In the 1993 Tri-Star Pictures movie about finding true love, Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks did a lot of e-mailing, telephoning and soul searching to find true love.

But in the summer-time version at Lake Hartwell, an angler only needs a good generator, some high-powered lights and live bait to find romance. It also helps if his idea of true love is cold, slimy and has stripes down its side.

Chip Hamilton is the man to talk to about finding the latter kind of true love. A striped-bass fishing guide at Lake Hartwell for 12 years, he looks forward to the "dog days" of summer when the lake's generous population of striped bass pile into the deep channel basin of the Seneca River seeking more comfortable water.

That's the time he goes nocturnal to pursue Hartwell rockfish.

According to a 2001 telemetry study conducted by Dr Jeffrey Isley of Clemson University, movement rates are lowest among striped bass during the peak hot days of summer because of a severe reduction of suitable habitat for the fish. Based upon this study, Isley and his associates found striped bass primarily at the lower embayments of southern reservoirs during summer months.

In addition, several fish implanted with the temperature-sensitive radio transmitters were found seeking refuge in the tailraces of the upstream dams, as well as at thermal refuges at main river channels.

Based upon this information, scientists concluded a large portion of a southern reservoir becomes uninhabitable to striped bass mostly because of hot water temperatures and low dissolved oxygen.

Applying the study's conclusions to S.C. waters, striped-bass anglers have discovered the deeper historic river channels of most southern reservoirs, such as Lake Hartwell, hold the vast majority of striped bass during the hottest part of the summer. Typically this period at Lake Hartwell occurs during July and August.

Many veteran striper anglers may remember the days at Hartwell before blueback herrings became widely established in the lake. Summer fishing was most productive when schooling bass would ball up the lake's native gizzard and threadfin shad and school at the surface for an hour or more each day. Once the dog days of summer arrived, the striped bass were less likely to leave the thermal refuge areas. The result was diminished numbers of fish and those caught were lean and skinny.

Blueback herring, also originally adapted to freshwater from the ocean, prefer close to the same temperature ranges as stripers. Because of this preference, today's rockfish have available forage, even through hot periods. Rather than starve all summer, stripers continue to feed.

Once this transition to the deepest portion of the lake occurs, guide Chip Hamilton uses artificial lights, the brighter the better, to light up his fishing areas.

The motivation behind using lights at night is to draw baitfish to a specific location which in turn draws gamefish such as stripers and catfish.

During recent years, submersible fluorescent lights have grown in popularity with green fluorescent floating lights becoming especially popular. Hamilton, however, is partial to the "old school" of night anglers who depend upon gas-powered generators and electrical lights to draw bait.

In particular, Hamilton prefers using sodium arc lights because he said their illumination penetrates deeper into the water than floating green battery-powered lights.

"When fishing the deep river channels of a major impoundment, water depths can be more than 100 feet, and the bright sodium lights have the capacity of pulling bait from as deep as 60 feet below the surface on a dark night," the Hartwell guide said.

During mid-to-late August, while night fishing, Hamilton said he noticed the deep-water thermocline begins to change. His experiences indicate striped bass and hybrids generally will hold in deeper water during the day but move back up at points, "humps" and deep shoals at night.

"For the last couple of weeks in August and the first couple of weeks in September, the stripers and hybrids will move into 35 to 38 feet of water at night," he said. "I'll set up on them with one anchor out from the front of the boat and give them no more than 30 minutes to come in and start feeding. If I don't get bit within that time, I'll move on to another likely spot."

Because of the likelihood of moving several times during a short time, Hamilton prefers to forgo the generator and bright lights and only use one light. His tactic employs a 50-watt, 12-volt light bulb extended 5 feet above the boat on a pole. This light has several purposes: it benefits the angler, providing illumination to see his rods, retie and re-bait lines, as well as to land fish.

Another benefit is the high-mounted light draws baitfish that concentrate at the boat. The arrangement means, with baitfish attracted to the boat, he doesn't have to wait all night for fish to show up.

"A lot of striper fishermen make the mistake of camping out at one spot all night, afraid to move because they'll lose all their baits under the boat," he said. "Don't do it.

"When the fish begin to move out of the deep pattern in mid August, you need to be on the move and go to the fish rather than wait for them to come to you."

Hamilton said the location of stripers is the deciding factor in deciding where to begin fishing at night.

"When the night bite first starts in mid June, the fish are still shallow, and it's easier to set up on them at mid-lake areas," he said. "I like to target humps, points, shoals or any other sloping feature starting at about 22 feet and tapering off to 40 feet.

"During the summer, I gradually start backing out into deeper water as the fish move deeper."

Hamilton said 40 feet is the magic mark. Once the thermocline moves to 40 feet, it's time to head to the channel. During a normal year, the thermocline hits that level the first of July.

"There's a five- to six-week window from there when the fish go deep, and that's the time to really catch numbers of striped bass and also a good time to put a big fish in the boat," he said.

Hamilton said once the deep pattern starts, he begins to catch striped bass weighing 12 pounds and greater. His best fish to date fishing at night was a 32-pound bruiser caught fishing in nearly 100 feet of water at the mouth of the Seneca River.

When pursuing fish of this size, the veteran guide advised anglers to stay a good distance from standing timber.

"Hartwell's trees were cut off below the surface when the lake was made, and a big striper will lead you right into one when he's hooked," he said.

Hamilton said he prefers to anchor directly above the river channel and fish straight down. Even though anchoring away from standing timber, he makes a point to keep his Garcia 6500 bait-caster reels spooled with at least 20-pound-test Berkley Big Game line. He is also a firm believer in using Shakespeare's 6 ½-foot Striper Ugly Stiks to muscle big fish off the bottom where there's danger of the fish wrapping around structure.

Hamilton and his fishing guide partner, Steve Crenshaw, said by mid August the pattern reverses. That's when the pair again start looking at 30- to 40-foot-deep slopes.

Their choice of bait presentation is a nose-hooked blue- back herring fished with a Carolina rig. When the stripers are in the channel in water as deep as 140 feet, they'll stage rods at 20-foot intervals, beginning at 90 feet and ending at 30-feet deep.

When fishing points, humps and slopes, Hamilton said he drops his baits to the bottom and turns the reel handle two or three cranks to get baits off the bottom.

"It seems the shallow fish zero in on baits by stalking them on the floor of the lake," he said. "Very rarely have I had much success with suspending baits in the water column when they're feeding in less than 40 feet of water."

When asked how he knows when it's time to change from a shallow- to deep-water fishing pattern, Hamilton said he decides by the amount of baitfish. He said when the baitfish become so thick at night he can't distinguish with his fish-finder view screen the stripers from bait schools all the way to the bottom, it's time to move a little deeper.

One technique he employs when encountering this situation is to move the boat down the slope until his graph shows 3 to 4 feet of open space between the baitfish and the bottom.

"It's like the bait is so thick it runs the stripers off," he said.

Hamilton said with all the baits in the area, it may be difficult hard to get a striper's attention. That's why he wants a few feet of clear space below the forage to drop his rigs - that gets them noticed by bottom-hugging stripers.

Once the bait piles up at 40 feet, Hamilton makes the move to deeper water and starts drawing fish with generators and lights. Whether fishing shallow at the humps or deep in the channel, Hamilton said he'll stay up all night to catch America's fastest-growing gamefish.

Because of his devotion to stripers, come hot summer nights, he's usually sleepless in Seneca.