Big-Stick Stripers On Top at Nottely

Jeremey Seabolt makes his living hauling bait to fishermen. Here is how he uses that bait on his home lake—a trophy-striper lake.

“Bum bum bum bum bum bum,” went the unwavering staccato drumbeat of the sawed-off wooden curtain rod that Jeremy Seabolt tap-tap-tapped off the floor of his 238 skiff. He was hunkered down on his driver’s perch intently watching his digital reconnaissance on his graph as he drummed. If you want to catch stripers at Nottely, beat a stick on the bottom of the boat!

Five rods sat poised in their rod holders along the gunnels of the boat; the line of each leading to a live blueback herring swimming nervously in the clear waters of one Georgia’s best lakes for a big stripers.

Five fishermen sat quietly but with heron-like intent and watched the tip of each rod, waiting for it to twitch nervously before arching down as a fish took the bait.

The sun was just a promise rising behind the mountains when Jeremy announced, “We’re about to get bit!” The tapping on the boat’s floor grew more urgent. Jeremy was calling one up.

The crew included Jeremy’s son Doccoa, and the father and son team of Brandon and Mitchell Grimsly, from Hiawassee. Doccoa is a great hand in his father’s boat, and Mitchell, at 12-years old, is a very accomplished fisherman.

As Jeremy predicted, Mitchell’s rod twitched, jerked and then buried down into the water as the weight of a struggling fish brought everyone to life. Reel, then lift the rod, and reel it up to the waiting net. Yeah!

But our first fish was a catfish. Not the targeted fish we were after. Turns out, we shoulda brought a cooler. We weren’t going to keep any bass, so no cooler. But if we’d brought a cooler, we’d have cleaned those channel cats. We caught seven channel cats between 1 and 7 pounds. What we were after was stripers and hybrids, but we were happy to catch anything that would bite. We were fishing on the weekend the Dawgs beat the Gamecocks and fishing had been awful all over the state. The best time to go is in October during the days ahead of the new moon. So, all things being equal, Oct. 8 to Oct. 13 will be prime time all over the state and particularly on Nottely for the lake’s trophy striped bass.

Still, even on a bad weekend in mid September, we caught fish, and the fishing will get better each day in October… especially for big fish.

So what about big fish?

Stripers have the natural ability to live long lives and grow to enormous size. Fifty-pounders are not uncommon where conditions support such growth. While smaller stripers can endure poor water quality, larger fish die when conditions are poor. This is why in most southern reservoirs with summertime high water temperature and low oxygen content, a fish more than 40 pounds is hard to produce.

Lake Nottely is high in the mountains, largely protected from the baking heat that most other reservoirs endure. It receives lots of cool rain and is fed by clear, oxygen-rich trout streams. Finally, if conditions do become poor, the TVA pumps liquid oxygen into the lake along a bubble line in front of the dam to provide a cool refuge with sufficient oxygen to allow these large fish to survive summer stress and grow to their natural potential.

What does all of this mean?

If you want to target 40-pound-plus stripers in Georgia, Nottely likely is your best lake. The current lake record of 53-lbs., 12-ozs. was caught April 28, 2002.

I’d say someone is about due to break that record. And there are enough fish in the lake to keep everyone busy with other species and methods to make a day on this lake fun.

There are three basic ways to catch linesides this fall. I likely would go prepared to do all three.

Jeremy makes his living catching bluebacks and selling them to bait shops in north Georgia. He is on the water a lot. He got his start because he loved to fish and was catching his own bait. The point is that he keeps up with what both bait and bass are doing all year long.

He delivers blueback herring baitfish to shops from three times a week to daily, depending on demand. On a normal delivery day, he will catch and deliver 300 dozen baits. When the season is at its peak, he can handle up to 600 dozen baits per day—all caught with a cast net. Whew!

Jeremy fishes live bait first. That makes sense, and how he fishes is described in the sidebar on page 38. Live bait always is a great bet for big stripers. Jeremy has seen enough baits and big fish to believe that fresh bait is the best bait. He checks his baits if the rod goes quiet for a while and changes baits regularly to give himself the best chance to tempt a big striper to bite. An angler is only going to get so many chances for a good fish to come take a sniff at one of his baits. He does all he can to put the odds in his favor that the fish will bite.

Jeremy also keeps a rod rigged with something to throw at breaking fish. His preference is a Pencil Popper. Those hooks can handle large fish, but many anglers swap them out for bigger, stronger hooks when targeting stripers.

I would add one more technique this October. If the breaking fish are not up, I would still be casting something sub-surface while I was fishing live bait. Something like a Captain Mack’s bucktail jig with a white fluke or a 5-inch Shadalicious on a J-Will 3/4-oz. jig head would be in my arsenal.

Finally, about the stick banging the boat floor. Saltwater fish are drawn to sound. I recall 40 years ago, every striper guide on legendary Santee Cooper had a 9.9 Mercury outboard on a bracket off the back of the boat just idling in neutral. Those guides believed the sound produced by the motor drew stripers to them. Jeremy believes sound works on saltwater fish. That is why he is so faithful about tapping that stick on the floor of his boat. It works.

If you would like a shot at some of the biggest stripers in Georgia, Jeremy guides on Nottely and can be reached at (706) 994-8649.

How To Catch Stripers at Nottely in October

If you can’t see them on the surface…

Fish downlines, flatlines and planer boards using 12-lb. test fluorocarbon tied to a No. 2 Octopus hook baited with blueback herring or gizzard shad. Once the surface temp cools to below 70 degrees, you can use trout. Trout work best for two reasons. Stripers like them better, and trout live better than bluebacks and gizzard shad both in the livewell and on the hook.

If you can see them breaking the surface…

Throw something at them!

Jeremy’s favorite is a Pencil Popper mostly because it flies so good. Looooong casts! Spooks, Gunfish, Sammys and flukes also catch a bunch of surface fish. Try to have your cast land in the splash ring of the feeding striper.

If you are fishing at night…

Wake a Bomber Long-A at night.

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