When the redbud and dogwood trees are in bloom, the striper and hybrid bass run on the Chattahoochee River will be in full swing. Any pile of rocks with current ripping around it will be a likely place to catch them, but areas directly below dams will concentrate fish and anglers. One of the best known of these is between downtown Columbus, GA and Phenix City, AL.
Anglers will line the bank on the Alabama side, and be all along the river walk on the Georgia side. Add multiple boats and a sprinkling of kayaks, and it can get pretty sporty on this section of the “Hooch”. Always be aware of your surroundings, because there is no warning when the river is rising; it will go from 1,500CFS to 12,000CFS in a few short minutes. My best advice is to get a good personal floatation device (PFD) and wear it. I love this area of the river, but respect it enough to keep my PFD on at all times.
For chasing the big hybrids and stripers, a heavy jig head and large paddle-tail swimbait is a well-accepted standard. Long casts allowed to sink in the turbulent water will be your best bet for one of these striped monsters. If they are not hitting the swimbait, a free-lined live shad is a good alternative, and they are usually easy to net right in the rocks.
This fishing is not for the faint of heart. Heavy gear with a good drag is a must. 20lb mono or a good braid will help turn bigger fish around in the swift current, but many anglers get their hearts or line broken on this stretch. For fly anglers, a sinking line will help get heavy flies down to the fish through the current, and rod weights in the 9wt or 10wt class will not be too much. Popular fly patterns are anything that mimics shad in the 3” – 4” class: Clousers, Deceivers, or any streamer-type pattern.
These are strong, mean, river born-and-raised fish, and you better believe they know how to use the current to their advantage. It won’t matter what gear you use – if you hook one, be prepared for a fight. They will make you watch the trees and beg for the redbuds and dogwoods to bloom!