Imagine that you are slowing drifting with live gizzard shad when several stripers start pounding the surface in a feeding frenzy only 20 yards away. Do you try to troll through the stripers, or do you pull out your surface lure and make a long cast into the fish? When opportunity knocks, it’s often best to reach for a rod with a shad-type surface lure and start casting!
When stripers push shad to the top and start busting the surface, it may only last a few seconds. Wise anglers have discovered it’s often best to be prepared for both situations, so we’ll discuss techniques for both live-bait fishing with Jeff Mooney and artificial fishing for Juliette stripers with Rob Craig.
Stripers require deep, cool water to survive, and when you talk about trying to find a trophy-sized striper in middle Georgia, Lake Juliette is on top of my list. Lakes in middle and south Georgia do not usually contain deep enough water that is conducive for a healthy striper environment, but Juliette is different. Located near Forsyth, just above the fall line, the lake has plenty of deep water, with some spots up to 85 feet deep. This makes it a prime striper fishing destination for middle and south Georgia anglers.
The water is at least partially oxygenated by the pumps that bring in the main source of water from the nearby Ocmulgee River. In addition, water is received by the very small Rum Creek.
The lake is normally very clear, so lighter lines can be more productive. The 3,600-acre lake has 62 miles of shoreline and is at full pool now, which is 435 feet above sea level.
Boaters can use any sized boat, but operated motors can’t exceed 25 hp. An extra trolling battery is a good idea, and a smaller 25 horsepower or less motor can be used as a kicker motor on your big boat to get around. There is no development around the lake, so it’s peaceful without skiers and jet skis.
Georgia WRD Fisheries Biologist Keith Weaver says that Juliette stripers have done better on the lake in recent years due to higher, more stable water levels, which have helped preserve the cooler thermal areas necessary for the fish to strive. Although the average striper is around 5 pounds, some stripers in the 40-plus range are in the lake. Hybrids have not been stocked in recent years, but stripers have been stocked at a strong rate of 10 to 15 per acre, according to Keith. In doing gill net surveys, Keith has noticed a good number of stripers that hang out at the end of Hunters Point, as shown on the Kingfisher map. There are some steep drop-offs at the end of the point that lead into the head of the standing timber at this location. We all know that stripers like that standing timber, so check it out.
On Nov 6, I fished with Rob Craig, of Macon, who works as a Delta pilot and is a retired U.S. Air Force B-1 bomber pilot. To relax, he takes his 14-foot jonboat, pushed by a 9.9 Mercury motor, to Juliette to striper fish. It was a foggy, cloudy and warm day, and Rob said the stripers on Juliette bite best on sunny days, contrary to some other lake patterns. He likes to fish the main lake deep water and watch his Lowrance HDS9 graph, paired along with a Humminbird 999, for striper activity. It was easy to watch these graphs for bait balls of shad and then see the umbrella from stripers hovering around them. The graphs also showed the jigging spoons moving up and down through the fish, and that’s when the stripers were supposed to strike. We often watched as stripers chased the spoons, but they would not commit to strike. This is common problem with stripers. It’s amazing how their pea-sized brains outsmart fishermen.
Rob likes to use medium-action Shimano spinning reels, 14-lb. line and light- to medium-action Diawa rods when fishing for submerged stripers. He likes to fish a Damiki Vortex Blade down deep, and he uses a fairly aggressive 2- to 3-foot upswing on the lure. Then he lets it drop, and that’s when more strikes occur. Hold on, or they’ll yank the rod overboard. Rob also watches for surface feeding activity and will often move quickly to spots where stripers are breaking the surface, seagulls are diving or loons are chasing shad because this draws in the stripers.
Rob says the stripers often hang out near main-lake points and just over the submerged timber. When the lake was being filled, the standing trees were cut off at 400 feet, so the top of the timber is down about 35 feet. Anglers can tie on a 1- to 2-oz. egg sinker above leader line that is rigged with a deep-diving crankbait. This will often get the crankbait down to the desired depth. Umbrella rigs can also be used in these areas.
The submerged timber starts near the dam and runs up the center of the lake for 3.5 miles. Rob prefers to use jigs for submerged fish and cast to surface activity when he runs across it. There is always some sort of surface feeding activity, and a smart ear will help you pinpoint the proper sounds. A gar makes a gurgling or gulping noise and can often be seen on the surface. A striper hits like a brick being thrown in to the water!
Jeff Mooney, 34, of McDonough, is a regular Juliette angler and works out of Juliette’s All Season Guide Service Bait and Tackle Store at the corner of Juliette Road and Hwy 87. They carry all your fishing needs, as well as live bluebacks and gizzard shad. When Jeff’s not thinking about fishing, he works at Ag Pro, the John Deere Dealership. Jeff likes to troll shad about 150 feet behind his pontoon boat and uses planer boards to keep the lines stretched out. He trolls using the gas motor at near idle speed.
Jeff uses Okuma rods and Diawa reels with the built-in line distance counters so he can troll the right distance and also drop his baits down to the right depth. He uses 30-lb. mono to a 2-oz. weight, followed by a 10-foot leader of 15-lb. test and then a small No. 1 circle hook. The hook is run through both nostrils of the shad to keep it lively. The shad are kept in a round aerated bait tank.
Anglers can buy the shad at the All Seasons Store or try to catch your own small bream for bait. The shad are best, but bream will work. We fished diligently for about 6 hours and caught a few fish but nothing photo worthy. It was a cloudy and windy day, and the fish just would not cooperate. Of course the next day it was sunny, and they had a great day on the lake and caught good numbers of stripers.
To contact Jeff at the All Season Guide Service Bait and Tackle Store, call him at (478) 994-8895.
Here are some of Rob’s and Jeff’s other top striper locations:
1) The fresh river water discharge pipe located about one-half mile south of the Dames Ferry boat ramp near Hwy 87 is prime water when pumping. Look for the 4-by-4 foot green sign, which sits right above the pipe on the bank. Try your favorite crankbait, live shad under a cork or dead cut shad on the bottom. Don’t be surprised if a big catfish takes your bait. Try the two small points on either side of the discharge pipe cove.
2) The high rip-rap dam wall is a good place to find shad being pushed up by the stripers. Also, try the western section on the dam and adjacent cove.
3) Directly across the lake from the boat ramp, on the opposite west bank, you’ll find Taylor’s Island, which has steep drop-offs. The front and north side of the island has many large granite boulders in the water that hold stripers and big bass.
4) Off of Quail Head Point, the third point north of the Dames Ferry boat ramp, locate the two high points in the middle of the lake. The bottom comes up to near 10 feet of the surface and holds stripers and bass
5) Jeff likes to troll around the Ocmulgee River discharge pipe and then down to the big open water in front of the two Georgia Power cooling towers. The warm-water discharge from the towers creates current that attracts stripers into the large cove.
Whether you prefer live bait trolling, chunking and winding artificial lures, or a combination of both, give Lake Juliette striper fishing a try in December.