Our Pro Staff Fishing Reports

04/16/18

By Tom Reynolds of STR Outfitters

Another crazy week of Norfork Lake weather that produced lots of inconsistent patterns. We started the week cold and with good fishing. As the week wore on, we had lots of high winds, bad storms, rising water, high boat traffic, and slower fishing. We ended the week with cold weather but better fishing. We were catching good numbers of stripers up in Big Creek from Woods Point to 1C all last week and weekend. The lake level was consistent then the they opened the spillways about 1 foot and that changed the current in the lake and drew the fish out of the creeks. The stripers were still in the area but quit biting. I spent one morning fishing there and realized what was happening and moved to Point 1 and began catching stripers. The pattern stayed that way until Thursday when they closed the spillway. The fish were still inactive but then did start biting later in the morning in Big Creek again. Friday it picked up and Saturday Sean caught 13 stripers on planner boards with only a 6' leader near the shore. I on the other hand had only caught 3 but the fish were there. You just had to be at the right spot along a bluff wall to catch them. Once this cold spell moves out we should see better action as the lake warms up and we get some consistent weather. Greg at Hand Cove Resort reports the night bite is still happening although the weather has greatly affected the bite. He expects it to be more consistent by the end of the this week. I have seen some surface action the last two days which means the topwater action is not far behind. Better sharpen those hooks for some reel ripping action.

04/08/18

By Tom Reynolds of STR Outfitters

Well we started April with cold, rain, and snow on Norfork Lake. I figured striper fishing would be dead until we started getting warmer weather and south winds. The direct opposite happened I had a trip on Monday and caught over 12 stripers and hybrids in 2 different spots using 2 different techniques. Sean fished Wednesday and caught over 18 stripers using just downlines in 25' of water. Both Sean and I fished Saturday and Sunday and we caught over 40 stripers and hybrids. The main difference is how we fish for stripers in the spring and now. Usually we fish using small split shots on long lines and free line planner boards. The stripers by now are very shallow and aggressive, they were that way the week before but with the rain and cold they went deep. We are now catching them just like we catch them in the summer, 3 oz weights set 1' off the bottom. When you find them they are very aggressive. We have had triples on many times this week. Look for stripers half way up the creek along the channel in 50' and keep moving shallow until you find them. Look for them in the Cranfield, Bennett's, and Big Creek areas. Look at the points and sharp turns along bluff walls half way up the creeks. Kevin. a guest of Hand Cove Resort, boated a 35 pound 39 inch striper Saturday night in the cold. That tells us a couple of things. First, the night bite is developing. And second, there are some big fish in Norfork Lake's Big Creek area. Greg at Hand Cove Resort reports the night bite is happening although it has been a little sporadic. It will be very good for a few nights, and then quit for a few. He expects it to be more consistent by the end of the coming week. That means the topwater action is not far behind. Better sharpen those hooks for some reel ripping action. This past Saturday I experience a series of first for me. When we left the marina we had a strong north wind, heavy snow and bitter cold. I would have never believed we would catch fish left and right for over 2 hours. I had lines break because the rod eyes were froze and the line was cut when we hooked a fish. I have never fished in April where I was colder than I was in December when it was 14 degrees when I started fishing.

04/01/18

By Tom Reynolds of STR Outfitters

Thank God March is finally over I have never seen a March like this in terms of weather and fishing. A normal March brings warm days with south winds and some rain. This March was nothing like that, when we did get a warm day with south winds it was followed by cold north winds, rain, and cloudy days. The lake level was 547 at the beginning of the March and it ends with a lake level of 558 and our rainy season has not begun yet. I can only hope we can get some stable weather and that the CORPS can run some of this water off before June. With this being said there are some bright spots. The crappie have move shallow in 2 to 3' of stained water. The night bite for stripers is strong and the stripers are feeding on big baits. The stripers are still in deep water 15 to 40' of water but they are very shallow in the water column, the fish that are blowing up on our big baits are less than 10' feet deep. I'm running my planner boards with only 5' from the board to the bait and stripers are blowing the baits out of the water. Fish are being caught in the Cranfield, Bennett's, and Big Creek areas. Fish the points and sharp turns along bluff walls half way up the creeks. Start looking for top water action early and late afternoons off the points and bays half way up the creeks and beyond. You will start seeing stripers feeding around Cranfield Island, Cow Point, Bennett's, Brushy Creek, and Big Creek just east of Hand Cove Resort. Once the water starts to reach the 60 degree mark Norfork Lake will turn on fire. Everything will bite better with warmer weather. The best place to find fish is Bennett's Bayou and the Twin Coves area. Up past Cranfield there is lots of bait in the area, much more than Big Creek, which could bode well for Big Creek since the predators may be more interested in whatever you present. But as always, as we say find the bait and you will find the fish.

03/26/18

By Tom Reynolds of STR Outfitters

From the beginning of this week to the end we have seen a steady improvement in the weather and the fishing. The best bite early in the week was the Fout's area but everybody started fishing the area and the bite slowed down. With the warm weather the last couple of days the stripers started biting all over the lake. Stripers have been caught in the Twin Coves area, Buzzard Roost area and the Big Creek arm. The best method has been with either shiners or shad with just a split shot or no weight far back of the boat. Saturday I started seeing stripers feeding on the surface and we caught and broke off stripers on big 7” gizzard shad using planner boards. This tells me the stripers are starting to feed and we should see a big uptick in action once the big rains are over this week. Start looking for top water action early and late afternoons off the points and bays half way up the creeks and beyond. You will start seeing stripers feeding around Cranfield Island, Cow Point, Bennett's, Brushy Creek, and Big Creek just east of Hand Cove Resort. Once the water starts to reach the 60 degree mark Norfork Lake will turn on fire. The walleye have spawned up near Udall and are in their post spawn mode which turns the bite off until they recover from the spawn. The bite should improve in the next week with the warm weather. Everything will bite better with warmer weather. The best place to find fish is Bennett's Bayou and the Twin Coves area. Up past Cranfield there is lots of bait in the area, much more than Big Creek, which could bode well for Big Creek since the predators may be more interested in whatever you present. But as always, as we say find the bait and you will find the fish.

03/19/18

By Tom Reynolds of STR Outfitters

This week's word on Norfork Lake is inconsistent. You can catch stripers one day and then the day next nothing or just a few. On Wednesday we went to Bennett's Bayou to pre-fish for my next day's trip. We had doubles and caught several limits in over an hour. The next day we had a debris line and the stripers had moved. We did catch 1 limit but it was very slow and it took all morning to do that. The next day my son went down to Big Creek and in a little over and hour he caught 15 stripers. Both of us went there Saturday thinking it would be a great day. We had heavy fog and lots of boat traffic. I only caught 1 keeper and he caught 2. Saturdays are hard on the fish. Everybody wants to get on the lake and fish but the traffic really spooks the shallow water fish and will move them off their spot and then he's hard to find them. Sunday I went back to Bennett's and started up shallow with no bites then moved out on the flat and again no bites. I saw one of my clients on the east side of the flat and told him to move over to this other flat where I was heading. Before I knew it he had a double on and caught 3 fish before I had a bite. He was using shiners and I was using shad. We then missed 1 and loss a good one after a short fight. We did end up catching a 8 and 11 lb striper before we quit. My client caught 5 and lost 5 more. The best method was a split shot and a hook with about 50' of line out. It's simple and very effective since the fish are relating to the bottom instead of high in the water column. Once the winds shift around to the south and we get some warmer nights Norfork Lake will really turn on for all species. Lots of largemouth bass are being caught on crankbaits and spinner baits and the crappie are also biting. The walleye are spawning up near Udall and the bite is good. Everything will bite better with warmer water and weather. The best place to find fish is Bennett's Bayou, there is lots of bait in the area much more than Big Creek, as we say find the bait and you will find the fish

03/11/18

By Tom Reynolds of STR Outfitters

This past week we saw some wild weather on Norfork Lake. The winds blew all week with Tuesday being the worst. You would think with the cold weather and windy conditions the stripers would quit biting. On the contrary I mainly fished the Bennett's area most of the week while my son fished the Big Creek area. In four days we boated over 50 stripers with our clients or us pre-fishing, with most of them were released. Friday night a heavy rain came in and really shut down the fish. On Saturday we only caught 10 stripers and hybrids. The fish are holding in waters between 20 and 30 feet. We are using small gizzard shad. Most of the fish are being caught using down lines set at 16'. We have also caught a few on planner boards and balloons. Once the winds shift around to the south and we get some warmer nights Norfork Lake will really turn on for all species. Lots of largemouth bass are being caught on crankbaits and spinner baits and the crappie are also biting. Everything will bite better with warmer weather. The best place to find fish is Bennett's Bayou. There is lots of shad in the area much, more than Big Creek, and as we say find the bait and you will find the fish.

I received a call from Barry Stokes who has a sports show on Fox News Southwest about fishing on Norfork Lake for stripers. Barry was filming a show on Bull Shoals for walleye. The weather turned bad so they did not catch any walleye but they did film a bass show. He came over on Friday and did some pre-fishing. Since they only use artificially lures he was having a hard time finding any active stripers. I told Barry where and how to fish for them but he could only catch whites and largemouth. I fished Bennett's on Saturday and he came by and again asked about where he could find some stripers. I told him where to go and he found some but could not get them to bite. He got out his drum foot pedal and started banging his boat. I have seen this on TV but never in person. Barry had a swim bait ready as he banged the boat. He would see a fish come off the bottom and drop his jig down and bang he caught a hybrid. He caught an 8 and 11 lb hybrid and 12 lb striper using this method. He filmed his show catching those fish. If I would not have witness this I would never have believed it. It's true that you can teach an old dog new tricks.

03/05/18

By Tom Reynolds of STR Outfitters

This past week I fished for striper, walleye, and crappie on Norfork Lake. The stripers are just about ready to turn on. The water temperature in Bennett's Bayou is ranging from 51 to 55 degrees depending on how long the sun stays out and how cold it was during the night. The shad are shallow in both creeks. I caught small gizzards, threadfin, and 7” gizzard in 3 to 10' of water. I keep seeing fishing reports from fellow striper fishermen about the dirty water, these individuals do not understand the striper if they continue to make comments about stained and muddy water. The muddy water is the warmest on the lake and the shad will go to it first then the stripers will follow. I have caught stripers in water so muddy I did not know the size of the fish until I netted it. These individuals say they keep turning around when they see dirty water. I run to it and will fish it until late April. The other comment I keep seeing is they are not marking fish or bait. First the bait have moved shallow and waiting to spawn once the water warms up. The stripers are also in waters less than 30' so when you motor over them they scatter. If you have side scan you can see them. If you want to catch stripers right now and well into March get some shiners, find the warmest water, put out long lines with just a split shot, or planners boards with only a split shot and you will catch stripers.

I fished for walleye on Friday up at Udall and caught 1 short. I did see some keepers caught. They are mostly males right now, the females are still deep waiting for warmer water which will happen soon. The water temperature is around 51 degrees. By this coming weekend we should see some nice size walleye being caught. Saturday and Sunday I fished Bennett's Bayou for crappie. I was spider rigging using long rods. On Saturday I only caught 2 and lost a few. I went back on Sunday and caught 6 keepers, they were all females. The water temperature was 52 degrees and the fish were caught slow trolling in 10 to 12' of water with a double hook setup and minnows. Again it's just a matter of days before they turn on their pre-spawn feed.

I plan on continuing chasing walleye and crappie in the upper part of the lake and creeks on the main lake. Right now they are catching both off brush piles using small jigs and minnows. I will be fishing up near Udall using live bait for walleye and long line trolling for crappie in the creeks off the main lake like Bennett's, Pigeon Creek, and Big Creek. Lots of big crappie are caught trolling small jigs and minnows.

02/18/18

By Tom Reynolds of STR Outfitters

This week I have fished Norfork Lake for walleye up by Calamity Beach and the state line. The first day the water temperature was 40 degrees at Calamity and 43 degrees at the state line. The first day we caught 1 short walleye and missed 3 more. Today the water temperature was 43 degrees at Calamity and 52 degrees at the state line. The first day we caught our fish at the state line, but today the fish had moved from the line because of the warmer water. We tired moving up the river but about a mile up the lake the water level was too low to continue. We moved back to the colder water and started fishing near the shore in 5 feet of water and we caught a 19” keeper and a short in quick session. We did not catch anymore, but it was late in the morning and the bite was over. What surprised me was the farther up the river the water temperature continued to rise. It seems just opposite of what I expected. The crappie are also being caught off the brush piles on both sides of the state line. I plan on continuing chasing walleye and crappie in the upper part of the lake and creeks on the main lake. Right now they are catching both off brush piles using small jigs and minnows. I will be fishing up near Udall using live bait for walleye and long line trolling for crappie in the creeks off the main lake like Bennett's, Pigeon Creek, and Big Creek. Lots of big crappie are caught trolling small jigs and minnows.

02/05/18

By Tom Reynolds of STR Outfitters

I missed the last week's fishing report due to our trip to the Chicago Sports Show. I'm back this week and then we will go to the Jonesboro Sport Show February 9th. If you are around the Jonesboro AR. area stop by our booth and we can spend some talking fishing. Right now the Norfork Lake water temperature is in the low 40's and will stay that way for the next several weeks. Once we start getting some consistent south winds we should see a quick warm up. We are experiencing the normal winter shad kill. We are seeing thousands of small 1 inch threadfin shad dying along the shoreline. Small threadfin shad cannot tolerate water temperatures in the low 40's very long. The good news is the shad kill generates tremendous opportunity for catching trout on the White and Norfork rivers. Throw a small silver spoon and you will have lots of action. The stripers have gone into their February hiding routine they seem to disappear every February so if you want to catch one, try going up a creek with a good water flow. This time of year on the lakes and rivers in Tennessee they catch stripers in 30' of water or less. Here I would look at Bennett's Bayou or up pass the state line. Historically the largest winter stripers are caught at the 160 bridge at night throwing bucktail jigs. I plan spending my February chasing walleye and crappie. Right now they are catching both off brush piles using small jigs and spoons. I will be fishing up near Udall using live bait for walleye and long line trolling for crappie in the creeks off the main lake like Bennett's, Pigeon Creek, and Big Creek. Lots of big crappie are caught trolling small jigs and minnows.

01/22/18

By Tom Reynolds of STR Outfitters

The cold and snow last week sure changed Norfork Lake. The water temperature dropped almost 4 degrees and moved the stripers. I pre-fished Thursday morning and started where we caught all the fish the previous week. I found plenty of shad and that usually brings the stripers. We fished all morning and only had 1 bite. Friday I took my clients to where the bait was and fished for another 7 hours moving all around the Blue Lady and 101 flats. I was always on shad and had 2 stripers hooked but we never boated them. Sometimes in life you look at all the wrong places to find what's right in front of you. The assumption is in winter find the shad and you will find the stripers. When the water turns cold the shad will always move deeper and the stripers will follow. I have followed that logic all the time in the winter with great success. The next day I started looking in Float Creek since there was bait and a few fish caught there the day before. My son Sean was out looking around and text me an image of a massive amount of stripers and hybrids in 28' of water with no bait around. We immediate went to Duck Blind Point and hooked up and landed 3 stripers. We stayed on the fish but they quit biting when the sun went behind the clouds and the wind turned east. Sean also found stripers shallow in Float Creek near the boat docks. The moral of the story is quit doing the same thing over and over and don't be afraid to change up your pattern. You just may find the mother lode of stripers.

01/14/18

By Tom Reynolds of STR Outfitters

The warming trend on Norfork Lake was short lived this past week with temperatures going below freezing for several more days now. I was fishing the Fout's Marina flats before it became cold for the shad. The water temperature had dropped down to 46 degrees and everything moved to warmer water. I had not fished for 10 days due the cold and our first sports show of the year. We went out this past week searching for stripers. We found them on the Blue Lady flats in 40 to 52' of water. The water temperature was 48 degrees. The cold snap did move the fish far this time but I suspect this current one will move them to deeper water more near the mouth of 101 Boat Dock at Howard Cove and into the channel and towards Bidwell Point. We found large schools of stripers and hybrids roaming. The schools will not be stationary so you have to keep moving and stay in the depth you have seen them and wait for the next school to come along. We were using small shad and shiners with 9 rods set out. I had 2 balloons set at 30 feet and 7 down rods set at 20 and 30 feet. The bite is very strong when the sun is out and only a slight wind.

This next week I would look for stripers in Float Creek, 101 Area, Bidwell Point, the flat above the 101 bridge, and the channel between the 62 and 101 bridge. The shad will settle in depth ranges from 40 to 80 feet but most of the time the range will be 40 feet. You should see large shad balls with stripers on top and inside the ball. Set your bait right above the shad since most of the fish are staying inside the shad balls then coming up in big bunches to feed. Small shad works great but large shiners and spoons will also work now and thorough to spring.