Go deep with live bait for summer spots
Spotted bass are voracious feeders, but when the water in South Carolina’s Lake Russell begins simmering in the August heat, even they can get a little finicky.
The key to catching them, according to guide Jerry Kotal, is live bait. It may be anathema to purists, but it puts fish in the boat.
“The bass will be down in the 20- to 30-foot range, mostly over brush piles and treetops,” said Kotal (706-988-0860). You can sometimes catch some out over an open bottom. But most of the time they will be hanging around some structure.
“The hotter it gets, the deeper they go,” he said. “Normally, you can catch them in that 20- to 30-foot range, especially early in the morning. But when it gets super hot, you have to go deeper.”
You have to find the fish first, he said. That means riding slowly over the underwater structure, looking for fish on the sonar.
Electronic depth-finders are essential this time of year
“That is the most important piece of equipment on the boat this time of year,” he said. “If you locate them in the timber, stop and fish really slow until you find a school of fish. Usually, you will catch a good many together.”
Kotal uses a Carolina rig when fishing minnows and 4- to 5-inch blueback herring for bait. He’ll slide a sinker on, tie on a barrel swivel, then a 2-foot leader.
“Just drop the bait down to the fish. If he is there and he wants it, he is going to come get it,” Kotal said. “If they are all the way down in the timber, you can only go to the top and try to get the fish to come up out of the brush to get it. If you are using something like a drop shot, you can get all the way down into the timber. But it’s hard to do that with live bait and an open hook.”
August catches will be spots and an occasional largemouth, but with live bait, you can add white perch, catfish and sometimes even a striped bass, he said.
“I have also caught some crappie fishing this way, but we use a really big bait for crappie to take. I have caught some 2- and 3-pound crappie on that herring. But you have to let the fish eat it, let him bury the rod tip,” said Kotal, who said anglers need sunblock, an umbrella and plenty of cold water on trips this time of year.