Just a few hundred yards from the landing, Tommy Cauley of Tom Cauley’s Fish Finder Guide Service and owner of Toad’s Mean Green RV Park in Bee Branch, Ark., popped his engine into neutral after idling out in a zigzag pattern.
“Look at these diagonal lines on the graph,” he said. “This cloudy part is a school of shad. These slashing lines are fish rushing up from deep water to feed upon the baitfish. Let’s drop down some lines.”
No sooner had the spoon bounced bottom about 40 feet below then my son Daniel called out, “Fish on!” as he fought a 6-pound hybrid striped bass. As Cauley netted Daniel’s fish, my other son, Steven set the hook on another Greers Ferry Lake hybrid of similar size.
“Greers Ferry Lake is a really good lake for hybrid stripers,” Cauley said. “I’ve had some days where we’ve had four people in the boat and we’ve caught 300 fish. I caught several over 20 pounds. We expect another world record hybrid to come out of here soon.”
On April 24, 1997, Jerald C. Shaum pulled a 27-pound, 5-ounce world record hybrid striper from the lake. The 40,000-acre highland reservoir at the edge of the Ozark Mountains about two hours north of Little Rock actually resembles two lakes. “The Narrows,” a river-like channel, connects the more riverine upper lake and the deeper lower lake.
“Greers Ferry Lake is a great place to fish for hybrids,” added Stuart Wooldridge, an Arkansas Game and Fish Commission biologist. “It is a deep, clear lake. It only has hybrids, no stripers, and they do well in it.”
The state periodically stocks hybrid bass, a hatchery cross between striped bass and white bass, into Greers Ferry Lake. Also called sunshine bass or wipers, most hybrids weigh about 2- to 8 pounds, but some land in the 10- to 15-pound range. Stripers, white bass and hybrids all look similar with elongated white bodies dressed in horizontal black stripes. Generally, hybrids appear stockier than striped bass, but less thick than white bass with broken horizontal lines.
With several islands, water dropping to more than 190 feet deep in places, numerous humps, channels, and about 460 shoreline miles, the sprawling reservoir offers anglers many places to find hybrids. Three rivers and numerous creeks cutting through rocky bluffs and hills flow into the lake. Although they typically don’t naturally reproduce in the lake, hybrids go through the motions of spawning by swimming up streams in the spring.
“In the early spring, hybrids run up the rivers and main feeder streams with white bass in an attempt to spawn,” Cauley said. “At that time, casting a small grub in the shallows is a good way to catch them. I also like to throw a hair jig with a grub on it toward the bank and yo-yo it back to the boat, letting it fall to the bottom.”
In the fall, hybrids chase shad to the surface over very deep water. Acres of water may erupt with frenzied fish. For schooling fish, throw shad-like white spinnerbaits, crankbaits, rattle baits or topwaters. Anglers can also free-line live bait or troll. As the weather turns cold, hybrids drop into deeper water and become less active.
“People can catch hybrids on Greers Ferry 11 months out of the year, except the last part of December and the first part of January,” Cauley explained. “When it’s really cold, hybrids stay right at the bottom. In the winter, I fish a small swim bait by lifting it up and letting it fall. Usually, just the boat rocking gives it enough action.”
When hybrids go deep, look for shad with electronics. Typically, bass lurk beneath the baitfish school. For deep hybrids, few methods work better than vertically jigging chrome spoons or inline spinnerbaits. Drop a lure to the bottom and either jig it up and down or slowly reel it back to the surface. Both baits resemble wounded shad fluttering in the depths. Fish often strike on the fall.
“With the spoon, barely pick it up off the bottom,” Cauley explained. “A spoon is my favorite bait, but I also like a 1-ounce Worden’s Rooster Tail inline spinnerbait. Hybrids often suspend off the bottom. With the spinner, drop it all the way to the bottom and start reeling it up very slowly, just barely turning the handle. The bait will pass through the right level where the fish suspend.”
Top Photo: Daniel Felsher holds up a hybrid striped bass he caught while fishing with Tom Cauley’s of Tom Caule’s Fish Finder Guide Service on Greers Ferry Lake.