Fishing Creek Lake may be small and isolated, but the fishing can simply be awesome. Not only is the lake productive for overall numbers of largemouths, but the pocket-sized, Duke Power reservoir is also a real dynamo for big bass.
The key to success is understanding the how's, when's and where's for fishing this lake during June.
Not too many fishing tournaments are held there, but if you're looking for a fun lake that's loaded with bass, Fishing Creek can be an ideal situation.
Tom White of Wedgefield is a veteran fisherman who has fared extremely well in tournaments throughout the Lowcountry and Midlands. For years, his primary "home waters" were the Santee Cooper lakes of Marion and Moultrie, as well as Lake Wateree. He still fishes these places, but the desire to find some isolated water and quality bass fishing lured him to Fishing Creek Lake several years ago. What he found was quality and quantity.
"My first impression of Fishing Creek Lake was that it appeared to be a simple-to- understand body of water," White said. "However, a deeper look has shown it is also complex in terms of the tremendous variety of cover and structure situations available to bass fishermen.
"First, the lake is a bit remote," White said. "Also, it has the unique characteristics of both lake and river fishing situations combined into one body of water. But for me, that's a good type of complexity. It simply gives me more choices of fishing tactics that may work on a day-to-day basis. Many fishing trips in the past several years, plus conversations with other fishermen, have proven me right on my initial instincts regarding this lake.
"First, it can be successfully fished as a simple object or target fishing lake," White said. "This lake is loaded with visible targets of opportunity. Plus, it's got plenty of underwater structure in terms of points, drops, humps and ledges. In addition, because the lake is fairly small, current can be a key factor to consider when fishing here. That one additional factor does make the situation more complex."
White said his first trip to Fishing Creek was to just check it out and see if it appealed to his style of fishing.
"I was looking for a place less hammered than larger bodies of water," White said. "I felt the location and size would limit the number of fishermen I would encounter. In one sense, I was right; the lake is less pressured during the weekdays. But you can still expect to encounter a number of bass fishermen on the weekend. However, the quality of the bass fishing did surprise me, and after taking some time to learn the do's and don'ts of this lake, the bass fishing is indeed excellent."
Indeed it is. In his career, White has caught eight fish that weighed better than 10 pounds, and the biggest, a 12-pounder, came from Fishing Creek.
According to White, the lake also produces good numbers of fish as well. However, there are some unique characteristics that he suggests for newcomers, some of which would be good advice for veteran Fishing Creek anglers.
Plus, it's important to understand the size and general dynamics of this lake. It's a very old Duke Power lake, built in 1916. It covers 3,370 surface acres of water, with 36 miles of shoreline. Granted, it is not a huge lake, but it's still plenty big enough for big bass rigs, and Duke Power statistics indicate the water depth at the dam to be about 60 feet.
"The very first thing I would recommend to anyone fishing this lake is to be very careful on their first few trips," White said. "There are underwater stumps and shallow humps scattered throughout the lake. The lake does have a main channel run from the Catawba River, but there are large flats littered with stumps throughout. Once you learn the deep water routes, you can run a big rig safely, but boating safety is certainly something that should be at the top of the list on learning this lake."
White said there are a number of patterns that will produce during June.
"I love to fish a plastic worm," White said. The plastic worm is my forte, and almost all of the bass fishing tournaments I have won were by fishing the plastic worm - in one form or another. However, I am not so hardheaded as to not pick up tips and techniques from others.
"On one of my early trips to the lake, I was fishing in Cane Creek, one of the few significant-sized creeks on the lake. I saw a spinnerbait hanging high in a tree, and I just happened to have a long-handled lure retriever," he said. "When I inspected the lure, I noted it was a ¼-ounce spinnerbait with a willow-leaf blade. My fishing partner thought I was crazy, but I tied that lure on and started fishing it. I soon asked him to grab the net, and the first fish that spinnerbait produced weighed 8 pounds and 2 ounces. The spinnerbait is now a favored lure of mine here as well as the worm. It pays to learn from local anglers."
White said one of the problems many bass fishermen have with the lake is there is simply so much good-looking water for bass fishing.
Sam Johnson of Sumter agrees and adds that anglers working Fishing Creek need to visualize the underwater contours.
"There are stumps everywhere, and I'm sure there are some fish around the random stump fields," Johnson said. "But I've found that to produce consistent action, it's best to look for areas that have underwater bottom contour changes in addition to the woody cover. Specifically, I'm talking about drops, ledges, humps and other changes in the bottom contour of the lake."
"If a person likes shallow-water bass fishing, then the late-May and June time period is a great time to be at Fishing Creek," Johnson said. "Generally, the water temperature will warm a bit slower than Lake Wateree, the next big lake downstream on the Catawba River system."
"I fish Wateree a lot, and when the topwater and other shallow-water fishing action starts to slow there, you can move up here and still enjoy excellent shallow-water action.
Johnson says he's got a fairly specific pattern for fishing during June.
"I'll begin shallow with topwater lures - usually a buzzbait," Johnson said. "I can cover a lot of territory very effectively. Plus, it's a great bait for hooking really big largemouth. I'll typically work the stump flats near deeper water first. The actually water I'm fishing may be quite shallow, but I like to have some 8- to 10-foot depths nearby."
Johnson said he will also use a Texas rigged worm with a very light sinker, as well as a weightless trick worm around the woody debris early in the morning.
"As the morning progresses, I'll start working points as well," Johnson said. "I'll use lipless bait such as a Rat-L-Trap and cast it across the point and smoke it back across. The fish usually load on when the lure skims over the shallow part of the point. Usually right after I feel it dig into the point, I'll get the bite."
Even during June, Johnson said he doesn't have to go deep during mid-day. He will switch to deeper diving crankbaits and Texas or Carolina rigged worms.
"I'll fish some of the more pronounced points that drop into deeper water," Johnson said. "I'll pull a Carolina worm rig and switch back and forth with crankbaits that run in the 6- to 10-foot depth range.
According to Johnson, the action returns to the shallows again later in the day. He'll typically base his lure selection on what's been working best during the day.
"One given for me is that I'm probably going to fish a Pop-R topwater on the points," Johnson said. "I may also use a floating worm or a light Texas rigged worm. But the evenings seem to be really productive with the popper type of surface bait."
White has some specific patterns that are especially effective on the big bass he prefers to target.
"By June, the big bass are beginning to move back from the very shallow water in terms of being there for long periods of time," he said. "I still catch good fish in shallow water, but I begin to relate to areas with deeper water access as the month progresses. I expand my fishing depth down to about 12 feet. Because of the specific techniques I use, I seldom fish deeper than that. But during June, you don't have to fish real deep to make good catches. However, I believe it is important to have deeper water close by."
White said there are several different patterns he will employ in June. One of his favorites is to fish the larger creeks, particular if there has been some rain and there is some flow to the water in the creeks.
"I like to find some dingy water, especially when the water temperature is beginning to rise like it will during June," White said. "Cane Creek in the upper portion of the lake and Bear Creek on the lower end of the lake can be very good during this time. A good thundershower will usually get some coloration in the water and it seems to put the bass in the feeding mode."
"Cane Creek is really one of my favorite places," White said. "The creek is narrow but goes a long way and provides some very good fishing opportunities. It is not a large creek in terms of width, so be careful motoring up and down this creek. I'll catch fish far up the creek where many other boats simply won't go. Even though I'm fishing shallow water, the old creek channel still has pockets of deeper water along the way. Plus, there are some areas that widen out and can produce sensational shallow water fishing. These are the places to key your efforts on."
"Another good June pattern is to fish the points in the lower end of the lake," White said. "There are a lot of stumps along the shoreline, but I've found the stump points seem to produce the most consistent results. Also, the small cuts and pockets along the steep shoreline are also very good during this time of the year. This is another situation where the fish may be in relatively shallow water, but the deep water is close by."
According to White, when fishing points, pockets or any type of structure, always fish against the current.
"This body of water has both river and lake characteristics, and this is one of the keys to consistent success for big fish," White said. "I've found the fishing is definitely better when there is some current in the lake. The lake is small enough that when the power company is pulling water through the lake, there will a definite current. I've always found the fishing better during these time periods.
"While I'm a believer in getting on the lake before dawn during June, in reality, current is more important than being there early or late," White said. "Also, I always point my boat upstream and work my lure back in that manner, regardless of the lure being used. When there is current, the fish are generally facing upstream, into the current. Thus, they will see the lure and presentation as you work the lure back toward the direction they are facing. The fishing success on Fishing Creek is much more dependent on subtle, but very important, strategies such as this."
White said his favorite lure is the plastic worm. His favored colors are red shad with green flake, junebug with green glitter and junebug with the tail dipped in chartreuse Spike-It, Dip-n-Glo.
"That's my bread-and-butter lure for this lake," he said. "But I certainly use other lures as well. Early in the morning, I often start with a buzzbait or Bang-O-Lure (another discovery White made by retrieving a lost lure in the bushes) and by twitching a Shad Rap; I also keep a willow-leaf spinnerbait handy.
"Many times I'll fish the buzzbait or spinnerbait over some cover, and then follow up with the plastic worm on the same place until I can determine a pattern for the day. Fish the areas you work thoroughly, and don't totally rely on just one single lure to get the job done. As is the case anywhere, there's always more than one way to catch a bass, and while the weightless or Texas-rigged plastic worms are my favorites, some days the spinnerbait, buzzbait or Shad Rap are more effective," he said.
While the lake has the potential to be very productive, both White and Johnson agree that patience is the key to success.
According to Johnson, the lake can be finicky and tough.
"If you stick with this lake for a while, it will generally produce," Johnson said. "You'll have slow periods during the day, but that's pretty much the norm anywhere. But sometime during the day, the lake usually turns on. If you're fishing in an effective manner when that occurs, you'll get in on some excellent action."
White added that the rewards of patience can be found in hawg-sized bass as well as in overall good numbers of largemouth bass.
If you're looking for something a bit different, but still very productive, Fishing Creek may be just right for you. Just get on this lake, point your boat into the current, and start chunking.