Preston Harden admits right off the bat that he might be biased.
“Fishing really gets cranked up on Hartwell in May,” said Harden, who runs Bucktail Guide Service from his Commerce, Ga., home. “I might be partial, but I think it is the best striper/hybrid fishing lake there is. We are just getting hot with schools of fish everywhere now — and Hartwell has some really big stripers.”
Harden said the lake appears to have many more hybrids than stripers, thanks to heavy stocking the past three or four years. And there is a really big bonus: spotted bass are prolific, and they are feeding in the same areas, on the same baitfish, as the stripers and hybrids.
“Fish are easy to catch shallow on artificials early and late in the day, and if you can get near them and present a lively blueback herring, you can catch them really quick. They won’t turn it down,” he said.”
Harden (706-255-5622) usually fishes with jigs while the water is cool, but when it begins to warm in May, he likes to throw a topwater lure.
“If they won’t commit to a Lucky Craft Sammy, I will throw a Sebile Magic Swimmer. The nickname for that one is the ‘White Lady,” he said. “The one I like to use is white, and it is slow-sinking. Just reel it under the surface and keep it wobbling. Sometimes, when they just won’t quite commit to a topwater lure, they will eat that Sebile.”
Even a non-expert can work the Sebile.
“Anybody can do it. You don’t have to ‘walk the dog.’ Just throw it out and reel it back under the surface.”
One sure way to put stripers and hybrids in the boat this month is to give them a blueback herring for lunch.
“If you can get a blueback near one in May, he is going to eat it. Work them on free-lines early, and then on down-lines as it gets later in the morning,” he said. “The fish are actively feeding in May, and the early morning bite is usually the best. They might go a little deeper, especially in the middle of the day, as the month progresses. They really start transitioning to deeper water in June.”
The only problem with fishing for stripers and hybrids — if it is really a problem — is that you can’t catch the stripers and hybrids because the spotted bass won’t leave you alone, Harden said.
In May, he said, stripers and hybrids hang around shoals, humps and points, and the spotted bass are taking over those areas, too.