According to veteran fisherman Ryan Belle of Williamston, several factors have come together at the same time to make the bass bite better than he's seen it in years.
"We just ended a long 3-year drought, over which time a lot of grass and weeds grew up inside the banks of the lake," said Belle. "We've also had a slow progression of warming water temperatures through the spring."
Typically, both largemouth and smallmouth bass are are heading out to deeper water, but the shallows are still cool enough to hold fish. The final ingredient, which occurred with this weekend's full moon, is that the flooded grass three to five feet under the surface is chock full of fry from every species of fish that has spawned over the past few weeks.
"We saw it several years ago when Hartwell stayed so low for so long, and it looks like this year will be a return to a good spawn for just about everything that swims in the lake," said biologist Dan Rankin of the S.C. Department of Natural Resources. "The grass, and even some small shrubbery that has grown up around the lake, is now underwater, with the lake reaching full pool. In a lake that is otherwise void of good cover, the grass and weeds are a welcome sight."
Belle said the hot bass bite started with the blueback herring spawn, which peaked two weeks ago. Other shallow-water prey, mainly bream species, are also in the shallows, and bass are hanging just off the grass line to take advantage. He expects the fishing to remain good until overnight temperatures increase."We've been seeing a decent topwater bite early in the morning, but the best bet is to throw a small Fluke rigged weedless," he said. "Find a long point and stay back and throw the bait to the bank and just work it out. The bite usually comes right where the bait exits the weeds."