South Carolina’s Lake Jocassee is known for its great trout fishing, but this time of year, finding them in the Upstate reservoir can be a challenge because they are scattered all over the lake, which has water deeper than 300 feet.

“They are spread out because their favorite food — blueback herring and threadfin shad — have moved up the rivers for the winter,” said guide Sam Jones of Greenville. “The best way to catch both brown and rainbow trout is trolling with downriggers.”

Trolling at 1.2 to 2.2 mph works best, he said, and if the fish are not hitting, adjust your speed up or down.

“Trolling depth can be as deep as 60 feet to as shallow as the surface with a flat-line,” Jones said, “and don’t always troll in a straight line. Mix it up with some zig-zags and sharp turns.”

Jones said trolling live bait — large shiners or blueback herring — is usually the best bet. 

“The best lures are the very hard-to-get Sutton Spoons. The company can’t make them fast enough to keep up with the demand,” Jones said. “A lot of other flutter spoons — Doctor spoons, Dreamweaver spoons, Little Cleo spoons — and the Apex Salmon Killer will also work great.”

Jones suggested trying spoons of different sizes, from 11/2 to 4 inches long. Silver, copper and finishes that look like the natural bait are best, he said.

“More great trolling lures include minnow lures and stickbaits from Rapala and Yo Zuri. The best sizes are 2 to 4 inches, and minnow colors and trout colors work great,” he said. “The best locations will be up the river channels. Troll from the main part of the lake up the Toxaway River and Whitewater River. Look for schools of suspended bait and fish on your fish finder.”

Jones has been fishing for trout on Lake Jocassee for more than 30 years. One of his best trips was in March a few years ago on a spring-like day with sunny skies.

“I was trolling alone up the Toxaway River channel when I caught a 5-pound brown trout on a Sutton Spoon trolled 30 feet deep. About 30 minutes later, another hit on a Sutton Spoon trolled 50 feet deep,” he said. “After a long battle, I got the monster into the net. It was another beautiful brown trout that weighed over 7 pounds.”