Texoma guides Bill Carey (left) and Chris Carey (right) with Striper Express holding one of many stripers landed using the deadly dead-sticking technique.


The only thing that the fishing technique known as ‘dead-sticking’ has to do with the word ‘dead’ is the lack of activity by the fisherman before the hookset … especially when dealing with those hard fighting stripers on Lake Texoma.

This past week, my grandson Luke Zimmerman and my friend Jeff Rice joined guides Bill Carey and his son Chris for a day of winter striper fishing. Chris has been guiding since he was nineteen and his dad Bill opened the doors to their family business ‘Striper Express’ four decades ago. These days, Bill keeps busy managing the guide service but still finds time to slip out to fish on occasion. 

Chris is one of the premier guides on the lake and has a reputation of not following the crowd. He knows the lake well and all the hotspots and seasonal patterns. He’s quick to point out that dead-sticking it is a very deadly method of catching stripers when the water temperature drops in the middle of winter; and fishing on the main lake gets tough. 

Before our trip, he agreed to get back in a creek channel in a secluded cove and demonstrate the technique. He predicted we would catch a few fish, however, the bite under the flocks of sea gulls picking up shad (that had been driven to the surface by stripers) would be very good. that had been driven to the surface by stripers was very good.

Dead-sticking is often referred to as a “do nothing” style of fishing, but I beg to differ. Properly executed, this technique requires the angler’s full attention. I first learned about dead-sticking a couple decades ago on a very cold winter’s day and have used the technique only a handful of times but always with an experienced guide. Good sonar is a must in finding creek bends and submerged points holding stripers. 

Once fish are located holding near structure, Spot Lock is started and the trolling motor keeps the boat in perfect position. One ounce jig heads with four or five inch soft plastics are often used and the baits are positioned just above the water column holding the majority of stripers. Chartreuse or white glow are top color choices on Lake Texoma. 

Thumpers are a key to success when dead-sticking. So, what’s a Thumper? Well, it’s a proven fact that stripers pick up on the repetitive sound of the ‘thumping’ of a rubber mallet on the bottom of the boat and draw under the boat for a closer inspection. Don’t ask me why it works, but I can say with certainty that it does. The fishes’ sensitive lateral lines pick up on the sound and they are drawn in under the boat as though pulled by a magnet. 

Years ago, I remember guides using a walking cane with a soft rubber tip to drum on the floor of the boat. There are several automatic thumpers that work on DC battery power. Once turned on, a lug on a revolving wheel cause a mallet to rise and fall, which transmits the thumping sound down to the stripers below. Once the thumper is turned on, sonar will show more and more stripers pulling up under the boat. 

During warm weather months when stripers and white bass are chasing baitfish near the surface, churning the water with a fishing rod or using a trolling motor prop half out of the water will often aide in congregating the fish. It’s no secret that schooling species respond to sounds in the water. It stands to reason that sounds transmitted through the water is a primary way fish locate their prey. 

On or recent trip, after enjoying some great action under flocks of sea gulls and fishing shallow flats close to submerged channels, Chris headed his boat into and inlet. The inlet was protected from the steady 20 to 25 mile north winds. I watched his sonar closely as he looked for a spot to employ the deadly dead-sticking technique. A secondary channel joined the main creek channel we were checking and at the junction, a scattered school of stripers marked the graph. They were holding at 19 feet. 

“The trick is to get the baits down about 18 feet or close to that, just above the stripers,” said Chris. “The bite won’t be aggressive, so you need to set the hook when you feel the slightest movement of the line or when you feel slack in the line. It is very common for stripers to take the bait from below, resulting in a slack line.”

This style fishing can better be likened to catching crappie or possibly bream. The stripers are simply sucking the baits in rather than hitting them on the run as when the water is warmer. If you aren’t on your toes, you will miss the tentative bites. But, if you set the hook hard when you sense the slightest change in line tension, you will learn that a tentative bite from a big stripers can turn instantly to a battle royal when the fish feels the hook!  

Once we had the baits down in position, I noticed Bill was fishing with two rods. “The extra baits in the water will help to put the stripers in a biting mode,” said Bill as he intently watched the rod tip of both rods. “But what do you do if you get a strike on both rods?” I said. Bill replied to watch and learn! 

 As the fish continued to pull in under the boat in larger numbers, the bite intensified. Texoma has a liberal limit, 10 stripers under 20 inches and two over 20 inches. We had caught our limit of “under” fish on the main lake but the bigger fish were coming from the sheltered creek channel that we were at fishing. 

Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed Bill jerk up hard on both rods … he had a double on. He primarily sat on the butt end of one rod on the gunwale of the boat, landed a 26 inch striper with the other and then proceeded to catch the one on the rod he was sitting on! I kidded with my buddies that the catch was a feat for a 40 year veteran guide; we had better continue fishing with a single rod!   

As we concluded our fishing trip, Chris mentioned that we were getting in on the very early winter dead-sticking. As winter progresses and the water temperature continues to drop, the bite will get even better. 

To learn more about Striper Express, visit

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