Very little surface activity so far
The striper fishing on Santee has been pretty good this fall, even though anglers have seen very little schooling activity on the surface. Live bait has been producing well, and spoons jigged vertically are also catching good numbers of these fish.
Fishing out of Blacks Camp, Capt. Jon Mercer of No Mercy Fishing scans the surface with his binoculars throughout each day, looking for the telltale sign of birds diving that indicate topwater activity. But he’s seen scant evidence of it so far.
“The surface schooling should pick up as the water continues to cool down, but so far this year, the schools just haven’t shown up. I’ve been keeping a close look each day for birds, but it hasn’t happened yet,” Mercer said.
But that hasn’t kept him from catching stripers. He’s been putting his anglers on plenty of fish, mainly using blueback herring for bait. He uses typical Carolina rigs on six to eight rods, casts them out, then places the rods in rod holders. Finding schools of bait with his depthfinder is the key.
“I locate the baitfish, and hopefully some stripers on my electronics. Then I try to place my live baits at that depth – or slightly above. Then I put those rods in the rod holders. It’s best to let the stripers hook themselves before removing the rods, then the fight is on,” he said.
Don’t overlook the canal
Anglers looking to play a more active role can use spoons as they wait for action on the live bait. Berry’s Flex-it spoons are good choices. Mercer prefers the 1-ounce and 2-ounce versions. Dropping the lures straight down, then reeling quickly up works. Making long casts, then slowly working the spoons in can also produce.
Mercer has been doing most of his fishing on the lower lake, but he said it’s always a good idea to start in the canal that connects lakes Marion and Moultrie.
“Especially if they are pulling water, you can get a good jumpstart to the day in the canal. You have to go through there anyway, so it’s worth a try. You look for bait on your depthfinder, and drop live bait down and wait. You don’t want to waste time if nothing is happening, but it’s not uncommon to pick up a keeper or two.
“When everything falls into place, you can limit out here while other anglers are still eating breakfast,” he said.
Surface activity should pick up in the coming weeks. When that happens, it’s time to use walk-the-dog type lures while following the birds, which will group up in huge numbers, diving into the schools of baitfish pushed to the top by hungry stripers.