Regardless of the species you favor in the winter on Lake Hartwell, many anglers have been keying in on flocks of seagulls and balls of forage to find fish. Chasing birds and bait has anglers spread out over the lake, but three warm, rainy days has got to have an effect on the fishing, especially as the skies began to clear.

That was my thought as my son Will and I hit the water at midday on Monday. Topwater baits, weighted Flukes, and live shiners or herring had been producing a mixed bag of striped bass, hybrids, spotted bass and perch for other anglers over the past several weeks as we squeezed the remaining deer season for all it’s worth.

The weather on the second day of winter felt more like spring, and it had me thinking about a trip we had made to Hartwell last March when winter was finally loosing it’s grip and a warm rain had blanketed the area.

After chasing a couple of flocks of half-interested birds with nothing but a couple of 12- inch spotted bass to show for it, Will and I discussed out next move while staring intently at the GPS map.

“Let’s head to the back of a creek,” I said. “The water temperatures out here on the main lake are hovering around the mid 50s. I’ll bet we find another five degrees in the back of either Little Beaver, 18-Mile Creek or 6 & 20.”

Picking the closest to our location, we motored out way under a couple of bridges as the banks closed in on either side of the boat. Rounding the last bend of the river, we found what we were looking for – a mud line.

We’d come armed with four dozen “large” shiners from the local convenience store, which meant we had bait from two to four inches long. The plan was to free-line the shiners, two on each side of the boat, while both of us stood on the deck and cast artificials to any schooling activity we saw.

Crossing the mud line meant moving from clear, green water to Campbell’s Tomato Soup water. Thirty yards past the line, we noticed that the first cove was abuzz with activity – not a bird in sight, but lots of surface swirls. We abandoned our casting rods after a quick pass through the cove as the free-lined live baits were soon devoured by a mix of stripers, hybrids and the occasional spot.