Clarks Hill hybrids, stripers alive

For a mixture of big stripers and hybrids, Dudley will work clay points north of Hickory Knob State Park.

Fish extreme upper and lower ends of the huge lake for best results

Fishing for striped bass and hybrids on South Carolina’s Clarks Hill Lake in early May matches the action in April, with the best opportunity for success near the dams on the lower and upper ends of the lake, according to guide Tommy Dudley of Plum Branch, Ga.

Two distinct patterns work, he said, both associated with the dams that define the lake — Thurmond Dam at Clarks Hill and Russell Dam at the upper end of the lake.

“This time of year, we are traditionally down at the dam on the lower end of the lake — in the big water — early in the day, then pulling off later in the day and getting into the ditches and hills, catching fish on downlines in 30 to 40 feet of water. We catch fish from the dam up to the Parksville area,” said Dudley (706-833-4807), who added that plenty of fishermen have that same idea, so getting to your spot very, very early and fishing in the dark — before the crowd show up — may increase your catches.

“Fishing in front of the dam, I pull baits slowly, with freelines on planer boards and on downlines 10 to 20 feet down. If you mark suspended fish, go back to that spot, especially if you catch some fish when you cross it. Then, just put down rods out,” he said.

“The fish may be suspended 20 to 40 feet down, so put you lines down at different levels. Sometimes, when you get on a spot like that, you can put some bait down and get fish feeding under the boat and then catch numbers of fish.”

Pulling bait will usually provide a better chance of catching bigger fish, he said, but there won’t be numbers of fish that way, and that tactic plays out pretty quickly once the sun gets up.

“The top end of the lake is not as hot as it used to be, but if I want to catch a big fish, that is where I go. You just have to be up there when they are generating power. You can get on almost any clay point above Hickory Knob (State Park) and anchor or just pull up on the bank and throw out live and cut bait on the bottom.”

Later in the morning, he said he will pull off and get on underwater humps in 20 to 30 feet of water and fish downrods.

“Look for big birds like blue herons on the edges of the islands and blowthroughs. There will be baitfish spawning there, and you can catch fish on downlines or by pulling bait through the blowthroughs,” Dudley said.

But May is a transition month, and the pattern that worked from April through early May will change as the water warms, he said. By the latter part of the month, the false spawn is over, and fish have moved out into deeper water.

“The fish will get more in the midsection of the lake around the primary junctions with the creek channels in 30 to 50 feet of water. We will be fishing all live bait then, almost all on downlines,” Dudley said.