Lake Wateree bream are biting, but not where you think

Katie Lamb and Jessica Bowne show off the type of panfish anglers can catch this month from the deep water near the dam at Lake Wateree.

Forget the shallows and go deep this time of year

Anglers can catch bream in South Carolina’s Lake Wateree pretty much year-round, but September can be special for those looking for something a little different from panfish.

Cal Rogers of Rembert, S.C., said this is the time of year is when he catches bream in deep water.

“I started catching bream in deep water by accident about 10 years ago while fishing for catfish near the dam. I was using night crawlers and kept getting lots of hits but wasn’t hooking anything. I scaled down the size of my hook and started catching big bream,” he said.

Rogers puts in at the Buck Hill boat landing on the Lugoff side of the lake, which is just a stone’s throw from the dam.

“From the landing, you can see the dam and every stretch of water that you’ll catch bream in. You don’t even have to crank the outboard,” he said.

Rogers likes to use as little weight as possible, but he said it usually takes at least one-half ounce to get his bait to the bottom, which ranges from 35 to 65 feet deep.

“If they’re running a lot of water through the dam, you’ll have to go even bigger on the weight, because you’re sitting right in front of the dam, and the water you’re fishing is getting pulled hard,” he said. “I really think they bite better when they’re running some water, but I would rather fish when they aren’t because it’s just a little easier to keep your bait in one spot without having to use so much weight that you can’t feel the bites.”

And while most anglers believe shellcrackers are the only panfish that live that deep, Rogers said he catches a mixture of them and bluegills.

“The first ones I caught were shellcrackers, but as I started using crickets and wax worms instead of night crawlers, I began catching bluegills right alongside the shellcrackers,” Rogers said. “I like to use multiple rods pretty much like catfishing, and I’ll use night crawlers on a couple of rods and crickets or wax worms on a couple. If you pay close attention and the water isn’t running too strong, you’ll be able to pinpoint where you’ll catch a bluegill and where you’ll hook a shellcracker. They stay close to one another, but it’s like they stay beside each other instead of mixed in,.”

Rogers uses a Carolina rig, and he prefers to use a light- to medium-action rod with a 1000 series spinning reel. He spools up with 10-pound line and uses No. 6 hooks.

“You’ll get some funny looks from the catfishermen, but once they see what you’re catching, they can’t help but start asking questions. It’s a fun way to catch bream, and I’ve never had much luck doing it this way outside of September and October,” Rogers said.

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Brian Cope is the editor of Carolina Sportsman. He has won numerous awards for his writing, photography, and videography. He is a retired Air Force combat communications technician, and has a B.A. in English Literature from the University of South Carolina. You can reach him at