Since striped bass were released into Lake Ouachita, anglers from around the world have flocked to the central Arkansas reservoir to get in on the action. I visited the 66,000-acre lake with a crew from Old Town Canoes and Kayaks to test out their Predator PDL, rigged with Raymarine Dragonfly sonar and GPS. We found fantastic striped bass fishing in this unlikely hotspot hundreds of miles from the coast.
Lake Ouachita is the Striped Bass Capital of the World
We started off by settling in at our headquarters for the trip, the Mountain Harbor Resort and Spa, conveniently located right on Lake Ouachita. All sorts of species were on offer only a short pedal from our accommodations, but we came for the trophy striped bass.
On our first morning, a towering bluff blocked the sunrise as small baitfish flipped and skipped on the surface of the water followed by quick blue, green and striped flashes from pursuing gamefish. Striped bass were murdering shad as our kayaks drifted into the melee.
This is ironic because the impoundment is hundreds of miles from the striper’s native coastal waters. The crystal clear water is a perfect environment for the striped bass, which were stocked shortly after the Blakely Mountain Dam created the lake in the 1950s. Surrounded by the Ouachita National Forest, the lake is protected from becoming overdeveloped. The water is so clear that Lake Ouachita is a popular destination for divers, hosting an annual spearfishing season.
The best bite is at dawn and dusk, as the high cliffs delay the sun and offer more time to catch fish feeding at the surface. When the weather is bad, Ouachita’s creeks, bays and islands offer ample windbreaks and leave anglers with few excuses for sleeping in.
The Scoop on Fishing Lake Ouachita
Where to Stay
Mountain Harbor Resort
Mount Ida, Arkansas
Where to Eat
The Mountain Harbor Resort has a wonderful restaurant. Cabins and condos with kitchens are available.
Trolling is a top method for targeting stripers so rig with sturdy rod holders. GPS keeps newbies oriented on this massive lake.
Stripers are the most popular target, but Ouachita offers excellent spotted bass, largemouth bass, crappie, walleye, bluegill and catfish throughout the year.
In springtime, cool water moves shad to the shallows to spawn, bringing stripers into easy casting range. April is considered the best month. With hot weather, striper success primarily comes deep with live bait. Fishing heats up as water cools in November and December and linesiders follow baitfish into shallow water.
All Rigged Up
Most battles take place over snag-free deep water, so heavy line isn’t as important as having lots of it. Stripers run. A high-capacity trolling reel loaded with 20-pound braid and clear 10- to 15-pound fluorocarbon leader worked best. Shallow running minnow baits are the deal. Soft-plastic Z-Man Diezel Minnow swimbaits on 1/4 to 1/2-ounce jigheads also caught fish.
Best Kayaks for Striped Bass Fishing
Game Plan for Striper Success
Head to striper town in the dark and troll stickbaits over shallow flats and across submerged points as the sun rises. When the surface comes alive, cast swimbaits to intercept aggressive feeders. Repeat the process at sunset.
Big striped bass swim year-round in Lake Ouachita, which is pronounced like “wash-it-all.” | Feature photo: Dave Mull