Runnin’ and Gunnin’ for West Point Strippers
West Point Lake, near LaGrange, GA, is both a productive and fun place to fish. The area offers anglers a variety of fish and non-anglers plenty of things to do. The anglers in the party will have the opportunity to catch large mouth bass, strippers, hybrids, spotted bass, crappie, bream and catfish.
For non-anglers the city of LaGrange is only minutes away with shopping, dining and other entertainment. Activities range from dabbling in Civil War history at Bellevue, the antebellum home of noted Georgia statesman Benjamin Harvey Hill, to examining life in ancient Israel at Explorations in Antiquity. If more modern adventures are your cup of tea a real-time walking tour of downtown LaGrange is available and there’s an APP for that.
With a shoreline of more than 500 miles anglers have all kinds of nooks and crannies to investigate. The lake contains over 26,000 acres of surface water as it tracks along and even crosses the Georgia/Alabama State line.
When the Corps of Engineers created lakes like West Point it was mainly for flood control and hydroelectric power. The huge bonus of that activity was the provision of excellent habitat for fish and wildlife and general recreation opportunities for residents and visitors to Southwest Georgia. When the dam was built and the lake was flooded, numerous trees and other structures were left standing. That standing timber provides excellent fish habitat. Man-made fish attractors have also been added to the lake to improve angling opportunities.
Anglers that enjoy fishing for schooling strippers and white bass will love West Point. Like any unknown lake, a first time visitor would be ahead to hire guides for a days fishing before venturing out on his or her own. You can learn more from a guide on a half-day trip than you can learn on your owns in months.
The lake will vary based on generating schedules or flood control activities. “Sometimes they are dumping water for flood control purposes and the water level can drop,” commented Matt McClung, an area guide. “When that happens it changes the location of the fish because some of their habitat is lost to the lower water level.” This is exactly why it is beneficial to hire a guide who is familiar with current conditions.
McClung reported that the lake has been producing a lot of white bass and smaller strippers all summer. “To find the hybrids busting on the top it is nice to have it calm,” explained McClung. “They get hard to spot in the chop of a windy day.”
On the day I fished with McClung the weather did not cooperate. We didn’t get the calm day he had hoped for. Nevertheless, it did not take long to spot the white flashes of a feeding frenzy in the choppy water.
McClung is very much a fish for fun guy and likes to throw artificials. He started out throwing an umbrella rig. “It’s called a Yellow Hammer Rig,” explained McClung. “It is made by a tour fishing buddy of mine, Kyle Mabrey.”
“I throw these at anything,” continued McClung. “If you are around schooling baitfish the umbrella rig works. It is like a smaller school broke off of the bigger school and it provides a great attraction to hungry fish. The Yellow Hammer is heavy enough to get it way on out there. I often catch three on one cast using it. The one drawback is that it will wear you out if you throw it all day long.”
I left the heavy lifting to McClung and his Yellow Hammer Rig. I was tossing a white inline spinner bait that the bass loved. McClung hooked up first and the school went down. “We have the possibility of white bass, hybrid stripped bass, stripers and spotted bass,” declared McClung. “Spots will mix right in with the others and occasionally you will even pick up a large mouth in there with them.”
A few more casts followed without success after the school went down. “We gotta’ go,” instructed McClung. “There is nothing like a topwater bite and we need to find some more on top.”
We ran down the lake until another school was spotted and repeated our process of casting to the school. This time McClung handed me a topwater popper. The fish just went crazy over it. If one would miss it another would strike. The topwater bite was indeed the most fun of the two lures I had thrown.
Another boat that had spotted the frenzy came in and also started hooking up. The area containing the surface breaking fish was big enough that several other boats could have fished them too. Just like the first school, this school went down and the action stopped. “That’s the way it works,” explained McClung. “You fish them as long as you can and then move on to the next school.”
“If you don’t find schooling fish on top you can start trolling and catch them,” explained McClung. “It’s just not as much fun for me. I like to be more active and involved with my fishing.” The run and gun approach fits him just fine.
“When the striper bite gets strong is when the bait gets suspended over the humps,” said McClung. “The fish will be in the main channel in 15 to 20 feet of water where some of that timber comes all the way to the surface. When it is calm the bait will suspend there all day long, unlike a windy day in August where bait gets pushed around and is hard to keep up with. That’s why we are having to run so much today.”
Shoreline anglers can also catch strippers, especially in the fall when the water begins to cool. “A lot of times in the evenings and the morning the bait will go to the bank. An example is when it gets cooler overnight and the shoreline cools down. The bait will move into that cooler water. The wind might push them in there too.” According to McClung everything gets predictable in the fall. “By mid September the bait is going to hold in the timber during the day and come into the creeks, especially the small creeks, every single evening. The fish will follow them in. During the day they are basically roaming the main channel and will follow that bait when it moves.”
We motored by Pyne Road Park where tournament weigh-ins are held on West Point. It has a giant ramp, one of the biggest in the country. “Anglers come right here on the bank and catch plenty of strippers,” replied McClung. “When the fish come up in this creek in the fall they are easily reachable by anglers casting lures under popping corks.”
“Sometimes they come up to the surface, sometimes they just stay down,” explained McClung. “Anglers will be standing side by side along that bank when they are running. You can throw on em’ and catch em’ with bucktail jigs, spoons or whatnot. It is absolutely predictable in the fall of the year.”
Fishing is not the only thing going for West Point Lake and the LaGrange area. Other water related activities include boating, skiing, tubing, jet skiing and more. If you just want to relax there is an inviting sandy beach to sunbathe and unwind. Of course a sunset ride around the lake in a rented pontoon boat can be pretty relaxing too.
So bring your own boat and use a slip at the Highland Marina Resort, or take the hassle out of travelling and just rent one. Whether you are fishing or just exploring one of their center console boats will do the job.
Where to Stay
Any traveling fishing trip requires a place to stay and one of the best for fishing West Point Lake is Highland Marina Resort. It is located just outside Lagrange and right on the banks of the lake. Even the non-anglers in the party will have plenty to do at Highland Marina Resort.
What a great view. Notice the reflections in the windows
Whether it is for the great fishing or just a family getaway, it would be pretty hard to beat a stay in LaGrange at Highland Marina Resort on West Point Lake.