Tapping Norfork for Big-time, Year-around Striper Action

One of my absolute favorite freshwater fish to catch is the striper. Both hybrid and pure, these fish grow large, are very strong and can crush either lures or live bait with a vengeance. On top of all that, they’re fantastic table fare. But first I would like to take you to a not-so-well-known lake that not only has a massive population of these fish, but can also be a destination for you and your family that tends not to overcrowd, is beautiful and one of my favorites.

I’m talking about Lake Norfork, and specifically, the ‎fishing out of Mountain Home, Ark.

I have been going to Norfork since early 2000, and have fished with Tom Reynolds of STR Outfitters ever since. Tom and his son Sean have been fishing the lake for over 35 years and know the hidden treasures of big stripers that this lake holds. This lake is at most times a very clear reservoir, so the most successful, consistent way to fish for stripers is with live bait. Both gizzard and threadfin shad are used, and Tom finds fresh bait every day after the clients have been dropped off. That way, the next day’s customers have fresh live bait that Tom stores aboard his custom-made, 21-foot striper boat. With room for four adults, there is comfortable seating with a very dry ride to each and every spot.

Action can be fast and furious when the bite is on. Tom rigs 10-foot, light-action rods and drops the shad straight down—in most cases—as he positions the boat over active feeding schools of stripers. He has even shown me numerous times on his graph the big stripers that are down there and can even tell when one is coming up in the water column to check out our offerings. On numerous occasions I have heard him say, “Here comes one, get ready!”

More often than not one of the rods, and sometimes two or three, pull straight down under the water. The rods strain in the rod holders as you grab for the one closest to you, as getting two, three or more fish on at one time can be hectic, but it’s fun personified.

This year, I have already been down to visit with Tom on two separate occasions. In January, my girlfriend and I joined him for his Cast & Blast package, which features pheasant hunting and fishing for stripers—what a way to start the year and fill the freezer. Then in July we went back down to Mountain Home again and fished with him during what some would consider the “dog days” of summer. I for one have never believed that. You can’t catch them sitting on the couch and when you fish with a guide such as Tom Reynolds, who always has a plan, your chances for success are much better. I have caught stripers close to 20 pounds with him and this year he has already boated fish close to 30 pounds. Summer fishing can be exceptional with a lot of fish in the 8- to 10-pound range with a shot at a very large fish.

We had a solid chance one morning as we had already boated several nice fish rather quickly, when the rod next to my girlfriend Rhonda went down hard.

“Wow, this one feels different!” she exclaimed, after she grabbed for the rod and then strained to pull up against the hard-charging fish heading back to the depths with incredible speed and power.

I tried to help her, and for a split second felt the power of that fish. I can honestly tell you, it felt bigger than any striper I had hooked previously. Then, the feeling we all hate—the rod pops ups and line goes slack.

That big striper had broken 15-pound leader material on a solid run.

We did not have much time to feel sorry for ourselves as another rod went off in short order. This time, Ronda boated a very nice 9-pound striper. With a three-fish limit per person, you can fill a freezer fast, providing great stories and even better memories. And Tom will clean and bag all the fish for you so you can cook your catch that same night, so it does not get much fresher than that.

Here is just one way I prepare those stripers: Take each fillet and brush on olive oil on the grilling side. Grill them until the fish turn white and flake with a fork. Glaze them with Franks RedHot Sweet Chili sauce. Keep them on the grill for another minute or two. Serve them with asparagus and or sliced sweet potatoes.

I enjoy fishing with Tom, as he’s very knowledgeable and truly wants each and every client to catch numerous fish. He and his son Sean guide all year, and Lake Norfork produces fish throughout the seasons. I suggest that you take the opportunity to fish with STR Outfitters, and especially with the family, as those of you with kids can have them fight a very strong fish with specialized equipment that will be easy for them to handle with some assistance. Contact Tom Reynolds and like him and follow him on Facebook as he updates his page daily with new clients and catches. Book a trip with them and check out all they have to offer on the year-round striper action.

For more information contact Tom Reynolds and STR Outfitters at 877-246-4896, or email Tom at [email protected] or visit them at stroutfitters.com or on Facebook @NorforkStriperguide.