The Fishing and Marine Industry Daily News Feed

November Is Hybrid Striped Bass Time

Chase Wininger, branch manager for the Kentucky Afield television show, holds a chunky hybrid striped bass he caught from the Ohio River at the Falls of the Ohio in early October.

​By Lee McClellan

Dr. James Henshall, the “apostle of the black bass” famously said: “I consider him (black bass) inch for inch, pound for pound, the gamest fish that swims.”

The plucky smallmouth bass living in central Kentucky’s Elkhorn Creek that Henshall caught with some of the first Kentucky reels likely served as a catalyst for his famous quote.
If hybrid striped bass lived in Henshall’s time in the late 1800s, his quote would likely refer to hybrids as the gamest fish that swims.

Those lucky enough to catch a hybrid striped bass know these tackle busters pull like no other fish in freshwater. Hybrids over 7 pounds are absolute mules. Hybrid striped bass do not exist in the wild. They are created in hatcheries by breeding white bass with pure striped bass and stocked in reservoirs and rivers in Kentucky.

They possess the brute strength of a striped bass with the broad body shape of the white bass, giving them incredible leverage, especially in the current below dams.

The Ohio River is one of the best places to fish for hybrid striped bass. The Falls of the Ohio, the natural river barrier that helped make Louisville a prominent city, is a highly productive area for hybrids and is historic as well. Kentucky stocks roughly 700,000 hybrid striped bass in the Ohio River annually.

In order to safely recreate at the Falls, anglers and other visitors must know the release levels of what is known as the upper dam, the first structure of the McAlpine Lock and Dam complex at the falls and the lower dam. The Falls of the Ohio State Park is directly below the upper dam.

The lower dam is a water control structure associated with a hydroelectric plant at the end of what old maps of the Falls referred to as the Kentucky Chute.

Anglers must call (502) 775-5056 for the daily report of the release schedule for these dams. During autumn, a release of 7 feet or less is best for fishing the lower dam, and the upper dam area fishes best with a release of 1 foot.

The lower dam is accessible only by boat by using the new Shawnee Park Boat Ramp in downtown Louisville and motoring upstream. Bank fishing around the George Rogers Clark Park Boat Ramp in Clarksville, across the river from the lower dam, is a good place to fish when the lower dam is releasing 7 feet or more.

“Cast downstream of the ramp with chicken livers or cut bait,” said Chase Wininger, Kentucky Afield TV executive producer and Ohio River hybrid guru. “When I see people catching hybrids there, they are usually casting downstream.”

Anglers may bank fish for hybrids at the Falls of the Ohio State Park on the Indiana bank. Kentucky anglers may fish the Indiana bank of the Ohio River with a valid Kentucky fishing license.

Other Ohio River tailwaters such as Meldahl Lock and Dam near Foster in northern Kentucky and Greenup Lock and Dam near Greenup in northeastern Kentucky offer excellent bank fishing opportunities for hybrid striped bass.

The spring white bass runs up into the Salt River above Taylorsville Lake are well known in central Kentucky, but a fall run also occurs with many hybrids along with white bass.

“They make that big run up the Salt River in October through November,” said David Baker, fisheries biologist for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. “This run is more predictable than the spring run.”

Kentucky Fish and Wildlife staff artist Rick Hill fishes the hybrid fall run on Taylorsville. They stage in the upper lake and Hill sometimes finds the hybrids in a dense group and catches a mess on old-school curly tailed grubs. “Anything that imitates a shad works for hybrids,” he said. “If I am intentionally fishing for hybrids, I usually throw white.”

The hybrids along with white bass also make fall runs up the major creek arms in Taylorsville as well. “Big Beech Creek is loaded with white bass and hybrids in fall,” Baker explained. “Last year, we electrofished Big Beech and it was amazing, the water turned white with fish. The back end of Ashes Creek is the same in fall.”

South-central Kentucky’s Barren River Lake rated excellent for hybrid striped bass in the 2022 Fishing Forecast. The tailwaters below Barren River Lake Dam produced the current 20-pound, 8-ounce state record hybrid striped bass in the early 1990s. The hybrid fishing in the tailwaters gets hot in fall as Barren River Lake is drawn down to winter pool with excellent bank fishing opportunities.

The flats around the islands near Bailey Point Access Area make productive places to troll spoons or drift live shad or shiners for hybrids on Barren River Lake. Bottom fishing with chicken livers on points near the dam also works well.

Rough River Lake also rated excellent for hybrid striped bass in the 2022 Fishing Forecast. Fish cut bait or chicken livers on main lake points or troll white bucktail jigs tipped with white curly-tailed grubs on mud flats in fall. Rough River Lake also has outstanding bank fishing opportunities for hybrids in the tailwater.

For hybrid fishing in tailwaters like on the Ohio River and below Barren River and Rough River lakes, a white with silver flake 4-inch swimbait with a heavy enough leadhead to get the lure down in the current is hard to beat. Throw the lure right in the froth directly below the dam or probe any current break and hold on tight.

In southeastern Kentucky, Fishtrap Lake is the best hybrid striped bass fishery in the region. In fall and into winter, target the lower lake by trolling white bucktail jig and grub combinations or large silver spoons across points. Searching for schools of baitfish via an electronic sonar unit and vertically jigging spoons nearby is also a productive fall tactic.

Two northeastern Kentucky reservoirs, Grayson Lake and Paintsville Lake, hold burgeoning populations of hybrid striped bass. Grayson Lake possesses a stable population of hybrids. They hang around the long point opposite the mouth of Greenbriar Branch, known as Walker Point, in fall as well as the points near Grayson Lake State Park. Blade baits fished along and down these points draw strikes.

Paintsville Lake received its first stockings of hybrids in 2015 and another in 2020 with fish now over 22 inches long in the population. Paintsville Lake will get stocked with hybrid striped bass every three years. Try deep running shad-colored crankbaits around the island in the lower lake for fall hybrids on Paintsville Lake.

Fall is arguably the best time to fish and hybrid striped bass bite willingly into winter. Once you hook one of these thoroughbreds, you will be hooked on hybrid fishing yourself.

Keep your finger on the fishing industry pulse

The Definititive News Source of the Fishing & Marine Industry