Upstate anglers looking for the best back-to-school action can head to the lower end of Lake Hartwell to cash in on schooling striped bass action that has been heating up in the past week.
According to guide Casey Reeves of Open Water Charters, the best fishing is occurring during the week between 5 p.m. and dark. The morning bite has been slow, but it’s been worth waiting for the end of the day to put in.
“During the week, the (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers) will run water through the dam, and that current gets the fish ramped up,” said Reeves (864-979-2389). “The cooler nights have tended to keep the fish down, but the big schools of stripers are all over the lower end of the lake, and the evening live-bait and topwater bite will only get better over the next few weeks.”
Good places to target are the mouths of Lightwood Log and Little Lightwood Log Creeks on the Georgia side of the lake and the areas below Sadlers Creek down to Singing Pines on the South Carolina side.
“The fish are holding down in the deep timber during the day, so if you get there early, you can start fishing live herring over the tops of the trees or breaks in between the tree areas,” said Reeves. “Most of the time, you’ll hear them splashing before you see them. Turn around, and there’s a whole acre of fish on the surface right behind you.”
Reeves keeps topwater baits tied on for when the fish surface. Any shad-imitating, surface lure will work, but Reeves favorites are Sammys that he can throw long distances on smaller tackle and work back to the boat quickly.
“Some days they get in such a frenzy, I believe you could stick a piece of bubble gum on a bare hook and catch fish,” he said. “But be aware; the school is likely to go down just as quick as they came up, then it’s time to be on the look-out for another school.”
Reeves said the majority of the schooling fish were striped bass and hybrid bass in the 3- to 5-pound range. The trick to catching bigger fish is to sample a fish out of the school and move on in search of a larger class of fish, because year-classes tend to school together.