John's Journal...

Dam Tailraces for Stripers with Tommy Akin

Baits for Stripers

Click to enlargeEditor’s Note: Tommy Akin of Greenfield, Tennessee, has fished for saltwater stripers for 14 years. On any day, after office hours, you’ll find Akin in a tailrace at Pickwick Dam on the Tennessee/Mississippi/Alabama border, catching those drag-stripping, rod-bending, muscle-straining saltwater striped bass. Akin’s strategies will catch stripers in any tailrace.

Question: Tommy, what are two-more secrets to catching stripers?
Akin: I know it’s an old cliché, but, “be in the right place at the right time.” Not all seams in a tailrace will have stripers in them. To locate stripers, you need to be able to see the baitfish on the edge of or in the seam. Wherever you see baitfish jumping and coming out of the water, that’s where the stripers will be concentrated. The most-common baitfish in most tailraces is shad. Almost every fish in any river or lake system feed on shad. So, when the shad in the tailrace begin jumping out of the water, you know something is below trying to eat them, whether it’s catfish, buffalo, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass or a variety of other fish. In most Click to enlargecases, the fish making the shad jump out of the water will be stripers. So, to be in the right place at the right time, you need to be able to read the water to find the seams and read the baitfish to locate the seams where the stripers are most-actively feeding.

Question: What do you use to catch stripers?
Akin: This year has been a little unusual. Most of the time I use live bait, but for some reason, this year, we’ve had a hard time catching hickory shad (skipjacks) or other shad in the tailrace. Generally you can use tiny hair jigs to catch skipjack minnows, but we haven’t been able to catch any this year. So, I’ve started fishing with artificial lures. I’ve learned that artificial lures are as productive as live bait, especially when you aren’t able to catch live bait. Too, the late spring and the early summer, we caught bluegills out of farm ponds and then used the bluegills to catch stripers. However, about the middle of June, the stripers stopped hitting the bluegills and we started fishing with artificial lures.Click to enlarge

Question: What lures do you use?
Akin: I’ve been using the Strike King Wild Shiner jerkbait and the new Strike King Shadalicious and Wake Shad swim baits.

Question: How do you use crankbaits in that swift current?
Akin: We cast to the edges of the boil, so when the water mushrooms on the surface, the water on the edge of that mushroom is forced back down toward the bottom. By casting to the edges of the boil, we use the force of the water to pull our lures down closer to the bottom where the stripers are feeding. As the boil takes the crankbaits down toward the bottom, it also forces the baits out to the edge of the current, where they hit the edges of other currents or seams. We actually use the force of the water boiling-up to move our baits down and out to the strike zone (the seam) where the stripers are holding. We let our baClick to enlargeits go down on slack lines and then allow the current to move them downstream. When the striper hits the bait, we disengage our reels to take off a little bit of slack and then start reeling. With this type of striper fishing, fishermen don’t have to give their lures any type of action. The current gets the bait down and gives it the swimming action the lure needs as it moves with the current. Once your lure goes down and gets into the seam, be ready to have your rod jerked-out of your hand, because that’s when the stripers will hit.

Question: The Wild Shiner is a jerkbait, and usually you have to cast out jerkbaits, reel them down, jerk them and then let the bait sit still. So, how do you fish a jerkbait in this type of situation?
Akin: Remember, I’m casting the jerkbait out and letting the edge of the boil force the jerkbait down under the water close to or near the bottom where the stripers are holding. If there’s not a lot of current, the bait only will get down 2 to 3 feet when it reaches the seam. The bait will hold at that depth and move with the current. The current moves the bait, giving it action, and the stripers come up to get the bait, especially if they’re blowing-up on shad. If you make a good cast to the edge of the boils, let the water do the work to move your lure. Get ready for the strike. This same technique works with the new Strike King swim baits, the Shadalicious, the King Shad and the Wake Shad. I’ve been experimenting with the new hollow-bodied Shadalicious, trying to get the right weight of hook and figure out the correct way to rig this bait to catch stripers. With the Shadalicious, I can adjust the weight on the hook to let the bait run at different depths. If you see the stripers blowing-up on shad on top of the water, use top-water lures like the Spit-N-King or any type of walking bait. When there’s not a strong current, or when the stripers are blowing-up on top, which means you have to fish top-water lures, you’ll often see stripers blowing-up on the surface, which is an exciting way to catch stripers.

For more information on Pickwick Lake, contact the Hardin County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau at, or call 731-925-8181 or 800-552-3866, or visit

Tomorrow: The Striper Fight

Check back each day this week for more about "Dam Tailraces for Stripers with Tommy Akin"

Day 1: Best Bet for Stripers
Day 2: Look for Grooves
Day 3: Baits for Stripers
Day 4: The Striper Fight
Day 5: Putting a Striper in the Boat


Entry 473, Day 3