No Doubting Thomas

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Published on: Jan. 2, 2006

Last revision: Nov. 23, 2010

Winter Fishing at Thomas Hill


When Purcell and his buddies find a good spot, they’ll position the boat to fish it properly and remain there for a while, because the schools of hybrids seem to be constantly on the move. “When a school goes through, a lot of times you’ll have two rods go down at once.”

In the warm-water arm, Purcell and many other anglers often gob chicken liver or bait shrimp on their hooks. The aromatic baits also attract channel cats, usually small ones that wear the bait off the hook.

“You can tell the difference,” Purcell said. “With small catfish, your rod tip will be sitting there bouncing. If you set the hook on the bounce, you’re not doing anything but ripping the bait off the hook.

He said hybrids take the bait much more aggressively. “They may hit it once,” he said, “but usually you better have your rod in your hand or have it hooked into the boat good because the big ones will just take it clean out. We’ve lost one or two rods and came close to losing more.”

Purcell likes a 7-foot or longer rod equipped with an open-faced or bait-casting reel spooled with 8- to 12- pound line. He said the long rod and strong line helps guard against the fish breaking off when it goes on a long run. He cautions anglers not to set the drag too tightly.

“If you lock down on them on their initial run, a 3- or 4-pounder will break your line pretty much every time,” he said. “Even if they come back to the boat, you better be ready because when they realize something’s wrong, they’re gone.”

Hybrids also will snap up jigs with tubes or plastic baits. Purcell thinks the fish will often go for a different color than the millions of shad they see. He prefers chartreuse or black and chartreuse. He and his fishing partners have tried fishing with shad themselves, but he said they had no success.

Jump-fishing Hybrids

Delane Green, a former mail carrier who lives on the lake, said he catches hybrids all year long. He said some of the most exciting fishing comes when schools of hybrids herd schools of shad near the surface.

“It usually happens in June and July when the young shad are an inch or two long,” Green said. “The hybrids get them up on those points that come up from deep water and bust them up—just

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