Tighten up on Santee’s September bass

Excellent topwater action can be enjoyed by working around heavy cover on the Santee Cooper lakes this month.

Narrow your search, make your casts count

September may not be the most-productive month for bass fishing, but for many anglers, it’s a vastly overlooked opportunity.

Both Lake Marion and Lake Moultrie have scads of areas where prime conditions for excellent fishing exist. And the upper end of Lake Marion checks all the “must-have” boxes.

Guide Brett Mitchell said the word “tight” fits several of the requirements for a successful bass-fishing adventure during late August and September.

Where are they?

Mitchell said bass may be on multiple patterns for much of the year. And fishing heavy, vegetative cover in the upper end of Lake Marion is a strong pattern right now.

“Both lakes will have bass on this basic pattern, but the upper end of Lake Marion, from Pack’s Flats down to Jack’s Creek, has an abundance of quality habitat,” Mitchell said. “Bass are going to be holding close, ‘tight’ if you will, to heavy cover in water from 3 to 7 feet deep. An abundance of cover exists. The enormous amount of eye-appealing territory is huge. (But) anglers can eliminate much of the water.”

Mitchell narrows his search to smaller targets within the big picture of acres of cover. Long stretches of weeds or solid growth on the surface are low-priority targets. He prefers isolated clumps of cover with open holes as well as points, pockets and any irregularities along the edges.

Other high-priority targets are places where different types of weeds or cover meet and mingle.

“Bass like opportunities where they can lie in wait and ambush prey. And these places are ideal situations for that to occur,” he said.

Mitchell fishes a variety of aquatic vegetation, including lily pads, crested floating heart and isolated cypress trees.

“Bass move to different areas based on the daily weather,” he said. “The big picture target is still applicable. But the small, tight-focus area for success may vary.”

The right lures for bass

Mitchell will employ topwater baits like Pop Rs and Booyah frogs, plus soft plastics such as 5-inch trick worms in junebug color. Swimbaits are not well-suited for this type of fishing. But anglers should have one ready when topwater schooling action occurs within casting range.

“Another thing I like about this time of year is I can experiment with multiple lures on any given day,’ he said. “Depending on the specific cover and depth, anything from topwater lures to bottom bumpers can be very effective.”

Mitchell said working frogs and similar lures through matted, dense cover and over open holes in matted grass are lethal at times.

“As September progresses, we’ll see more and more surface activity,” he said. “However, soft plastics fished into tight places are often my go-to baits because of their versatility.”

Tight casts can make or break the day

Mitchell said another crucial “tight” factor is casting ability. The window of opportunity for a bite from a big bass is often very small. And the ability to consistently place the lure on target is crucial.

Isolation therapy: In lakes with an overabundance of visible cover, like Lake Marion and Lake Moultrie, try to locate pieces of cover that stand apart, either by location or type. Fall bass key in on these kinds of spots.

“I’ve seen times when I consistently catch bass throughout the day with extremely accurate casts,” he said. “But if the target is missed by even 6 inches, you’d never know an opportunity was missed.

“The difference between a productive trip to perhaps only hooking a couple of bass is directly linked to casting accuracy,” he said. “Big bass are still in play at this time of the year. And while not a lot of double-digit trophy bass are taken, the opportunity to catch multiple 5- to 7-pound bass is realistic. And Santee Cooper has the potential to produce a trophy bass any time of the year.”

Accurate casting is a big help

Mitchell said his experience has shown accurate casts on the right targets trigger more bites from big fish than a near miss. And simply hooking more bass improves the odds of doing battle with bigger bass.

“The big picture of bass fishing at this time of the year is targeting large expanses of heavy cover. But by focusing on small, specific targets, you vastly improve your odds,” he said. “Bass patterns change daily with varying conditions. But when you find an area with bass, you’ve likely found a place worth investing time.

“Finally, even if you need to practice at home between trips, learn to cast the right lure precisely to your target,” he said.

Tighten your big-picture search to target small windows of opportunity, understand that bass prefer specific cover suited to daily weather and water conditions, and shrink your casting miscues from close to miniscule misses.

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Terry Madewell
About Terry Madewell 719 Articles
Award-winning writer and photographer Terry Madewell of Ridgeway, S.C., has been an outdoors writer for more than 30 years. He has a degree in wildlife and fisheries management and has a long career as a professional wildlife biologist/natural resources manager.