June 2006


A Whopper Of A Tale!

A WHOPPER! --  Michelle Gonzalez, Riverside Calif., caught this 34.5-pound
striped bass in Lake Powell on a hard plastic jerk bait at dawn's first
light.  The  big fish came to within 6 feet of the surface to inhale the
5-inch bait.  Only one hook barb remained in the lip when the fish was
hoisted into the boat by Richard Gonzalez. (The record Powell striper caught
was 48 pounds.)

Photo and story Wayne Gustaveson

The Gonzales family has been coming to Lake Powell each spring from Riverside, Calif., to fish for stripers. They get up early in the morning and fish jerk baits in the early dawn shadows along the shade line of Padre Bay, Last Chance and Rock Creek. 

Sometimes stripers hit till shortly after dawn and other times the bite lasts past noon.

This year's trip was no different. On the first day of vacation, stripers near Cookie Jar in Padre Bay hit jerk baits all morning. 

They caught 55 fish weighing 2-6 pound and called it a day. Feeling confident on the second day they slept in and arrived at Last Chance after the sun was on the water. 

The fish did not bite well in daylight, and catching success was not as good.  They choose to only fish artificial lures so the many stripers hanging around the canyon walls waiting for a fresh piece of anchovy meat were safe.

The third day found the Gonzalez family back to their old successful habits, launching the boat at 4:30 a.m. and making the run uplake in the dark. Following their formula for success, they again found willing stripers eager to chase the Bass Pro Shops brand of jerk bait called the XPS Excalibur. 

It runs about 6 feet deep and is most effective when jerked and paused in a regular cadence during the retrieve. Both shad color and blue black color were working well. 

On this morning, many stripers were following the bait but not taking the last swipe necessary to take the hook. Finally a 1-pound fish hit the bait.

While playing the little striper another larger fish could be seen following the hooked fish.  It was not a schoolie 3-5 pound fish but a monster over 3-feet long  that followed the hooked fish to the boat and then turned away to be seen no more.

Day four found them again jerking baits in the same big fish cove in Last Chance.  Catching was better this morning in dawns early light. 

At 5:30 a.m. Michelle got a hit that she thought was a side-hooked striper because it felt heavy and moved slowly. When the fish took a run that stripped off 60 feet of line she realized it was in fact a monster. 

She played the fish masterfully and thought halfway through the battle that she had lost the fish. Later she learned that the momentary pause was one hook coming loose. 

When the fish was near the boat, the XPS lure was hanging by one barb. But, her husband used his hand held fish grippers to lip the fish and get it into the boat.

After much hooping and hollering, they got on their picture cell phones and started rolling family and friends out of bed back home in California. Michelle has had a permanent grin fixed on her pretty face ever since.

Their secret was to find a successful technique (stop and go jerk bait) and stick with it. They come each spring at the same time of year and fish in the same locations.

The very best time to fish is from 5-7 a.m. in the morning. That combination finally paid off with a 34.5-pound striper.