John's Journal...

Dale Welch- The Striper King

How Dale Welch Became a Striper Guide on Smith Lake and a Super Striper Recipe

Click to enlargeEditor’s Note: One day in 1988, Dale Welch of Crane Hill, Alabama, a biomedical engineer in Birmingham, left his job to go fishing and never returned. No, Welch didn’t vanish. He discovered a new career and a new life as a saltwater striper guide on Smith Lake. Welch has guided for stripers longer than any other guide on Smith Lake and has caught four Smith Lake records. Today, we’ll learn some of Dale’s striper-fishing tactics.
When the Alabama Fisheries Section first stocked Smith Lake with striped bass, quite a few people knew about it. But in the 1980s, very-few Alabama fishermen knew how to fish for stripers, especially at Smith Lake, where there never had been stripers before. When Dale Welch went fishing on Smith Lake, he did not know there were striped bass in the lake, and would not have known a striper if he had seen one. "I was fishing along the edge of a deep bluff when I saw a big school of fish that I thought were Smith Lake's Click to enlargespotted bass,” Welch recalls. At that time, the only way I knew to catch a spotted bass was to fish a 3/4-ounce Hopkins jigging spoon, so I tried it.”
Using an old flasher depth finder at the time and the transducer on his trolling motor, Welch watched as the spoon went under water. When the spoon dropped down to about 3-feet above what Welch thought was a spotted bass, he stopped the spoon, jerked it one time and let it flutter back down. “Nothing happened the first time, so I popped the spoon a second time and allowed it to flutter down again,” Welch says. “As the spoon fluttered down on my depth finder, the fish marked on the flasher closed distance on the spoon. I got a hit. My rod bowed over like a limp noodle.” Welch had his drag set loose enough not to break the 12-pound-test line. When he finally landed the silver-looking fish with its black lines and a sharp, pointed nose, he didn’t know what kind of fish it was. “I thought it was a carp, a drum or some form of bass that I knew nothing about until I showed it to someone who told me it was a saltwater striped bass,” Welch remembers. “This was one of the fiercest-fighting fish I’d ever caught. I started Click to enlargedeliberately looking for them on Smith Lake.”
Since the Hopkins spoon proved that it could attract the striper’s attention, Welch started fishing with that. Once Welch knew he could find and catch stripers, he decided to guide for them. At that time he did not know of anyone else guiding for stripers on Smith Lake. Welch thought that, as hard as those fish fought, there would be many people who would want to catch them. He recalls, “Instead of having to go to the Gulf Coast to catch a big fish, anglers could come to north Alabama. That is how I became a striper guide.” Welch learned that, in the hot summertime when most people wanted to fish for stripers, they’d be closer to the dam on the lower end of the lake. So, the closer to the dam you got, the more stripers you could see on your depth finder. Welch also warns of the erratic nature of stripers. “These fish are not structure-oriented,” he says. “You will not find these free-roaming fish holding on anything.” Click to enlarge
Eating Striped Bass:

If you’ve never caught saltwater striped bass before, you’ll learn they are great sport fish. Because stripers can have a strong fishy taste, here’s a technique I use to make the meat of a striper taste as sweet as the meat of a crappie.
* Filet the fish. Cut the red meat off the side of the filet, cut the red lateral line out of the filet, and then cut the filet into one-inch-thick strips.
* Put those strips in a bowl in an ice chest, and cover the meat with ice.
* Pour Sprite or 7-Up over the ice in the bowl until the soft drink covers the ice.
* Place the lid on the ice chest, and let the fish soak in this mixture for 4-6 hours.
* Have your batter mixed or your cornmeal and flour combination ready. As soon as you take the striper filet out of the water, rinse it off, dip it in an egg-and-milk mixture, and batter it quickly.
* Drop it in the skillet, cook to perfection, and enjoy. Even people who don’t like the taste of fish will fight to get more of this 7-Up Striper.

To schedule a striper fishing trip with Dale Welch, contact him at: 7932 County Road 312, Crane Hill, AL 35053, (256) 737-0541,,

Check back each day this week for more about "Dale Welch- The Striper King"

Day 1: Angling with The Striper King
Day 2: Where We Caught ‘Em, and the History of Stripers in Smith Lake
Day 3: How to Catch ‘Em
Day 4: Why Depth Finders and Trolling Motors Spell Striper Success
Day 5: How Dale Welch Became a Striper Guide on Smith Lake and a Super Striper Recipe


Entry 366, Day 5