Mist floated above the water as a long cast sent a big-bladed lure through the morning light. Landing with little subtlety, the lure woke up the morning as it churned and bubbled across the glassy surface of Lake Thurmond. An explosion sent it flying through the air with a strike from a largemouth bass. Two casts later, the bass exploded again, this time hooking itself on the 5/0 hook trailing the Black Angel buzzbait.
Located in McCormick County along the South Carolina-Georgia border, Thurmond, aka Clarks Hill, is one of South Carolina’s best spring reservoirs for producing heavy strings of bass. Anglers from across the state and beyond converge on this Savannah River reservoir in hopes of landing lunker bass.
While many techniques work, one of the best in the early spring is fishing a big buzzbait. Named because of the ruckus they make coming across the surface, they typically have one or two large propeller-type blades that churn the surface when retrieved. Maintaining the speed at the surface takes some practice, but is doable and productive. Strikes by bass on a buzzbait are violent and addictive.
Chase Simmemon of Fair Play fishes across South Carolina and the Southeast, and he often ties on a buzzbait to fill his livewell, including at Lake Thurmond in March.
“During March, you will have fish in prespawn, with some in the beginning stages of the spawn. If the water temperature is below 60 degrees, I will know most of the fish are in pre spawn mode.” said Simmemon, who said bass will be actively spawning when the water temperature is between 60 and 65. “Water temperature dictates which stage the fish are in, and with Thurmond being so large, you can have fish in each stage depending on where you are on the lake.”
Knowing which stage the fish are in will determine the method needed to fill the live well. When targeting prespawn fish, Simmemon looks for structure, preferably visible structure, anywhere from 3 to 10 feet deep. A difference of only one or two degrees can move bass from the top to the bottom of that range..
Simmemon looks for shallow coves that are filled with visible cover before he ties on a buzzbait. Fishing only the structure, he can cover a lot of water in a hurry.
“One of the benefits of a big buzzbait is that I can cover a lot of water in a short amount of time.” said Simmemon, who likes to keep his boat cast to stumps, fallen trees and rocks — anything that might hold a fish.
“I will cast well beyond (the cover) and bring the bait by my target as close as possible.” Simmemon said.
Standing or fallen timber is definitely something to target. By casting 10 to 15 feet beyond the standing timber, Simmemon has time to get his bait to the surface and find the optimum retrieve speed.
“Casting a buzzbait is different than other baits. We are not trying to knock the fish in the head with it; rather, we want to bring it by and get a reaction strike.” he said.
Unlike baits intended to mimic a wounded baitfish, buzzbaits are intended to trigger a reaction strike from a bass, a self-preservation strike.
Like many anglers, Simmemon has a specific rod-and-reel combination he uses when fishing a buzzbait: a 7-foot, medium-action baitcasting rod and a reel with a fast gear ratio loaded with 20-pound monofilament.
“I like a reel with a fast retrieve, somewhere in the 6-to-1 ratio, to get the bait to the top as soon as possible,” said Simmemon. “I prefer to use a 3/8-ounce Black Angel buzzbait, a single blade if the water is muddy or stained and a white bait of the same kind if it’s clear.”
Simmemon always adds a 2/0 trailer hook to his buzzbaits, since bass are often not trying to eat the bait, just knock it out of its immediate area, and the trailer hook with help catch a larger percentage of the fish that strike.
When the water temperature cracks the 60-degree mark and he finds more fish actually on the banks, spawning, Simmemon changes the way he fishes a buzzbait.
“When the water temperature gets to 60 degrees, I like to look for the beds around the structure,” he said. “When I can see the fish is when I really need to slow down the bait as much as possible while still stirring up the surface.”
That’s when Simmemon picks up a buzzbait with double blades. Although they can be more difficult to cast, they move across the surface much more slowly, which will produce more bites from bedding fish.
At 71,000 acres, Thurmond is a huge lake, and its banks are covered with boat docks in many areas. Simmemon likes to target the ones with a specific kind of flotation.
“The docks with the black, plastic flotation will warm up faster than those with metal or white foam.” Simmemon said, explaining that fish will hold closer to these docks, and retrieving a buzzbait back along the edge the dock will often produce a violent strike. And while it’s not as easy as other baits, skipping a buzzbait back up under these docks, between the pads of flotatdion, can also bring aggressive strikes.
HOW TO GET THERE — Lake Thurmond forms the border between Georgia and South Carolina along the southern end of McCormick County. US 378 crosses at mid-lake, and SC 81 and US 221 run roughly parallel to the lake on the South Carolina side. Lake Thurmond has 26 public boat ramps that are open year-round. Visit www.dnr.sc.gov/lakes/thurmond for a list of locations.
WHEN TO GO — Bass fishing is excellent in March and April as bass move to prespawn and spawning patterns. March is the best month to catch fish on a buzzbait.
BEST TECHNIQUES — Fish a single-blade buzzbait for prespawn fish around any kind of visible, shallow cover in coves. When fish begin to spawn, move to a double-bladed buzzbait, which can be retrieved more slowly to draw strikes from less-agressive, bedding bass.
FISHING INFO/GUIDES — The Herring Hut, Clarks Hill, 864-333-2000. See also Guides and Charters in Classifieds.
ACCOMMODATIONS — infoLodging is available at several state parks. Including Hickory Knob state park in McCormick. www.scstateparks.org