Big changes coming to Lake Wateree

Get in on the hot bass bite this month before Duke Energy drops Wateree’s water level in November. (Picture by Dearal Rodgers)

Duke Energy’s dam project will lower Wateree’s lake level.

October of 2022 will be the last time people can fish in Lake Wateree under normal conditions for more than a year. But it could be beneficial because it will provide an opportunity to study the lake bottom in the areas exposed by the lower water level.

Duke Energy plans to draw the lake down to make modifications to Wateree Dam. The project could last 14 to 16 months, possibly longer.

The lake level is expected to drop 6 to 7 feet during the project which is expected to begin this November. As of Oct. 15, the lake was at 97 percent full pool.

“This will be a good time to look at the lake bottom that is exposed and learn things that will help fishing when the lake comes back up,” said veteran bass angler Dearal Rodgers of Camden.

Rodgers, who grew up fishing on Lake Wateree, said it also might help with a situation that has developed with black scum in the lake.

“That scum is in the coves and in a lot of spawning areas. Hopefully, the drawdown will cause it to dry up and it will be gone when the lake comes back up.”

Rodgers said this October will be a good time to experience great fall fishing on the lake before the levels recede.

“Look for the bait because the bass will be where the shad are,” he said. The shad can move for various reasons, he said, laterally and vertically up and down in the water column.

Find the bait, find the bass

“Whatever the reason, this time of year finding the bait is essential,” he said. “The bass will move with the bait and suspend around the bait, staging on whatever cover is available – stumps, rocks, grass, brushpiles, docks, even a PVC pole.”

Rodgers noted bass will also suspend and baits need to be worked in the upper levels of the water column.

“Topwater baits like a Pop-R or a Sammy are good. Spinnerbaits also work well because they are versatile and can be reeled in that upper level of the water column. Square-billed crankbaits also do very well.”

Another element to take into consideration when the fish are suspended is sunlight, Rodgers said.

“When fish are suspended like that they will use shade as cover. If there is shade on one side, like a dock or a stump they usually will be in the shaded area, so you want your bait to come through that shaded area,” he said.

“A Shakey Head worm is a good bait to use that time of year. I use a Spot Remover with a 1/8- to 1/16-ounce head, usually with a dark blue or black grape-colored trick worm.”

A potential advantage to the drawdown, he said, is that it could concentrate the fish into smaller areas and they might be easier to find. As the lake level returns to normal, anglers can use what they learned about the lake bottom to mark key structure and cover sites for better bass fishing, Rodgers said.

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