Sonar is Hartwell anglers’ most-important tool in finding summer stripers, hybrids

Guide Preston Harden looks for July stripers on the lower end of Lake Hartwell and concentrates on finding fish with his electronics.

Lower end of Lake Hartwell is prime area for summer stripers, hybrids

The most-important piece of equipment on the boat of a striper/hybrid fisherman on Lake Hartwell in summer is a good sonar unit, according to Preston Harden of Bucktail Guide Service.

“By July, we are fishing down-lines 30 to 40 feet deep, and your electronics come into play a lot more,” he said. “You don’t see surface activity by July, so you have got to be able to find the fish. It’s more like hunting the fish, and I don’t fish until I see them on my sonar.”

Harden (706-255-5622) said stripers and hybrids start congregating in the lower part of the lake this  month.

“By late June, the thermocline has pushed the fish down the rivers towards the lower lake, and all the big fish have moved into the lower basin,” he said.

Harden uses two tactics to target fish in July and August: live bait on down lines in deep water and power-reeling lures such as big swimbaits and big spoons. If you are fishing live herring on down lines, the key is to keep the bait alive, he said

“It’s very important to put ice in the water in your live tank, and when you drop a live herring in the water, you need to get the bait down quickly into the deeper water before it dies,” he said.

Power-reeling, he explained, is working a bit swimbait or tear-drop spoon up and down through the fish when they are ganged up in the deep water.

“I like to use a 1-ounce jighead with a 5-inch paddletail swimbait,” he said. “The 8-inch and 10-inch Ben Parker spoons are really popular for striper fishing, and the bass fishermen use them, too,” he said. “When the water gets warm, they will hit a big bait. It’s just a reaction bite when you are reeling it through them.”

Striper and hybrid fishing prospects in Lake Hartwell are outstanding, Harden said.

“Hartwell has the numbers of fish,” he said. “They (Georgia and South Carolina wildlife agencies) have loaded the lake up in response to fish kills.”

Harden said that while numbers of the bigger stripers appear to be down, 8- to 10-pound fish are common, and a 30-pounder was recently caught.

“Hartwell might not be the spot right now for a trophy fish, but it is the place to come for lots of 5-, 6- and 7-pound hybrids,” he said.