The fishing action on the Santee Cooper lakes takes a turn for the better this month. The action may not be smoking-hot on every species, but the general trend is toward improved fishing for most. Crappie fishing is the smoking-hot fishery, and largemouth bass fishing is heating up and isn’t too far behind.
According to guide Steve English, the crappie-fishing action hits a high note in September, with some of the most consistent catches of the year.
"Unless we get a tropical weather system with high winds and a bunch of rain, September is one of my favorite months for consistent action on slab crappie," said English (843-729-4044). "Crappie are locked into the deepwater pattern of holding on brush and other woody cover around humps and drops, and they are very predictable. They’ve had the summer to forage, and I catch a lot of big crappie in September and on into the fall months.
"I usually tight-line minnows, but small jigs will work as well. The fishing is outstanding on both Lake Marion and Lake Moultrie, and I fish both lakes regularly at this time of the year."
English said the key depths will vary, even from one lake to the other, but usually fish will be found in depths ranging from 15 feet all the way down to 35 or 40 feet deep. The key, he said, is to work different depths until you hit the pattern for the day. Odds are good that when you do, you’ll find plenty of crappie to catch a limit.
According to guide Inky Davis, September is a transition month for largemouth bass, and it begins a pattern that ranks as his favorite bass fishing stretch of the year.
"As the night and weather overall begins to cool during September, the baitfish begin to move in the creeks and into the shallows in much bigger numbers," said Davis (803-478-7289). "The baitfish are always a key factor, and when they begin to get into the shallow water again the fall, the bass feed heavily, and we’ll start seeing a lot more fish schooling on the surface. Plus, the fishing in the shallow water around cover will perk back up again. This is the time of year when we can begin to catch a lot of fish and a lot of quality fish.
"When this happens, we enjoy some of the most explosive fishing of the entire year for largemouth," he said. "Early September provides good and improving fishing, but I rate late September, October and up to mid-November as my favorite time of the year for largemouth fishing — and I fish the lake hard all year.
"Two reasons for my love of this time of the year are there is much less pressure on the lake because hunting season and college football games are a big draw and keep many busy elsewhere, plus, the fish are in the shallows to eat; they don’t have spawning on their mind, just eating. That makes a great situation for fishermen, and I’m there every chance I get."
Davis said a variety of lures will work, including topwaters such as Bang-O-Lures and Torpedos. He also uses a variety of crankbaits and relies on plastic worms rigged Carolina- and Texas-style. His trademark is a Little George that he keeps rigged and ready to make long, accurate casts to schooling fish.
"I always have the Little George tailspinner ready," he said. "I can cast it long distances, because the fish often surface school only for a few moments. Being ready to react will often add several fish to your total during the course of a fall day of fishing. But there are also times when a bunch of fish will stay up much longer. That’s another reason fall fishing is hard to beat."
The catfish action is also good in both lakes according to Kevin Davis at Blacks Camp.
"September is excellent for lots of catfish, and we’ll see some excellent fishing in both lakes Marion and Moultrie," said Davis (843-753-2231). "Most of the fishing on Lake Moultrie will be drift-fishing, or on clam days fishermen will use their electric motors to move the boats over humps and drops. The depths will vary from 20 to 45 feet deep. On Lake Marion, most fishermen anchor and fan-cast bottom rigs around the boat. There are some open areas where drift fishing will be productive as well. In both lakes find areas where there is plenty of forage. The Diversion Canal is particularly good in September as long as we have some current flow.
"The best baits will be cut shad bream or white perch for the blues and live baits for the flatheads, however, flatheads will hit fresh cut bait as well," Davis said.
Jim Whitaker at Packs Landing (803-452-5514) reports good fishing for catfish, bream and largemouth bass is the norm for September in the upper end of Lake Marion. Whitaker said both catfish and largemouth action will improve as the month progresses.