Big Fish Fever

By Ronnie Parris

As a life long angler and fishing guide, I’ve had the pleasure of catching and helping others catch their first big fish. I think now I really enjoy seeing someone else catch one more than I enjoy catching one myself. No better feeling than to see someone’s face after they boat a really big fish. On one such trip, I had taken my friend, Penny, over to Hiwassee Lake to try and catch a few stripers. Penny has done a lot of fishing growing up here in the mountains both in the creeks for mountain trout and on the boat for walleye and bass, but I knew she had never felt the fight these stripers can put on. We arrived at Hugh’s Bait Shop in Blairsville early and made the drive back to the launch site at Hanging Dog right as daylight was breaking. I had a little bit of a hard time finding the bait this morning as the birds hadn’t really showed up, other than the diving cormorants that are a good sign that bait fish are present.

As the sun really started heating the morning air to a balmy 40 degrees, we began to see some spotted bass breaking on threadfin shad and I saw some good marks on my Lawrance that I thought might be stripers. I had put 2 down lines in and had one long line out with a lively blueback and was trying to get my planner board rods all rigged up, when a striper grabbed the long line and made a run for the shoreline. Penny grabbed the rod and was trying to get the fish turned but it was too fast and found a 5 foot stump and wrapped the line, which broke almost immediately. After getting all our rods back in the water, we began slow troll casting to breaking fish, mostly spots, but as we made our way across a main channel point, the down rod got struck so hard I was sure the rod would break before getting it free of the holder. Penny did a great job letting the fish take drag when it would make a run and taking line as soon as it would give a little. All the while keeping the fish clear of our other lines and away from the boat prop. The fish made several good runs as if it would almost be ready to net, but finally gave up. After some photos, I noticed she was shaking from all the excitement. Little did we know she wouldn’t get a chance to relax, for we would no sooner get a rod back in the water till we would have another big fish on.

Hiwassee is one of the best lakes in our region to experience the thrill of catching a big fish. The introduction of stripers has really made it a great destination and the pan fish, such as walleye ,crappie, and bass, have flourished since the stripers keep the blueback numbers to a level that keeps them from eating panfish eggs and fry. Hopefully the North Carolina wildlife biologists will take a close look and stock Fontana with stripers to do the same. If you would like to fish for some stripers and get to experience one of the best fighting fish in the mountains, give me a call at 828-488-9711. And as always, take a kid fishing!

Ronnie Parris is the Owner and Head Guide of Smoky Mountain Outdoors Unlimited-Fontana Lake Fishing Guides, headquartered in Bryson City, North Carolina, heart of the Great Smoky Mountains. (