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
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
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
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
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