How to catch winter spotted bass in Lake Russell

Lake Russell spits out plenty of nice spotted bass, even during the winter.
Lake Russell spits out plenty of nice spotted bass, even during the winter.

Fish move to creeks or very deep in cold weather

Although an occasional largemouth will show up in the bag, winter bass fishing on South Carolina’s Lake Russell is mainly for spotted bass, according to guide Jerry Kotal of Elberton, Ga.

“By January, if we don’t have a warm winter, the bass will probably be in the creeks or out on drops in the main river. We will be catching them from 30 to 60 feet deep,” said Kotal.

Locating bait is the key to catching Russell bass this time of year, he said. A graph is a necessity to locate the baitfish, primarily threadfin shad — although there are also some blueback herring in the lake, too.

“You just have to get out there and look to see where the bait is,” Kotal said. “That’s a big range to cover, but that’s the way those spots are. You might catch them shallow sometime, but the rest of the time, they will be out there 60 feet deep. Once you find the bait, you should be able to catch the fish on jigging spoons and drop-shots.”

Kotal (706-988-0860) likes a 5/8-ounce jigging spoon, either chrome or white with reflective tape. Sometimes, he will go with a ¾-ounce spoon. He said the brand doesn’t matter.

Cast and jerk

“I use various spoons. I like a Hopkins Spoon and one called a Carolina Special. Just cast it and let it hit the bottom, then jerk it up,” he said. “Normally, the fish will hit it on the fall, but if you see them on the graph and they are suspended, just reel up to the depth they are in and start jigging.”

For a drop-shot, Kotal rigs with a finesse worm in green, light brown, green pumpkin or watermelon.

“Just drop it down to the fish and shake it in front of them,” he said. “Barely twitch the rod tip, just enough to make the worm move.”

If his guide party is not adept at this type of fishing, Kotal uses a live minnow instead of the finesse worm on the drop-shot rig, he said.

“On Russell, I fish the drop-shot on 12-pound line, because the water is not real clear,” Kotal said. “But on Keowee, which is much clearer, I will fish it on 8-pound line.”

Whichever technique he uses, Kotal said a good day on the lake can produce upwards of 100 bass, anywhere from 1 to 4 pounds and occasionally one up to 5 pounds. Plus, anglers catch plenty of bonus species, he said.

“You’ll catch just about everything in the lake, including perch, stripers and catfish along with the bass.”