When I finally got it near the boat I saw a fish that looked like nothing I had ever caught before. I immediately knew it was a hybrid or striper since I had seen pictures of them and knew both the South Carolina DNR and the Georgia DNR had stocked them there.
I guess I was so surprised that I relaxed or something because that fish came off the hook right at the boat. But many that hit later did not come off and I have found ways to catch hybrids and stripers during late December. They hit better for me in cold water but fight like crazy then.
Hybrids On Crankbaits
Running the banks casting crankbaits will catch them but it is not consistent. The best luck I ever had on this pattern was a warm Christmas when I landed five hybrids and six bass over five pounds each on Shadraps. Casting crankbaits to the bank will sometimes catch them, but there are more productive ways.
Fish The Gulls
The most popular way to catch winter hybrids is to fish the birds. Gulls and terns constantly patrol the waters of the lake and quickly start diving on injured shad when hybrids start schooling. If you see gulls diving, run close to them but not right into them. Stop well away from them and ease up into casting distance with the trolling motor. Start casting a crankbait, bucktail jig or spoon into the area where the gulls are diving and you are likely to hook up.
Once the gulls stop diving you can often catch the hybrids by getting right in the area where they were schooling and jigging a spoon or jig. You can often find them with your depthfinder and stay right on top of them. Drop your bait to the bottom and jig it up and down and hang on. If you see fish suspended, drop your jig or spoon down to the depth they are holding and jig it up and down there.
Find Fish With A Depthfinder
You can also find the fish by riding ridges, humps, shallow points and drops near the main channel when you are not seeing gulls. When you find the fish, drop your bait to them. You will have to be more patient since the fish are not actively feeding.
Live bait works well anytime you see the fish deep. Purchase or catch blueback herring or shad and rig them up on a Carolina rig with a one ounce sinker, two foot leader and 3/0 hook. You can also put out several rods rigged with them and drift or slow troll with your electric motor for them. Put your baits at different depths to find the one they like, then put all of your bait there.
Another trick that has worked for me and is a lot of fun is to keep a light rod and reel rigged with 8 pound test and a 1/8th ounce crappie jig. If the hybrids will not hit a bigger bait, drop that jig down to them. Often they will hit it when they will not touch anything else and they will give you a fantastic fight!
Trolling For Hybrids
Trolling plugs like the Rebel fastback series and also bucktail jigs will catch hybrids. Troll the same areas you would look for the fish with a depthfinder and you will catch them. It is a lazy way to fish and the constant drone of your motor disrupts the peace of the lake, but you can catch fish that way.
Catch some hybrids this winter. They will stretch your string and make tasty eating when baked with bacon and onions!