MONETA, Va. (WFXR) — Early spring means trophy striped bass on Smith Mountain Lake. This is the time of year large stripers congregate in creek and river arms to stage for the spawn.

“A lot of these fish are heading up to spawn,” said guide Dakota Wright of Fat Shad Fishing Charters. “They’re kind of stacking up in here.”

Wright had made the run all the way up the Roanoke Arm to near Explore Park. Big fish marks could be seen on the electronics, and big swirls were evident where stripers had surfaced for forage.

A variety of tactics can be used to take those trophies, but there is one in particular that the guides on Smith Mountain Lake prefer.

“Big gizzard shad on planer boards,” said Wright, referring to the trolling technique used to take big striped bass.

“He’s well beyond 30 inches,” shouted angler Bill Thompson as he reeled in a large fish that had taken a trolled shad.

The fish took Thompson on several long runs before it was boated. It measured 35 inches and was quickly released back into the water.

large striped bass caught on Smith Mountain Lake (Photo: George Noleff)

Between November and June, there is a slot restriction on Smith Mountain Lake stripers. All fish between 30 and 40 inches long must be released.

While catch and release trophies are the targets, there are plenty of stripers outside the slot that can be kept for anglers who want to harvest a fish dinner.

There are abundant eater-sized fish on Smith Mountain Lake (Photo: George Noleff)

Striped bass is saltwater natives, but they have been successfully introduced into freshwater reservoirs. Smith Mountain Lake is one of the top inland striper waters in the country. While the fish spawn, because of conditions, spawning success is minimal. Numbers in the lake have to be sustained by stocking from the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources.