The earlier, the better for Wateree River stripers
The Wateree River is the place to be early mornings in April for catching stripers. Jason Wolfe of Wolfe’s Guide Service said anglers should start as early as possible.
“I like getting on the water when it’s still dark,” he said. “I get just below the area with the largest collection of boulders. I’ll anchor down there within casting distance of the bank, and I’ll cast a Cotton Cordell Redfin wake bait along the bank. Any spot that provides a break in the current is a place to cast.”
Wolfe said cuts in the bank, oddly placed boulders, downed trees or any kind of debris gives stripers a place to rest out of the heavy current. They like to hang out on the downcurrent side of these objects and will ease into the current to ambush baitfish that are swimming or getting washed past.
“After you’ve been anchored a few minutes, stripers will also set up behind the boat. Any place they can find a break from the current, they’ll hold tight there in the early morning,” said Wolfe (803-487-3690).
Once the sun provides good visibility, Wolfe pulls the anchor and heads upriver into the big collection of rocks and boulders.
Jet drive outboards are essential on this section of the river
“You really need a jet drive on your outboard to maneuver in these shoals up close to the Wateree Dam,” he said. “And you’ve got to keep an eye on the river levels. Any time they open or close a floodgate, it impacts the river level tremendously. It’s a great hot spot for stripers this month, as long as you have the right equipment and pay careful attention.”
In this area, Wolfe again looks for breaks in the current — and they are much easier to find. Every boulder or collection of rocks provides resting spots for stripers. He sticks with a Redfin and casts into eddies and slack water provided by those current breaks.
Wolfe suggests good baitcasting gear, including a high-capacity reel. He uses 20- to 25-pound line and prefers a 4-inch Redfin. He said a steady retrieve is usually the best. April is one of his favorite months because the stripers swim upriver to spawn. Wateree Dam stops their movement, so this is where the fish wait.
Recent ramp closures mean very little fishing pressure
“These fish are looking to spawn this time of year, but it’s not quite warm enough. They run upriver and just hang out until the water temperature gets just right. So they are here in big numbers and they are hungry,” he said.
Wolfe said right now, only one boat ramp is available due to the COVID-19 pandemic. And that ramp is for guides and commercial fishermen only. So access to the river has never been more limited.
“The fishing is unbelievable right now, and the fish are getting very little pressure. Few people can fish this river right now because of the ramp situation and because you must have a jet-drive outboard to access this area,” he said.
The fishing is so good that some of Wolfe’s recent clients have booked another trip with him before even getting off the boat.