You immediately know what you’ve got on your line when you hook one. Relying on speed and power, the wiper (a hybrid between the striped bass and white bass) makes a strong, mad dash after being hooked and can easily break your line during one of the fish’s surges. “They are the hardest fighting fish in the freshwater lakes that we have here,” says Guide Brian Ondrejka of Kansas Angling Experience. The Kansas guide rates wipers as one of his favorite gamefish to target on Clinton Lake in his home state. His clients have caught hybrids up to 12 pounds and the largest wiper Ondrejka has caught weighed 12 1/2 pounds.
During a March outing on Clinton Lake, Ondrejka and my cousin, Ryan Miloshewski, managed to catch a couple of hybrids despite tough fishing conditions (cold water, mostly sunny skies, and a slick water surface). They caught their fish early in the morning and as the sun got brighter the fish we could see with Ondrejka’s Garmin Panoptix LiveScope kept nosing up to my bait but turned away from my offering.
Ondrejka considers a water temperature of about 55 degrees and a day with a strong south wind as the best conditions for catching prespawn wipers. “As the water temperature gets progressively warmer their mood changes and their metabolism gets higher and then you can catch them just about any way you want to,” Ondrejka says.
The Kansas Method To Finding Fatty Hybrid Stripers
The Kansas guide finds wipers either in the old river channel or on adjacent flats throughout the early spring. The unpredictability of hybrids makes it a challenge for Ondrejka to pinpoint whether the fish will be in the channel or on the flats each day. “That’s why I like the hybrids so much because you really don’t know what they are going to do,” he says. “There is so much unknown with them because they are such a weird Frankenstein fish. Just when you think you got them figured out they are doing something different.”
Jig ‘Em If You’ve Got ‘Em
Vertical jigging with 3- to 3 1/2-inch swimbaits or fluke-style soft plastics produces best for early spring wipers. Ondrejka rigs his baits on 3/8-ounce jigheads most of the time, but will upgrade to a 1/2-ounce jighead on the windiest days. His tackle for vertical jigging consists of a 7 1/2-foot medium action spinning rod with an extra fast tip and a 3000 spool spinning reel filled with a main line of 10- or 15-pound braid and a 2- or 3-foot leader of 12-pound fluorocarbon. Ondrejka continues pursuing prespawn hybrids on the lower main lake until the fish make their spring false spawning runs up the tributaries.
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