A problem for striper fishermen during the summer is that on large reservoirs, you often spend lots of time finding bait, then finding fish. But guide Tim Biesecker hasn’t had that problem on Roanoke Rapids Lake, where he has found the bait and fish concentrated.
At 4,600 acres, Roanoke Rapids is the smallest lake on the Roanoke River system. The magnet for summer stripers and fishermen like Biesecker is that the lake draws cooler water from the bottom of Lake Gaston through Gaston Dam, and that cool water is filled with baitfish.
“I fish mainly below the dam in summer,” said Biesecker (252-532-1846). “I catch a lot on swimbaits if I’m casting, but what really gets the job done for my clients is ‘strolling’ (slow trolling) shad.”
In the depths of a typical North Carolina summer, Biesecker said stripers are likely to be biting at any time of day.
“It’s been really strange, maybe because of all the rain,” he said. “Stripers bite early in the morning, stop, start again about 10 a.m., stop, then start up again at noon. Then they may bite in the evening. If you wanted to fish at night, I think you could do that.”
Roanoke Rapids is a lake known for its aquatic grasses, hydrilla and milfoil, but Biesecker said the area near the dam is grass-free, making for easy trolling and cornering of striped bass.
“There’s a right good-sized area up there behind the dam where you can stroll baits,” he said. “You can get down the lake a couple hundred yards and not get into grass. The channels are well open, and the grass is mostly along the banks.
“You can troll near the banks and catch largemouth bass. I don’t fish for them, but I think they’d hit Senkos. But I stick to stripers mostly this time of year.”
Biesecker’s main strategy is to look for schools of shad and fish live baits above them on free lines. Finding shad is no problem.
“My depth finder recently showed the bottom was only 16 feet deep, but I knew it was 41 feet where I was at,” he said. “It was picking up solid shad from the bottom of the lake 25 feet toward the surface, so thick the depth finder showed the shad as the bottom. That’s strange, too. Usually this time of year they go down the lake.”
Biesecker’s rigs are simple. “I don’t use any weights with shad, though, just free line off the back of the boat and sides,” said Biesecker, who uses basic baitcasting outfits spooled with 10-pound test, a 3-foot leader and a No. 4 hook that goes through the nose of the baitfish.
“Stripers will see that bait struggling, and they’ll come up fast and blast ’em,” he said.
Biesecker said Roanoke Rapids’ water is clear at the dam and has good levels of dissolved oxygen, and that keeps baitfish and stripers invigorated – and boxed in a small place where he and his clients can work on them to their hearts’ content.