When it comes to filling a cooler with striped bass from Lake Hartwell, October is a tough month to beat. The water temperature falls to a point where the hard-fighting fish seem invigorated, and that’s good news for guides like Steve Pietrykowski of Fishski Business, who fishes hundreds of days a year on the 56,000-acre reservoir.
“As the water begins to cool down, more and more fish begin to move out of the deeper water near the dam and into the more shallow water,” said Pietrykowski, who will look for stripers to stage in 30 feet of water just off patches of flooded, standing timber.
Fishing over the flooded timber can be challenging, since stripers like to dive deep into the timber when hooked, Good tackle is needed to get them out of the brambles.
Another tactic this time of year is targeting schooling fish.
“Like many anglers, we watch the birds to tell us where the schooling activity is happening.” Pietrykowski said.
There is little doubt that fishing for schooling fish is exciting, starting with moving in on an acre or more of boiling water as stripers and hybrids chase bait fish to the surface. Casting large spoons into these schools will almost certainly get a hook up.
“Surface baits such as the Zara Spooks or Creek Chubs are all great baits for schooling fish,” he said.
So too are the highly reflective spoons that resemble the baitfish. When using these, try and match the size of the lure to the size of the baitfish. Loaded on 20-pound braid braid with an Abu Garcia reel and Ugly Stik rod, it’s a great tool for catching schooling fish.
When the schooling activity cools off or is nonexistent, Pietrykowski will move to his live bait of blue back herring.
“I like to mix it up a bit to find the feeding fish.” Pietrykowski says. “I’ll put out a couple of free-line baits behind some planer boards to get them away from the boat. I’ll then put a few down rods out the back of the boat.”
On the down rods, he’ll fish a Carolina rig with a ¾-ounce weight above a barrel swivel to which is tied a 20-pound fluorocarbon leader and a 1/0 or 2/0 Gamakatsu hook.
Many recreational anglers on Lake Hartwell are reluctant to use planer boards when fishing for stripers, according to Pietrykowski.
“You really do not see a lot of anglers using planer boards” he said Pietrykowski, who said it makes fishing much easier when you get multiple strikes. “Planer board gets the lines away from the boat and forms an artificial school of bait. By having one planer board out each side and two lines out the back of the boat, along with the down rods, we are presenting bait in an area 50 to 70 feet wide.”
By fanning baits out around his boat with planer boards, he doesn’t have to be as exact with his presentation.
“Once you get used to using the planer boards, they become a requirement for many anglers,” he said.
Lake Hartwell is known for its stripers, but do not overlook the hybrid bass population. Many anglers argue they are pound for pound the strongest fish in these reservoirs. Since they often run patterns similar to stripers, catching them is often incidental to catching stripers, but just as fun.
HOW TO GET THERE — Access is excellent around Lake Hartwell, with ramps in Anderson and Clemson giving anglers plenty of public ramps from which to choose. I-85 is the key to reaching both areas, with Exits 19 and 21 being dropping-off spots. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers maintains numerous boat ramps that can be located via the Internet site a www.sas.usace.army.mil/lakes/hartwell.
WHEN TO GO — Lake Hartwell’s water cool in October to the point that stripers leave the lake’s deepest areas and become more active.
BEST TECHNIQUES — Look for stripers around flooded timber in 30-foot water depths, especially if baitfish are present. Use multiple rods loaded with live baits, separated by planer boards, but keep a rod or two on the bottom on a Carolina-rig setup. Always keep rods rigged with topwater plugs close by in case of topwater schooling action.
FISHING INFO/GUIDES — Steve Pietrykowski, Fishski Business Guide Service, 864-353-3438. See also Guides and Charters in Classifieds.
MAPS — Kingfisher Maps, 800-326-0257, www.kfmaps.com.