However, to an angler, the north and south jetties are probably as beautiful as the Taj Mahal or Eiffel Tower.
Ruins? Not for red drum. The area's got the kind of architecture a big channel bass appreciates when he cruises, looking for a meal.
Built almost a century ago, originally about 10- or 15-feet wide, the huge rocks and boulders that kept the ocean and inlet water separated have been broken down, little by little, and scattered at either side of the jetties a good 20 or 30 feet in either direction.
And those broken rocks expand the area where 30- to 40-inch channel bass set up shop and wait for the tremendous current that courses out of the bay and through the inlet to wash something edible in their direction.
Long-time fishing buddies Rod Thomas and Mike McDonald are among the guys who appreciate the way Mother Nature has improved upon the work of the original engineers who designed and built the jetties. They tend to appreciate it the most from the helm of their boats while guiding fishermen from the Georgetown area, trying to build a connection between a heavy rod and an equally heavy channel bass.
"August is pretty much the month for numbers and for big fish," said Thomas (336-240-5649), an independent television producer who works on outdoor shows most of the year but runs Captain Ponytail Guide Service out of Winyah Bay from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
"August is the No. 1 month. You've got all that water running out of Winyah Bay - you've got the Waccamaw, Black, Pee Dee, North and South Santee all feeding in within 10 miles, and when what water comes out of the inlet, it makes a tide line 2 or 3 miles long.
"You've got the black water coming out of the river right next to the crystal-blue ocean water. And those waters don't tend to mix, so it's a straight line.
"You get big kings and tarpon on the tide line past the jetties, and you get those big redfish along the jetties."
McDonald, who operates Gul-R-Boy Guide Service, said channel bass, the adult version of the copper-colored juveniles known as "spottails," move to the jetties near the full moon in May, as long as the water temperature is relatively normal. They'll stay through the summer, their numbers increasing little by little. They'll spawn and don't leave until October or November, moving off the beach to spend the cool months at reefs.
"These fish don't move up and down the coast - most of them move in and out," said McDonald (843-546-3625). "They come in to spawn, and until they're 3 or 4 years old; they're gonna stay in 18 inches of water or less 90 percent of the time. They'll spawn at the jetties, or they'll go up in a deep channel and spawn at some shelly areas, but you won't catch big fish in the flat water very often."
It's out in that choppy water, pouring through the big line of rocks, where the big fish feed. Thomas does most of his damage at the north jetty, the shorter jetty. McDonald sticks with the south jetty - a personal preference.
Neither jetty looks terribly healthy. At the south jetty, the shallowest rocks are barely above water at low tide, often completely covered by water as the tide rises. At the north jetty, they're barely visible at high tide, several feet above the surface at low tide.
"We have some big boat every year go across the jetty and clean off its prop," McDonald said. "The best thing you can do if you want to come down here is buy a nice chart and stay in the ship channel until you get to the end of the jetties."
McDonald said the general rule is better numbers of channel bass are caught at the north jetty, but the biggest fish live at the south jetty.
"But that's just a 'sometimes' rule; sometimes, it's right," he said. "All of the fish aren't necessarily big fish at the jetties. You'll get a number of smaller juveniles.
"The north jetty is where most of those juvenile fish go when they move out. You'll catch more fish from 30 to 38 inches at the north jetty, and occasionally, a bigger one. Most of the big fish, the ones more than 40 inches, are at the south jetty."
"I'll fish the end of the north jetty, actually, all up and down the jetty, for big redfish," Thomas said. "There is a nice, deep trench at the outside of the north jetty that runs around the end of the jetty and goes into the bay. It acts like a highway for fish. The south jetty doesn't have it. The big channel bass will get on those rocks. I think they get along the tide line (inside the inlet) where the baitfish get disoriented.
"The big drum are cruising in those big rocks. I call it 'finding a nest.' It's amazing. They'll pull in and set up and feed, and if you miss that spot by 10 feet, you might miss all the fish.
"Early in the summer, you get some smaller fish. But when they really get in there, they're all big fish - no 5-pounders. You can go inside, in the marshes and catch the smaller spottails and trout and flounder. But you can pull up on the jetties and chunk a live menhaden in there, and if he's there, he'll bite it.
"I had a half-day trip last year where we caught 22 or 23 fish, the smallest was about 20 pounds, and the biggest in the high 40s."
Because the current is tremendous when it really starts to pour out of Winyah Bay, McDonald and Thomas have to time their trips to hit the jetties as close to slack tide - high or low - as possible.
"When you look at those jetties, we've got a third of North Carolina and two-thirds of South Carolina pouring out of there," McDonald said. "The jetties are less than a mile apart, and it's not that wide between the two sides of the inlet. So it's pouring through there. The best fishing is going to be near the tide change - but it might be the low tide today and the high tide tomorrow."
McDonald fishes the south jetty where the water is generally colored anywhere from murky to stained. That jetty is considerably longer than the north jetty but is marked by three distinct rock piles that stick up above the rest of the jetty - one on the end and two quite a bit closer to the shoreline.
"The inside mound, at high tide you've got about 8 feet of water; at low tide, only 2 or 3 feet," McDonald said.
"Most of the fish hang near the mounds, and most of the people who come out and fish will set up at the southeast corner of the south jetty.
"I only fish at the outside of the jetty. The inside, on a change of tides, when you've got a 15- or 20-mile per hour wind, it can go from flat to 6- to 10-foot waves in the channel.
"A lot of people will go out there in john boats. We call 'em 'coffin boats.' There are people who get killed down here every year, and most of the time, they're in little boats like that. I'd suggest at least an 18-foot boat with high sides."
The north jetty is much shorter than the south, and that's good for Thomas, who will fish either side of the jetty depending upon whether the tide is approaching full high or slack low.
"When the tide starts rolling through, you can't get your baits down in there just right, so I try to fish it at dead high or dead low," Thomas said. "You can catch black drum out there and also trout. There's a place close in to the beach where the jetty turns, the elbow, and that's a good place for flounder or trout.
"Where you want to be is on the side where the water is coming through the jetty. If the tide is rising, you want to be on the inside of the jetties, and if it's falling, you want to be on the outside. All that matters is the tide. That early (morning)/late (afternoon) stuff is irrelevant."
Because of the number of rocks on the bottom at the jetties, and the size of the fish, heavy tackle is a must.
Thomas uses 11-foot surf rods, but he cuts between a foot and 18 inches off the tip, leaving him with a long but stout rod. He teams those with Penn 308 reels spooled with 30-pound monofilament. Using a Carolina rig, he threads on a 1-ounce egg sinker above a barrel swivel and ties on a 1-foot leader of 100-pound test mono. The business end is a 7/0 J-style hook.
"Most of the reds are big, so I try to fish with a live menhaden, 10- to 14-inches long," he said. "When he hits it, he's gone. The key is using tackle that will keep them out of the rocks. You're so close to those jagged edges, it's better when you can get 'em into deeper water.
"When I'm anchored up, fishing a spot, it's almost vertical fishing. You flip a bait out there, and it sinks down to the bottom. A big menhaden can swim a little bit with a 1-ounce egg sinker, and if you ever feel the weight hit the bottom, you need to get it off right away, or you'll be hung up."
Thomas normally starts his trips at the outside of the north jetty, working up and down the beach off the north island, looking for menhaden.
"There's plenty of bait in Winyah Bay, but I prefer to catch mine in the ocean," he said. "I think the ocean bait tends to stay fresh longer than inside bait."
McDonald uses heavy tackle - and really heavy terminal tackle.
"I'll use a Carolina rig with a 4- to 8-ounce weight because the current is so strong," he said. "Sometimes I'll use a rig with a three-way swivel. I use a wire leader about 36 inches long and 30-pound mono on the reel. I use a 7/0 or 8/0 hook.
"I don't use a stainless steel hook ever in saltwater because if you catch a fish with a stainless steel hook and break him off, he's got a permanent piercing. I just use a standard hook. If you get broken off, he gets rid of it in about two or three days."
McDonald will fish with menhaden or a big mullet; his favorite is a big chunk of cut mullet.
"A channel bass will eat anything you put to it," he said. "His whole body and head is shaped so his eyesight is funneled forward and down. He can't look behind himself. If you put a bait behind a big channel bass, he won't eat it unless it's making a lot of noise."
The daily creel and size limits for South Carolina waters sometimes come into play at the jetties. The daily limit is two fish per person, and no fish can be kept shorter than 15 inches or longer than 24 inches.
"There are a lot of 'slot fish' at the jetties," McDonald said.
McDonald and Thomas tend to make big channel bass only a portion of their daily trips.
Because the tide is slack for just an hour or two, they key in on that time slot for the jetties. The rest of the time, or all day depending upon weather conditions, they'll fish elsewhere.
Thomas likes to run off the end of the jetties and slow-troll live baits for king mackerel along the tide line. He'll also fish inside for speckled trout, flounder and smaller spottails, working a number of areas at Winyah Bay and going up narrow Jones Creek to fish the area at North Inlet, a small inlet that's generally not navigable. McDonald is really at home at the shallow, marshy flats in the bay.
"The fish you catch inside are generally juveniles, but the past two years, my daughter has caught fish that were 45 inches and 43 inches long," he said. "She was fishing with a 7-foot spinning rod and a grub, and she happened to get the big boy."