Try Hartwell’s shallows for February trophy stripers

February striped bass
Retired guide Rick Owen shows off the kind of striped bass he expects Lake Hartwell to produce in February.

Trophy stripers get tight to the bank this month

February is a really good time to boat a trophy striped bass on South Carolina’s Lake Hartwell, according to retired guide Rick Owen. But you have to get a lot closer to the shoreline than you might think to find one.

“Winter is the time to pull planer boards with gizzard shad close to the banks or in the backs of the creeks where the big fish roam,” Owen said. “If your trolling motor is leaving a mud trail, you just might be in the right place.”

Owen (864-356-7271) recommends pulling a couple of Mini Mack umbrella rigs along with the spread of shad and planer boards.

“I also deploy two ultralight free-lines behind the boat rigged with live herring to catch the fish that are feeding on top. You would be surprised at just how many fish I catch on these ultralight rigs.”

Owen said he usually locates February striped bass using two different tactics.

Watch your speed when trolling

“With sea gulls and loons all over the lake, it’s not much of a problem to locate the bait. And where there’s bait, the fish are going to be very close,” he said. “I also locate them on my (depth finder). And the minute I get them under the boat, I drop my live bait and Mini Macks into the schools.”

If the fish won’t eat live bait, Owen said Captain Mack umbrella rigs are automatic tools for the winter bite. He also recommends pulling the Mini Mack rigs behind planer boards at .08 mph.

Retired from active guiding, Owen provides instructional fishing trips targeting stripers and hybrids on Hartwell.

“One main item that we cover is how to locate stripers and hybrids, and then the best methods to catch them,” he said. “There are many ways to catch stripers and hybrids on Hartwell. And (we) cover all of these points.”

Owen gives fishermen on his instructional fishing trips the opportunity to ask all the questions that very few professional striper fishermen will share.

“Even though I’m retired, I spend a lot of time teaching and helping out with guide trips,” Owen said.

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