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Going Savage on Arkansas Stripers at Lake Ouachita (continued)


Worry about it after the hit I thought to myself. Five minutes later I got a chaser and he was big. I cast out again the bait to the same spot and another chaser, but smaller. I cast out again and ripped as hard and fast as I could and as the lure came back to the boat I could see two stripers chasing it in parallel, and finally the smaller of the two made contact.


Not a giant but finally a Ouachita Striper!


I stuck that fish hard, probably harder than I needed to but luckily I had the drag on the Helios Air set properly and was able to let it run to protect the line. It was a hairy few minutes but after a few surges I landed a 14 pound fish and let out a big “Heck yeah!” It was no giant but it was a thoroughly exciting battle on light tackle and a great way for me to finally kick things off and experience what the new Helios Air baitcaster was capable of. This new reel feels smoother than any Okuma I have fished to date and I was pleased with how the multi-disc carbonite drag system doled out consistent pressure to protect my line during the fight.


Time to go home and get bigger!


The rest of the afternoon we picked up a few largemouth on the Line Thru swimbait but no more stripers. The fish in Ouachita are used to eating trout as there has been stocking on both the main lake and surrounding lakes in the past, but just not the week we were here. Mike has fished the region during the trout plants in the past and talked about how downright stupid swimbait fishing can get here.


Mike checks out the bait tanks


That afternoon as we pulled off the lake Ron and Phil decided it was time to switch things up and asked if we would be willing to fish bait under planning boards. “Right now I don’t care when or how we get them, let’s do whatever gets us into the fish,” I replied. Fishing with planning boards is right in Ron’s wheelhouse and he wanted to run some big Gizzard Shad. He took us to the back of his property and opened up a shed to reveal a complete bait station with three separate tanks. As we peered over the edges we saw some shad, all about five inches in length. “These are fine for the summer but right now we need bigger shad and each one we use is hand selected for the mission. We need shad that are twice the size of these guys,” Ron explained.


Phill selects the Gizzard Shad for the trip


Ron wanted fresh big Gizzards and there wasn’t anywhere in town to just go out and buy that kind of quality so it was time for a bait run. Mike joined Phill and Ron on a one and a half hour drive all the way to Conway Arkansas to launch a flat bottom boat and net some big Gizzard Shad. It took a while for them to find the bait but after a few hours they came upon a big school and cast the nets. Ron’s net landed on the shad and they had to chase the net as it swam away with so much bait loaded up in it. One by one they culled the Gizzards until they had only the ones that met the size and quality requirements.


After a successful bait run the tank is loaded


The next morning we put out in Ouachita in an area called Shangri-La. Phill laid out a massive spread of six baits under planer boards, two under balloons off the back and one free lined which he called “Willy.” Willy was the biggest shad in the spread and was aptly named because he would swim right on the surface, breaching like a whale no more than twenty feet behind the outboard. Much heavier tackle was used for this application with Okuma Catalina reels and rods for the planers and the Company’s new Striper sticks for the balloons and Willy.


These are some healthy looking Gizzard Shad

Next Section: Laying down the spread










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