Topwater action on Lake Hartwell bass may sound surprising for summer fishing, but fish can be coaxed to the surface, even on the hottest days.
August is never a fun time to be outdoors in South Carolina, that is, unless you really like offering yourself to the sun gods or the fish are biting on Lake Hartwell.
Contrary to many opinions, the dog days of summer can be ideal conditions for catching good limits of largemouth or spotted bass on Hartwell, especially if you know where to find them, which, as we all know, is 90% of catching fish any time of the year.
Chase Simmemon of Westminster, S.C., a competitive angler who fishes several tournament circuits, fishes Hartwell regularly and has developed a pattern of bringing big bass to the boat. One of his best tactics is targeting bass over deeper water that many anglers avoid.
“I’ll fish right in the middle of the lake,” he said. “I like to find brush piles in the deep water where no one else looks.”
“Finding brush piles is important, and often you can only get one or maybe two fish off these brush piles, but they are a great summer bite.”
Afternoon finally came, and Simmemon switched to his bread-and-butter: a drop-shot rig. Drop-shots are nothing new to the fishing world, but few anglers are as consistent with it as is Simmemon. By lowering his bait into these brush piles, he is able to bring fish out of these deep-water holes.
“My rig is pretty simple,” Simmemon said. “I like either a 6-foot-6 or a 7-foot, medium-action spinning rod and a spinning reel with 15-pound braid with about 10 feet of 7-pound fluorocarbon. I like a straight-shank 1/0 hook.
“If I am in heavy brush, I’ll almost always Texas-rig my 4-inch worm. If the cover is not very thick, I like to expose the hook, with the hook through the nose of the worm.”
Simmemon stars with natural colors.
“Green, pumpkinseed and watermelon are always good places to start and go from there,” he said.
Another tactic that produces bits is retrieving hard baits very slowly across the tops of the brush piles. One class of baits that works is a spybait, a 3- to 5-inch hard bait with front and rear propellors that sinks about a foot per second. Cast it beyond the brush pile and allow it to sink, counting it down to the desired depth, then reel it back as slowly as you can.
“When you think you are reeling slow enough, slow down,” Simmemon said.
It’s not a difficult technique, even for a relatively inexperienced angler. Cast the bait, let it sink, retrieve. Fish suspended near the tops of brush pile are likely to give it a look as it slowly cruises over the brush. Jerkbaits that will dive down 5 to 10 feet will also work.
Simmemon said that because blueback herring are a primary baitfish in Hartwell, you can throw out just about everything you know about bass fishing. When it’s hot, clear and still, bass will suspend over brush piles because of the way herring travel and feed. Bass will react to them and set up in different ways than they set up on lakes where shad are the primary batifish.
Plenty of anglers like to fish early and late, and the fishing is awesome during these times, but as Simmemon points out, “If it’s a sunny day, the higher the sun gets, the better the fishing. If I had to fish only four hours, I’d pick 10 (a.m.) to 2 (p.m.) for the best fishing.”
HOW TO GET THERE — Lake Hartwell straddles the border between Georgia and South Carolina on the Savannah, Tugaloo and Seneca rivers. The best access is via I-85 to areas around Clemson and Anderson. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, local governments, South Carolina and Georgia maintain boating facilities around the lake. For information visit: http://www.sas.usace.army.mil/About/Divisions-and-Offices/Operations-Division/Hartwell-Dam-and-Lake/Plan-A-Visit/Boating/
WHEN TO GO — Bass head to deep water on Lake Hartwell shortly after the spring spawn. The deep-water, brush pile pattern cranks up in mid-summer when the weather and water really warm up. It will last until bass leave main-lake areas and follow baitfish back into creeks, typically in September.
BEST TECHNIQUES — Fish a variety of topwater baits over the top of deep brush piles to start the day, then move to drop-shot rigs with 4-inch worms and spybaits later in the day to pick fish off that are hanging around the brush.
FISHING INFO/GUIDES — Lake Hartwell Fishing and Marine, 864-287-9782. See also Guides and Charters in Classifieds.
ACCOMMODATIONS — Lake Hartwell Country, www.crownofthecarolinas.org/where-to-stay; Anderson Convention and Visitors Bureau, www.visitanderson.com/Lake-Hartwell;
MAPS — Kingfisher Maps, 800-326-0257, www.kfmaps.com.