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Outdoor Life: Hybrid bass: an underused target on Lake Oconee
Alvin Richardson

Most of the boats you see buzzing around Lake Oconee are occupied by largemouth bass fishermen, crappie fishermen and the catfish crowd. Few are out there looking for hybrid bass and that species can actually provide the most consistent entertainment day in and out over the course of the year. Right now is an excellent time to catch these hard pulling fish and you don’t have to be a pro to catch them. One reason that hybrids are an easier target than stripers on Oconee is because they are more active and resilient to extremes of temperature and oxygen content. Although stripers have been stocked in Oconee for several years they will not grow to the sizes and will never reproduce like they do on reservoirs like Thurmond and Hartwell that have an abundance of deeper water and a thermocline.
    Most hybrid bass are a cross between a male striped bass and a female white bass. Without getting too scientific the easiest way to tell the difference is that hybrids have broken, rather than solid horizontal body lines and they are shaped more like a football than the striped bass which has a more elongated shape. The truth is it’s sometimes difficult to tell the difference between a hybrid and a white bass and if you are in the middle of a feeding frenzy you are probably catching some white bass along with them.
    A hybrid’s favorite meal on Lake Oconee is either threadfin shad or gizzard shad and much of your fish finding efforts will revolve around locating bait in areas where these feisty fighters are found. The three key components to success are finding bait fish, the presence of current (when generation at Wallace Dam is going on) and fishing in areas where high spots and flats are in reasonably close proximity to deeper water. The fishing is typically much better if the water is moving. You can actually call Wallace Dam to find out if they are generating by calling 706-485-2000. They will tell you if they are moving water but they do not have schedule information because they generate based on demand for electricity.
    The fish can be caught in a variety of ways. There are those who prefer fishing with live bait (usually shad) and will fish them drifting a free-lined bait or straight down with a Carolina rig just off the bottom. If you choose this method a good bait tank is a necessity as is the ability to catch your own bait in a throw net. The threadfin shad are notoriously prone to die in the summer heat if the tank is not treated to maintain temperature and oxygen content. If you are just beginning to learn about hybrid fishing I wouldn’t recommend this method unless you go with a guide or someone who is set up for, and experienced in, this type of fishing.
    Another proven way to catch hybrids is trolling. In my mind this is a good way to find a group of fish but is not the most enjoyable way to catch them. A variety of diving plugs and jigs can be used and one of the most popular rigs is to tie a small jig ahead of a diving lure. You can cover a lot of ground by slow trolling these types of baits and once a fish is on just cut the motor and haul him in.
    You may also see some top water schooling action so have a popping cork or small top water plug tied on just in case you come across this situation. This can be some of the fastest action imaginable.
    My favorite method and most consistently successful one is to fish with jigging spoons. We usually use a six tenths ounce Berry Flex Spoon in white, silver, blue or chartreuse color. You can easily cast long distances with these spoons but we often catch fish vertically jigging the spoons, especially if we’ve spotted a school of fish on the depth finder. This method is easy to use. Let your spoon get to the bottom and then just pick your rod tip up to lift it off the bottom and then let it flutter back down. The fish will usually strike it as it falls. Continue that action making sure you get the slack out before raising your rod tip again.
    Basic tackle for this adventure is pretty simple. A light-medium or medium heavy bait caster or spinning outfit will do admirably but if you prefer a spin cast reel there’s really nothing wrong with that as long as it has a good drag system. Twelve pound test line is plenty big enough and if you are spoon fishing be sure to tie a barrel swivel about eighteen inches above the spoon to prevent line twist.
    You absolutely need a dependable depth finder to locate prospective locations and to find bait fish. If your equipment is good enough you will also be able to mark hybrids on it.
    If you catch a fish there are usually others nearby. Make sure you cover the area thoroughly and keep an eye on the depth finder. Once you start catching fish, be careful of the sharp edge behind the gill plate. It can gash your fingers even with small hybrids.
    There is no doubt in my mind that if you learn the secrets to catching these voracious fish, you’ll get hooked on it. The truth of the matter is that if you tie a similar sized hybrid and largemouth tail to tail, the hybrid will drown the largemouth.
    If you would like some more specific information on how to get started just send me an e-mail and I’ll help get you going.

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