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. Since striped bass were released into Lake Ouachita, anglers from around the world have flocked to the central Arkansas lake to get in on the action. I was visiting 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.
A short pedal from our headquarters at Mountain Harbor Resort and Spa, we caught smallmouth bass, largemouth, bluegill crappy and spotted bass, but we came for the trophy striped bass.
Lake Ouachita is known as the striped bass capital of the world
This is ironic because the impoundment is hundreds of miles from the striper’s native coastal waters. The crystal clear water is perfect host to the striped bass, stocked shortly after the Blakely Mountain Dam created the lake. The water is so clear, the lake is a popular destination for divers and hosts a spearfishing season. Surrounded by the Ouachita National Forest, the lake is protected from over development.
The best bite is at dawn and dusk, as the high cliffs delay the sun and offer more time to catch fish feeding on the surface. When the weather is bad, Ouachita’s creeks, bays and islands offer ample windbreaks leaving few excuses for sleeping in.
The scoop on Lake Ouachita
Mountain Harbor Resort
Mount Ida, Arkansas
Ben Sanders Striped Bass Fishing Guide
The 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.
Bring baitcast or spinning combos with large-capacity reels to handle scorching runs. Shallow minnow baits and four- and five-inch swimbaits are favorites.
Stripers are the most popular target, but Ouachita offers excellent spotted bass, largemouth bass, crappie, walleye, bluegill and catfish throughout the year.
Cool water of spring moves shad shallow 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.
Most battles take place over snag-free deep water, so heavy line isn’t as important as lots of it. Striper 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.
Pedal powered Predator PDLs with rear-facing flush mount rod holders made it easy to troll. When targeting crappie and spotted bass on steep drops, working the pedals kept us over the action.
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.