers go subsurface, Read switches to a Sassy Shad on a half-ounce jighead to stay in the game. "I have found that dipping the tail of the pearl-colored Sassy Shad in chartreuse dye often improves its appeal to the fish," he explained. "Make long casts ahead of the direction the school of stripers is moving, allow the soft plastics to fall about 5 feet below the surface, hold the rod tip high and retrieve the baits with a medium-speed crank of the reel. This will keep the bait in the strike zone 3 to 5 feet below the surface and just above the fast-moving stripers."

After the school-oriented feeding activity slows, stripers will often move to bottom structure, where they become a bit lethargic. They can still be stirred up, however, with a slab bounced in front of their noses. If a little wind is blowing, Read will switch to an elongated 1-ounce slab and drift humps and points that the stripers like to stack up on. It's hard to beat well-known bits of bottom structure such as Sun and Cloud points at Tawakoni, but there are also lots of isolated humps and ridges in the lower lake that can be readily pinpointed by means of sonar.

When the wind's too light for a good drift, Read will mark the bottom-hugging stripers on sonar and use his trolling motor to stay directly over them. He prefers a 3/4- to 1 1/4-ounce Holiday Slab in this situation.

"Vertical jigging can be very effective when stripers are locked down on structure," Read offered. "Let the bait hit bottom, and then crank hard on the reel about three turns; disengage the reel's spool and allow the slab to flutter back to the bottom."

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department took Tawakoni off the list of lakes to be stocked with hybrid stripers last year, causing Read and many anglers in the area to form the Lake Tawakoni Sportsman's Association. Through tournaments and donations, the association raised just over $10,000, which was matched by the Sabine River Authority (the lake's controlling entity) to stock 139,000 hybrid fingerlings. The state added an additional 180,000 hybrid fingerlings and 80,000 stripers.

Striper and hybrid striper fishing is of substantial quality at this grand old Texas lake now, and thanks to the joint efforts of local striper enthusiasts and the state, it appears that this fertile reservoir will be a great striper-fishing destination for years to come.

This lake is known primarily as a white-bass hotspot, but the hybrid striper action has been picking up big-time over the past couple of years, an aggressive stocking program being what's made the difference. According to guide Bob Holmes -- who, with his 15.3-pound striper, is the current holder of the lake record for the species -- catches of hybrids in the 4- to 6-pound class, with an occasional larger one, were common this past summer, and he's looking forward to an even better summer this year.

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