Bottom-fishing aficionados looking for a 2-handed thrill can find it not too terribly far out of Murrells Inlet. Heavy stringers of big black sea are lurking about 30 miles off the beach and are gobbling up just about anything dropped onto their dinner table. After several winter seasons of closures, the black sea bass population has recovered and is producing some noteworthy individual fish.

Capt. Ned Campbell of R & R Charters recently slipped out to the structure-rich reef called “The Parking Lot” close to 30 miles east of the Murrells Inlet jetties, and his anglers reached their limits of trophy black sea bass in just minutes.

“The bottom-fishing bite is incredible right now,” said Campbell 843-460-0186. “Within 10 drops, each of us caught 20 real fast. We were culling out the 15- to 16-inch fish and keeping the 18 inchers. There are some real giants out there.”

Campbell is finding the huge congregations of black sea bass around the deep structure by locating masses of fish clouding his depth sounder.

“We move around until the bottom lights up bright with huge patches along the sea floor,” he said.

The famed Parking Lot reef has tons of rubble that serves as premier habitat for bottom- dwelling species and a perfect place to load up a 120-quart cooler for the ride home. In addition to the monster black sea bass, Campbell is catching a wide variety of other species: red porgies, amberjack, squirrelfish and a few other deep-water species.  

For bait, these fish seem to eat about anything dropped in front of them. Campbell uses frozen cigar minnows and squid to fresh bonito that can be jigged up and cut into chunks. He is using a standard 2- to 3-hook rig and enough lead to drop the baits down to the 100-foot depths.

Campbell expects the bite to continue as long as the water temperatures remain favorable.