There’s not much strategy involved in catching striped bass on Clarks Hill Lake this month, according to guide Tommy Dudley of Plum Branch, S.C.

“It’s fairly simple. Just go up the two Little Rivers (Georgia and South Carolina) and the main tributaries of those rivers,” he said.

The stripers will be well up the rivers and creeks because they are filled with baitfish this time of year, and the bigger fish are gorging on them, said Dudley who concentrates mostly on South Carolina’s Little River simply because it’s closer to home.

“Most people pull planer boards this time of year, but you can still catch fish down-lining, usually 10 feet or so down,” he said. “I like to put some lines down and just ease along in the creeks, and at the same time put out some free lines. That makes for a little-more productive fishing.”

February is one of the best times of the year to go after a big striper, according to Dudley (706-833-4807).

“Those creeks at the upper end of the lake are slap full of bait, and when the big fish get back in those little creeks, you have a lot smaller area of water to bump into them,” he said.

One of the best ways to target those bigger stripers is to pull 10- to 12-inch gizzard shad or trout on planer boards, he said.

“A lot of times, the big stripers will be in just a couple of feet of water. I’ve caught a lot more big fish up in the shallow water up on the bank than out in the ditch. Most of the time, when one goes after the bait, being in that shallow water when he makes a move, you can see him.”

The same strategy works in Georgia Little River above Raysville and Amity and all the creeks and major ditches above the bridge, he said. Soap Creek near Lincolnton, Ga., is also a good area upstream of the “crooked bridge” to the back end of the creek, Dudley said.

“People sometimes try to get out at daylight, but on cold days, especially, the bite will come on better about lunchtime or later after the sun gets up and warms the water up.” 

“These are pretty much the best areas and best fishing methods until spring when the fish start moving out of the creeks back down the lake, but it is also probably the best time of year to catch a big fish,” he said.

Dudley added one caveat. The lake level has been 10 feet down during the winter, which can make navigation hazardous.

“With the water as down like it is, especially at the top of Long Cane Creek where there are some serious boulders under the surface, you need to be very wary if you don’t know the area.”