By the end of the week, with air temps in the 70s, the water temp should be above 50°F. As soon as that happens, the fish will start to stir and prepare for the spring time run. The run in Texas is a combination of fattening up and running up creeks and rivers to spawn. Though hybrids are sterile, the instinct is still built into their DNA and they act ferociously upon it.
Three stages make up the run, which can start as early as February and run into May here down south. The dates are not as important as the water temperature. GPS on a depth finder or phone is a great help to mark waypoints, and if water levels are fairly consistent from year to year, the fish will often be in the same places.
Stage 1- 50°F - 60°F - The Deep Water School Stage
During this stage, hybrids congregate in large schools and migrate slowly up river (or into the creeks). The will hang out in water 25’-35’ deep along drops or large humps. Look for a spot on a spot during these times. If you can find a 90° bend in a channel along a timber line, these will be great staging points.
I like to use two different methods from the kayak. Once I locate a school, I will incorporate a drift method using live bait or a dead sticking approach.
For the drift, I mark the school on my Lowrance “Elite 5” and then paddle upwind about 100 yards. If the wind is above 10 knots, I’ll deploy a drift chute. If it’s not, I’ll position my rudder to drift perpendicularly back into the school. I use a deep-spooled bait caster with 30lb Power Pro braid. I employ a Carolina rig using a 1oz egg sinker, a barrel swivel, and a 4’ leader of green 20lb P-Line Halo fluorocarbon. Tied on the end is a 4/0 Gamakatsu circle hook baited with live shad. I put out two of these lines upwind and drift them slowly back through the school. Often, double hookups will occur and the fun really begins.
Stage 2- 61°F - 65°F
At this stage the hybrids are moving much more. They will seek out pods of bait and crash through them early in the morning to feed up, and run the timber lines and creek channels moving their way upstream and into the creeks throughout the day.
The best way to limit quickly is to find a big shallow flat (1’-4’ deep) that runs alongside a deep channel. Hit these up right before sun up with topwaters and lipless crankbaits. Also look for schools of bait. If the wind is blowing from the deep water onto the flat, chances are the fish will be there. I have often had hybrids go sideways in shallow water trying to chase bait. Make sure your knots are good and your hooks are strong. An 18” hybrid will straighten out low-grade hooks and leave you heartbroken. I prefer 12lb-15lb Seaguar Invisx fluorocarbon in these situations also.
If you can’t find them in the morning, try trolling those deep creek channels with a Norman “DD22” in white or sexy shad patterns. Once you mark a school, paddle through it a few times with the cranks dropped down and wait for the thump. These hits will be much more aggressive, and a rod locked down in a rod holder is highly recommended.
Stage 3- 66°F +
In this last stage, hybrids will be shallow and gorging. They can be caught on a variety of lures and baits. Look for birds feeding or large schools busting the water surface, and be ready to chase. These fish are actively chasing bait, and the bait will try to escape. These are the days when you should pack light and stay hydrated. The fun will be there; it’s just a matter of whether you can keep up.
I can’t express enough how important electronics are to hybrid fishing. Without my Lowrance, I could be fishing in a barren desert all day and not know it. Good electronics will help you eliminate water quickly, and mark productive water. When looking at fish finders, buy the absolute best you can afford. The “Elite” series from Lowrance has been a game changer for me. I use the 5” screen and hope to go bigger soon. My next purchase will have maps, color, and side imaging to even further reduce the amount of paddling and searching I do.
It is also important to do some homework. Check out topographical maps of your lake, if they are available. You should be able to locate spots that will hold fish during the three different stages. Scan them with your electronics, and mark them if they are there. Chances are, they’ll be back year after year. One final hint to go along with that: when naming your waypoints, use the date entered and water temp as part of the name. One of mine is Hybrids-MidMarch-57.
Here’s hoping you get one “On the Line!”