It amazes me to think that I NEVER hear anyone in this immediate area mention West Point Lake as a fly fishing destination. I gave that serious consideration, then I called Tommy Mike, the premier guide on Lake West Point which is located near LaGrange, Georgia. After a discussion on the many species available, Tommy and I decided to schedule a series of trips to demonstrate the wonderful fly fishing opportunities available to southeastern fly fishers on this fabulous central Georgia lake. This article will focus on the abundant hybrid bass that thrive in West Point Lake, the simple steps that you need to take to catch them, and the fun you can have fighting them on fly tackle. Hybrids are abundant and active on West Point and as the season gets colder, the action will pick up.

WHAT IS A HYBRID BASS?

The hybrid bass, Morone chrysops, saxatilis in the past were produced by cross breeding male white bass and female striped bass, but according to Georgia DNR District fisheries biologist Reggie Weaver, "hatchery biologists are now producing fingerlings from female white bass and male striped bass, termed reciprocal hybrids". Because hybrid bass can thrive in warmer temperatures than striped bass, they are stocked into more waters statewide. Research biologist Lee Keefer stationed at the Lake Burton hatchery says "most of the hybrid bass fingerlings are produced at the Richmond Hill hatchery, then the fry are raised in earthen ponds at hatcheries around the state". Further according to Keefer "After stocking, hybrids will generally live three to five years. After three years the 14 to 18 inch fish weigh about 3 pounds, and the older fish will weigh five to eight pounds." Hybrid bass forage on threadfin and gizzard shad, plus blueback Herring where possible, and will eat other fish and insect forage when available.

Why drive to West Point Lake for hybrids? Lake Sidney Lanier north of Atlanta doesn't have a hybrid bass population. Another tremendous plus is that West Point Lake isn't built up with houses on every square foot of shoreline like Lanier, and some of the other impoundments in the southeast. West Point fishing is a breath of fresh air, and a release from the "fishing in the city" syndrome of Lanier.

Why guide Tommy Mike? Tommy has been professionally guiding on West Point literally since the lake was impounded in 1975 -- that's over 26 years of fishing knowledge centered on this lake. Before he decided to pursue guiding full time, he was on the BASS tournament trail. He knows fish, and Tommy knows the fish's habits and can find them -- guaranteed. He also has by-the-lake guest accomodations so if you choose to spend the night, you'll be sleeping in very comfortable home styled quarters just a short walk from the dock. LaGrange has nice airport just a short drive from Tommy's home if you prefer to fly in. This is simple fun -- if you will follow basic fly fishing tactics, you can enjoy explosive action on the fly for hybrids.

GEAR

I recommend that you carry a 4- and 6-weight fly system which will cover surface action closeby and out to 40 feet, plus shallow subsurface with an intermediate sinking line. It is also good idea to bring an 8-weight system for casting more air resistant flies longer distances, and for casting sinking lines to deeper suspended fish. I fish medium action 8 ½ to 9 foot rods for these scrappy fish, and always suggest that you use large arbor reels with plenty of backing in case you encounter a really LARGE hybrid. When the fish are smashing on surface all around the boat, a scrappy hybrid on your 4- or 6-weight can be great fun! If you have to shoot a cast sixty feet to boiling hybrids, it is good to have the 8-weight ready to grab and cast. The hottest action is on top. The sight of hybrids exploding on surface can make it really hard to fire off even a short cast, but that is part of the thrill. Take a deep breath, then make an accurate cast. When the surface action is hot, a weight forward floating line, an eight to ten foot abrasion resistant leader, and a shad minnow imitating fly is what you need.

PRESENTATION

Surface: On surface, use a rod rigged with floating weight forward line with an eight to ten foot eight to ten pound leader. Be prepared to make accurate 10 to 40 foot casts QUICKLY! Cast to feeding hybrids, strip through them, stripset your hook. Vary retrieve to see what will best trigger strikes.

Shallow subsurface - surface to 7 feet: When hybrids are holding deeper, you'll know the approximate depth by reading it on your graph. Simply reach for a rod with an intermediate sink or a light weight sinking line on it. For your 4-weight rod use a 100 grain line. For your 6 weight rod a 100 to 200 grain line will sink your fly to the fish. Know the line manufacturer's specs for the line sink rate. Then you can make your cast to the area with fish suspended, COUNT DOWN YOUR LINE TO DEPTH, and strip the fly through the fish for strikes.

Mid subsurface - 7 to 15 feet: With bigger flies or deeper suspended fish, cast your 6-weight with 200 grain line and for 6 foot depth count down 14 seconds; with your 8-weight with 300 grain sinking line, for 12 foot depth count down about 28 seconds, and begin to strip your line in two to three inch strips! Experiment with retrieve speed and length of strip. Don't over strip your fly. The forage doesn't move long distances on the flip of a tail. You should get strikes at this level.

Deep subsurface: If you aren't getting strikes, use the same 8-weight rod with 300 grain line, cast to the fish holding water, and be prepared to countdown as long as 46 seconds. At a sink rate of 2 seconds/foot of depth, that will get your line and fly down to about 20-25 feet. If you didn't get strikes at the shallower levels, this should produce.

Practice this deep subsurface fly fishing method on hybrids, stripers, and other schooling fish. When you fish over wrecks or on deep inshore salt waters, you'll be experienced and ready to catch big red drum close to shore, or amberjack, bonito, false albacore, and species that suspend over wrecks and around oil rigs.

Look in my technical articles section for a complete explanation of intermediate sink, and sinking lines, rods to use them with, sink rates, and countdown time tables in Subsurface Fly Lines

FLIES

Your fly selection needs to emulate shad as you see in the image (right). In fact, this hybrid had just regurged these shad when I shot the photo. It gives you an absolutely clear image of what your fly needs to appear to be. Two inch long Clouser minnows™ in white, white/chartreuse, white/gray, or even white/silver will work. Skipping poppers in white, silver, and even chartreuse will collect hits. There are many versatile flies that will work in this case. Bring 'em all and you can't go wrong.

Flies like these pictured (left) will catch hybrids when they are smashing threadfin shad on top, and down to three or four feet. With a sinking line, you can fish the top two groups of flies subsurface to 15 feet. These flies are available at Orvis Atlanta, or any good fly shop near you. On the lake, you must be rigged and ready this time of year, because now your window of opportunity may be only 45 minutes, increasing to hours later in the winter. Once colder lake temperatures set in, feeding periods will increase dramatically. My point is, the fact that you have to be where the fish are going to surface at the correct time is why Tommy Mike is crucial to make this happen for you. Fishing daily, he knows where the fish will most likely appear at dusk on mounds, humps, on shorelines, in coves, and on prominant points to smash forage that they have driven up on these feeding platforms. If you don't know where to be and what to look for, you may never even see the activity.

Tommy can get you to the fish. If you have the basic fly casting skills and tackle rigged with flies as we have described to you, you can have a ball catching late fall hybrid bass on the fly on West Point Lake. The short drive will be well worth your efforts.

I tried to contact Tommy Mike at Tommy Mike Guide Service, LaGrange, Georgia, to verify whether he is still guiding. But I was unable to establish contact with Tommy at the time of this revision.

If looking for a guide, contact Highland Marina, 706- 882-3437.


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