For many, many years I fished thinking that the only fish worthy of catching was a largemouth bass; maybe an occasional smallmouth but never anything other than that.
For the last two or three years I have been working stripers and hybrids seriously, and here is why. They are school fish with excellent populations in the river and they fight like Mike Tyson. You see, the truth is that the river is at its best, at least in the Cincinnati area, as a center for stripers, hybrids, and catfish (especially flatheads).
Summertime brings the opportunity for main river stripers and hybrids from now through early winter. They can be caught not only in the early morning and late evening but also during peak periods of recreational boating. If the correct techniques are used they can be caught during the heat of the day with a blazing sun overhead in July and August.
Where to Fish Stripers
Begin your search, regardless of the time of day or weather, by focusing on reasonably clear water along sharp breakoffs. There are scores of these locations in the southern Ohio area. Some of the better ones are near Cabin Creek, near Eagle Creek, just down stream from White Oak (Ohio side), and the area up stream from Maysville (Ky. side). The islands at Manchester produce, as does the island at Brush Creek. When fishing the islands, begin, always, on the down current or tail, of the island.
One of the better tools for your search for summertime stripers or hybrids is a jig. Select jigs with a cone or fat head (Sliderhead type) – avoid football heads, mushroom heads and other models that do not swim well. Dressing on the jigs is more problematic but most experienced striper hunters opt for hair of some sort. Very few are fans of rubber strands or rubber trailers – they just don’t seem to catch as many fish. As for color it is hard to beat white, silver, or gray.
The new Aspirin Head jigs from Punisher Jigs are about as good as it comes, at least in my opinion, for use in the Ohio River. They have a head that is shaped, not surprisingly, much like an aspirin head. It is tied with craft hair in a variety of colors. The craft hair is very fine, does not absorb water, and moves or “floats” with almost no movement. It provokes vicious strikes. These come in sizes ranging from 1/8oz. to 1/4oz. These baits may be somewhat small for southern striper waters, but they are perfect for the River. Most of the quality stripers I catch range from 24 to 28 inches and these sizes are just right.
How to Fish Stripers
Begin your search with a long cast. Retrieve your jig horizontally. Keep your rod tip low to the surface and crank in a slow, steady fashion; like a crankbait retrieve.
Start your hunt with the lure approximately 2 feet below the surface and continue dropping in depth, with each cast, at two feet increments until you find fish. At this time of the year you should be fishing water that is at least 25 or 30 feet deep. Always try different locations and different angles; stripers can be very finicky.
These fish will be found shallower on cloudy or windy days. On still days, with bright sun, begin your search much deeper.
Current always helps. Generally, you will catch more fish with the current than against it. Fish position facing into the current, not with their backs to it.
As the summer wears on we are going to try fishing these jigs under bobbers while floating with the current—sort of a “float and fly” technique with much heavier tackle. I will let you know how it goes.
Stripers/hybrids are not especially hardy fish so turn them loose immediately so as to preserve our fishery for the future.