Raystown Lake is the largest lake that is entirely within Pennsylvania. Located in Central Pennsylvania, this massive body of water holds largemouth, smallmouth and striped bass for those who are up to the challenge. Steve Griffith is one of these Pennsylvania fisherman who regularly fishes Raystown with impressive results. Steve gives us some insight to his approach on the lake.
How long have you been bass fishing on Raystown Lake?
I’ve been bass fishing Raystown since I got my first bass boat in 2013. I love fishing for bass at Raystown because the lake itself is beautiful and undeveloped for the most part. Its a great place to get away and really enjoy nature.
I also love bass fishing Raystown Lakebecause of its diversity and its potential for quality fish. Although the lake can be very tough at times, the challenging aspect of bass fishing there is another driving component of my love for the lake.
What is the ratio between largemouth and smallmouth on Raystown?
I believe the ratio between the two is equal. I wouldn’t necessarily say one is easier to catch than the other unless an angler has a strength in targeting one in particular. At certain times of the year there may be more of a quality bite chasing one species over the other, but I believe anglers can choose to target either and be successful.
What do you consider a strong 5 fish limit for each season, spring, summer and fall on Raystown?
In the spring it is not uncommon to see buddy tournaments with 6 fish limits around 25 to 26 pounds. That being said I’d say a strong 5 fish limit would be around 22 pounds. Summer fluctuates greatly but I’d say a strong limit is still 18 to 20 pounds. Fall can be a tough time when anglers are catching 18 to 20 pounds one day and 10 pounds the next.
My personal best largemouth at the lake was 5lb 14oz and my personal best smallmouth was 5lb 3oz. When targeting a PB early springtime is definitely my favorite. Big fish are feeding up to spawn and you have a great chance at both big largemouth and smallmouth.
What are your 3 favorite baits when going after Raystown largemouth?
Three favorites are a homemade 1/2 ounce Arky style jig, a drop shot with a roboworm, and an alabama rig. The Arky jig shines late in the summer when the bass seem to move up shallow for the first part of the morning. Its important to fish the jig quickly but try to key in on shallow wood. Jigs in sunfish colors seem to work best.
The roboworm on the drop shot is good when the bite is seemingly tough during the summer. I like to fish it on 8lb fluorocarbon and target treetops in deeper water, usually around 20 feet.
Lastly the Alabama rig…its no secret that there can be a good Alabama rig bite on Raystown early in the spring. When they are eating it you better have one tied on if you want to keep up with everyone else.
The key to catching fish with the rig is covering water and then fishing thoroughly when you find some fish, even returning to successful areas throughout the day. Fish tend to group up on small stretches of bank and when you find one you could easily fill your limit quickly.
What are your favorite baits when going after Raystown smallmouth bass?
I dont personally target smallmouth very often but my favorite way of doing so is a drop shot with either a Roboworm or a Gulp Minnow. Some days one bait will out produce the other so it is important to try both. I like targeting smallmouth on rock bluffs or banks with chunk rock.
Topwater baits also work well for smallmouth at Raystown. Early in the morning smallmouth often can be seen chasing bait on points. Those looking to target smallmouth should spend their time on the northern end of the lake where the water is cleaner.
Raystown Lake is known for a ton of recreational boat traffic in the summer. The lake is notorious for being a tough fishery in the summer heat. How do you adjust for the traffic and summer conditions when fishing Raystown?
In the summer it is important to capitalize early morning. Boat traffic doesnt get bad until mid morning so it is important to cover water early and find active fish. Once traffic picks up I personally like to begin finesse fishing. Water may start to muddy up along the shore depending on where you are fishing. I like to fish outside that mudline and target fish that may have pulled out a little deeper. Another tip for anglers is to find the banks with mostly rock as they wont become muddied like others.
You use electronics with side imaging. How has side imaging helped your Raystown fishing?
Side imaging has helped greatly in finding not only fish but finding sweet spots as well. Side imaging is a great tool to find isolated cover on flats which can often be quick and easy spots to pickup a fish or two.
One key to side imaging is actually taking the time to use it. Spend an hour or two when the fishing is slow to idle down banks and get a feel for what is going on. Watch for baitfish, grasslines, stumps, rocks, treetops. If you have the opportunity to fish during the week that is when you want to take the time to use your side imaging. Boat traffic on the weekend makes it nearly impossible to get clear side imagery.
You catch your fair share of big striped bass as well. What are your favorite methods for catching Raystown stripers?
My favorite way to catch Raystown stripers is to throw an Alabama rig to feeding fish. Fall, winter, and spring are the best times to catch stripers as they are often schooled up. Finding active fish can be as easy as finding diving birds that are eating baitfish that stripers are pushing to the surface. As the water cools. stripers tend to stay near the bottom where they can easily be seen on sideimaging.
Do you have any recommendations for anyone of a club for tournament fishing Raystown Lake?
If anyone is interested in fishing a great tournament series on Raystown, there is the Raystown Bass Buddy Circuit that my club hosts. Each tournament usually has over 50 teams participate.
Thank you so much Steve for that look at Raystown Lake fishing.
Steve displays his many multi-species Raystown Lake catches on Instagram @stevengfishing.