Lake Hartwell’s dog days stripers

This big striper was caught on a Palmetto Flutter Spoon. (Photo by Glenn “Teach” Corley)

How to catch Lake Hartwell’s summer stripers

During the dog days of summer, fishing is always tough. 

Striper fisherman on Lake Hartwell know that the stripers are down by the dam. But the trick is trying to get them to bite when the weather is hot.

Rick Cain of Lady Blue Adventures knows how to catch these hot weather fish by dropping a Palmetto Flutter Spoon to the bottom. Then he power cranks the spoon back up really hard. Cain is looking for the reaction strike with the big spoon. 

Stripers congregate near the dam during hot weather because of the deeper water, cooler water temperatures, and the presence of the bait, blueback herring. Cain said that stripers are constantly moving up and down  the dam looking for suspended bait.

Using his depthfinder, Cain looks for “noodles” or “spaghetti” on the screen which is the stripers going up and down in the water column and feeding. 

Cain cautiously said “Just because the stripers can be seen, it does not necessarily mean that they are going to bite.”

Palmetto Flutter Spoons are quite large, measuring 8 inches in length and weighing 3.5 ounces. (Photo by Glenn “Teach” Corley)

Stay above the fish

Cain uses a trolling motor with Spot-Lock to stay on top of the fish. The Spot-Lock feature uses GPS to lock the boat into position and keeps the boat on the fishing spot. Cain said power cranking requires that you stay on top of the fish, dropping the spoon right in front of them.

He likes fishing three general areas near the dam. These include coves, the dam itself, and points within site of the dam. 

First, Cain will start out fishing in the mouth of big coves with underwaters trees near the dam. Fishing in water 40 to 50 feet deep, the bait is usually suspended between 20 and 30 feet deep holding over the tops of the trees. The stripers will hold in the structure and then come out to hit the lure as it drops or comes screaming back up.

As the lure drops down, the big spoon will flutter back and forth as it falls. A light touch on the line is needed to feel the bump as the fish hits. When that happens, Cain puts his thumb on the reel and locks it in place by engaging the crank and turning the handle. Then he gives a sharp jerk to hook the fish or does the same when cranking back up.

The second place that Cain likes to fish is right out in front of the dam. Because of the deeper and cooler water, plus bait, the stripers can be found anywhere within a hundred yards of the dam. Cain uses his depth sounder and trolling motor to find the fish.  

Multiple hookups can cause some of the most fun commotion an angler will ever experience. (Photo by Glenn “Teach” Corley)

Crank it up for stripers

After locating the stripers, Cain drops the spoon to the bottom and if the lure reaches the bottom without a hit, he will crank up the spoon with a hard and steady retrieve. He repeats this process over and over as long as fish are present.

The third place that Cain likes to fish is off points right before dark. These points are also not far from the dam, but they have deep holes off to the side where the fish like to hang out. Sometimes they will hold in shallower water or in the brush piles or trees off to the side of the point.

Depthfinders play a critical role when power-cranking big spoons for hot-weather stripers. (Photo by Glenn “Teach” Corley)

Cain’s main lure is an 8-inch, 3.5-ounce Palmetto Flutter Spoon with a 2/0 treble hook. He ties these on to 20-pound monofilament line. These lures can be bought at local fishing stores around Lake Hartwell for $18 apiece.

Using the bigger spoon will usually keep the smaller fish from biting. While fishing an area, Cain usually gives it about 20 to 30 minutes. If he has no luck, he will move around to another spot.

The rods are medium heavy 7-foot Ugly Stik Striper rods. The reels are high speed Ambassador C4 or 6500 with a 6.3:1 gear ratio. Cain said that is the correct reel gear ratio to use when power cranking.

Power cranking for stripers is hard fishing. Sometimes you are dropping to 100 feet deep and the cranking can get tiresome. That’s especially true when the weather is hot. Cain said the stripers will stay near the dam throughout the summer and into the late fall until the weather cools and they start moving back upriver. Give Rick Cain a call  at (864) 569-9974 if you are interested in catching some dog days of summer stripers.

Big stripers can hit at any time when an angler is cranking up a big spoon. It’s best to keep the net handy. (Photo by Glenn “Teach” Corley)

Facts about Lake Hartwell

Lake Hartwell is one of the biggest and most popular lakes in the southeast. It sits on the South Carolina-Georgia state line and was created by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. It is the upper-most lake on the Savannah River Chain, which also includes Lakes Russell and Clarks Hill.

Lake Hartwell was named after Nancy Hart, a frontierswoman who played a role in defeating British troops during several skirmishes in the area during the American Revolutionary War.

The lake has 962 miles of shoreline and 56,000 acres of surface water. It is located within Anderson, Oconee and Pickens counties on the South Carolina side.

Lake Hartwell is known as a deep lake. The average depth is 45 feet, and the maximum depth is about 190 feet.

Forty-five boat ramps are located on Lake Hartwell and. Eleven fish attractors are located in the lake’s waters.

Stripers are one of the lake’s most popular species. The deep, cool water and abundance of baitfish helps these fish grow. Numerous charter services make a living guiding anglers on Lake Hartwell for stripers and other fish, including largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, spotted bass, crappie and bream.

This big striper was caught within sight of the dam, a common area for Rick Cain to fish with his big spoons. (Photo by Glenn “Teach” Corley)

Camping on the lake

South Carolina’s State Parks Service has two state parks on Lake Hartwell. Lake Hartwell State Park, at 680 acres, is the largest and features two boat landings and a 140-foot long fishing pier. The park features 115 paved campsites that can be used for RVs or tents, two camper cabins for those wishing to camp in comfort without their own tent, and an additional 13 walk-in tent sites. 

Aside from the boat launches and fishing pier, anglers can cast a line from numerous places along the lake’s shores — including directly from your own camping spot.

Lake Hartwell State Park has more than 14 miles of shoreline along the lake.

The lake’s other state park is Sadler’s Creek. This park sits on 395 acres that extends onto a peninsula on Lake Hartwell. It features a 100-foot fishing pier and two boat landings. 

Sadler’s Creek offers 51 camping spots that are suitable for RVs or tents, and another 14 tent-only campsites.

Aside from these two state parks, numerous other campgrounds — some privately owned and some owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers — are located on the lake or within very close proximity. For a complete list, visit

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