Mike McSwain of Broad River Smallmouth Guide Service fishes the Broad River from the Upstate to the outskirts of Columbia more than 100 days a year, and has been having a lot of success this year.
"Boat launches are few and far between on this river, and most folks just aren't dedicated enough to put in the work necessary to reach fishable waters," said McSwain, who guides out of an Old Town canoe. "That's a shame for them, but it's a blessing for those who are willing. There are some trophy smallmouth on this river."
Focusing on shoals on the river, McSwain's favorites are those with strong currents on both sides, creating a meeting place behind each rock of slack water and running water. And if sand is present behind the shoals, the spot is even better. "The more things that are going on in one spot, the better chance it has of holding fish," he said.
But, McSwain says, don't ignore shorelines, especially if they have eddies or cover like downed trees. Smallmouth will sometimes use the same type of cover largemouth will.
Soft-plastic crawdads, in-line spinners, and in-line buzzbaits make up the bulk of McSwain's arsenal. His technique with soft plastics surprises some anglers, but it catches fish. He uses a weighted 3/0 hook, but once he casts, he raises the rod high and reels as fast as needed to get the lure on top of the water. The crawdad's legs raise a commotion similar to a buzzbait. If he doesn't get a bite that way after a few casts in the same general area, he'll work the lure on the bottom on the next cast.
For in-line spinners, McSwain (843-763-3805) prefers a Mepps No. 3. This size casts well and doesn't wear the angler out when retrieving on medium spinning gear with 4- to 6-pound test line. He isn't picky about lure color but likes some variation of green in his spinners, either in the blade or the body.
Buzzbaits also surprise some anglers fishing with McSwain for the first time. Smallmouth will hit them churning over slack water, but they also won't hesitate to bite them going through churning water, where it would seem hard for a fish to notice.
Rebel Pop-Rs, Bang-O-Lures, and Rat-L-Traps are some other lures that have been producing for McSwain and his clients lately. McSwain said fishermen shouldn't get stuck in a rut using just one or two lures. One of his clients recently caught six fish on five different lures. These fish are aggressive, and they seem to stay hungry.