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Spring Freelines

It’s January in Tennessee. The temperature is 20 degrees. The water temperature is 40 degrees. We search and search the places we have caught Hybrids and Stripers countless times throughout the year and cannot seem to mark any fish. As we move over the main river channel, the marks begin to appear. Schools of bait with larger marks underneath. Predator fish just “hangin” with the little guys. Kind of like me, staying close to the refrigerator, so I’m not too far from a snack! Move ahead to March 5th. The lake temperature doesn’t seem to have changed much. It is still cold, unless you look more closely. Shallow water areas in the back of the largest creeks on the lake are significantly warmer than the main body of the lake. Where did the bait go? I marked it consistently in the main river channel until about a week ago. How did they know that the back of a creek is the place for them to be? Is it the length of the day? Are there some trace elements of warm water currents pulling them to the back of a creek? How do they know?... They just know! Big fish know as well as the bait fish that there is a party going on in the backs of these creeks and that it is the place to be. The metabolism starts to shift into a higher gear and and the half hearted attempt to eat shifts to a more serious hunger for something besides a 3 inch shiner every 3 days. The biggest fish can be found in the shallowest water. The main body of the lake is 42 degrees and what was once, in the not so distant past, the coldest part of the lake is now the warmest. Somewhere around 48 to 52 degrees. Doesn’t seem like much of a difference, but when you combine the day getting longer with the warmer water, these fish are preparing to spawn. It is a 2 to 3 month process that is so instinctive the same thing happens every year within a few days year to year. It probably has more to do with moon phase than specific calendar date. Set your calendar to the big fish time where a patient fisherman can catch the heaviest fish of the year. The fish are not in a frenzy to the extent they will be in early summer, but the reward for pulling bait with no weight on long lines on planer boards can be the biggest fish you’ll ever catch. I size the hook to the bait. My favorite hook is the Eagle Claw LO42, in every size up to 4/0. The fact that it is wire will allow the hook to deteriorate in a deep hooked fish when released as opposed to a stainless hook, which is undeniably stronger, but will not fade away in a fish when released. I use 30 lb. Berkley Big Game Line, P-Line 30 lb. fluorocarbon leader, with a small 100 lb. swivel. I use Striper Addiction Planer Boards. I like to pull different size baits. Not all fish are in the same metabolic condition and I believe the opportunistic manner in which they feed requires all sizes of bait, from a 3” shiner to a 14” Skip Jack. Spread em’ out! Patience! Quiet!
Article by Capt. Bob Angello Tennessee Striper Guide


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