It took a while, but we finally got somebody to take us striper fishing on Juliette. In a half day on the water, with an energetic striper fisherman, I learned a great technique for catching stripers on this 3,600-acre reservoir north of Macon.
Here’s the deal: get yourself some blueback herring and rainbow trout, toss them in a well-aerated live well and put your boat in Juliette. Run two planer boards, a pair of flatlines and one down-line in an area full of bait, and it’s real easy to get a striper to bite — at least it was for us on the morning of February 16 when we fished the north part of the lake.
It was an easy morning of fish catching, however, there’s a pretty dang big glitch in this fishing fantasy.
“I get my trout from The Dugout near Allatoona, a long way from here,” said Shane Jones of Fayette County.
Shane’s bluebacks come from the bait stores around Lake Lanier, even farther from Juliette.
“You can buy regular bass shiners around Juliette,” said Shane. “They catch stripers, but you won’t have the success like you would using bluebacks and trout. I’ve got two, 750-gallon septic tanks at home that I use to keep bait. I get bait in big quantities, so it’ll last several weeks. You’ve got to be dedicated to do this.”
Shane got into serious striper fishing five years ago, and he’s now a regular at Juliette, West Point and Bartletts Ferry. At 33 years of age, he carries a young heart when it comes to catching big linesides.
“You better hope the two rods where you’re standing get hit,” Shane laughed. “I’m like a kid, jumping for the rod, when a bait gets hit.”
After a few hours in the boat with him, it was obvious he has a genuine excitement for the sport of striper fishing. This guy loves to catch fish.
As Shane began putting bait out, threadfin shad were putting ripples on the water all around us.
“Did you see that?” Shane asked.
A striper swirled 100 yards up the lake, a good indicator we were in the right place.
Over 20 feet of water Shane quickly had five baits in the water. We were using three rainbow trout and two bluebacks. It is legal to use bluebacks on Juliette, however, it’s not on a lot of lakes. See page eight of the fishing regs.
I notice Shane hooked all his bait through the top of the mouth and out the nose.
“With a four- to six-inch blueback, I like a No. 1 hook, and for a six- to 10-inch trout, I use a No. 5 hook,” said Shane. “I like a Gamakatsu straight-shank hook. For overall numbers of fish, bluebacks are hard to beat, but I really like the trout because they’re so hearty. I can take them home, put them back in the tank and bring them out here on another fishing trip. Trout are also great indicators that a striper is after them. They get real nervous.”
At 7:15 a.m., only 15 minutes after dumping Shane’s boat in the water, the back rod tip began to bounce as we passed over the backside of a point.
“Something’s making him nervous,” said Shane.
I watched with amazement as this freelined trout danced across the top of the water causing a heck of a commotion behind the boat.
“That’s why I like trout — they go crazy and will often trigger a striper to bite,” said Shane. “Look at the trout trying to get away… come on, BITE.”
The trout attempted a quick escape toward deeper water but only made it 10 feet before a striper crushed him. The rod was bent and line was screaming from the Abu Garcia 6500 reel. The first white fish of the day was on. What a great feeling!
Shane pulled the rod from the holder and grinned at the strong tug on the other end of his 15-lb. test line. Several minutes later Shane scooped our first fish of the day, a very respectable 10-pounder. After snapping a few photos, Shane released the fish and opened the top of his 20-gallon bait tank.
“In this business you learn to deal with bait,” said Shane. “I use ‘Shad Keeper,’ to help numb the bait as I’m traveling. It calms them down.”
For additional aeration he uses ‘Let ’em Live.’
Within minutes we were again trolling baits at a speed of 0.5 – 0.6 mph, according to Shane’s super-detailed Lowrance LCX-111C depthfinder. We were circling about five or six acres of water that was anywhere from five- to 20-feet deep. I was impressed with the nice spread of bait that seemed to effectively cover water.
“With planer boards you can cover more water,” said Shane. “Not a lot of guys down here pull them.”
Shane uses a planer board that was designed by Tim Adrien, who holds the Juliette striper record of 40-lbs., 8-ozs.
Shane said this planer board is designed to swim out to the side of the boat at a slow speed. When fishing a planer board, Shane likes a six-foot leader, which gives the bait enough line to imitate a natural baitfish. Water Bugz makes a good planer board, too, Shane said.
The next rod went down at 7:45 a.m., compliments of a freelined blueback. Shane smiled as the big fish made a run to the back of the boat before making it to the net.
“That’s about 12 pounds,” Shane said.
About 100 yards away we could see Bobby Andrews of Locust Grove had an arched back, thanks to a 12-lb. striper that hit a freelined blueback, too. Bobby’s boat ended up netting seven stripers for the morning.
Shane’s dip net brought up another blueback, and in no time we were back in business with two bluebacks and three trout — several big enough that I was taking them home to my Fry Daddy if a striper didn’t hit them.
“If the stripers are in here eating small, it’s best to have a smaller bait, but a big striper can eat a 2-lb. gizzard shad,” said Shane. “That’s why I give them a buffet style of both big and small baits.”
Shane knows a striper fisherman who fishes only with giant gizzard shad. He said the guy will only get two bites a day, but they’ll be from stripers that weight 15 pounds or more.
“Threadfins work real good, but you have to catch them first — nobody sells them,” said Shane.
To catch threadfin, Shane keeps a 10-foot castnet on a 10-foot rope. Watch your depthfinder for balls of shad. In some cases the bait could be bunched up eight feet down. Make sure you let the net sink far enough.
If you don’t want to fool with getting bait, Shane said he’s found a good mid-day, spring bite on Juliette trolling umbrella rigs. He likes them because they’re easy. He’s using a rig made by Mack Farr.
“I’ll troll umbrella rigs between 2.9 – 3.3 mph,” said Shane. “Don’t be afraid to throw it in neutral, and let the rig hit them in the head.”
To pull an umbrella rig Shane uses 30-lb. test fished on a Tiger Ugly Stick.
Shane and I boated another 10-pounder, and our big fish of the day went about 13 pounds. Although the fish will begin to move in March, Shane said they’ll hit bait all month.
“This month the stripers start heading back down the lake,” said Shane. “Look on main-lake points and humps in the middle of the lake around the powerplant. Some of them will try to spawn on the lower end of the lake by running back in the coves.”
Shane bought his jonboat just for fishing Juliette. It’s got a 25 hp motor on the back, which is the maximum allowed on the lake. You can launch a boat with a bigger motor, but you can’t crank it.