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AHQ INSIDER Lake Russell (GA/SC) 2022 Week 19 Fishing Report – Updated May 12

  • by Jay

May 12

Lake Russell water levels are at 474.95 (full pool is 475.00) and with no rain in the past two weeks most of the lake is very clear, with only a slight stain in the very backs. 

Morning surface water temperatures range from about 70-72 degrees. 

Even though Guide Jerry Kotal (706-988-0860) reports that he is not seeing as many spawning herring or catching as many bass feeding on them as last week, indicating that the herring spawn may be dying off, he is still catch plenty of fish in the same areas around shallow points and humps. He is catching bass throwing flukes or topwaters at the points, but they are still having the most success free-lining herring off the points. Still only one or two out of every 100 fish is a largemouth and so it is almost exclusively a spotted bass pattern. 

The big largemouth that anglers are weighing in tournaments seem to mostly be caught on buzzbaits fished around the banks in the creeks right now. 

Another sign that the herring spawn is winding down is that Guide Wendell Wilson (706-283-3336) reports he is catching both bass and striped bass together around main lake points early, but then they are together backing off when the sun gets up instead of continuing to feed shallow into the day. He is having to move the boat into 15-20 feet of water.

Early topwater lures and free-lined herring pitched to the fish are both working well, and then later they are either fishing herring on down-lines or flukes on underspins. 

There continues to be pretty good crappie fishing on Russell, and Wendell reports that they are ganging up on brush in 15-20 feet of water in the creeks. The fish are generally 4-6 feet down and he is catching them casting jigs as well as fishing minnows under a cork.  On Clarks Hill Wendell recently caught 100 crappie in a morning, and while that is not possible in the clearer water on Russell you can get 30 or 40. 

Jerry’s boat is still targeting the catfish, and he is finding the biggest concentrations in 10-12 feet of water. They are around points and back in pockets on both the main lake and in the creeks, and it seems like they are in a pre-spawn feeding mode. When they get ready to spawn they should move shallower.

Cut herring has been hard to beat although catalpa worms are also very good if you can get them. 

A good haul of catfish this week with Guide Jerry Kotal
A good haul of catfish this week with Guide Jerry Kotal

May 4

Lake Russell water levels are at 474.83 (full pool is 475.00) and the lake has mostly cleared. Morning surface water temperatures are about 74-76 degrees. 

It’s been a pretty good herring spawn bite for bass on Lake Russell, and Guide Jerry Kotal (706-988-0860) reports that for now the fishing is still strong around shallow point and humps all day long – even though the morning is still the best time.  However, from what he is seeing it doesn’t seem like the action is going to last as long as last year and some fish already seem to be moving a little deeper. 

You can catch bass throwing flukes or topwaters at the points, although they are having the most success free-lining herring off the points. One or two out of every 100 fish is a largemouth and so it is almost exclusively a spotted bass pattern. 

The big largemouth that anglers are weighing in tournaments seem to mostly be caught on buzzbaits fished around the banks in the creeks right now. 

This week with Guide Jerry Kotal
This week with Guide Jerry Kotal

They are also catching some striped bass off the same points, and Guide Wendell Wilson (706-283-3336) reports that in addition to bass they are picking up a few good striper in the high teens. At least so far there aren’t as many striper on the points as last year, but that could certainly change. Wendell notes that he frequently finds a lull in the middle of the day and for his boat early morning is definitely fishing best.  

Wendell is finding the most striper on the lower end and around Russell State Park. 

There is also some pretty good crappie fishing right now, and Wendell reports that they are ganging up on brush in 15-20 feet of water in the creeks. The fish are generally 4-6 feet down and he is catching them casting jigs as well as fishing minnows under a cork.  

Jerry’s boat is also back on the catfish, and he is finding the biggest concentrations in 10-12 feet of water.  They are around points and back in pockets on both the main lake and in the creeks, and it seems like they are in a pre-spawn feeding mode. When they get ready to spawn they should move shallower.

Cut herring has been hard to beat although catalpa worms are also very good if you can get them. 

April 21

Lake Russell water levels are at 474.74 (full pool is 475.00) and the main lake is still pretty clear while you can find stained water in the creeks. Morning surface water temperatures are about 62 degrees on the main lake and 65 in the creeks.   

The herring spawn has gotten underway on Lake Russell, but Guide Jerry Kotal (706-988-0860) reports that the bass aren’t really keying on the herring just yet. The herring also aren’t really where they are “supposed” to be. While there are some baitfish on the points and riprap, a lot of the herring (and the birds feeding on them) are back in pockets – perhaps because of the very high water levels. 

As a result Jerry is still mostly concentrating on deeper points in the 10-20 foot range, both in the main lakes and the creeks. He is fishing a lot of live bait with guide parties, but the spots will come up to take a fluke or even a topwater lure.

Jerry Kotal with a young angler on his boat this week  
Jerry Kotal with a young angler on his boat this week

While Guide Wendell Wilson (706-283-3336) is catching some bass shallower around the banks, he notes that these are mostly smaller males. He is also catching the most good fish in the same depth range as Jerry, concentrating on 12-14 feet. Wendell believes most of these fish are pre-spawn, but with spotted bass usually spawning out of sight they are always a bit of a mystery. 

Wendell notes that you can catch smaller fish going down the bank throwing a Shad Rap or a paddle-tail swimbait. 

While the herring spawn doesn’t seem to have the bass concentrated up shallow yet, it has made the striped bass much more predictable. This week Jerry caught a 30-pound striper that came up at the boat to hit a fluke over 15-20 feet of water, and Wendell has caught some fish in the high-teens off points in 14-15 feet on herring.

Although they are relating to points the striper don’t seem to be concentrated anywhere, and so the best way to target them is pulling big herring on free-lines and planer boards off main lake points in the 10-20 foot range. 

The crappie are pretty much in a post-spawn phase by now, and Wendell reports that they can be caught trolling in the creeks in 10-18 feet of water. His boat has found the best numbers in about 15 feet, but they are only about 4-6 feet below the surface. Jigs are working very well. 

There are also post-spawn fish that are starting to stack up on shallow/ mid-depth brush.  

There are still plenty of catfish that can be caught halfway back in the creeks in 10-15 feet of water.  They are sitting out in the channel and they will take cut herring.

April 8

Lake Russell water levels are up to 475.36 (full pool is 475.00) and the main lake is still pretty clear while the creeks are muddy in the backs after almost two and a half inches of rain Tuesday. Morning surface water temperatures are about 60 degrees on the main lake and 62 in the creeks.   

The crappie fishing has turned back on again, and Guide Wendell Wilson (706-283-3336) reports that two days ago they caught 60 fish long-line trolling with 1/16th ounce jigs down the center of coves off creeks. The boat was in 12-16 feet of water, and the fish were 4-6 feet down. Yesterday the front slowed the numbers down, but the pattern should still hold once things stabilize.

Most of the fish were medium-sized females, as most of the better females seem to have already spawned. In contrast they are still catching a wide array of sizes of males around the banks casting a 1/32 ounce jig or fishing with minnows. 

The bass fishing continues to be strong on Russell, and Guide Jerry Kotal (706-988-0860) reports that they are still having the most success fishing pockets and points in the 15-20 foot range, both in the main lakes and the creeks. Some fish also seem to be starting to spawn and they have caught them throwing at the bank. From what Jerry has seen the herring spawn has not really gotten underway – he has only seen them shallow in one place – because cold fronts keep knocking them back.  

Wendell is also catching bass with drop shot rigs on man lake points in 8-14 feet of water. He believes males are getting around the banks while the females are waiting to move up. 

A good harvest this week with Guide Jerry Kotal
A good harvest this week with Guide Jerry Kotal

The striped bass seem to be just starting to improve, and Jerry has caught occasional fish up to 12 pounds recently. When the herring spawn gets underway they will see more again.   

There are still plenty of catfish that can be caught halfway back in the creeks in 10-15 feet of water. They are sitting out in the channel and they will take cut herring. 

April 1

Lake Russell water levels are down to 474.41 (full pool is 475.00) and the main lake is pretty clear while the creeks are dirty in the backs. Morning surface water temperatures are about 58 degrees on the main lake and 61 in the creeks.     

The consensus among Guide Jerry Kotal (706-988-0860) and Guide Wendell Wilson (706-283-3336) is that the crappie fishing is terrible, with one guide actually speculating that all the crappie in the lake have died! Joking aside, Wendell attributes the bad fishing to the fact that the Corps dropped the lake about 2 feet and ran all the fish off the banks, and then the cold also did not help. Fishing should get better again once temperatures stabilize and hit the mid-60s again, and then they should be able to troll and fish around shallow cover. 

Luckily Jerry and Wendell also both agree that the bass fishing is really good on Lake Russell, although the spots have also moved a little deeper this week. Jerry has had the most success fishing pockets and points in the 15-20 foot range, both in the main lakes and the creeks. 

Wendell has found the same pattern, and on one main lake point he found a huge group of 3-4 pound female spots all grouped up in 14-16 feet of water. He was fishing a drop shot rig as well as live bait and the fish would eat about anything.

His boat has also had a ton of success just going down the bank with a Shad Rap and at the same time dragging live herring behind the boat. 

A nice catch recently with Guide Jerry Kotal
A nice catch recently with Guide Jerry Kotal

The striped bass are still very hard to find, but it won’t be long until they magically reappear when the herring spawn gets underway. 

There are still plenty of catfish that can be caught halfway back in the creeks in 10-15 feet of water. They are sitting out in the channel and they will take cut herring. 

March 25

Lake Russell water levels are down to 474.59 (full pool is 475.00) and the main lake is pretty clear while the creeks are a little muddy in the backs. Morning surface water temperatures are about 57-58 degrees on the main lake to 60 in the creeks.     

The bass fishing has been extremely good this week on Lake Russell, and Guide Jerry Kotal (706-988-0860) reports that fishing off secondary points in smaller creeks they are catching fish on about everything they throw. The fish are mostly in 8-10 feet of water, and they will take spinnerbaits, small crankbaits, and of course herring.

A good haul this week with Guide Jerry Kotal
A good haul this week with Guide Jerry Kotal

While he is also finding a great bite, Guide Wendell Wilson (706-283-3336) is fishing even shallower on flats inside the 8-10 foot range where the water slowly drops to about 3 feet. The best action has been adjacent to spawning flats, and they are fishing both coves off the main lake as well as the front parts of creeks where it is not too dirty. They are picking up a decent number of largemouth as well as lots of spotted bass. 

While the crappie fishing has slowed a bit, Wendell reports that they are still catching some fish trolling jigs in the back of creeks and even fishing around shallow tree tops where the fish spawn. While the biggest fish may have already spawned, Wendell has been catching lots of fish in the one-pound range that are still full of eggs. 

Jerry thinks the biggest fish have already transitioned out to deeper brush. 

The striped bass are still very hard to find, and again this week they caught a single fish off a point. They will show up as soon as the herring spawn gets underway. 

There are still plenty of catfish that can be caught halfway back in the creeks in 10-15 feet of water. They are sitting out in the channel and they will take cut herring. 

March 17

After dropping about a foot Lake Russell water levels are back above full at 475.16 (full pool is 475.00) and the water is muddy in the backs of creeks. At least down the lake is still pretty clear on the main watever but even creeks that generally stay clean have now gotten muddy. Morning surface water temperatures are about 56 or 57 degrees.   

There’s not much change in the bass from last week for Guide Jerry Kotal (706-988-0860), who is still fishing for fish suspended about 15 or so feet off the bottom near points in 18-25 feet of water. He is catching some of them on a drop shot and others on live herring.

A mixed bag caught this week with Guide Jerry Kotal
A mixed bag caught this week with Guide Jerry Kotal

However, since he was targeting shallower fish last week the group of fish that Guide Wendell Wilson (706-283-3336) is after has gone deeper, and instead of casting along the banks into 6-7 feet of water he is now fishing in more like 14-18 feet on the main lake. These are not flat or steep banks, but instead gently sloping banks of the type that spotted bass like to spawn on.  As the fish have moved deeper a drop shot is now working better than a jerkbait. 

Even as fish have moved out the bite is still very good. 

While crappie don’t generally prefer clear water, the water got so muddy in the areas that he was fishing that Jerry had to move out to find new areas. He is still picking up a few fish around the banks but that bite has slowed a bit. 

Wendell thinks that is because we are in between different waves of the spawn, and from what he is seeing there is a large group of fish staging in the creeks in about 8-12 feet of water. This is generally the one-pound range fish, and the very biggest females seem to have largely already spawned. 

The striped bass are still very hard to find, and except for the random fish picked up trolling for crappie or targeting bass no one is seeing them.  Jerry’s boat did lose a very large one that they could not turn on bass tackle this week. 

There are still plenty of catfish that can be caught halfway back in the creeks in 10-15 feet of water. They are sitting out in the channel and they will take cut herring. 

March 10

Lake Russell water levels are above full at 475.21 (full pool is 475.00) and the water is getting muddy in the backs of creeks but still clear on the main lake. Morning surface water temperatures are about 57 degrees on the main lake but were warmer in the backs. 

Proving that not all the fish are doing the same thing at the same time, Guide Jerry Kotal (706-988-0860) and Guide Wendell Wilson (706-283-3336) are on completely different patterns for bass. Jerry is fishing for fish suspended off points in 18-25 feet of water, and they are generally about 15 or so feet off the bottom. This group of fish moved out when temperatures started to drop, and he is catching some of them on a drop shot and others on live herring.

Meanwhile, Wendell is still fishing in the same areas along the banks where the spotted bass will ultimately spawn. His boat is in 10-12 feet of water and he is casting into 6-7 feet, and he is fishing with a shallow-running jerkbait that goes about 3 feet down. 

In contrast, with the crappie both guides are doing pretty much the same thing. While you can troll for them, they are pretty much fishing shallow with a jig and minnow under a cork. Wendell is trying to let the bait really sit in one place so he prefers a minnow right now, and he is having the best luck at the very back of coves with steeper banks. While there could still be some good ones to come up, the consensus seems to be that some of the biggest fish may have already spawned. For some reason Clarks Hill seems to be running behind Russell this year. 

A good day this week with Guide Jerry Kotal
A good day this week with Guide Jerry Kotal

The striped bass are still very hard to find, and except for the random fish picked up trolling for crappie no one is seeing them. 

There are still plenty of catfish that can be caught halfway back in the creeks in 10-15 feet of water. They are sitting out in the channel and they will take cut herring. 

March 1

Lake Russell water levels are at 474.73 (full pool is 475.00) and the water is stained in the backs of creeks but generally clear on the main lake. Morning surface water temperatures are about 55 degrees on the main lake and 60-61 degrees in the backs of creeks. 

In a sure sign of spring the bass have pretty much left deep water, and Guide Jerry Kotal (706-988-0860) reports that they have started to scatter out on the points. Most of the fish are in 10-20 feet of water, and points with brush are holding the most fish.

This week Guide Wendell Wilson (706-283-3336) has seen the same thing, and he has caught fish from 6 feet to 28 feet. Jerkbaits are working very well, and of course the fish will also eat medium minnows. In addition to points he has found them holding just off the same banks where they will spawn later.

The star of the show this week on Lake Russell has been the crappie, and both guides report a really good bite. For the month of March Wendell says that he will be carrying both trolling rods as well as long poles for fishing around the banks. 

Pulling 6-8 rods with small jigs is a preferred tactic, and Jerry reports that he has caught good numbers fishing this way. He has also caught equally good numbers casting the same small jigs at the banks, targeting small points and irregularities. However, basically the fish are just related to areas where they will spawn. 

The only really big crappie anyone has caught came on Wendell’s boat on a day where water temperatures hit the mid-60s and he found some big males and females well over 2 pound very close to the bank over gnarly brush and flooded beaver huts. A minnow 18 inches under a cork would get these fish to come up out of the cover, but this pattern has not been repeated since water temperatures dropped. Both guides hope another round of big fish will come to the banks. 

A good catch yesterday with Guide Jerry Kotal

The striped bass are still very hard to find, but there are plenty of catfish that can be caught halfway back in the creeks in 10-15 feet of water. They are sitting out in the channel and they will take cut herring.  Wendell picked up one trolling a crappie jig yesterday!

February 18

Lake Russell water levels are at 474.62 (full pool is 475.00) and the water is clear except for the very backs of creeks where there is a slight stain. Morning surface water temperatures are about 52-53 degrees on the main lake and 54-55 degrees in the backs of creeks. 

It was a good winter for striped bass fishing on Lake Russell, but Guide Jerry Kotal (706-988-0860) reports that in the last few days they have almost completely disappeared. He knew the bite was about to taper off when instead of groups of fish he started seeing singles rolling on the surface, and with the relatively small population of striper on the lake once they scatter out it gets very hard to target them. 

Guide Wendell Wilson (706-283-3336) agrees, and he points out that some of the striper move into the creeks and some of them will be in the main lake. For a while the striper they catch will be essentially accidental. 

Perhaps the last good striper/ hybrid catch for a while, with Jerry Kotal this week
Perhaps the last good striper/ hybrid catch for a while, with Jerry Kotal this week

As a result both guides are turning to the crappie.  As they transition out of deep water the crappie are starting to suspend in the channels, and the biggest groups that Jerry has marked have been 7 or 8 feet down in 18-20 feet of water. Trolling hasn’t gotten hot yet, but it should turn on any day.

As proof of that Wendell notes that in the last five days he has caught crappie in 60 feet of water and on the bank in less than 5 feet! A very few males have already moved up, but there will be more very soon.

While both guides acknowledge they have been trying to force the crappie before the fish were quite ready, Wendell points out that with the perch also seemingly vanished the best thing going is the spotted bass. Bass are on the sides of points, and they are picking up a bunch of them while crappie fishing with jigs and minnows. Jerry notes that you can target them with a drop shot, shakey head, or underspin, and he will start out looking in 15-20 feet. 

February 10

Lake Russell water levels are at 474.13 (full pool is 475.00) and the water is clear on the main lake and at the front of creeks. Morning surface water temperatures are about 49-50 degrees, hitting 52 in the afternoon.

The striped bass fishing has been strong recently on Lake Russell, and Guide Jerry Kotal (706-988-0860) reports that while they haven’t caught any fish that would be considered monsters on Lake Russell they have gotten fish up to 20 pounds recently. The fish are still deep in 40-50 feet of water in the mid-lake area, but now they are mostly suspended 20-25 feet down. They are catching them on jigging spoons as well as casting bucktails. They are still catching bass in the same areas, but the trend is accelerating where the bass are starting to leave. Instead of 30 or 40 bass they are catching 10, and from what Jerry has seen the bass are starting to move into the creeks. 

Both types of perch have almost totally disappeared after hanging with the striper for so long, but Jerry is starting to catch a bunch of crappie mixed in with the striper. They prefer minnows but he has caught a couple of crappie in the three-pound range on spoons!

A good day this week with Guide Jerry Kotal
A good day this week with Guide Jerry Kotal

February 1

Lake Russell water levels are at 474.05 (full pool is 475.00) and the water is fairly clear. Morning surface water temperatures are about 49-51 degrees.  

It’s been a pretty good bite for striped bass recently on Lake Russell, and Guide Jerry Kotal (706-988-0860) reports that they have been catching fish in 40-50 feet of water in the mid-lake area. Most of the fish are on the bottom but there are some that are suspended in that range. A jigging spoon has been working really well, but they have also caught some fish on Alabama rigs.

There are also bass in the same areas, but Jerry is beginning to notice the number of bass thinning as they start to move into the 30-foot range. This move is clearly because of the upcoming spawn and not because of water temperatures, as temperatures have not yet started to rise. 

A good day this week with Guide Jerry Kotal
A good day this week with Guide Jerry Kotal

In another normal, seasonal change, all of a sudden Guide Wendell Wilson (706-283-3336) has started to catch more crappie – like every late January. He is still getting a mixed bag of fish including bass and white perch (the bigger yellow perch have been hard to find right now), but on deep flats on the main lake they are also starting to get a bunch of crappie. The fish are on the bottom generally in about 30-50 feet of water, but they have found schools as shallow as 28 feet and as deep as 58. Minnows have been working very well. 

Jerry notes that he caught a couple of nearly 3-pound crappie on Alabama rigs, another sign they are getting more aggressive!

A fair number of 2-4 pound largemouth have been mixed in with the other species, one to three per day, and the dink spots are right beside the better fish up to 3 plus pounds. 

Wendell has also been concentrating on the mid-lake where the bulk of the birds and fish seem to be right now. 

January 20

Lake Russell water levels are at 474.63 (full pool is 475.00) and the lake is stained with the recent rains. Morning surface water temperatures are around 50 degrees.  

Water temperatures are cold but not yet in the range where there is the danger of a major shad-die off, and as a result Guide Jerry Kotal (706-988-0860) reports that the fishing has been very good recently. He has been fishing in the lower lake on the bottom in about 50 feet of water, and there have been some really good schools of striped bass and bass. Each trip he has caught at least half a dozen striper, usually in the 15-18 pound range as well, as 30 plus bass. Artificial lures like spoons, bucktails and Alabama rigs have been working very well. 

The three best striper on a recent trip with Jerry Kotal
The three best striper on a recent trip with Jerry Kotal

It’s been a similar story on the boat with Guide Wendell Wilson (706-283-3336), and Wendell reports that on the bottom in a clean spot in the river channel he got into a school of crappie in about 45 feet. Birds were diving on bait and eventually the bass and white and yellow perch showed up. Both live bait and jigging spoons were working. 

While the clean spots are more fishable than the areas with timber, they also seem to concentrate the fish – even though there are certainly fish down in the trees.

January 6

Lake Russell water levels are right at full (full pool is 475.00) and the upper end is murky while the lower end is pretty clear. Morning surface water temperatures are about 57 degrees.

Once again water conditions have changed the bite on Lake Russell, and Guide Wendell Wilson (706-283-3336) reports that he has moved down to the lower end where they are picking up very good numbers of white perch, yellow perch, some striped bass and spotted bass in 50-60 feet of water on the main lake. The fish are relating to schools of bait and they are biting very well on jigging spoons and minnows fished just off the bottom on a drop shot. In the mid-lake area there are more spotted bass, but the bite has also slowed as it got murky. 

They have picked up several teenage striper fishing around deep bait schools with spoons or minnows, but you can also follow the gulls and find them rolling on the surface. They won’t take surface baits but Alabama rigs, bucktails and swimbaits will all work. There are a good number of birds right now and as usual the bite is much better on cloudy days. 

Before the cold snap Guide Jerry Kotal (706-988-0860) was still finding the fish scattered and too-often suspended, but he is very optimistic that the next few weeks will be some of the best fishing of the whole year once it gets and stays cool.

 Caught recently with Guide Jerry Kotal
Caught recently with Guide Jerry Kotal

December 22

Lake Russell water levels are at 475.27 (full pool is 475.00) and the water is relatively clear. Morning surface water temperatures are down to about 56 degrees.

The fish are following the exact patterns they are supposed to follow in the winter on Lake Russell, and Guide Jerry Kotal (706-988-0860) reports that before the cold snap the fish were still very suspended and numbers were down. That’s not to saying they weren’t catching fish, but instead of catching 70-90 spotted bass, white and yellow perch, occasional crappie and striper, and catfish they were managing 30 or 40 fish on each trip. Fish were still in the main river channel and the front of creeks in 20-45 feet, and they were still marking excellent numbers, but the bite wasn’t hot. 

A decent mixed bag caught with Jerry Kotal over the weekend
A decent mixed bag caught with Jerry Kotal over the weekend

All that changed with the cold snap the last few days, and Guide Wendell Wilson (706-283-3336) reports that every spot they fished yesterday was on fire. They caught 95 fish including a good striper in the 12-15 pound range and a bunch of largemouth (released). The fish were back on the bottom and the best places were in 30-38 feet of water.  

Both jigging spoons and live bait were equally deadly. 

While he didn’t target them specifically yesterday, over the last week the striped bass fishing has still been strong and sea gulls are pointing the way to the fish.  In the mid-lake area striper are rolling on the surface and they have caught some good ones casting Alabama rigs at them.  They won’t take surface baits but Alabama rigs, bucktails and swimbaits will all work.  With plenty of bait in the area the mid-lake area should continue to hold fish.

December 16

Lake Russell water levels are at 475.24 (full pool is 475.00) and the water is relatively clear. Morning surface water temperatures are about 58 degrees.

With water temperatures extremely stable, Guide Jerry Kotal (706-988-0860) reports that there are only minor changes in the pattern he is fishing. They are still catching a bunch of spotted bass, perch, occasional crappie and striper, and the fish are mostly still suspended in about 20-45 feet of water on the main river channel and in the front of creeks. There may be a few more fish on the bottom than last week, and the depth range has moved a little deeper.

While live bait is still working, the most exciting catch this week was a giant 54-pound flathead catfish which came on a jigging spoon in 43 feet of water! There are plenty of catfish deeper and shallower as they are scattered all over, but this fish was a reminder that Russell has some giants.

Guide Jerry Kotal with the monster flathead caught this week
Guide Jerry Kotal with the monster flathead caught this week

The catches have also been strong for Guide Wendell Wilson (706-283-3336), who is catching a similar mixed bag of fish. However, he has found a flat inside Coldwater Creek where the fish are set up on the bottom. It’s basically an even mix of spotted bass, white perch and yellow perch, and even though the giant yellow perch haven’t showed up yet they have caught a few over 12 inches. 

While it was slow getting started this year Wendell is most excited about the striped bass fishing, and the sea gulls have now gotten thick enough that they are pointing the way to the fish.  In the mid-lake area striper are rolling on the surface and they have caught some good ones casting Alabama rigs at them.  They won’t take surface baits but Alabama rigs, bucktails and swimbaits will all work.  With plenty of bait in the area the mid-lake area should continue to hold fish.

December 2

Lake Russell water levels are above full at 475.39 (full pool is 475.00) and the water is clear. Morning surface water temperatures are about 60 degrees.

It’s unclear what effect the warm spell will have on the fishing, but Guide Wendell Wilson (706-283-3336) reports that up until now it is has been an outstanding period for fishing as long as you could find bait in 30-40 feet of water. The spotted bass, white perch and yellow perch are all stacked up in these areas, and dropping a jigging spoon or live bait down to the bottom pretty much guarantees good catches. 

The crappie are still a little tougher to target, and it seems that they are roaming around in deep water following bait schools. About the only way to target them is to have very deep brush or to chase them with electronics.

Wendell still isn’t on the striped bass, but that’s as much because he hasn’t targeted them as anything.  With birds showing up it won’t be long now. 

November 19

Lake Russell water levels are at 474.90 (full pool is 475.00) and the water is clear. Morning surface water temperatures are still about 64 degrees.

This week Guide Jerry Kotal (706-988-0860) reports that the bass fishing has slowed down a little on Lake Russell, and he suspects that the warm temperatures are the reason the fish are more suspended than they have been. He is marking absolutely incredible numbers of fish on his graph in 20-30 feet of water at the mouths of creeks and on flats, and he suspects that when temperatures drop and fish get flat on the bottom catch numbers will match what he is seeing. 

Live bait is the easiest way to catch fish, but in addition to a drop shot bite he is now also catching them on spoons. 

A nice spotted bass caught this week with Guide Jerry Kotal
A nice spotted bass caught this week with Guide Jerry Kotal

Even though it was still warm yesterday Guide Wendell Wilson (706-283-3336) saw some signs that fish were starting to get on the bottom more, and in a day of fishing they caught 77 with the vast majority spotted bass.  He was in 28-34 feet of water and it was all live bait fishing. 

The fish that weren’t spots were a mix of white and yellow perch, and this is the time every year when the big perch start to show up. They are on the bottom and fishing with minnows is the easiest method. 

The crappie are still a little tougher to target, and it seems that they are roaming around in deep water following bait schools. About the only way to target them is to have very deep brush or to chase them with electronics.

Both guides have picked up the occasional striped bass, but as gulls start to show up again they are very optimistic that striper fishing will improve soon as the fish will get easier to located. 

While he has not been after them much, Jerry reports that the catfish are still around main lake points 20-25 feet deep or in pockets at about the same depth. Cut herring is hard to beat. 

November 11

Lake Russell water levels are at 474.66 (full pool is 475.00) and the water is clearing as the turnover winds down. Morning surface water temperatures are about 64 degrees.

Even though he usually finds the best action in the winter, Guide Jerry Kotal (706-988-0860) reports that right now it continues to be an outstanding bass bite on Lake Russell. Fish remain in 15-20 feet of water on the bottom at the mouths of creeks and on flats. Live bait is the easiest way to catch fish, but in addition to a drop shot bite he is now also catching them on spoons. 

A good catch this week with Guide Jerry Kotal
A good catch this week with Guide Jerry Kotal

Even though he is fishing a slightly different pattern for suspended fish back in the creeks, Guide Wendell Wilson (706-283-3336) also reports wide-open action that if anything has also improved from already-very good last week. He is still fishing in the creeks in about 20-30 feet of water around schools of threadfin shad, and most of these fish are suspended about 12-14 feet down although they will sometimes run bait up to the surface. The best way to locate these roaming fish is to get in the middle of the coves and look for surface activity then run over them with your depth finder. With minnows on a drop shot you can usually catch 3 or 4 before they move, and you can also target them with a #5 Shad Rap, 2.5 inch paddletail swimbait or ¼ ounce lipless crankbait. 

It’s still about the same word on the striped bass, and Jerry says he has only picked up one in the past week.  According to Wendell this is not unusual for November, when the fish usually get extremely scattered. It probably won’t be until the gulls really arrive in December that the fish are accessible again. 

This past week Wendell reports that crappie have gotten a little tougher to target, which also isn’t unusual. They have slid off into 18 plus feet of water following deeper bait schools, and there they are difficult to fish without very deep brush.

At the same time the white perch and yellow perch bites are starting to improve in about 25 feet of water on the bottom in the same areas where the spotted bass are feeding, and so for a while Wendell will spend more time targeting them instead of crappie.  

While he has not been after them much, Jerry reports that the catfish are still around main lake points 20-25 feet deep or in pockets at about the same depth. Cut herring is hard to beat. 

November 4

Lake Russell water levels are right around full (full pool is 475.00) and the water has gotten much cleaner again. Morning surface water temperatures are about 67 degrees.

It’s an outstanding bass bite right now on Lake Russell, and Guide Jerry Kotal (706-988-0860) reports that fish have moved a bit shallower into 15-20 feet of water at the mouths of creeks and on flats. He is killing them with a drop shot worm, catching more than 60 fish in just a few hours yesterday – including a bass on 38 straight casts!  

It’s been a similar story on the water with Guide Wendell Wilson (706-283-3336), but he reports that his boat is catching spotted bass back in the creeks in about 20-30 feet of water around schools of threadfin shad. Most of these fish are suspended about 12-14 feet down, although they will sometimes run bait up to the surface. The best way to locate these roaming fish is to get in the middle of the coves and look for surface activity then run over them with your depth finder. With minnows on a drop shot you can usually catch 3 or 4 before they move, and you can also target them with a #5 Shad Rap, 2.5 inch paddletail swimbait or ¼ ounce lipless crankbait. 

Some good ones caught this week with Guide Jerry Kotal
Some good ones caught this week with Guide Jerry Kotal

At the same time that the bass have gotten really good both guides agree that the striped bass have basically disappeared, which Wendell says is not unusual for November. In November the fish get extremely scattered and it won’t be until the gulls arrive in December that the fish are accessible again. 

The crappie are generally in the same areas of the creeks as the spots, although Wendell reports that they are around brush piles a bit shallower 8-10 feet down in 15-20 feet of water. They are pretty much on a minnow bite right now. White perch are starting to show up just a little deeper on the bottom in 25 feet of water under the spots, while the yellow perch have not really appeared yet. 

While he has not been targeting them much, Jerry reports that the catfish are still around main lake points 20-25 feet deep or in pockets at about the same depth. Cut herring is hard to beat. 

October 20

After being more than 4 feet above full, Lake Russell water levels have dropped down to a few inches above full pool at 475.33 (full pool is 475.00).  Pretty much the whole lake is stained but it’s much better than it was, particularly in terms of floating trash, and morning surface water temperatures are about 74 or 75 degrees. 

The net result of up-and-down water levels is that the bass have decided the best place to stay is suspended in about the same range where they have been for over a month now, and Guide Jerry Kotal (706-988-0860) reports that he is still catching them on drop shot rigs or bait 15-20 feet down over 20-25 feet of water on the main lake.  Some fish may have thought about moving shallower when water levels shot up, but they dropped again so fast that it pulled fish back off the banks.

A good haul of spots earlier this week with Jerry Kotal
A good haul of spots earlier this week with Jerry Kotal

Jerry’s boat is mainly catching spots (and a few striped bass) this way, although the occasional big largemouth is mixed in. However, if you are a tournament angler or otherwise looking for largemouth his best advice is to throw a buzzbait back in a creek early – or head to another lake!

Even as water conditions got really crazy with floating logs and the like, Guide Wendell Wilson (706-283-3336) has continued to be able to target striper fishing down-lines on the lower end. He has found the fish suspended about 20-50 feet down over deep water and the bite has been pretty good. 

The crappie fishing on Russell continues to be pretty strong, and Wendell reports that the action continues to improve in the creeks.  The fish have moved a bit shallower and they are generally holding 12-14 feet down over brush in 18-20 feet of water. 

Most of the catfish still seem to be on the bottom, and Jerry reports that the best place to target them is around main lake points 20-25 feet deep – or in pockets at about the same depth. Cut herring is hard to beat. 

October 6

Lake Russell water levels are well above full pool to 474.49 (full pool is 475.00) and rising fast after recent rains. They have had 5 inches of rain already and are expected to get 3-4 more inches, and so water clarity is dropping fast. In the backs of the creeks to about halfway out it’s already getting pretty bad. Morning surface water temperatures are in the mid-70s. 

Monsoon conditions are unlikely to put the bass on the bottom, and so Guide Jerry Kotal (706-988-0860) reports that he expects the fish to stay on the same suspended pattern for a while longer. They are catching them about 15-20 feet down over 20-25 feet of water. Particularly when the sun is out they are starting to pick up more fish tight to brush, while on cloudy days the fish roam more.

While Jerry continues to find some striped bass mixed in with the spots, Guide Wendell Wilson (706-283-3336) is targeting the striper and getting some good fish up to the low teens fishing down-lines on the lower end. For right now he is finding the best fish suspended about 40 feet down over deep water. 

There should also still be some striper at the top of the lake that can be caught on free-lines below the Hartwell Dam. 

Striper caught recently with Guide Jerry Kotal
Striper caught recently with Guide Jerry Kotal

Even though he has targeted them more on Clarks Hill recently, Wendell reports that the Russell crappie fishing is still pretty good back in the creeks.  They are generally holding 12-15 feet down over brush in 20-25 feet of water. 

Most of the catfish again seem to be on the bottom, and Jerry reports that the best place to target them is around main lake points 20-25 feet deep – or in pockets at about the same depth. Cut herring is hard to beat. 

September 30

Lake Russell water levels are at 474.98 (full pool is 475.00) and the main lake is still clear. However, in the backs of creeks there are signs that the water is starting to turn over and you can already see brown water and bubbles on the surface. Morning surface water temperatures have dropped into the upper 70s.   

Even though it would be customary to expect the bite to fall off a bit when the lake starts to turn over,Guide Jerry Kotal (706-988-0860) reports that he is still doing pretty well for spotted bass fishing the same suspended pattern he has been on for some time. However, they are now catching less other species on this pattern and the fish are starting to move a bit shallower chasing bait. They are catching them about 15-20 feet down over 20-25 feet of water. Particularly when the sun is out they are starting to pick up more fish tight to brush, while on cloudy days the fish will roam more. 

Guide Wendell Wilson (706-283-3336) is fishing a similar pattern for bass, and for him the key is just finding the bait. In addition to live bait or a drop shot he is also targeting fish with a swimbait or topwater, particularly when he can find them feeding on the surface. The fish are starting to run bait up the top a little bit, and get more ganged up, but that pattern is not wide open yet. 

Jerry is picking up somestriped bass fishing for relatively shallow suspended fish, but the best numbers of striper seem to be coming in the lower lake targeting them 40 feet down over 100 feet of water with down-lines.  You will catch a few spotted bass on this pattern but not as many as shallower, and the striper are generally running a good 10 plus pounds.

There are also some striper at the top of the lake that can be caught on free-lines below the Hartwell Dam.

A good one caught last week with Guide Jerry Kotal 
A good one caught this week with Guide Jerry Kotal

Even though he has targeted them more on Clarks Hill recently, Wendell reports that the Russell crappie fishing is still pretty good back in the creeks.   They are generally holding 12-15 feet down over brush in 20-25 feet of water. 

Most of the catfish again seem to be on the bottom, and Jerry reports that the best place to target them is around main lake points 20-25 feet deep – or in pockets at about the same depth.  Cut herring is hard to beat. 

September 17

Lake Russell water levels are at 474.54 (full pool is 475.00) and the main lake is still clear. Morning surface water temperatures have dropped to about 82 degrees. 

It’ll take temperatures dropping a few more degrees before patterns really change, andGuide Jerry Kotal (706-988-0860) reports he is still catching a mixed bag of bass, striper, white perch and catfish suspended 15-25 feet down over 30-40 feet of water. He is still sticking to the main lake off points and the mouths of pockets. All of the fish will take live herring, although the perch are a little harder to hook on big baits.

Jerry suspects that the fish never got on the bottom this summer like they usually do because of all the rains, and with a lot of rain in the last 48 hours that is probably not changing.  

The bass catch is heavily spotted bass, and if you want to improve your chances of catching a largemouth you should still head into the back of a creek and throw a buzzbait. You won’t get many bites but the ones you get should be good ones.

A couple of good ones caught this week with Jerry Kotal
A couple of good ones caught this week with Jerry Kotal

Jerry has caught striper up to 15 pounds mixed in with the other species, but if you want to target just striped bass Guide Wendell Wilson (706-283-3336) reports that the biggest groups are still on the ends of the lake. On the lower end fish are about 30-50 feet down over 70-100 feet of water, while in the Hartwell Tailrace you can pull herring or trout in the river channel in 20 feet or less. 

It’s been a better week for crappie again, and Wendell reports that even though they aren’t catching monster spring crappie the numbers of 9-12 inch fish are really good. Brush in about 15-20 feet in the backs of creeks is loaded up with crappie, and they are generally fishing minnows about 10-14 feet down. 

The crappie that are holding on brush are just waiting for shad to swim by to ambush, but there are also some crappie that are out in open water chasing bait at about the same depth. To catch these fish you pretty much have to rely on electronics. 

Finally, while Jerry is still catching suspended catfish, if you want to really target them then fishing on the bottom around main lake points 20-25 feet deep is probably the best pattern. Cut herring is hard to beat. 

September 2

Lake Russell water levels are at 474.35 (full pool is 475.00) and the main lake is still clear. Morning surface water temperatures are 85-87 degrees. 

Even with recent rains there is very little change in the patternGuide Jerry Kotal (706-988-0860) is fishing, and he reports still catching a mixed bag of bass, striper, white perch and catfish suspended 15-25 feet down over 30-40 feet of water. He is sticking to the main lake off points and at the mouths of pockets. All of the fish will take live herring, although the perch are little harder to hook on big baits.

Jerry suspects that the fish never got on the bottom this summer like they usually do because of all the rains. 

A happy group of ladies after a morning of fishing with Guide Jerry Kotal
A happy group of ladies after a morning of fishing with Guide Jerry Kotal

The bass catch is heavily spotted bass, and if you want to improve your chances of catching a largemouth you should still head into the back of a creek and throw a buzzbait. You won’t get many bites but the ones you get should be good ones.

If you want to target just striped bass, Guide Wendell Wilson (706-283-3336) reports that there are basically two places to look. One is still the lower end, where fish are about 30-50 feet down over 70-100 feet of water. 

The other place to look is in the Hartwell Tailrace, where you can pull herring or trout in the river channel in 20 feet or less. 

The crappie fishing has dropped off a little, but Wendell has found fish 12-14 feet down in the creeks over brush in 17-22 feet of water.  He never really found fish both stacked up and biting really well, but you can catch a couple off each brush pile before you have to fish elsewhere.  Minnows have been working the best.

 

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