B definition I had the fish. In reality it had me.
It started toward the back of the boat, then turned and went all the way to the bow, and I still hadn’t turned the reel an inch.
Using two hands to hold the rod up, I waited for my chance to take up line, any line. But the fish wasn’t ready to give up yet.
“You are in open water so just let her go until she gets tired,” said guide Tony Parker.
I had no option. The fish swam away from the boat, then back to it and out again, then finally it was my turn. Or so I thought. I reeled a few turns and lost just as much line, then reeled a few more.
We hoped it was a big hybrid-striped bass, a cross between a male white bass and a female striper. Unseen, it could have just as easily been a drum, catfish or carp. It could have been something foul-hooked, and just had the upper hand.
Eventually the fish tired and Parker was able to get a net under it, and it was a hybrid, and a very big one at that.
“What a fish,” he said as he pulled it onboard and reached for the digital scales.
The lake record is 11.22, and Parker’s goal this winter is to have a new one come out of his boat. When the scale quit dancing it read 11.2. With the nearest certified scales off the lake, we caught up with another boat to get a second opinion. Their scales showed a little less.
The decision was made to release it and keep fishing. You might be able to catch another lake record, but fishing days like this don’t happen that often.
The action was fast enough to make a cloudy, 45-degree day feel balmy.
“This is the fourth day in a row we could have put a hundred fish in the boat,” Parker said. “The other day we had four limits in 30 minutes.”
This day we had three limits in maybe 10. It was that lights out.
The fishing was so good because the hybrids are in a winter pattern, stacked like cord wood in some of the deepest water in the lake along with the baitfish. It is the same pattern fishermen are finding at Lake Tawakoni.
“They are in a winter pattern. Look, the water temperature is in the 40s. That is why they are down there,” Parker said, looking at the surface temperature reading and the dark spots that indicate fish suspended in 35-plus foot of water.
Parker said this didn’t happen last year because the water never cooled down enough.
It won’t last much longer. Once the water temperature climbs into the mid-50s the fish will start moving toward shore.
The fishing was almost too easy. Catching the hybrids didn’t require skill. In fact, the technique is basically cane pole fishing at its finest — minus the cane pole and bobber. In today’s vernacular it is a technique known as dead sticking.
“What I do is take out 12 pulls of line. That puts us down about 24 feet,” Parker said.
With the boat in slow drift controlled by dragging a chute, the fishing becomes a lot like crappie fishing. At the slightest tap or heaviest hit, lift the rod and hang on.
The only problem with the technique is that on Cooper the number of deep holes are limited, and for it to work the wind must be down enough for the boat to pull a drift over the fish without the line being jerked up and down.
Because of production problems, stockings of the put-and-take fishery have been sporadic and reduced in recent years. The good news is that Cooper is reportedly high on the stocking list for hybrids so with some cold weather this will be a winter fishery for years to come.
For more information on fishing Cooper, contact Parker at 903-348-1619.
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