Lake Mead striper session puts fish back on my hook

According to the thermometer on the instrument panel, the temperature was already nearing the mid-80s when Roger drove the truck down the launch ramp at Temple Bar Marina at Lake Mead’s upper end. Since it was still quite early — just after 5 a.m. — that could mean only one thing. It was going to be a hot day. We could only hope the fishing action would follow suit.

Our goal for the day was simple: catch fish. If we could do that, perhaps then I could finally get rid of the skunk smell that had been following me around since I was blanked on our previous outing.

As we motored our way out of the marina, Roger pointed to a rock that jutted above the water’s surface. “Last week that rock was under water,” he said. Though there is still plenty of water for boating and fishing, it sure doesn’t hurt to exercise a little caution while you renew your knowledge of the lake and become familiar with any new trouble spots each time you visit.

About 40 minutes after leaving the marina we reached Gregg Basin. The water was glass-smooth just the way I like it. It was one of those mornings when one could set the boat on cruise control if it had one and just go for a ride, but we were there to catch fish.

Halfway up the basin we began to see splashes where a small island both split and marked the openings of two small coves. At first we weren’t sure whether the splashes were made by fish or fowl, but as we drew near there was no question. The striped bass were boiling. Though the striper boils were small and short in duration, at least we knew where to cast our lures.

After a Zara Spook failed to catch any fish, I tied on a bone-colored Jumpin’ Minnow and went back to work. On my first cast a 15-inch striper smacked the Minnow hard and the skunk smell began to dissipate. Two or three casts later, a huge largemouth bass hammered the lure as I reeled it parallel to the island shoreline. OK, the bass was only about 10 inches long, but it was a largemouth.

The Minnow netted me a couple of more stripers and put me up by a few fish on Roger. Not that we keep score or anything, but the skunk smell was gone. We weren’t catching anything very big, but we were catching fish. Then all of a sudden the top-water bite shut down. So Roger suggested that we try jigging spoons. So I tied on a ¾-ounce, silver and blue Kastmaster and Roger went with his hand-painted Spinnow.

We let the lures fall to the bottom, took a few turns with the lure handle and dropped the rod tip toward the water. Then we suddenly lifted the rod tip about two feet and let the lures fall toward the bottom. Once the falling lures stretched the line tight we pulled the lures up again. Many times the stripers hit the lure on the fall, but then they would try to fool us and hit them just as we started the upward motion.

On this day the Kastmaster outfished the Spinnow, but that was only because the hook on the Kastmaster was smaller than on the Spinnow. Our catches were small, nothing bigger than 1½ pounds, and the hook needed to match. Sometimes when fish are hitting your bait but you can’t connect on the hook set, the hook size could be the problem. Try stepping down and see what happens. This is especially important for trout or panfish anglers.

The fishing was as hot as the temperature. Then, just like somebody flipped a switch, the striper bite shut down. It was only around 8:30 a.m., leaving plenty of time to focus on some largemouth bass. It was time to see if my luck had changed for good.

Freelance writer Doug Nielsen is a conservation educator for the Nevada Department of Wildlife. His “In the Outdoors” column, published Thursday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, is not affiliated with or endorsed by the NDOW. Any opinions he states in his column are his own. He can be reached at

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