Spring and fall are generally considered prime times to fish for crappie on most lakes, but the sweltering month of August might well be the best time of year to specifically target a 3-pounder on Clarks Hill Lake, according to guide William Sasser of Evans, Ga.
“My favorite thing is fishing for crappie on Clarks Hill in August,” said Sasser (706-589-5468). “My crappie fishing in August is all about the standing timber — the trees that were there when the lake filled up — whether I am fishing existing trees or fishing standing timber, I have added trees to.”
Sasser said that when the surface water temperature gets up close to 90 degrees, which is not uncommon in August, it slows fishing down, so a fisherman is not likely to pull up to a line of submerged trees and put 40 fish in the boat quickly.
“There is no expectation to catch a great number of fish really quick in August, but the crappie you catch are going to be big fish. You are not likely to catch a first-year fish this time of year,” he said.
Crappie will be holding deep to stay in the cooler water, and the submerged trees are the key to success, he said.
“The good fishing is never in the backs of the coves in August, never in the creeks that run into the lake. It is always out in the main flow of the lake, either Georgia Little River or the Savannah River, out on the tree lines. I stick with 40 feet of water and fish 20 feet deep.”
Sasser explained that the trees are generally in rows and are on the sides of the underwater hills because they were hardwoods 60 years ago before the lake filled; the pines on top of the hills have long since rotted and disappeared. The trees left in the lake are all on the sides of the inundated hills.
“Out from every island, there are rows of trees. You figure out the direction of the rows (with a GPS), how they run parallel to the hills, so you will know how to fish,” he said. “I do a lot of crappie fishing and striper fishing based on that theory. For stripers, I fish beside the trees, but for crappie I fish in them.”
Sasser improves on the natural underwater habitat by adding big cedar trees to the standing timber in 40 feet of water. That involves two 20-foot cedars, with a cinder block tied to the bottom of each with a 10-foot rope. The trees, with the tops buoyed by a piece of Styrofoam, are dropped beside a standing tree in the water. When the block settles on the bottom, the tops of the cedars will rise to the top of the existing tree, creating a crappie motel.
“I fish with small minnows — the smaller the better — and (I) fish them 20 feet deep in the trees. With minnows, I am usually anchored, but if it’s a windless day, you can pull jigs really slow around the trees. I don’t know why, but a red jighead with a blue grub seems to work best.”
Sasser said a day of fishing the underwater forest in August will usually produce a limit averaging 1½ pounds, with some really nice 2-pound slabs on the string.
“This is one of the best months to try to catch a 3-pounder on purpose — but you have to put the time in,” he said.