Hot Summer Lineside Action
There's a great bite for hybrid and striped bass on Georgia lakes. Here's how to find linesides and catch them on artificials.
I bass fish—and write about bass fishing—for a living. I’m normally the ding dong you’ll see on the lake in the rain, sleet and snow. I’ve had some strange looks over the years. But I’ll be flat-out honest with you: You’d be hard pressed to find me bass fishing in the heat of the summer. Unless I’m hitting a local pond in the evening before supper, y’all can have it. I just don’t get wound up thinking about shaking a tiny finesse worm in brushpiles all day.
But don’t think for a second that my boat stays parked in the garage this time of year. I’m still out there, but I trade in the jigs, crankbaits and spinnerbaits for big, heavy spoons and blade baits.
That’s right; it’s prime time for hybrids and stripers in Georgia, and it’s some of the most fun you can possibly have. If you like catching more than you like fishing, grab some cold water and sunscreen, and get out there as soon as you finish reading this article. Get excited, because I’m fixing to teach you how to take full advantage of this awesome summertime pattern.
Why Target These Linesides?
Hot-weather largemouth are awfully lethargic creatures. Their metabolism has come to a screeching halt and their strike zones—the distance they’ll travel to attack prey—are becoming smaller with each passing day. Not to mention, they’ve endured a bunch of fishing pressure for the past several months, and they’re getting wise to our offerings.
Hybrids and stripers, on the other hand, are some bad dudes this time of year. As the water gets warmer, it seems as if they get meaner, and quite frankly, they get stupider. Summer linesides are not only the perfect opportunity for us to get our fill of hard-fighting fish, but more importantly, this is an excellent time to get newcomers involved in our sport. Whether it’s your kids, your neighbor’s kids, your spouse or a buddy from work, a good day of lineside fishing will get them hooked for life. I’ve never seen anyone frown while getting worked over by a big hybrid or striper.
This type of fishing will also get you much more comfortable and confident with your electronics. There’s a certain degree of intimidation when it comes to the new-age fish finders. The large majority of anglers I see with these big, fancy screens are still trolling along the bank, fishing in 3 feet of water.
I did the same exact thing until I started tinkering with these summertime linesides. But spending my summers targeting and guiding for them in 30-plus feet of water did wonders for my deep-water confidence and electronics skills. Now I’m much more comfortable targeting deep largemouth and spotted bass throughout the rest of the year, and I believe it has made me a more well-rounded angler.
Start Your Search
Whether you have an expensive fish finder or an old paper map, you need to start by studying a contour map of your favorite lake. Mapping is everything with this pattern. You’re going to be looking for underwater humps similar to this below from the Navionics WebApp. You can certainly find the linesides in other places throughout the summer, but humps are by far the easiest and quickest way to get on a giant school.
I tend to have the best luck when the top of the hump is in 25 to 30 feet of water. This can change depending on your lake and water clarity, but this particular depth range is an excellent starting point. I’ve also found that humps adjacent to a prominent creek or river channel tend to hold more fish this time of year.
Once you’re able to locate and mark several humps, put that boat in the water, and be prepared to stare at your graphs for a long time. I wish I had a magic solution that would circumvent this part of the process, but unfortunately I don’t. Whatever you do, be patient when you start learning this pattern. I promise it will pay off in the end.
See This On Your Screen
When my buddy, Billy Benedetti, started teaching me how to catch these deep, summertime linesides, I would waste a lot of time dropping on anything that might look like a fish on my Lowrance HDS-12. It would frustrate me to no end, but he just kept telling me, “You’ll know when you find ‘em.”
He was absolutely right, so I’m going to tell you the same thing: You’ll know when you find ‘em. There will be no question in your mind.
I like to idle in a zigzag pattern over the top of the hump. Some days they’ll be on the steeper side next to the adjacent channel, and other days they’ll be on the gradual slope leading to the peak of the hump. It changes every day, so this zigzag pattern will help you cover water more efficiently.
When you find a pod of fish, it will look like spaghetti on your graph. That might sound silly, but its unmistakable. You’ll see large, streaking arches which indicates actively feeding hybrids and stripers. This is a sure sign that you’re about to get your arm broken—in a good way, of course.
The Fun Begins
It’s not uncommon to see these schools of linesides on your graph for 50 or 60 yards worth of idling. You might think I’m exaggerating, but these schools can be enormous. Your graph might even start reading a false bottom because the fish are so thick in the water column.
When you first start seeing the spaghetti, grab your marker buoy, but don’t throw it out just yet. Keep idling in the same direction, and right when the graph clears up and the activity stops, throw your buoy behind the boat, where your transducer is mounted. This will give you a very accurate landmark that shows you where the school is located.
Once I toss the buoy, I’ll position my boat downwind of the buoy, so I can control my boat easier and make a more precise vertical presentation. With my trolling motor, I’ll follow that same line that I just idled, starting near the marker buoy. I’ll keep my head down, staring at my bow-mounted electronics until the spaghetti shows up on my screen. I won’t make a single drop until the graph lights up with activity.
Two Lures, All You Need
After a few years of experimentation, I’ve made my lure selection incredibly simple. You don’t need a bunch of tackle in the boat. Go grab two lures: a 3/4-oz. SteelShad Blade Bait and a 7/8-oz. War Eagle Jiggin’ Spoon. In both lures, get a gold one for cloudy conditions and a silver one or sunny conditions.
I sincerely don’t make a dime by saying this, but don’t buy knockoff lures for this. These hybrids and stripers are big, and they’re strong—cheap lures will get destroyed after just one fish catch. I suggest the SteelShad and War Eagle Jiggin’ Spoon because they have quality components, strong split rings and heavy-wire treble hooks.
You’re going to be dropping both of these lures vertically and fishing them in the same manner. With a medium-heavy baitcaster rod and 17-lb. fluorocarbon line, drop them all the way to the bottom. Once they reach the bottom, engage your reel and lift your rod tip about 1 foot before letting the lure flutter back to the bottom on slack line.
Your bites are going to happen one of two ways. You’ll either feel a slight “tick” as it flutters to the bottom, or you’ll start to lift your rod tip and it’ll feel like you’re suddenly hooked to a dump truck. You’ll normally find these schools of linesides over relatively clean, sandy bottom compositions, so don’t be afraid of getting snagged. If something feels heavy, set the hook and get ready for an awesome fight.
It’s important to avoid wrenching on these fish during the fight. Treble hooks are notorious for losing fish, so take your time. Set your drag a little loose and enjoy the ride. It can take 10 minutes to land some of these fish out of deep water.
If you’re an experienced angler and you’re taking beginners out for a day of vertical jigging linesides, you might consider hooking the fish yourself and handing the rod off to your guests. It takes a few trips to learn the nuances of bite detection, so this will reduce frustration and allow everyone to have a great time.
As the days keep getting longer and the temperatures keep rising, make an effort to get out to your favorite lake and try this technique. Once you get the hang of it, I’ll bet a silver dollar you’ll have a hard time fishing for anything else for the rest of the summer. These linesides are big, strong, easy to catch, and they make for some outstanding table fare.
Other Articles You Might Enjoy