Giant smallmouth active on Jocassee

Longtime trout fisherman Larry Essick recently enjoyed a day of fishing at Lake Jocassee that may have opened his eyes to a whole new species — namely, the smallmouth bass.

Last Tuesday, Essick was trolling for trout on the 7,500-acre mountain reservoir, using downriggers to get his live shiners down to around 65 feet. After a fruitless pass along a ledge, he cut his trolling motor off and prepared to change locations.

“I was getting my boat ready to run and glanced over at my graph, and said, ‘Good Lord, there they are!'” Essick said. “They were piled up right off the bottom in 65 feet of water.”

Essick dropped his trolling motor and passed through the fish again. He got several hits, but no hook-ups. The line that kept getting hit had a larger bait, so he quickly went to larger hooks and the biggest baits he had on hand — 3 1/2 to 4-inch shiners. That did the trick, but his “trout” turned out to be smallmouth bass.

Essick’s first smallmouth weighed 5 pounds, and he proceeded to catch four more fat bronzebacks over the next two hours. The smallest weighed 4 pounds; the largest tipped the scales at 6.12 pounds.

“If I had it to do over again, I could do a lot better,” Essick said. “I broke a few off because I was really putting the pressure on them. I was using 4-pound-test line, so you can imagine how long it was taking to land those fish. I was having fights that lasted eight to 10 minutes.”

Ken Sloan, owner of the nearby Lake Jocassee Outdoor Center (864-944-9016,, said Essick’s afternoon made quite an impression.

“I had never seen a catch of smallmouths like that,” Sloan said. “The barometer dropped about 30 minutes before he started catching them, and he attributed a lot of it to that.”

Indeed, Essick’s timing seemed to be perfect: a falling barometer just before the arrival of a heavy front on an overcast afternoon.

“The smallmouth were unbelievable — fat, full of bait and in great shape,” Essick said. “I’m catching more bass trolling (for trout) this year than I ever have.”

And who knows what lurks in the picturesque, cold-water reservoir? The lake has produced three state-record smallmouths, including the current 9-pound, 7-ounce standard caught in 2001.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply