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Big stripers are running on Texoma

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Eddie Sparks
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Most readers of this column are within a few hours drive of Lake Texoma and some of the very best striper fishing in the state, probably in the southwest. Stripers are currently the heaviest they will be all year. They are voraciously feeding on shad, putting on weight for their annul spawning runs up the Red and Washita Rivers.

Guide Larry Sparks, owner of Sparkys Guide Service prides himself in having some of the best boats and most experienced guides on the lake. Sometimes catching stripers is just down right easy, even for the weekend angler, but to consistently expose clients to exciting fishing and right now, big fish, there’s no substitute for experience and being on the water continually, staying current on the striper’s patterns. Larry (Sparky) doesn’t do as much guiding as he used to, but he has assembled a very proficient fish catching team of guides.

In my career as an outdoors writer, I’ve fished with many, many excellent guides. How many? Possible 150? Probably more than that. Out of this large number of very proficient guides, there are five that I can recall that really stand out. I think that fish-catching skills can be learned by just about anyone with the desire and with today’s advanced electronics, it’s easier to be a good fisherman than ever. But I believe truly great fishermen are ‘hard wired’ from birth!

In my long career, I’ve witnessed the uncanny ability of a few guys to ‘read’ fish. For instance, it’s easy to intercept the direction of a school of top water feeding stripers but what about when the fish sound? The fast moving stripers are quickly out of the scope of even the most advanced sonar and they are not visible on the surface. How does a fisherman know which direction the fish take? Is it wave action, wind direction that tip them off as to which direction to move to the boat to remain in the action or, is it an uncanny sense that they are born with? Or, does their brain simply factor in all the pieces of the puzzle that they see, hear and smell and calculate the direction the fish are moving?

If you have ever watched a master fisherman at work, following a moving schools of stripers they can neither see on the surface nor on sonar, you can understand this uncanny ability to find fish that I’m referring to. I truly believe these gifted few are born with the ability to be great fishermen. Give them a few years experience on the water and that sixth sense kicks in and makes them super fishermen.

Dave Escamilla “Lil Dave” is Spark’s top guide and he is a master at catching big stripers on artificial baits while many of his counterparts are dunking live shad. I had the chance of spending an afternoon on the water with Dave and can attest to his fish-locating skills. I watched him locate and catch stripers that were sub-surface, chasing shad and moving quickly. These were fish that left no tract of their location on the surface and for most of the time, didn’t show up on sonar when they were heading out in pursuit of shad ahead of the boat, but Dave always had the boat positioned just in front of the stripers and we enjoyed some red hot fishing as they came through. They were moving so fast that trying to stay up with them via the trolling motor would have been futile.

Don’t think for a moment that one must be one of the select few super anglers to consistently catch fish; this is simply not the case. Texoma has many well experienced guides that put their clients on fish day after day. It’s just on the tough days, and regardless what you fish for or where you fish, there are tough days, anglers such as Escamilla seem to rise to the top and prove their true skills by finding the fish.

Sparks expects the next few weeks to continue to produce stripers in the 20-pound range as the fish continue to feed heavily in preparation for their move upriver. The best bait has been 5-inch ice color Sassy Shads with the tail dipped in chartreuse dye rigged on a 1.5 to 2 ounce jig head. Expect the fish to be in fast moving roving schools in pursuit of shad. Catching them with any degree of consistently depends upon being mobile.

“When the action slows or stops," says Sparks, "fire up the big engine and look for the fish. It’s usually fruitless continue fishing where the fish 'were'."

For more information about striper fishing at Lake Texoma, contact guide Larry Sparks via the web site www.sparkysguideservice.com or call 580-916-2293.   

Outdoors writer, radio host and book author Luke Clayton has been addicted to everything outdoors related since his childhood when he grew up hunting and fishing in rural northeast Texas. Luke pens a weekly newspaper column that appears in over thirty newspapers.