"SLABS LETHAL FOR TEXOMA STRIPERS" by Luke Clayton
Pottsboro, Texas - Ask a savvy striper fisherman to name the top-producing lure used during the summer months and the answer,”Slab” will be near or at the top of the list. Fishing for stripers with ‘slabs’ has become very popular during the past couple decades. Before that, the ‘spoon’ was the rage. A spoon is an oval, elongated piece of steel, shaped to create a wobble on the fall or retrieve, that triggers strikes from stripers and most other game fish. The gold spoon has been a favorite on the Texas coast for at least two generations of fishermen, and these time tested lures continue to catch fish. The lead slab, brightly painted in shades or chartreuse, silver, white and sometimes orange or red, is much more heavy and falls at a faster rate than spoons, thus it’s popularity when fishing deeper waters. Just as a ship made of iron has the ability to float, a piece of lead, properly formed and painted, has the ability to catch fish, and LOTS of fish during the summer months.
Guide Chris Carey with Striper Express has a passion for tricking his beloved striped bass to bite using all sorts of artificial lures. Throughout the year, this popular guide and his clients will be seen throwing everything from top water plugs, to soft plastic shad imitations on jig heads, to lipless vibrating crankbaits. But right now, you’ll see the majority of striper rods in Carey’s boat rigged with slabs. The reason? Slabs are by far the most productive artificial bait during the summer months when the water is warm, the striper’s metabolism is high and the fish are on the move chasing big schools of shad out in open water.
Why the popularity of lead slabs over steel spoons these days? One reason is that anglers have discovered the faster falling lead slabs more closely mimic the shad, streaking through the water in efforts to escape becoming breakfast for an even faster moving striper. When allowed to flutter to bottom, with reel in freespool, these pieces of lead closely resemble a wounded baitfish fluttering down to bottom, something a hungry striper very often cannot resist!
This past week, I joined Carey for a morning of some fast paced striper catching. As we motored out of Highport Marina just after safe light, Chris filled us in on the current pattern. “Stripers are dispersed widespread throughout the lake and so are the schools of shad. There are a few cattle egrets and herons around to help us locate the actively feeding schools”. He eased back on the throttle near a rocky point and asked everyone aboard to watch the water closely. “During early morning, we haven’t been seeing the acres of top water feeding fish, just a swirl or occasional baitfish popping the surface. These are the only indications of the big striper schools holding down below the baitfish. The acres of surfacing feeding fish that are easy to spot has been occurring around mid morning.”
Suddenly, a striper, and from the sound and ensuing wake, a big one, blew up on a shad near the surface about fifty yards out. Chris quietly moved the boat within a long cast of the surface disturbance and we were promptly working 1 ounce slabs vertically through the cloud of stripers that lit up the flasher like lights on a Christmas tree. For five action packed minutes, we enjoyed non-stop action on stripers up to about 8 pounds, then the school moved away, subsurface, leaving no indication of which direction they were heading. “Later in the morning, there will be much more surface feeding and it’s much easier to keep up with the fast moving schools. Without some clue such as working birds or actually watching the fish blow up on the surface, it’s tough to keep up with them.” says Chris as we continued to scan the water’s surface for our next ‘clue’. Then, in the distance, a few cattle egrets were spotted, dipping to pick up an occasional injured shad on the surface, an occasional swirl helped pinpoint another feeding school. So the first couple hours of the day went, fishing isolated, roving schools of stripers that were here one minute and gone the next; a typical pattern for mid summer.
Photo by Luke Clayton
Striper fishing at Lake Texoma is red hot on slabs right now. Guide Chris Carey and some happy fishermen show off the results of a few minutes action!
As the morning progressed, just has Chris had predicted, the striper schools remained up on the surface for longer periods. By ten am., stripers were churning the surface, chasing shad with reckless abandon. Their direction of travel was easy to decipher; dipping egrets and the leading edge of the school was marked by scores of top water disturbances. Shad jumping clear of the water and the silver sides of countless stripers glistening in the morning sunshine! This can best be described as ‘action’ fishing and the pattern for the summer has just begun. Many of the strikes came as the slabs were falling, which requires a bit more finesse than when stripers are hitting fast moving baits. It’s important to keep the line tension on the reel set relatively light, to allow the slab to freefall but, make sure and keep in contact with the spool/line with your thump. The instant the strike occurs, engage the reel and set the hook. Reels with fast gear ratios are a must for this type fishing. Chris says the current red hot ‘slab bite’ will continue throughout the month, and often lasts well into September.
Photo by Luke Clayton
Netman in training!