Catching Lake Russell’s post-spawn stripers

Preston Harden mainly fishes down lines to catch Lake Russell’s stripers this month, but he said topwater lures can also be effective. (Picture by Pat Robertson)

Lake Russell’s stripers feed heavily in May to recover from their spawn

The annual attempt by stripers to spawn in Lake Russell is about over in May, according to veteran guide Preston Harden. But the fish are still up shallow and they feed hard on blueback herring, especially early in the day.

“They have not grouped up and moved out to deeper water in May. That transition will come in June and that pattern pretty much holds true for all the big lakes like Hartwell, Russell and Clarks Hill. That’s when the thermocline starts to form in the shallower creeks and pulls them out into the main lake.”

Harden said May striper fishing is primarily down line fishing, but he also always keeps out a couple of freelines with live blueback herring for bait. It’s also an excellent time for topwater artificials, he added.

“By May I put away my flukes and bucktail jigs and tie on a Lucky Craft Sammy in ghost minnow pattern and I keep that Sammy tied on until the end of October. Anytime you see something blow up on the surface you need to have that topwater plug ready.”

When the water is calm, Harden said he “walks the dog” with the Sammy. But when the surface is choppy he switches to a Lucky Craft Gunfish which features a cupped mouth that allows for splashing and spitting action to attract a strike in the rippling water.

“The blueback herring are the key. And you want your artificials to imitate a blueback as much as possible,” Harden said. “The ghost minnow pattern looks just like a blueback herring.”

By the end of the month and into June the fish will be moving out on the main lake and schooling in deeper water to escape the warming temperatures, he said. The down line pattern will prevail then right on through the summer.

Harden guides on Lakes Russell and Hartwell. Check out his website and his Facebook page. To book a trip, email him at or call him at (706) 255-5622.

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