Guide Bill Plumley said anglers looking to catch striped bass from Lake Hartwell need to fish between 30 and 35 feet deep at the mouth of small tributary creeks and coves close to the main-lake area.
“That’s pretty standard fare for Hartwell,” said Plumley (864-287-2120). “Fish will hold in or near the mouth of a cove, and they gravitate to the bottom. These fish typically don’t stay in the same locations day after day, but if you check two or three spots like that, you’ll find them – a lot of hybrids, but we’ve also caught some good stripers, fish up to 18 to 20 pounds on the same pattern.”
Plumley said the down-rod bite is in full bloom. The standard “two turns off the bottom” is the best way to present baits at the correct depth, but he will put out at least one bait between 15 and 20 feet deep when he’s hovering over 30 feet of water.
Plumley doesn’t blindly throw out baits and hope for the best. Before he wets a hook, he will graph the mouths of coves and look for even a slight indicator of fish in the area.
“All I want to see is one fish on or near the bottom,” he said. “I don’t know if the others are on the bottom or just cruising around outside the view of the transducer. You get that one fish to bite, and the rest come running.”
Plumley’s strategy when he marks a fish or a small pod of bait low in the water column is to set out four rods in rod holders on each corner of the boat. Each rod, a 20-pound class striper combo of line-counter baitcasting reel and a Berkley Lightning rod, has a Carolina rig and live blueback herring on the business end. He uses his remote-controlled trolling motor to bump around an area until the fish find the baits.
“As soon as the first rod goes down, I hit the spot, lock on the trolling motor, and we start fighting fish,” he said. “It’s always good to try to keep a fish on at least one line, because that keeps the others engaged. When the school moves off, then it’s time to go find another spot.”