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AHQ INSIDER Clarks Hill (GA/SC) Summer Fishing Report – Updated July 17

  • by Jay

July 17

Clarks Hill water levels remain above full pool at 330.49 (full pool is 330.00), and water temperatures are in the high-80s. The lake is a bit stained but mostly clear. 

Even though water temperatures have finally gotten extremely hot, William Sasser Guide Service (706-589-5468) reports that striper and hybrids have not gone very deep. In fact they are much shallower than is normal in late middle of July, holding in the 25-30 foot range off of points.  In the morning they are on the bottom in that depth, while later in the day they can suspend at the same depth but run the edge of the channel in 50-60 feet.  In a week or two they may move to humps but they are not there yet.

Captain Brad Sasser is having the best success in the lower lake but doing a bit of fishing mid-lake around Soap Creek, but the key is fishing early. Right before and after daybreak the fishing is very good, but by about 8:00 it gets to be a grind. There is also a decent bite at sunset but it’s not great. 

One drawback to the fish being shallower is that bait life is lower in the very hot water, and so they are going through a ton of herring.

In the mid-lake, Captain Chris Simpson (864-992-2352) is also finding a very good bite particularly between Dordon and Shriver Creek. The pattern is very similar, and they are using down-lines with live herring off points 20-35 feet feet deep. Chris advises that fish will move up and down in that range and so you have to be prepared to go up or down the point as the fish change. 

A good morning haul with Captain Chris Simpson
A good morning haul with Captain Chris Simpson

They are also picking up catfish on downlines, but Chris says that cut bait on the same points and humps in 25-50 feet of water will also catch catfish (and some striper). However, catfish will also be found shallower in the 10-25 foot range.  

No one would have guessed that the bass would be deeper than the striper, but that seems to be exactly what is going on.  Tournament angler Tyler Matthews of Evans, GA is not saying that you can’t catch fish on a buzzbait beating the bank, but pretty much everyone who is catching bass seems to be targeting deep brush in around 35 feet of water in the main lake or at least close to very deep water. While jigs will work the fish are in such gnarly stuff that Tyler has switched over to a Texas rig because it’s more weedless and cheaper. 

There are some fish on humps but they seem to be smaller right now. 

The crappie fishing has not changed too much, and Captain Brad Sasser reports that the fish are holding 10-15 feet down over brush in 25-30 feet in the creeks.  They are targeting them fishing minnows vertically, and the Raysville and Germany Creek areas have been good.

June 26

Clarks Hill water levels are back above full pool at 330.08 (full pool is 330.00), and morning surface temperatures in the main lake are up to 80-81 degrees. While there is some debris floating from the rain yesterday it is not a significant, and the water is still very clear. 

On the bass front, there are a couple of different ways to target fish. The first is to fish the shallows, and tournament angler Josh Rockefeller of Augusta has been fishing dirty water up in the Georgia Little River around wood and laydowns. While the Pop-R bite has fizzled out for him they have had better luck on a buzzbait. 

When he is looking for a bigger bite tournament angler Tyler Matthews of Evans, GA will also throw a buzzbait in the summer, but on the buzzbait they have only caught 13-inchers recently. As a result Tyler has been concentrating his efforts on the other pattern, fishing out deep. They have found the most consistent bite offshore around humps and brush piles in 15-27 feet. He has been fishing The Sled with a crawfish body or a Carolina rig with a Zoom U-Tail worm. 

Finding better fish has been tough for almost everyone, and in recent tournaments most people are landing plenty of fish but only ending up with 7-8 pounds. One good kicker fish that is 4 pounds or more can make you very competitive and a 15-16 pound bag is huge right now. 

While water temperatures should be in the mid-80s by the end of June, William Sasser Guide Service (706-589-5468) reports that striper and hybrids are still doing what they should be. While there are still some smaller fish in pockets, the better numbers of fish are getting into the middle of the channel in 40-60 feet of water on the bottom off the side of humps and points in the lower lake. Fish can be a little shallow in the 35-40 foot range early, and yesterday a fellow guide found schools as deep as feet at Noon. They are exclusively down-line fishing.

In the mid-lake, Captain Chris Simpson (864-992-2352) reports that fishing is starting to stabilize as we get into more normal summer conditions. His boat has found the best bite for big striper as well as catfish by anchoring on points and humps in 25-50 feet of water and using cut bait. However, sometimes the catfish can also be found shallower in the 10-25 foot range.  

The crappie fishing continues to be outstanding, and Captain Brad Sasser reports that the population of fish seems to be as good as he has seen it in decades. This is likely due in part to high water levels and good water quality which have allowed for good spawns recently and made for healthy fish. Cool temperatures are also giving the fish very good quality, firm meat. 

Crappie are still holding in the same spots 10-12 feet deep over brush and structure in 15-20 feet of water.  Fishing with small minnows is working very well.  Soap Creek, Raysville, Grays Creek, the Mistletoe area and Lloyds Creek have all been productive.

A nice crappie caught this week with William Sasser Guide Service
A nice crappie caught this week with William Sasser Guide Service

June 10

Clarks Hill water levels are down but still above full at 330.52 (full pool is 330.00), and morning surface temperatures in the main lake are up to 80-82 degrees. They are as high as 85 in the backs. Clarity is good.

As bass get further into a summer mode the usual deeper patterns are starting to pick up, and tournament angler Josh Rockefeller of Augusta reports that more fish are starting to be caught on offshore humps with big worms. Humps with rock are the best. He has also caught some good ones deep cranking around bridges.

However, the best action Josh has found is not deep but shallow around willow trees. In the dirty water up the river he has been able to fish a Pop-R in the spaces between trees and the fish have been crushing it. 

There is not a huge change in the pattern for striper and hybrids, but William Sasser Guide Service (706-589-5468) reports that the action has really picked up and fish are getting more predictable. Fish are sitting right off points in 25-30 feet of water on the bottom, and there are also some deeper fish along the edge of the main channel. They are in 60-65 feet of water on the bottom. 

The unexpected development this week is that more fish are being caught in pockets and coves, extremely unusual in recent years (although this used to be a productive pattern). After the early down-line bite off points it is becoming common for fish to group up in coves.

Captain Brad Sasser notes that the herring are very large and healthy this year. 

In the mid-lake, Captain Chris Simpson (864-992-2352) reports that the down rod bite has been up and down. It can be easy to catch limits one day and tough the next. 

While the action is generally a little slower, his boat has found the best bite for big fish by anchoring on points and humps in 25-50 feet of water and using cut bait. 

A cooler of striper caught with Captain Chris Simpson this week
A cooler of striper caught with Captain Chris Simpson this week

Essentially the same pattern is working for catfish as well, although sometimes both blues and channels will be shallower in the 10-25 foot range. 

The crappie fishing continues to be very good, and William Sasser Guide Service reports that fish are still 10-12 feet deep over brush and structure in 15-20 feet of water.  Fishing with small minnows is working very well.  Soap Creek, Raysville and Grays Creek have all still been good but the Mistletoe area and Lloyds Creek have also been productive.

June 2

Clarks Hill water levels are still above full at 331.33 (full pool is 330.00), and morning surface temperatures in the big water are cool for June at 77 degrees. The lake had cleared up but with recent rain it is stained again. Due to rain as well as wind there is also a lot of debris in the water. 

Bass fishing has gotten tougher on Clarks Hill, but tournament angler Tyler Matthews of Evans, GA reports that in the early morning there is still some schooling action on main lake points where it appears that the tail end of the herring spawn is going on – or at least the fish are pulling up overnight. The schooling bite can last longer on cloudy days.

While bass have not gone very deep yet, after the early bite they are starting to pull out on main lake humps, deeper points and rock. They can be caught on Carolina rigs.

Right now big fish are a little tricky to find and weights are low. But soon there will be bigger fish caught deep and if you can get on the right bass five-fish limits in the mid-20s are very possible based on history in early June.

Conditions for striper and hybrid fishermen are extremely unpredictable, and William Sasser Guide Service (706-589-5468) reports that the joke among fishermen is that fish are so day-to-day that you are starting fresh easy day.  The only place you can be assured they will not be is where you caught them yesterday!

Fish are extremely scattered, and just yesterday they found them off a point in 50 feet but finished up in less than 16 feet. It really is a search. Overall, however, about 75% of the fish seem to be in 20-30 feet of water off points, and most catches are on down-lines. However, there have been some good ones caught in 60 feet as well as very shallow water.

Overall, Captain Brad Sasser believes that we will need stable weather conditions before the fish can get into a stable pattern. 

While striper are unpredictable, crappie fishing is much more steady and William Sasser Guide Service reports that fish are stacked up and feeding very well. The population of crappie is so strong that even the bait catchers are catching them in nets. 

Fish are still 10-12 feet down over brush and structure in 15-20 feet of water, and fishing with small minnows is working very well. Trolling is not doing much. Soap Creek, Raysville and Grays Creek have all still been good but the Mistletoe area and Lloyds Creek have also been productive.   

A nice catch this week with William Sasser Guide Service
A nice catch this week with William Sasser Guide Service

In catfish news, Captain Chris Simpson (864-992-2352) reports that the big blue catfish bite is still good.  Fish are roaming around in the backs and so fishing flats towards the backs of coves and creeks is the best pattern.  Anchoring in 15 or less feet of water in the early morning, late evening and into the night is the best pattern.  Cut gizzard shad and live bream have been catching some big blues and flatheads.

May 20

Clarks Hill water levels are above full and rising at 330.98 (full pool is 330.00), and morning surface temperatures range from 73-76 degrees. The lake was relatively clear before this newest round of rain which is already muddying the lake. 

The winning bass patterns have not changed a whole lot on Clarks Hill, but tournament angler Tyler Matthews of Evans, GA reports that the fishing has gotten tougher and weights are dropping. While the herring are still up there spawning on main lake points there are not as many bass on them and they are not feeding as well, and in the next couple of weeks he expects the bite to totally die off.

Intermittently fish are schooling all day, and running from main lake point to main lake point you will see some fish up schooling. When they are up making long casts up to 50 or 60 yards with a topwater lure is the best bet, and when they are not on the surface but fish have been located sitting on them and throwing a Sebille has been working. Fish seemed to be grouped by size, with some points holding bigger fish and others holding smaller ones. 

Tournament angler Josh Rockefeller of Augusta concurs that the bite is slowing down, and from what he is seeing even though herring are up there spawning the better bass are not eating baits at this point.  Even though they have not moved away it seems that only the smaller ones are still biting. 

It’s been a learning week for striper and hybrid fishermen, and William Sasser Guide Service (706-589-5468) reports that it took anglers a little time to realize that the fish had moved deeper. They have gone out to main channel points in 25-30 feet of water, and Captain Brad Sasser would not be surprised if next week they weren’t out in 50 feet as they seem to be moving deeper fast.

Regardless of time of day fish are in that same depth, but very early the bite is good. It slows but it is consistent during the day, and then around 5 or 6 p.m. it gets very good again. 

A nice Clarks Hill striper caught with Captain Chris Simpson

On the crappie front, William Sasser Guide Service reports that the bite is still very strong throughout the day. Fish are 10-12 feet down over brush and structure in 15-20 feet of water, and fishing with small minnows is working very well. Trolling is not doing much. Soap Creek, Raysville and Grays Creek have all still been good but the Mistletoe area and Lloyds Creek have also been productive.   

In catfish news, Captain Chris Simpson (864-992-2352) reports that the big blue catfish bite is still good.  Fish are roaming around in the backs and so fishing flats towards the backs of coves and creeks is the best pattern.  Anchoring in 15 or less feet of water in the early morning, late evening and into the night is the best pattern.  Cut gizzard shad and live bream have been catching some big blues and flatheads.

May 12

Clarks Hill water levels are still above full at 330.40 (full pool is 330.00), and morning surface temperatures range from 68-70 degrees. Up the lake the water is dirty but cleaner that it was, while down the lake it is fairly clear. The water is stained because of high winds, not rain.  

There are still a bunch of bass shallow on Clarks Hill, and tournament angler Tyler Matthews of Evans, GA reports that the herring spawn is still going on even though it seems to be winding down. He won a tournament with 16-2 this past weekend, mostly on the strength of schooling fish in the morning. Around mid-day the bite slowed to a crawl. 

The fish are taking topwater lures, Sebilles and flukes, and by this point the bite is pretty much exclusively on the main lake points in less than 4 feet of water.  In the morning make 10-15 casts on a point then move to the next one. The fish are still in the same areas when the sun gets up, but even on a Carolina rig or jig they are very hard to catch.   

The herring spawn bite has also slowed for tournament angler Josh Rockefeller of Augusta, who finished second in the same tournament (!), but he agrees it’s still the best thing going. In his opinion temperature drops and up-and-down water levels have not helped and it also appears the herring spawn is winding down. 

First thing Josh is finding the fish schooling, but into the day they have been able to call up a few fish on a Gunfish. A light wind has been ideal to extend the bite – very calm or very wind-blown points have not fished as well.

Cole Pearson (Josh's partner) with a couple of good ones caught Saturday

Cole Pearson (Josh's partner) with a couple of good ones caught Saturday

The herring spawn is becoming less significant for striper and hybrid feeding patterns, and William Sasser Guide Service (706-589-5468) reports that fish are moving deeper into 18-25 feet. Some fish can still be caught shallow around the points, but the better fish are further out where they can be caught on down-lines. The free-line and planer board bite is dwindling while the cut bait bite is coming on. Overall there have been some good fish caught but numbers are a little down. They are catching most of their fish on the lower lake.

In the middle and upper lake, Captain Chris Simpson (864-992-2352) reports that the planer board bite is still going on in the mornings, but it’s a little more inconsistent because of the cool nights. Pulling big gizzard shad will still give you the best shot at a big fish.

On the crappie front, William Sasser Guide Service reports that any post-spawn funk is over and the bite is very strong. Fish are 10-12 feet down over brush and structure in 15-20 feet of water, and fishing with small minnows is working very well.  Trolling is not doing much. Soap Creek, Raysville and Grays Creek have all been good.  

In catfish news, Captain Chris Simpson reports that the big blue catfish bite is still good. Fish are roaming around in the backs and so fishing flats towards the backs of coves and creeks is the best pattern. Anchoring in 15 or less feet of water in the early morning, late evening and into the night is the best pattern. Cut gizzard shad and live bream have been catching some big blues and flatheads.

April 29

Clarks Hill water levels are above full at 330.43 (full pool is 330.00), and morning surface temperatures are in the upper 60s. Clarity is good.

While there are still some bass on the bed on Clarks Hill, tournament angler Tyler Matthews of Evans, GA reports that he is not messing with them and is instead focusing herring fish off the points.  Bass are grouped up on most every main lake point, and if the fish on a particular point aren’t biting after 5 or 10 casts you should move on to the next one. Tyler is not having much luck with topwater lures to call fish up, but they will take them when they are schooling. You have to be ready, though, because the window is very brief. Sebilles have been working the best for Tyler when there is some wind, but when there is not he is having to slow down and fish a jig. A drop shot can also work into the day off the same points. 

While tournament angler Josh Rockefeller of Augusta has not been getting a ton of bites throwing a Gunfish, sometimes they have been the right ones like this 8 pounder that anchored a winning bag on Saturday. At times they have been able to call fish up, and at times they have been schooling.

In Josh’s view it seems as if the action is starting to move from the creeks towards the main lake, and the creek fish he is still finding are at the front closer to the main lake.

Josh and Austin Rockefeller with a Clarks Hill giant alongside a good one
Josh and Austin Rockefeller with a Clarks Hill giant alongside a good one

While the herring spawn is still controlling feeding patterns, William Sasser Guide Service (706-589-5468) reports that striper and hybrids are starting to move back towards the lower end and they are mostly fishing within a few miles of the dam. The fish are extremely shallow in the morning when they are in 5-10 feet of water feeding on herring, and you can catch them pulling up on the bank and pitching free-lines, pulling planer boards, or anchoring shallow down-lines. There is a little bit of surface activity right after sunrise but much of the action is under the water.

The past few late mornings they have been able to catch fish by backing off in the same areas and fishing 15-20 feet deep, but the action is not as good as daybreak.

On the crappie front, William Sasser Guide Service reports that the fish have pulled off the bank 8-10 feet down over brush in 15-20 feet of water. They have moved into the post-spawn feeding phase, and the middle of most creeks are working with Raysville and Soap Creek particularly productive. 

April 15

Clarks Hill water levels above full at 330.55 (full pool is 330.00), and morning surface water temperatures are around 65-57 degrees. Up the lake is fairly muddy while down the lake is cleaner. 

We are in the period when bass on Clarks Hill can be caught on pretty much any shallow pattern you want to fish, and for tournament angler Josh Rockefeller of Augusta that means he will be fishing the shallow herring points with topwater lures. He has found an excellent bite on a Gunfish, and it appears that for now there is a mix of pre-spawn and post-spawn fish off the points. He has had very little luck with a fluke and only picked up a few on a jerbkbait. 

For right now the herring and bass are all over points inside the creeks, but as we get further into April they will move out to the main lake and start to get out of the backs of creeks. He has already found a few bass tucked up in willow bushes on main lake blow-throughs. While for now there are still pre-spawn and post-spawn fish off the points, by the end of the month the bass spawn will be pretty much concluded and it will be a post-spawn bite. 

A pre-spawn and post-spawn fish caught off the points this week
A pre-spawn and post-spawn fish caught off the points this week

Proving that there are a lot of different shallow patterns at play, tournament angler Tyler Matthews of Evans, GA reports that even though the water has come down a bit it is still up in the trees and he has been catching fish on a Buckeye spinnerbait around laydowns and bushes in the muddy water. For now you can also sight-fish in the clearer water down the lake, and frogs, buzzbaits and jigs have also been catching fish. 

Like the bass, William Sasser Guide Service (706-589-5468) reports that striper and hybrids have gone extremely shallow where they are focused on the spawning herring. Early and late fish are in 4-6 feet of water schooling on the main channel points, and at daybreak (and again at dusk) the bite is very good. Fish can be caught on very shallow down-lines and casting light Carolina rigs at anchor, but most anglers are pulling up on the bank and casting the same rigs out the back.  

The fishing gets much tougher during the day, and you have to look for scattered fish in 22-35 feet of water. 

In the middle and upper lake, Captain Chris Simpson (864-992-2352) reports that the planer board biting is heating up and should get better and better in the coming weeks as the herring spawn progresses. Pulling live herring across main lake, red clay points is a great way to catch quality fish, and if you want to catch even better quality (but less fish) gizzard shad will give you the best shot at catching some of the really big females that can be caught in the spring.  The planer board bite dies after about 11.

Captain Chris with a nice planer board fish caught this week
Captain Chris with a nice planer board fish caught this week

On the crappie front, William Sasser Guide Service reports that the fishing has gotten tougher as the cool front came through. The fish were generally on the banks, but since the cool weather he has found them pulled out 6-8 feet deep over brush in around 12 feet of water.

There are still a mix of pre-spawn and post-spawn fish, and as the next group of fish spawns they will move shallow again. However, instead of spawning in 2 feet of water it would not surprise Brad if the later fish spawn slightly deeper in 4 feet of water. By the end of the month when most fish have spawned they will pull out to brush and the bite will slow as most of them recover from the spawn. 

In catfish news, Captain Chris Simpson reports that the big blue catfish bite continues to improve. Fish are roaming around in the backs of most major tributaries feeding on the abundance of baitfish flooding into the warm shallow water, and so fishing flats towards the backs of coves and creeks is the best pattern. Anchoring in 15 or less feet of water in the early morning, late evening and into the night is the best pattern. Cut gizzard shad and live bream have been catching some big blues and flatheads.

March 31

Clarks Hill water levels have risen to 331.67 (full pool is 330.00), and morning surface water temperatures are in the mid- to upper-60s. Clarity has improved but there is a significant amount of debris in the water. 

The spawn is very much still underway and you can certainly catch bass on Clarks Hill by running the banks with soft plastics like a floating worm, but tournament angler Josh Rockefeller of Augusta reports that large numbers of fish are starting to orient to the points where the herring will soon be spawning. However, instead of catching them with surface baits or even sub-surface moving lures like flukes and swimbaits they have found better action with soft plastics fished on the bottom on wind-blown points in clear areas. In muddier areas they have caught bass on a chartreuse jerkbait fished off the points.  

Another wave of spawning fish will bed on the April full moon. 

Similarly, William Sasser Guide Service (706-589-5468) reports that striper and hybrids have gone really shallow and they are catching them off points early in the morning. Fish are in only 4-10 feet of water, and even though they are able to fish very shallow down-lines other anglers are putting out herring on small weights and casting out of the back. The bite is awesome right at daybreak, but then after that the fish scatter out. There are still some fish popping on the surface but the herring spawn is not quite yet underway. Later in the morning the best pattern is to fish on the bottom in 22-23 feet of water off the same points.  

The best section of the lake has been the mid- to lower lake. 

On the crappie front,Captain Chris Simpson (864-992-2352) reports that the long-line trolling bite as well as the tight-lining bite is starting to fade away as crappie get into very shallow water at various stages of the spawn.   

William Sasser Guide Service confirms that they are now fishing in only 2-6 feet of water and the fish are super shallow. While there is a mix of pre-spawn, spawning, and post-spawn fish, there is no pattern that does not involve fishing shallow. Baker Creek and Long Cane Creek have both been good.

A pile of crappie caught recently with Captain Chris Simpson 
A pile of crappie caught recently with Captain Chris Simpson

In catfish news, Captain Chris Simpson reports that the big blue catfish bite is starting to really heat up. Fish are roaming around in the backs of most major tributaries feeding on the abundance of baitfish flooding into the warm shallow water, and so fishing flats towards the backs of coves and creeks is the best pattern. Anchoring in 15 or less feet of water in the early morning, late evening and into the night is the best pattern.

March 25

Clarks Hill water levels are still above full pool at 330.43 (full pool is 330.00), and morning surface water temperatures are in the lower 60s. The lake has cleared but is still stained to muddy in areas. 

The bass fishing on Clarks Hill is as good now as it was tough a couple of weeks ago, and tournament angler Tyler Matthews of Evans, GA reports that this past weekend in the Top 6 tournament a warm spell had pushed fish shallow and it seemed as if every bass on the lake had run to the shallows. His father David Matthews won the “Top 6” tournament with a 24-pound sack the second day, and both father and son were fishing the dirtiest shallow water they could. In areas with less than 3 or 4 inches of visibility they were able to fish spinnerbaits and Chatterbaits, catching both pre-spawn and spawning fish. Everything was in 1-4 feet of water, and anglers reported that fish were mostly around brush and not rock. Methiolate floating worms were also working well. 

David Matthews with some of his winning fish
David Matthews with some of his winning fish

Last weekend tournament bass angler Josh Rockefeller of Augusta found a similar shallow bite, catching fish on floating worms, Chatterbaits, and frogs around most anything shallow. However, as of yesterday water levels had dropped around a foot – and temperatures had cooled – and some of the shallow stuff that had been holding fish was out of the water.

Instead of finding fish along the banks they seemed to be grouped up shallow on points and schooling. Instead of feeding on the spawning herring they will soon be eating they were feeding on small bait, but they would still take topwaters, flukes, and jerkbaits. Some fish also came off the bottom on a Sled. Some of the fish out there seemed to be post-spawn, and Josh noted that only windy points produced well. 

Even though business is chaotic right now, William Sasser Guide Service (706-589-5468) reports that striper and hybrids have gotten on a strong early morning pattern where they are grouped up on main lake blow-throughs, points and shoals very shallow in 8-12 feet of water. The fish are up there for their faux spawn as well as in anticipation of the herring spawn, and they can be caught on very shallow down-lines or by pitching baits out the sides of an anchored boat.  When the sun gets up planer boards are working the best.

Bass fishermen are catching plenty of striper, and any plug that runs 3-5 feet under the surface can also catch fish. There are also a few fish popping on the surface. 

On the crappie front,Captain Chris Simpson (864-992-2352) reports that the long-line trolling bite with jigs and jigs tipped with minnows is still very good in the creek runs and large coves. A large percentage of fish have also moved into the shallows and they can be caught around the banks. 

William Sasser Guide Service confirms that they are also seeing crappie very shallow, and most people are either trolling very shallow or casting at the banks. They have checked deeper brush a couple of times and there are almost no fish out there.

In catfish news, Captain Chris Simpson reports that big blue catfish are feeding pretty well in the same creeks where the crappie are running.  Anchoring on points and humps near the creek channel and fishing with cut gizzard shad and herring is the best pattern.

March 13

Clarks Hill water levels are well about full pool at 332.88 (full pool is 330.00), and water temperatures have risen into the upper 50s. Even though the lake remains very high it has cleared some, although there is still a ton of debris including stumps and logs floating around. 

Finally conditions have forced his hand, and William Sasser Guide Service (706-589-5468) reports that striper and hybrids have gotten so scattered that there really is no choice but to fish planer boards and free-lines.  Fish are making their way back down the lake, and even though they can be found all over Captain Brad Sasser is finding the best fishing in the mid- to lower lake. They are at the mouths of creeks, along the edges, and in the shallows, and while it is not unusual for the schools to be broken up when the false spawn approaches they are even less concentrated than usual. As would be expected it is hard to pinpoint a depth range, but generally fish are in 10-30 feet of water and they can be found from 5 feet below the surface to the bottom. 

Perhaps due to a weekend cold front tournament weights in the BFL last weekend on Clarks Hill were abysmal, and tournament bass angler Josh Rockefeller of Augusta reports that with 86 boats it only took 13 pounds to win! However, with the warming trend this week fishing is really picking up and bass are starting to move to the edges of pockets and around buck brush and shallow rock along the banks. In a few days they will be all over the banks, and spinnerbaits and crankbaits will get better and better for shallower, aggressive fish. There are also some nice bass being caught flipping shallow cover with a Senko or jig. 

On the crappie front,Captain Chris Simpson (864-992-2352) reports that the bite is getting stronger and stronger as temperatures rise. Long-line trolling with jigs and jigs tipped with minnows is one of the most consistent ways to put fish in the boat, especially as they start to flood into the creek runs and large coves. Start at the mouth or in the back and work your way in or out of the creek until you find an active area. Most of the fish have been suspended 5-15 feet deep over 10-20 feet of water, and you should vary your speed and jig colors until you find what the fish want on a particular day. Chris notes that bank fishing is about to get really good.

A couple of slabs caught this week with Captain Chris Simpson
A couple of slabs caught this week with Captain Chris Simpson

William Sasser Guide Service adds that fish are full of roe, but that since water temperatures were about 50 only last Sunday it will take them a few days to adjust to the warming trend and be ready to lay eggs. Soap Creek and Lloyd’s Creek on opposite ends of the lake have been fishing well.   

In catfish news, Captain Chris Simpson reports that big blue catfish are feeding pretty well in the same creeks where the crappie are running.  Anchoring on points and humps near the creek channel and fishing with cut gizzard shad and herring is the best pattern.

February 27

Clarks Hill water levels are well about full pool at 332.63 (full pool is 330.00), which is actually down almost a foot and a half in the last week. There is no clear water anywhere on the lake – it is just a matter of how stained it is. The middle of the channel is muddy and full of debris, logs, broken away docks, staircases, and even lawn chairs. In many cases the backs of creeks are actually cleaner. Water temperatures range from the low to mid-50s.    

Even though water conditions are – to put it mildly – unusual, tournament angler Tyler Matthews of Evans, GA reports that the bass bite has actually been pretty good for the last 10 days. The greatest numbers of fish have been on rock in 6-10 feet of water where he has been catching them on a jig or Sled/ Zoom Speed Craw, but there have also been fish caught on deeper brush in 20-25 feet of water. There have also been reports of excellent catches on crankbaits, although Tyler has spent more time throwing the other baits. 

Even though the submerged grass has pretty much been eradicated on Clarks Hill, tournament angler Josh Rockefeller of Augusta has been able to fish covered up bank grass with the high water levels. He has caught some very nice fish on Chatterbaits fished shallow over the grass. Like Tyler he has also found a good bite on jigs around rock. 

The Rockefeller brothers with a couple of good ones
The Rockefeller brothers with a couple of good ones

Crazy water conditions – and wind, and rain, and more rain – are also affecting the striper and hybrids, but William Sasser Guide Service (706-589-5468) also reports that the fish are still eating pretty well. They are highly scattered likely due to the influx of fresh, dirty water, and every single day you need to look for them anew. Yesterday Captain Brad Sasser caught everything off points and blow-throughs off the edge of the main channel in 17-28 feet of water.  Everything he targeted was on the bottom, although there were a few fish suspended.

While there is little consistency and the fish are moving around a lot from day to day, there have been some commonalities. Fish are generally in less than 30 feet of water, and they are generally in the main lake and not the creeks. They are also totally full of roe.

February 17

Clarks Hill water levels have shot way up to 333.10 (full pool is 330.00), and even though there are reports that the Corps will soon open the floodgates for now people’s docks and walkways are under water. There just haven’t been a lot of places to send the water without flooding the downstream areas. The backs of all the creeks are extremely muddy, and while the lower end is clearing a bit it looks like more freshwater and therefore mud is coming.  There is a ton of debris floating and surface temperatures range from about 52-53 degrees. 

Unusual water conditions are forcing anglers away from traditional winter patterns, but tournament angler Tyler Matthews of Evans, GA reports that that if you can find the right water then the bite can be pretty good. He is looking for water that is stained but not muddy, and 2-2.5 feet of visibility seems to be fishing the best. 

Right now fish are highly scattered but everything seems to be relating to either rocks or brush piles, be they in 4 feet or 25 feet.  Rocks hold heat and both types of cover give fish something to relate to when low visibility limits their senses.  

With virtually no grass on Clarks Hill right now Tyler has found a very poor crankbait/ Rattle Trap bite all year, and most of the fish he is catching are coming on The Sled. Fish do not seem to want to chase so he advises slowing down and working the bait very methodically with repeated casts to the same rock pile. Because visibility is so low fish may not see it unless it is presented right to them. Even though it seems like a Chatterbait and spinnerbait would work in the muddy water, Tyler has had little luck with them.

While weights have overall been a little depressed, there have been some big bags caught this year that are allegedly coming in more than 35 feet of water. A ten plus pound fish was also caught recently. 

A 10.19 pounder caught recently on Clarks Hill
A 10.19 pounder caught recently on Clarks Hill

Whether because of the calendar or water conditions, and probably due to both, William Sasser Guide Service (706-589-5468) reports that striper and hybrids are starting to push towards the lower end. They can be found off the points in the main channel, and the sweet spot has been about 28-35 feet on the bottom. Down-lines have been working well as fish are generally too deep for planer boards.

There are also some fish on the upper end of the lake, and Parksville, the Georgia flats, Shriver Creek and up the Broad River have been the best areas. 

They note that perhaps due to a warm January pretty much all the fish (regardless of species) that they are catching seem to be busting with roe and eggs. 

Always a finicky species, Captain Brad Sasser reports that crappie have all but locked up and they are very difficult to catch. Before the flooding fish had shallowed up some, and once water conditions normalize a little Brad expects to find them in the 12-15 foot range suspended in trees. 

January 30

Clarks Hill water levels are down to 327.64 (full pool is 330.00) and surface temperatures are about 51 or 52 degrees. Most of the lake is muddy to dirty, even including the deep water on the lower end of the lake. 

Despite the absence of relatively clear water on Clarks Hill striper and hybrids are biting well, and William Sasser Guide Service (706-589-5468) reports that the fish they are catching are extremely fat and healthy. They have been finding fish ¾ of the way back in the creeks in 25-30 feet of water on the sides of ditches, and they are catching them close to the bottom on down-lines.  There are also suspended fish that are really on the move, and they must be targeted with free-lines and planer boards. 

Fish are not related to anything in particular and so electronics are critical.  While there is a decent amount of bird activity, in general the birds are on loons and not fish. 

The majority of the fish are up the lake and out in the arms, and up the Georgia Little River up to Raysville has been fishing well as has Soap Creek up the lake.  

When the lake got very high there was a good bite for bass up in the shallow bushes, but tournament angler Josh Rockefeller of Augusta reports that since water levels dropped the fish seem to have pulled back out. They are still catching some fish on rocky points in 5-10 feet of water with The Sled and jigs, and with the absence of grass rock is really the only structure besides wood for the fish to get around. There have been reports of a good blade-bait bite in the ditches but it is not working everywhere. 

Windy conditions have reduced the amount of crappie fishing on the lake, but Captain Brad Sasser reports that as water temperatures gradually begin to rise they should move shallower in the creeks into 12-15 feet of water. Both tight-lining and long-line trolling techniques will work. 

A 2 pound 11 ounce crappie caught recently with William Sasser Guide Service
A 2 pound 11 ounce crappie caught recently with William Sasser Guide Service

On the catfish front, Captain Chris Simpson (864-992-2352) reports that muddy conditions are still making for a tough bite. Still the basic patterns are unchanged, and anchoring on channel ledges in 30-50 feet of water is still the most consistent way to catch fish. Baitfish are also in large schools at the mouths of feeder creeks and coves, and the ledges on the points and humps in the mouths are good areas to fish. These are places where catfish can both ambush and corral the schools of baitfish. 

Cut gizzard shad and white perch remain hard to beat for the bigger blue catfish, and these same areas can also be really good for flatheads if you fish with live bream or white perch.

January 16

Clarks Hill water levels are above full pool at 330.46 (full pool is 330.00) and surface temperatures range from about 52-57 degrees. While water clarity varies over the lake, overall the lake ranges from stained to muddy.

Even though it’s not textbook winter conditions for striper and hybrids on Clarks Hill, William Sasser Guide Service (706-589-5468) reports that the bite has been really good. In the areas they are fishing the dirty water is not hurting the bite too much, and there have been just enough breaks between the rain to keep it from getting downright muddy further down the lake.

Fish are in the creeks, particularly the backs of creeks and on the edges of ditches or the main trough. They are highly suspended, and the best action has fishing shallow down-lines or planer boards for fish holding 10-20 feet deep over 25-40 feet of water.

There is some bird activity but it is limited.

The only thing better than the striper fishing has been the crappie fishing, and Captain Brad Sasser reports that bite has been outstanding. Fish are holding 15-18 feet deep over brush in 25-30 feet of water, and they are catching them on minnows as well as jigs with pink heads and silver bodies. Crappie are in the backs of creeks, and up the South Carolina Little River Baker Creek has fished well. In the Georgia Little River the Raysville are has been good.

From time to time there have been some monster bags of bass caught on Clarks Hill, and tournament angler Josh Rockefeller of Augusta reports that in a New Year’s Day tournament a huge 31-pound sack was landed! However, while a few people have really figured them out on certain days, overall fishing has been a little tough. Perhaps because of water conditions they are not in typical patterns for this time of year. Blade baits have not been fishing well in ditches, and even when loons have been around there have not been bass feeding in the ditches with them. And while a few fish have been caught on underspins over humps it has not been an easy pattern.

The best action Josh has found has been fishing an Alabama rig around bridges, and he has found tons of bait and bass in those areas.

One Clarks Hill bass that did fall for an underspin last week
One Clarks Hill bass that did fall for an underspin last week

 

On thecatfish front, Captain Chris Simpson (864-992-2352) reports that muddy conditions in the areas he likes to fish have made the fish scatter out even more. The presence of trash and logs floating everywhere, especially now that the lake has gotten so high, is also making it harder to fish. 

While fishing is tougher the basic patterns are unchanged, and anchoring on channel ledges in 30-50 feet of water is still the most consistent way to catch fish. Baitfish are also in large schools at the mouths of feeder creeks and coves, and the ledges on the points and humps in the mouths are good areas to fish. These are places where catfish can both ambush and corral the schools of baitfish. 

Cut gizzard shad and white perch remain hard to beat for the bigger blue catfish, and these same areas can also be really good for flatheads if you fish with live bream or white perch.

 

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