The bass fishing has turned red hot at Lake Wateree, and according to guide and pro fisherman Dearal Rodgers of Sumter, it’s likely to get even better.

“Right now, for local clubs, it’s taking 27 to 28 pounds with five fish to win a tournament,” Rodgers said. “That’s quality fishing, and the good news is, because of the lower-than-normal water temperatures for this time of the year, the fish are just beginning to move shallow and should be there for the next few weeks as they prepare to spawn.”

Rodgers (803-223-1117) said most of the action is near the main lake because of the water temperature is still in the low 50s.

“But that’s going to change pretty quickly as the water temperature continues to rise,” he said. “Right now, fish are still schooled, even though they are in shallow water. You can find them around rocks, grass, stumps, logs or other shallow cover, and odds are good you can catch multiple fish from a small area. As they progress into the creeks and coves and get closer to spawning, they’ll spread out more. But right now, if I catch one fish, (I) cast at least 10 more times in that immediate area. At this time for the year, there’s probably more fish there.”

Rodgers said the expansion of gator grass in Wateree in recent years has added great cover and helped the largemouth population grow in numbers and size. He said it has been particularly good for improving the average size of fish.

“Even though this winter has been very cold, the size of the fish has been awesome in terms of average size,” he said. “And there are several different lures that are working really well and should continue to produce as the fish move up into the creeks.

“I have three go-to baits” Rodgers said. “One is the Buckeye Mop jig in a green pumpkin color pattern with a trailer the same color pattern. The second is a Strike King spinnerbait, particularly in a chartreuse pattern with gold blades because of the dingy water color. And the other is the Rat-L-Trap in a crawdad pattern. Also, for me, the very best fishing has been early in the morning. I strongly suggest that anglers get on the water at dawn and fish hard during the morning. After about 10 o’clock in the morning, that pattern slows, and I start fishing docks and other objects where there’s shade and cover to pick up scattered fish. But a lot of those fish will be good-sized bass as well.”

Rodgers is using RPM Custom Rods and Lew’s baitcasting reels with Gamma fluorocarbon line. He said he is using 20-pound line on the jigs and 15-pound test on the other baits because of the grass and heavy cover where he’s finding fish.