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Play Your Cards!

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Like a poker player acting squeamish about going all in with his or her chips—nervous if the hand dealt will be enough to win big…or lose altogether—I awoke this morning unsure if I’d get on the water at all. I just wasn’t feeling the x-factor the evening before, with a weak ebb tide and little to no wind forecasted. Sure, the air temperature would hover in the very comfortable high 60sF and the surface water continues to inch closer and closer to this fall temp that triggers feeding frenzies. But if you read the previous report, I attributed the striped bass’ lockjaw to lack of water current. The fish simply love current and are most active in pinch points, around sandbars, and structure through which water and baitfish flow. Would there even be an inkling of current on this morning? I didn’t think so and, as such, I went about my morning routine and prepared the kids for the school day. Then I saw a sign.

A consistent striper bite on topwater made for a very fun morning. The fish struck a Shimano ColtSniper Walk lure in a yellow/orange/flash color.

On our walk to the bus stop and at the street corner where the sun usually blinds us at 7 a.m., there were clouds above. The sun was not streaming down upon us; it was muted by scattered cloud cover. And this pushed me over the edge in deciding to make a quick run on the water after all. Though only predicted to be about 26 percent cloud cover for the morning, it seemed much more. On the eastern side of the river where the sun had already risen four fingers above the horizon, clouds abated its shine. This could extend whatever topwater bite there may be into the 8th or 9th hour of the day. Normally, by the time the sun is well above the horizon, the striped bass topwater bite shuts down. But on cloudy days, it will often persist deep into the morning. And today, this hunch was spot on. I played the cards I was dealt and the pay off was money.

Very simply, I motored the McKee Craft down into Round Bay on the Severn River and visited a productive-looking spot—a short point of sandbar with a sharp drop from 5′ to 17′. There is small stretch of rip-rapped shoreline too. Arriving on point at just after 8 a.m., I tried for the topwater bite, not exactly knowing if there would be any action at all. Remember, there’s very little current. I tied on a glitzy yellow/orange Shimano ColtSniper Walk on my medium spinning setup that I felt the fish might go for, more than a natural bone-white presentation. Having settled the boat into position and arming myself, I started the morning with a chunky 19″ striper on the second cast. Just the second cast! Surely a good sign.

When you’re catching schoolie after schoolie, is a selfie even needed? Sure…

Heaving the 3/4oz lure parallel to the shoreline at the drop-off and walking it back—alternating gentle and aggressive speeds—produced hits on nearly every cast. The school I found consisted of 17–20″ fish and I must have landed about 10 of them. After a solid 40 minutes of action, the clouds had burned off and the bite shut down. I played a few rounds of casting jerkbaits and jigging bucktails around the adjacent points and drops—even jigging around a few deep water docks—but the fish were done for the morning…at least for me. Still, it felt great to find some action on a hunch and luck into a still-active school of fish willing to hit topwater after sunup. See y’all on the water again, real soon!

A fine striper and the lure that won the day.