Early September can be a bit like August, but the nights are cooler, and that brings water temperatures down in Santee Cooper’s Sparkleberry Swamp. While anglers out on the main body of South Carolina’s Lake Marion are busy finding crappie in open water, anglers in the swamp are finding them hugging tight to flooded cypress trees, at least early every morning.
“You’ll find them here strong in the spring, and they get spotty throughout the summer most years, but by September, they’re moving back on the flooded cypress trees, especially on the outer band of cypress trees that are closest to open water in the Riser’s Lake area of Sparkleberry Swamp,” said angler Damon Wainwright of Manning, S.C.
Wainwright said the best spring tactic is to put live minnows right next to the base of these trees. In September, however, he mixes it up a bit.
“Fishing minnows tight to those trees is good in the early morning, and the earlier you start, the better. By around 10 or 11, it’s usually warming up pretty good, especially early in the month,” he said. “That time of day, I move away from those trees and watch my depth finder closely, looking for concentrations of fish.”
Wainwright finds that crappie don’t move very far from the cypress trees.
“Almost always, I find some small groups of fish in the open water within 20 feet of the trees,” he said. “Sometimes, the water is no deeper at all than it is around those trees, and I don’t know what it is that gets the fish to move out there. I found out it about several years ago when I got a new depth finder and was just playing around with it, learning how to use it really, and I kept seeing these groups of fish around noon this time of year. So I started fishing these areas once the morning bite cools off, and it’s been good.”
Wainwright uses what he calls a hybrid trolling method when looking for these fish.
“I put four poles in rod holders. All have a 1/16-ounce jig tipped with a live minnow. I move away from the trees, watching my depth finder,” he said. “Once I see a group of fish, I just hit the anchor lock on my trolling motor. I’ve already got four rods in the water, and if I do anything at all, it will be just letting more line out or reeling some in, depending on the water depth.”