Savannah River stripers, hybrids put on the feed bag in April

Guide Mike McSwain puts his clients on plenty of big Savannah River stripers and hybrids on topwater lures. (Picture by Mike McSwain)

Topwater lures draw vicious strikes on the Savannah River

The Savannah River, which forms much of the border between South Carolina and Georgia, is a hotspot for stripers and hybrids, especially starting in mid-April and lasting through the summer and into the fall.

One thing guide Mike McSwain of Broad River Smallmouth likes about fishing the Savannah River is that the stripers demolish topwater lures, often even during the brightest part of the day and even when the water is crystal clear.

“Normally, topwater lures are great in low-light conditions. But most anglers stop throwing them once the sun gets up, especially in clear water,” said McSwain (843-763-3805). “And like most anglers, I’d rather catch a fish on a topwater lure than anything else. And these stripers here, for whatever reason, they’ll hit topwater lures all day long on most days.”

McSwain use a variety of lures and stresses that anglers should be open to throwing many different ones. His best topwater bites come on plugs with propellers, like the Smithwick Devil’s Horse, and the largest Yo-Zuri and Rapala prop baits. Popping lures like the Rebel Pop-R in the largest sizes are also good choices.

Spinnerbaits, jigs are also productive lures

Stripers and hybrids hit these lures aggressively, and McSwain said it’s best to use appropriate-sized fishing line.

“I fish 20- to 30-pound braided main line and 12- to 15-pound mono leaders,” he said.

On days when the topwater bite isn’t especially strong, or when he just wants to change things up a bit, McSwain said big spinnerbaits and bucktail jigs are also effective.

“They’ll hit bigger crankbaits, too. But I think other than topwater lures, large spinnerbaits and big bucktail jigs are my personal favorites. The stripers and hybrids absolutely crush them,” he said.

McSwain focuses most of his efforts on the fastest-moving water in this river. Shoals and rapids are his favorite areas. He said it’s similar to the fishing he does for smallmouth bass on the Broad River, his home water.

“This river also has a surprising number of smallmouth bass, and you can catch them in the same areas as the stripers if you downsize your lures,” he said. “But the striper fishing here is phenomenal. Getting to the fish can sometimes be a challenge, especially when the water levels aren’t quite right. But whatever effort it takes to get to the fastest moving water, it’s very well worth it when you start hooking into these fish.”

McSwain said using a kayak or canoe is the best way to get into casting range in the most-productive waters. He guides from a canoe and said he often has to pull the craft over shoals during a day of fishing.

He said the area between Savannah River Park, which is north of I-20, all the way to Hammond’s Ferry Boat Ramp south of I-20 is very productive for stripers and hybrids, as well as smallmouth and largemouth.

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Brian Cope
About Brian Cope 1841 Articles
Brian Cope is the editor of 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

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