Largemouth bass in lakes all across both Carolinas are starting to move into shallow-water creeks, following the pods of bait that move up once the water begins cooling off this time of year. It's a recipe that can result in stellar fishing for anglers like Clemson University angler Jacob Reome, who said this is the season he looks forward to every year.
"When the air temperatures start dropping at night like it has been lately, that really starts to cool the water down, even if it's still getting warm throughout the day, and that gets the baitfish moving into those creeks and shallow water," Reome said.
Lake Wylie is one of the lakes that Reome said can be used as a benchmark across both states, thanks to its geographic location. Once the water begins cooling enough to push baitfish shallow there, it's a sure bet that it's happening in all the major lakes of North and South Carolina.
Two main lures make up the bulk of Reome's arsenal when bass fishing this time of year. Buzzbaits and swimming jigs are his favorites, and he said they are both perfect for all the lakes, even when the water levels drop drastically, which seems to happen this time of year at a handful of lakes, including Wylie at the present.
"Definitely in the early morning and late evening, buzzbaits are good choices. But on some days, they can work all day long, depending on certain factors," said Reome.
One of those factors is baitfish. "When I'm in a creek, even if it's high noon and I'm throwing the swimming jig, if I see baitfish schooling near the surface, I'm switching to the buzzbait,"" Reome said.
If the bass are particularly aggressive, Reome prefers using a buzzbait with a double blade, but sticks with a single blade when the fish are more passive. And while he thinks fishing these lures around cover is always a good bet, he said it’s not always necessary when the water is cooling. Often this time of year, bass school and hunt together in shallow water, regardless of whether cover is present or not.
On any given day, Reome spends most of his time casting a 3/8-ounce Greenfish Tackle swimming jig. "These lures swim true, especially when using a reel with a 6.4-1 retrieve ratio. You really have good control with that ratio. You can adjust your reeling speed to slow the lure or speed it up without affecting how smooth the jig swims," he said.
Reome said these lures are the most effective when kept in contact with either the bottom or with structure that is coming up off the bottom. If he sees a submerged tree branch sticking up off the bottom, or something like a stump, he wants to make sure his lure hits the top of it. "If there isn't structure around, I want the lure in constant contact with the bottom. Not enough to get hung or drag, but enough that I can feel it scratching the bottom," he said.
One of the challenges Reome said Lake Wylie anglers are currently facing is the low water level. He said on a recent fishing trip, the places he normally targets did not even have water in them. While this causes a problem, Reome has a solution for it.
"Some shallow water anglers totally abandon their strategy when they show up to find the lake level is down that low, but they can still follow their original plan; they just need to adjust their places. You can find spots that match what you were looking for, but it's going to be in places that normally would be much deeper than you would think to fish this time of year," said Reome, who added that using the contour map feature on his electronics is the best method he's found to identify these areas.
Along with the 6.4-1 reel he uses for swimming jigs, Reome uses a 7-foot medium heavy rod with a fast tip. For the buzzbait, he likes a 7-foot rod also, but switches to a high-speed reel with at least a 7.1-1 reel ratio.