AHQ INSIDER Lake Russell (GA/SC) Summer 2018 Fishing Report – Updated September 18
Lake Russell water levels are around 471.8 (full pool is 475.00), and water temperatures range from about 83-86.
Bass are still biting on Lake Russell, but not like they were a few weeks ago. Guide Jerry Kotal (706-988-0860) reports that one day he was catching tons of spotted bass and perch out in deep water, and when he went back the next day they were all gone. None of his 7 or 8 spots produced. Despite the warm water Jerry is seeing some signs of an early turnover, with some bubbling on the surface, and so he wonders if water quality has something to do with it.
The bass Jerry is still catching are in 10-20 feet of water around brush, mostly in the main lake and the middle section of creeks. They are not in the backs. He has caught a few fish on live bait but most have come on soft plastics fished on a shakey head or worm.
Guide Wendell Wilson (706-283-3336) also reports that spotted bass have started schooling, and at times he has found some pretty good action.
Wendell reports that he has spent the most boat time recently fishing for striped bass on Lake Russell. Fish can be caught on both ends of the lake, and in the Hartwell tailrace he has gotten fish on live herring pulled on planer boards and free-lines. However, the bite has been a little better on the lower end of the lake down-lining 30-40 feet deep.
Wendell’s boat has also been picking up some white and yellow perch on drop shot rigs in 25-30 feet of water, and there are a few spotted bass mixed in.
While Wendell has not been targeting crappie they can be caught in the creeks fishing with minnows around brush 12-14 feet down over 20 feet of water.
Lake Russell water levels are around 474.2 (full pool is 475.00), and water temperatures are generally in the upper 80s. The main lake is still clear.
There continues to be a very strong bass bite on Lake Russell, and guide Jerry Kotal (706-988-0860) reports that on both the main lake and in the creeks he is still catching tons of fish in 50-60 feet of water. Sometimes they are on the bottom, and sometimes they are suspended 20-25 feet down in the trees. The bite lasts all day.
While the most effective way to catch them has been with live bait, they will also take soft plastics fished on a drop shot rig. Jerry continues to find striper, hybrids, and catfish mixed in the same areas, in what is typically a fall pattern, and the last two weeks white perch have also been showing up en masse.
You can catch some bass early shallow on topwater lures or a Carolina rig, but Jerry has found more success sticking to deeper water.
Lake Russell water levels are around 474.6 (full pool is 475.00), and water temperatures range from about the mid-80s to 90 depending on where you are and time of day. The main lake is still clear despite a lot of rain.
Even considering the heat there has been a very strong bass bite on Lake Russell, and guide Jerry Kotal (706-988-0860) reports that on both the main lake and in the creeks he has been catching tons of fish in 50-60 feet of water. Sometimes they are on the bottom, and sometimes they are suspended 20-25 feet down in the trees. The bite lasts all day.
While the most effective way to catch them has been with live bait, they will also take soft plastics fished on a drop shot rig. Jerry has also found striper, hybrids, and catfish mixed in the same areas, in what is typically a fall pattern.
You can catch some bass early shallow on topwater lures or a Carolina rig, but Jerry has found more success sticking to deeper water.
Guide Wendell Wilson(706-283-3336) also reports catching a mixed bag of species, and he has been fishing the main lake flats in 30-40 feet of water on the bottom and catching bass, white perch and yellow perch on a drop shot rig. Again, this is typically a fall pattern. You can also catch plenty of smaller bass trolling #5 or #7 Shad Raps as slow as the big motor will go, around 2.1 miles per hour for Wendell.
On the crappie front, unusual for this time of year Wendell has actually not been catching them on brush. They seem to be grouped up on flats both in the creeks and off the main in 18-20 feet of water just off the bottom. Look for areas that have bait and drop shot minnows to the fish. The best creeks have been smaller, short creeks that don’t go too far back.
Wendell’s boat is also targeting striper in the lower end of the lake fishing down-lined herring 20-30 feet down over 60-80 feet of water. While he hasn’t been to the upper end he has heard some reports of good results pulling herring, gizzard shad and trout on free lines and planer boards.
Lake Russell water levels have been just below full pool around 474.60 (full pool is 475.00), and water temperatures range from about 85-89 depending on where you are and time of day. The water is clear.
The catfish bite remains about the best thing going on Lake Russell, and guide Jerry Kotal (706-988-0860) reports that straight through the summer they expect to continue to catch excellent numbers of eating-sized channel catfish in the 5-15 foot range off humps and points.
Guide Wendell Wilson (706-283-3336) also reports that his boat has been doing well with the catfish, catching them on cut herring fished all over the lake in 8-12 feet of water. However, his best success has come on flat points.
Outside of catfish, Wendell reports that it’s a fun time to take clients out because you can easily catch a mixed bag of species in a single day. On the bass front, there are some small to medium-sized bass schooling in the creeks. This is unusual as they usually don’t do this until the fall. These fish can be caught on small topwaters, small spoons and #5 Shad Raps. Wendell also reports that on main lake points you can catch fish in 18-20 feet on Spot Removers and Carolina rigs.
Jerry reports that he has found a very hot summer bass bite out over timber in 50-60 feet. The fish are suspended about 15-20 feet down, and they are catching them on live bait as well as spoons and drop shot rigs. Catching 40 or 50 fish by 10:00 a.m. is not uncommon.
There are two basic patterns for striped bass, and Wendell reports that at the top of the lake in the Hartwell tailrace you can catch fish pulling herring on free-lines and planer boards in the relatively shallow water. On the lower end of the lake near the Russell Dam you can catch fish on down-lines 20-30 feet down over 70-80 feet of water.
Crappie are in an unusual pattern for this time of year, and while Wendell’s boat is catching a few fish around brush more of the fish seem to be in open water related to the schools of threadfin shad. They are just off the bottom, and by marking them on electronics and then easing up on them they are catching fish with minnows fished on a drop shot rig.
Lake Russell water levels are very high at 474.80 (full pool is 475.00), and water temperatures are in the mid to upper-80s. Clarity is good all over the lake.
Bass fishing is decent on Lake Russell, and although guide Jerry Kotal (706-988-0860) says it’s not like it is in the spring or summer they are catching pretty good numbers of fish. While some anglers might be inclined to throw topwaters early he is heading straight out to the 25-35 foot range and fishing live bait or drop shot rigs around brush on the main lake. Some of the brush is planted, and some is natural wood in the water. They have mainly been catching spotted bass this way.
The best bite on Russell is for catfish, and Jerry reports that they are catching excellent numbers of eating-sized fish up to about 5 pounds. They are off humps and points in the 5-15 foot range, and the fish will take cut bait as well as catalpa worms. It is all anchor fishing as there generally too many trees in Russell to drift.
Lake Russell water levels are bouncing around 474.90 (full pool is 475.00), and water temperatures are around 80 degrees.
Bass fishing has gotten tougher on Lake Russell, and guide Jerry Kotal (706-988-0860) reports that with the herring spawn pretty much done except in a few places the fish have generally moved out deeper to humps in 15-25 feet of water. He is catching them on drop shot rigs and herring. Despite the high water levels fishing in the backs has gotten tough.
Even as catching bass has gotten more difficult, the catfish bite has really turned on. Fish are in the backs of shallow pockets off the main lake and in the creeks. Fishing cut herring in 3-15 feet of water is the best pattern, and the catch is mainly channels.
Lake Russell water levels are around 474.75 (full pool is 475.00), and water temperatures are in the mid-70s.
Bass fishing remains pretty strong on Lake Russell, and guide Jerry Kotal (706-988-0860) reports that with the herring spawn now in full swing most of the fish are only in 2-3 feet of water early and late. They are being caught off points on flukes, topwater baits, and of course live herring, but with the hot weather Jerry thinks the herring spawn will not last too much longer.
During the day fish move deeper off the points to brush piles where they can be caught on drop shots and live baits. For right now fish are mixed between main lake points and points in creeks.
Guide Wendell Wilson (706-283-3336) reports that he is fishing a very similar pattern for both spotted and largemouth bass, and early in the morning he is catching fish off long, sloping main lake points. The further the points sticks out the better. He is throwing both large topwater plugs like Spooks and hard swimbaits such as the Sebille Magic Swimmer. Once the sun gets up then his boat is fishing Su-Spin blades with flukes a bit deeper in the same areas.
Wendell reports that the crappie bite has picked up, and they are catching fish trolling 1/32 ounce jigs 3-4 feet down in 6-10 feet of water in the backs of creeks. Fish are shallow, and they are catching some large post-spawn crappie as well as a few smaller ones that still have eggs.
A few striped bass are being caught on the lower end of the lake, and Wendell suggests pulling a large herring or gizzard shad on a planer board across points. The striper are not usually as shallow as the bass have gone, and so anglers should keep their boat in 20-30 feet of water. A few striper are mixed in with the bass off points at daylight.
Jerry reports that catfish can be caught in the backs of pockets in 4-10 feet of water on cut herring.
Lake Russell water levels are only just getting below full pool again at 474.65 (full pool is 475.00), and water temperatures are in the mid-60s. Even with the rain clarity is not bad except way up some of the major creeks.
Bass fishing remains pretty strong on Lake Russell, and guide Jerry Kotal (706-988-0860) reports that there are pre-spawn, spawning and post-spawn fish to be found on Russell right now. The herring spawn is also starting, although it is very scattered. He has found some spawning herring around grass in the backs.
A variety of baits have been catching fish, including topwater lures, spinnerbaits and floating worms. Most of the fishing has been in 1-9 feet although there are already some spots deeper.
Speaking of deeper, guide Wendell Wilson (706-283-3336) reports that while he believes most of the largemouth have probably spawned he is still catching spotted bass offshore off deep points in 20-30 feet of water – that are full of eggs! He is catching them 10-12 feet down on swimbaits, while he is mainly finding smaller spots around the banks that will take a #7 Shad Rap.
With the herring spawn just getting under way, Wendell reports that the best way to catch striped bass is to pull herring on the lower end of the lake off points. Blueback herring are up shallow right at daylight, and this is the best time to target striper.
Wendell reports that crappie are not doing much of anything, and they are very hard to catch except at night around lights.
Lake Russell water levels are around 474.57 (full pool is 475.00), and water temperatures range from around 59-63 on the main lake and up to the upper-60s in the backs. The main lake is pretty clear but you can find some stained water in the creeks.
Bass fishing is very good on Lake Russell, and guide Jerry Kotal (706-988-0860) reports that fish are shallow around the banks where they can be caught on spinnerbaits, crankbaits and worms. Jerry believes the majority of fish are still pre-spawn, but he is pretty sure that some of the spots he is catching in 5-10 feet of water are bedding right now. The creeks have been the most productive area, but you can also catch some fish out deeper in 25 feet of water on a drop shot. That pattern rarely goes away on Russell.
Lake Hartwell guide Brad Fowler and tournament partner Brock Taylor finished second in the Boating Atlanta event on Lake Russell Saturday, less than a quarter of a pound back from the leaders with 20.21 pounds. They did see some smaller fish on beds but once they found a blueback herring spawn they caught all their fish off that. Unlike on Hartwell the fish weren’t coming up to the surface, and they caught everything they weighed on spinnerbaits fished for bass eating spawning herring.
Before the cold front the crappie bite was very good, and a bunch of fish have already spawned. However, Jerry says there are still a lot of fish on the banks and another wave should be coming up this weekend. It’s a good time to fish shallow.
Lake Russell water levels are around 474.65 (full pool is 475.00), and water temperatures range from the upper 50s to low 60s.
Water temperatures are again pushing against 60 degrees, and in the backs they are even passing that mark. However, guide Jerry Kotal (706-988-0860) reports that from what he has seen the bass have not really moved up yet, and he is still catching them in 10-30 feet of water. By next week he expects them to pull up into pockets, and like a month ago you will be able to catch them on spinnerbaits, crankbaits and Carolina rigs.
Guide Wendell Wilson (706-283-3336) also expected the bite to be more wide open that it is, and his boat has had to fish jerkbaits in 8-12 feet of water to get bit. Drop shot rigs have also worked in the same range. Although a few went on the bed at the end of February (!), they have not spawned since then and so the vast majority of fish are pre-spawn.
On the crappie front, Wendell says that there are some big males on the banks but he is waiting for another wave of females to move up. Wendell suspects that some of the biggest females have already laid their eggs, but he thinks there are several groups still to go. The spawning waves are usually decreasing in size.
For striped bass Wendell advises fishing the upper Rocky River and pulling herring.
Lake Russell water levels are ranging between 474.60 and 474.90 (full pool is 475.00), and water temperatures are all the way down to about 53 degrees. The backs can be even colder.
It’s been a crazy March, and guide Jerry Kotal (706-988-0860) reports that bass have backed out of the really shallow areas and suspended in about the 10-15 foot range. The more active fish will still be oriented to the bottom, and he is catching them on jigs and worms.
Guide Wendell Wilson (706-283-3336) concurs that fish have backed off, and while they have not shut off they are definitely not as active as a couple of weeks ago. Shallow crankbaits and swimbaits aren’t working anymore, and the best pattern than Wendell has found is going down the banks and fishing a drop shot in 14-16 feet of water.
Wendell reports that striped bass are hard to locate right now, and they are certainly on the move. The best pattern is to cover water and pull free-lined herring and gizzard shad across mid-depth points.
Neither angler is targeting the crappie until it warms up again.
Lake Russell water levels are ranging between 474.25 and 474.75 (full pool is 475.00), and water temperatures in the upper 50s. Clarity is still pretty good.
Water temperatures have dropped significantly in the past week, and a mean reading that temperatures have fallen from about the mid-60s to the upper-50s actually minimizes the variation. In some shallow pockets at the end of last week temperatures had reached the low 70s, and in those areas they have fallen even more significantly. With some nights in the 30s they will drop even more.
Nonetheless, guide Jerry Kotal (706-988-0860) reports that bass that have already moved up are not leaving the shallows, and you can catch them in both the creeks and off the main lake. Guide Wendell Wilson (706-283-3336) doesn’t think that any have actually started bedding yet, but he also believes they are close.
Spotted bass are on the bank heavy, with the best areas medium shallow sloping banks with some sand, lots of bulrushes and plenty of pockets. If there is some wind then Shad Raps have been working very well, and when there is not then a small swimbait has been hard to beat. There have also been some 3-4 pound largemouth in the same areas, but the larger females seem to be further out.
The crappie bite also remains pretty good, and Wendell reports that fish are still biting 1/16 and 1/32 ounce jigs with curly tail grubs. Fishing up the creeks in 6-12 feet has been the best area to troll. The bite slowed down a bit this week with the cooler temperatures, but there have still been some good numbers caught.
Striped bass remain relatively hard to find, but Wendell advises fishing about halfway up the Rocky River and on the lower end of the Savannah with free-lines. They are spread out and so anglers have to cover a lot of water. The birds are still around, but as temperatures warm they associate less with the striper and don’t provide as useful of clues.
Lake Russell water levels are ranging between 473.5 and 474.0 (full pool is 475.00), and water temperatures are in the mid-50s on the main lake and low-60s in the creeks. The main lake is clear and the creeks are clearing.
As predicted, guide Jerry Kotal (706-988-0860) reports that the deeper bass pattern has almost totally disappeared as the bass have hit the banks. Bass have gotten so shallow that they are in the “dirt,” and even though the bulk of the fish are pre-spawn Jerry wouldn’t be surprised if some are already on beds. They can be caught in both the main lake and the creeks.
Guide Wendell Wilson (706-283-3336) has also found bass all over the banks, particularly spots. They are up shallow in coves running shad, and you can clean up with a Shad Rap or paddle tail swimbait on a jighead. Pretty much everything he is seeing is in less than 6-8 feet of water.
The crappie fishing has also progressed at warp speed, and Wendell says that water temperatures are moving up so fast that the fish almost can’t keep up. For him the best way to catch them is trolling curly tail jigs on 1/16th ounce jigheads in 8-15 feet of water in the creeks, but you can also catch them in 2-3 feet of water on minnow and jigs. Wendell believes the bulk of the fish are very close to spawning, but have not yet.
Jerry has even caught a few crappie that have already spawned fishing around the creek banks with a bobber.
Neither guide plans to target striper for a little while as they seem to have spread out in the timber and gotten hard to find.
Lake Russell water levels are ranging between 472.5 and 473.5 (full pool is 475.00), and water temperatures run from about 52 in the morning to 54 during the day. The water is heavily stained up the creeks and rivers, but the main lake is still clear.
It’s the beginning of the end for the winter pattern guide Jerry Kotal (706-988-0860) has been fishing on Lake Russell for the last couple of months. He had been catching a mixed bag of species in and over deep water, but that bite has really slowed down as the temperatures have warmed. Fish are also moving up in the water column, and yesterday his boat was able to catch the tail end of the deep striper and bass action throwing Alabama rigs 15 feet down over 50-60 feet of water.
That’s all good news for shallow water bass fishermen, and Jerry says that with bass moving shallower the best pattern for largemouth is to head about halfway back in the creeks off point and pockets and search for cruising fish. In the stained water crankbaits and spinnerbaits will both work, and in clearer areas it’s hard to beat a Carolina rig at this time of year on Russell.
Spotted bass are also moving up, and Jerry suggests fishing a blade runner near points in the main lake. The 10-20 foot range is a good depth to concentrate on.
Lake Russell water levels have been above full pool (full pool is 475.00), but have just fallen back to 474.0. Water temperatures are up to about 50-51 degrees. The water is very muddy up the creeks and rivers, but the main lake is still clear. The lower ends of creeks are also still fishable.
With water temperatures only a degree or two warmer there isn’t a lot of change in the pattern on Lake Russell. Guide Jerry Kotal (706-988-0860) reports that the bite for a mixed bag of species (including spotted bass, striped bass, largemouth, white perch, yellow perch and crappie) continues to be about the same on Lake Russell, and the only significant change is that – while fish are still 45-50 feet deep – at times they are suspended at that depth over water as deep as 90 feet.
Guide Wendell Wilson (706-283-3336) reports that he is also still finding bass on the side of points, generally in the 20-28 foot range.
Wendell also reports that striper are still up the Rocky River and Beaverdam Creek. In addition to free-lines and planer boards, Alabama rigs have also been effective.
Lake Russell water levels are around full pool at 475.00, and water temperatures are about 48 degrees with very good clarity. On warm days surface temperatures can get up to about 52.
The bite for a mixed bag of species (including spotted bass, striped bass, largemouth, white perch, yellow perch and crappie) continues to be about the same on Lake Russell, but guide Jerry Kotal (706-988-0860) reports that the fish seem to have moved up about 10-15 feet into the 45-50 foot range. Depending on what you are targeting a variety of baits will catch fish.
Guide Wendell Wilson (706-283-3336) is also finding a really good bite for large striped bass up the Rocky River and Beaverdam Creek. Fish are from the surface down to 20 feet over fairly deep water, and the best way to catch them is to pull herring, gizzard shad or trout on free lines and planer boards. Watch for gulls to locate the fish.
In addition to the deeper pattern for spotted bass, Wendell has found another group of spots that have moved up to the sides of points in about 20-28 feet. These same fish were also previously about 10 feet deeper. Drop shot rigs or jigging spoons will also work.
The perch he was catching have also moved up shallower, and they aren’t ganged up as tight as earlier in the winter.
Lake Russell water levels are around 473.0 (full pool is 475.00), and water temperatures are approximately 47 degrees.
As the winter has progressed the Lake Russell fish have gotten deeper, and guide Jerry Kotal (706-988-0860) reports that there is now a mix of species grouped up in 50-60 feet of water off drop-offs and around bait. They are frequently also around brush, but it’s hard not to be around brush on Russell.
Overall the bite has been very good, and Jerry has been catching a mix of spotted bass, striped bass, largemouth, white perch, yellow perch and crappie all mixed together. Typically the fish have been on the main lake or at the mouths of creeks, and depending on what you want to target they will take minnows, live herring, or plastic worms on a drop shot rig.
Today the action was slow, perhaps related to the cold and precipitation yesterday. Jerry has not seen a major shad kill, probably because Lake Russell is so deep.
Lake Russell water levels are around 473.8 (full pool is 475.00), and water temperatures around 56 degrees. Clarity is normal.
There’s not a ton of change in the Lake Russell fishing pattern, and guide Jerry Kotal (706-988-0860) reports that there is still a mix of species grouped up in 25-40 feet, with some fish suspended and some on the bottom. In addition to finding bass, catfish, and perch together, Jerry reports that the striper fishing is starting to improve in the same areas. He is finding the best fish in the middle of the river channel way up the Savannah River, and both bucktails and jigging spoons (as well as live bait) are working for the striper.
At this time of year it’s rare to see striper schooling, but at times they are definitely “swirling” at bait on the surface.
Guide Wendell Wilson (706-283-3336) is seeing the same thing, and he agrees that the striper are certainly getting more active. There is still a good concentration of striper in the lower Rocky River.
The only other change Wendell reports is that yellow perch have been a bit more scarce this week.
Lake Russell water levels are ranging between about 473.5 and 473.8 (full pool is 475.00), and water temperatures are in the mid-50s.
It’s a great time to catch bass on Lake Russell, and guide Jerry Kotal (706-988-0860) reports that he is catching fish in both the main lake and the creeks. He is catching them on drop shot rigs and jigging spoons, usually in about 30-40 feet of water.
Guide Wendell Wilson (706-283-3336) is fishing a similar pattern in 30-50 feet, and he reports that he is also finding bait schools on the main channel as well as in some creeks and coves off the main lake. A mix of spotted bass, yellow perch and white perch are all grouped together, and there are also some catfish as well as the very occasional crappie mixed in. For a mixed bag minnows on a drop shot are the best way to catch fish, while bass specialists can substitute soft plastics or use a jigging spoon to target bass. The largemouth are also in the same areas, and Wendell’s boat caught a 6-pounder on a minnow recently.
Striped bass and hybrids can be caught around the same bait schools, but the best bet for a striper may be to head into the lower Rocky River (where gulls are gathering) and free-line live herring or large shiners. Jerry also suggests throwing bucktails or an Alabama rig.
It’s been a little hard to locate the crappie right now, but the best bet is to look on the edge of timber in about 32 feet. Each year about this time they get a little hard to locate.
Lake Russell water levels are ranging between about 473.5 and 474.0 (full pool is 475.00), and water temperatures range between about 61 in the morning and 62-63 later in the day. Clarity is still very good.
The pattern for catching bass on Lake Russell remains very similar, and guide Jerry Kotal (706-988-0860) says that the action has been fast and furious. In general the fish remain on the bottom, but on warm days it does cause them to suspend up in the water column. His boat is also catching a lot of perch mixed in with the bass.
While plenty of seagulls have arrived, for now they are on loons and aren’t providing very useful clues for locating fish. That will change soon.