The hottest bite on Lake Marion right now is the shelllcracker, which according to Rob Bennett of Lowcountry Inshore Charters, "is on fire." Bennett spends much of his time guiding clients in the saltwater around Charleston, but he said lure of shellcracker fishing is too much to keep him away from the sweet water for now.

"We caught 75 the other day with no problem. The shellcracker are big and plentiful," said Bennett (843-367-3777), who has been catching some of these redear sunfish in the 2-pound range.

Bennett has been putting in at Spires landing off SC 6, but he said that Rocks Pond, Bell’s Marina, Canal Lakes Fish Camp or any of the landings on the Diversion Canal will put anglers close to the action.

"The willow trees around small islands that are close to those landings are full of shellcracker beds right now. The fish are in about a foot of water close to those trees," Bennett said. "Cane poles are too long to maneuver in those trees, so we've been using ultralight rods about 5- to 5½-feet long with small spinning reels, 6-pound line, a No. 4 or No. 6 hook and a small split shot. The fish are on the bottom, which is where you want your hook to be."

One tip Bennett has for anglers is to set the hook as soon as they see the cork start moving.

"You can't wait for it to go under, because these fish are already on the bottom. They'll inhale the bait, and they don't swim off, so the cork just moves a little. It if ever does go under, that fish has swallowed the hook by then, and you'll have to cut the line and retie your rig," he said.

The bait of choice, said Bennett, is unmistakably red wigglers. "Forget crickets; forget nightcrawlers. These fish prefer red wigglers, hands down," he said.

As for time of day, Bennett said it doesn't matter: "You can catch them throughout the day, as long as you fish in the shade."

Bennett finds the fish simply by casting around the willow trees, and once he finds some fish, he anchors down the front and back of the boat to keep it from spinning around. He said it's easy to cruise right over large beds of shellcracker while searching, and anglers will see the fish scatter if that happens. But, Bennett said backing off slightly, then waiting five or 10 minutes will give the fish time to settle back down, and they will readily bite.