After a summer of continuous flooding and unstable water, the Santee River has stabilized, but the bass fishing is anything but stable. According to one local expert it's sensational.
Bob Matthews is a 66-year-old pastor from Ladsen who also has a farm adjacent to the river. He has fished the Santee River for about 60 of those years, and he said the bass fishing right now is the best he's seen in many years.
"The bass fishing is absolutely awesome right now," Matthews said. "We're catching lots of bass, and the fish we're catching are quality fish. The river has finally reached a stage where the water is ideal in terms of water level and color for bass fishing, and limits of bass are really the norm and not the exception."
Matthews said the primary lure for his success has been an unweighted white worm.
"The key for me is knowing how to work this lure," he said. "I'm not fishing it on top. I am casting the worm around heavy shoreline cover in shallow water, and also around deeper cover in the slack water. I let the worm sink out of sight – that would be about two feet deep, ideal for the shallow- water cover fishing along most of the river.
"When fishing the deeper, slack-water holes, the water may be six to eight feet deep," he said. "In those instances, I'm letting the lure sink just a bit more. In either case, the retrieve is simple but crucial. I slowly twitch the lure back to the boat around, over and through cover. Don't work the lure too fast or you'll reduce the number of bites. Plus, the bites have been very aggressive. I’m using the Suffix 832 braided line, which gives strength for pulling hawgs out of heavy cover, plus excellent feel when a fish bites."
Matthews said that the bass are biting better when there is some current.
"When there's current the fishing is better, but they can be caught anytime," he said. "I'm catching fish early and late in the day, but the action has also been excellent right though the middle of the day. Time of day is usually important on the river, but it doesn't matter right now.
“When there is current, I will also use it to help me get the lure in tight cover otherwise obscured by branches covering the water, and that can be crucial to hooking big bass at times. I will cast the lure back into the edge of cover and let (it) drift downstream with the current as it falls, but not begin my retrieve until it gets under some bushes or heavy cover that may extend all the way to the water. Often when I twitch the worm just once or twice, a big bass will load on. These little tricks will add some larger fish to your catch."
Matthews said other lures will produce for different anglers, but for him, other than the worm, he will use a frog-pattern Tiny Torpedo early and late in the day for topwater action.
"The topwater bite is best early and late, and some big fish are being taken on the Torpedo," he said. "But it's been hard for me to put that white worm down."