Lake Hiwassee Stripers – The Hardest Fighting Fish in Western NC

By Shane Goebel

I’m constantly asked, “What is your favorite lake to fish on?” and I always reply with “Lake Hiwassee,” especially during the month of May. We’ve caught some of our biggest trophy stripers in May. It’s most definitely the best time of year for the monster big-‘uns, and as the only professional striper guide out here, this month gets me excited. May really kicks off the start of summer, and it brings with it some large numbers of good fish on this awesome Western North Carolina lake.

Currently, Lake Hiwassee is around 7 feet below full pool. Clarity is mostly clear and slightly stained in the rivers. Water temps have been in the mid to upper 60’s.

The striper bite has been wicked lately! We are starting to catch some good numbers, Averaging 15 to 30 stripers a morning. The majority of our stripers have been in the 20 to 40 pound range. In the early part of the month, you’ll still find a lot of these fish in their spring spawning areas in the backs of creeks and up the Nottely and Hiwassee rivers. As the month progresses, they’ll start working their way back to deeper water in the mouths of creeks and off rocky points all over the lake. The early morning and late afternoon bite has been the best for catching these beasts. Pulling planer boards and free lines with live herring will be your best technique. As the sun comes up, it never hurts to throw out a couple of down lines. Try to pay attention to areas that are holding a lot of baitfish—the stripers will be close by. Also, watch for an awesome top-water bite to fire up. I always like to keep a Red Fin or a spook at the ready to work the banks as we troll around. Just keep an eye out for busting fish.

The smallmouth and spotted bass bite is off the hook, too. Both fish have been schooling up on shallow humps and in the backs of creeks. We’ve been catching big numbers of both. The bigger fish have been closer to the bottom and the smaller spots have been in the upper water column. The trick is getting your bait past the smaller spots before they hit. It’s not uncommon for us to catch 30 to 40 of these guys in one location. In most of our fishing holes, we are seeing the spots and smallies mixed together. Down-lining live bluebacks has been working the best out here. Now that the water levels are on the rise, you can start working brush piles and trees. We’ve been picking up some nice largemouth around these areas. We are also picking up a lot of our bigger trophy smallmouth on top-water early in the morning on planer boards and free-lines with live herring. Red Fins, jerk baits, and shad raps have also produced well, especially off rocky and long shallow points. We’ve also snagged some nice walleye while working these points.

May is a fantastic month for catching some big fish on this lake. From smallmouth bass to hard fighting stripers, we have many great opportunities to catch a number of fish species on Hiwassee Lake. Give Big Ol’ Fish Guiding Service a call and let the area’s #1 rated guide service put you on some of Lake Hiwassee’s best trophy fish during the fishing trip of a lifetime. We are Murphy, NC’s only full-time guide service, specializing in striped and hyrbrid bass. We also serve Lake Apalachia for huge lake trout, and Lakes Nottely, Chatuge and Blue Ridge. And for all your live bait and tackle needs, check out Hughes General Store in Blairsville, GA. They carry everything you need for a successful day of fishing. So, come fish with the pros for the opportunity to be featured in Angler Magazine—let us help you get your fish on!

Shane Goebel is the Owner of Big Ol’ Fish Guiding Service and a member of The Angler Fishing Team. Contact him at or (828) 361-2021 / 1-(844)-4-ANGLER