Join AHQ Premier for unlimited Free Shipping & access to the AHQ Report. Click here for 30 day free trial! Or enjoy Free Shipping on orders over $50!

Reel in the big fish with one of our handpicked fishing reels. Shop by brand or reel type.

Shop our collection of fishing rods to find the one that best matches your needs.

AHQ INSIDER Lake Russell (GA/SC) 2023 Week 3 Fishing Report – Updated January 19

  • by Jay

January 19

Lake Russell water levels are down to 474.35 (full pool is 475.00) and parts of the lake are still muddy. Morning surface water temperatures are still around 54 degrees. 

At this time of year Guide Wendell Wilson (706-283-3336) often prefers to fish spots up the lake, but the mouths of some bigger creeks like Coldwater and Allen Creek are muddy and so they have moved down. Near the dam the water is basically clear (although below the Russell Dam in the main channel it’s also pretty clear.)

The bass seem to have broken off from the large, deep bait schools and headed shallower, and Wendell is now finding them mostly in the 20-foot range. In contrast the biggest schools of bait and in turn striped bass, white perch and yellow perch are more likely to be in the 50-70 foot range. Sometimes there are a ton of gulls around them and sometimes just a few.

Yesterday they started the day off with a 20-pound striper caught high in the water column on an Alabama rig, then for numbers of big perch they fished a spot that has been good in 68 feet and then another in 52 feet on the bottom. Overall there are more fish deep right now, which is unsurprising because the bait is still there.

Crappie are generally in deep water, too, but they are mostly suspended 12-16 feet down over tree tops. 

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

January 13

Lake Russell water levels are hovering around full at 474.98 (full pool is 475.00) and almost the whole lake is muddy. Morning surface water temperatures are now around 54 degrees. 

The only sections of Lake Russell which aren’t muddy are right around the dam and some sections of the Rocky River, and combined with rising water temperatures Guide Jerry Kotal (706-988-0860) reports that means the fish are scattered and suspended. In some ways that makes for a tough bite, and numbers are down from when fish were grouped up tighter on the bottom.

But in other ways it’s an outstanding bite, and they are catching some really nice striped bass with a 6-15 pound average. They are also catching some monster fish in the 25-30 pound range.  Some bass are also mixed in with the striper. 

Guide Jerry Kotal with a big 'un
Guide Jerry Kotal with a big 'un

Fish are generally over deep water in 50-60 feet, and they have mostly been 20-25 feet down. They are catching some on bait and some casting Alabama rigs. At times they are under diving birds, and at times they are just marking schools. 

The best action has been in the cleaner water down the lake. 

It’s a similar tale on the boat with Guide Wendell Wilson (706-283-3336), who reports that they are still finding the very occasional fish on the bottom but more of them suspended. They are having the best success in about 48 feet of water, where they are catching a mixed bag of bass, perch, and catfish. Crappie have been absent. 

When conditions normalize the fish should group up better and get on the bottom again, but for now you have to do a lot of hunting to find a few fish. 

January 5

Lake Russell water levels are way above full at 476.60 (full pool is 475.00) and the water has been clear but is getting muddy. Morning surface water temperatures are now around 51 degrees. 

There have been some crazy fishing conditions on Lake Russell recently, and Guide Jerry Kotal (706-988-0860) reports that in the immediate aftermath of the very cold weather around Christmas the fishing was really good even as water temperatures dropped into the mid-40s. Bass, striped bass, perch and more were tight to the bottom in the wake of 18-degree nights, but they were feeding extremely well on jigging spoons and live bait. Striper (and bass) were taking Alabama rigs as well. 

However, the warming trend changed the bite, and instead of finding fish tight to the bottom in 35-40 feet they became much more suspended. 

A couple of good striper caught with Guide Jerry Kotal
A couple of good striper caught with Guide Jerry Kotal

But that didn’t mean they stopped biting as Jerry continued to find a few hungry fish on the bottom as well as numbers suspended, and Guide Wendell Wilson (706-283-3336) actually had a couple of his best days earlier this week. Monday they briefly struggled to locate the fish but then found them feeding under gulls on the main lake in about 56 feet of water. It was a mixed bag of bass, white and yellow perch, and crappie, and they caught 83 fish. Then Tuesday they returned to the same area once they could get through the fog and caught a pile more fish in the same area as well as striped bass. They wanted an Alabama rig about 15 feet down. 

But then came the rain.  Yesterday between three and five inches of rain fell depending on where on the lake you were monitoring it, and quickly the whole lake started to get very muddy. The water also shot up, almost a foot and a half in 24 hours. We will have to see what effect this has on the patterns, but they expect fish to get more scattered and suspend more. Continue to look for the birds to locate fish. 

December 22

Lake Russell water levels are above full at 475.08 (full pool is 475.00) and the water is still pretty clear. Morning surface water temperatures are down to the lower 50s.

It’s been good striped bass fishing on Lake Russell, and Guide Jerry Kotal (706-988-0860) reports that they have found fish scattered out and following bait. Some of the fish they have caught came in the front of a creek, while some of the action is on the main lake. However, wind has made him look for creek patterns more often than not recently.  The fish have pretty consistently been in 30-50 feet of water and suspended from 15-20 feet down. Sometimes the birds give them away, and sometimes they just mark the fish. 

Both Alabama rigs and live bait are working, and since the fish are often sitting over trees shallow down-lines are a good option for presenting live bait. 

While Guide Wendell Wilson (706-283-3336) hasn’t been targeting the striper as much, they caught a good number of 6-8 pound hybrids under birds this week when they happened upon them. Alabama rigs have worked well.

More often his boat has been chasing a mixed bag of spotted bass, white and yellow perch, and the occasional largemouth like the 4-pounder they caught yesterday.  The fish have generally been in about 40 feet of water, and diving birds often tell them where to fish. A lot of times they are in totally random areas, but often the mouths of creeks are good places to look. Both minnows and jigging spoons are working very well.

Jerry has also been chasing a mixed bag, and in general he is finding the best action in 30-50 feet of water. That’s basically where the bait is holding. The bass are often suspended, but the perch are more likely to be on the bottom. He has also picked up some crappie on the bottom. 

Jerry Kotal with a couple of spotted bass caught this week
Jerry Kotal with a couple of spotted bass caught this week

Look for the cold to push fish deeper and closer to the bottom. The bite could improve or fall off depending on how the bait is affected. 

December 15

Lake Russell water levels are above full at 475.67 (full pool is 475.00) and the water is still pretty clear. Morning surface water temperatures are down to about 57 degrees.

It’s been a pretty good bite recently for Guide Wendell Wilson (706-283-3336), and he reports that they have found some fish on the bottom in about 34 feet of water. They are at the very front of the creeks near the main channel, and they have been beside standing timber. A bunch of spotted bass, white and yellow perch, and the occasional crappie have all been mixed together and will take jigging spoons as well as live bait. 

It's a similar report from Guide Jerry Kotal (706-988-0860), although the rain and warm weather has had fish a little more suspended than he would like. The cold weather that is coming should help put fish on the bottom, fortunately.

A good catch with Guide Jerry Kotal
A good catch with Guide Jerry Kotal

He’s also had some luck with the striped bass and felt fortunate to find some rolling in a creek where they would take an Alabama rig. Generally Wendell reports that the striper have been harder to catch than usual this December, and while he is also seeing some fish rolling they haven’t gotten into a predictable pattern. That’s largely because the birds aren’t locked in on the striper yet. 

Overall the best pattern right now should be to throw Alabama rigs, although you can also pull free-lines with herring or shiners. The shiners are tougher in the cold and they also mimic the threadfin which striper are eating better than herring do. 

December 1

Lake Russell water levels are at 474.43 (full pool is 475.00) and the water is still clear although the backs will be getting dirty. Morning surface water temperatures are still about 60 degrees.

There’s been very little change in the overall patterns that Guide Jerry Kotal (706-988-0860) is fishing, and he reports still catching a mixed bag of spotted bass and white and yellow perch on the same flat points in the creeks and main lake in 15-29 feet of water. The fish are still grouped up on the bottom and eating live bait, although they will also take jigging spoons. 

A nice one caught this week with Guide Jerry Kotal
A nice one caught this week with Guide Jerry Kotal

While patterns have been similar for Guide Wendell Wilson (706-283-3336), his boat has found a lot of variability in the bite from day to day. A few days ago water temperatures had dropped to about 56 degrees, and when that happened they found a dynamite bite for the same mixed bag Jerry is catching in 25-30 feet. They were fishing creeks and coves off the main lake close to the bottom, and the first day they had over 100 fish and caught them on all of their spots. However, as the water temperatures rose each day they found less fish until finally all they could do was scratch together a small catch.   Perhaps the difference between Jerry and Wendell’s report was the depth they were each fishing. 

The best pattern ended up being fish for crappie, and even though the crappie were highly scattered they didn’t leave. Fish for them over clean bottoms with multiple rods in 25-30 feet. 

Everyone is waiting for the striped bass to turn on, and while it may take a temperature drop it’s certainly worth looking in the middle to lower lake. More birds are showing up already.

The fish will usually be over 30-70 feet, and while you can pull herring on free-lines the best pattern is often to throw Alabama rigs where they are feeding. 

November 17

Lake Russell water levels are at 474.79 (full pool is 475.00) and the water is fairly clear. Morning surface water temperatures are down to the lower 60s.

Even as water temperatures have dropped the fish have not yet moved, and Guide Jerry Kotal (706-988-0860) reports that they are still fishing the same flat points in the creeks and on the main lake in 25-29 feet of water and finding bass, perch, catfish and even striper.  The fish are on the bottom and everything is biting live bait. 

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

When the temperatures drop a few more degrees then Jerry expects the fish to make a more significant move, but really only the surface temperature has changed so far. Jerry notes that the striper they have found are small so far. 

Also, if he were to target catfish he would fish the same areas with cut bait, or perhaps target a bit shallower coves. 

Continuing the same theme, Guide Wendell Wilson (706-283-3336) also reports very little change this week, and he is fishing up the creeks in 26-28 feet of water and finding the same mixed bag. They are still waiting for the gulls to show up to target striper. 

They have targeted crappie in particular a few times, and they have found better concentrations of crappie on brush in 20-25 feet of water. The fish are suspended 12-14 feet down, and the best brush is in long coves and creeks. Minnows have been effective. 

November 10

Lake Russell water levels are at 474.80 (full pool is 475.00) and the water is fairly clear. Morning surface water temperatures are around 65 degrees.

Even though temperatures haven’t really dropped, Guide Jerry Kotal (706-988-0860) reports that the fishing has picked up a little and he thinks the wind is probably responsible. At multiple spots in the creeks and on the main lake they have found bass, perch, catfish and even striper on flat points in 25-29 feet of water, and luckily they are on the bottom. They have even picked up a few crappie in that range!  Everything is biting medium minnows and small herring.

A good day with Guide Jerry Kotal
A good day with Guide Jerry Kotal

Yesterday on the water it got so windy at times that Guide Wendell Wilson (706-283-3336) had to fish areas he doesn’t usually target at this time of year, but way up the creeks he found fish on points that sloped from 8 to about 28 feet. He was catching the same mixed bag as Jerry, and fish were scattered from the shallower part of the point out to the deepest. 

His boat has also run into a few striper, and they actually had a really big one try to eat a crappie right at the boat! The striper he has seen have been further back in coves off the main channel, but they are waiting until it gets cooler and the gulls arrive to really target them. 

Speaking of crappie, they have found better concentrations of crappie on brush in 20-25 feet of water. The fish are suspended 12-14 feet down, and the best brush is in long coves and creeks. Minnows have been effective. 

November 3

Lake Russell water levels are at 474.67 (full pool is 475.00) and the water is fairly clear. Morning surface water temperatures are around 66-68 degrees.

Unfortunately as of a couple of days ago there was not much change with the bass fishing on Lake Russell, and Guide Jerry Kotal (706-988-0860) reports that with mild temperatures the fish are again suspended off the bottom.  It’s a mystery how fish on the bottom in 30 feet react so abruptly to a 2-degree temperature change, but it’s no doubt that they do. 

Jerry’s boat is having the best success in 25-30 feet in the backs of creeks fishing live herring or minnows.  Even when they do find a good concentration of fish they usually don’t bite for very long. 

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

He’s still not seeing any striped bass. 

Jerry wasn’t on the water yesterday, but Guide Wendell Wilson (706-283-3336) reports that the last two days things may have started to turn around just a little and they did find some fish closer to the bottom in 22-30 feet of water in a creek. Bass were mixed with white and yellow perch, and everything was on a clean-bottomed creek flat around bait schools. If there had been brush around he suspects they would have picked up a few crappie. 

There are also still some bass on the main lake, and you can target them trolling crankbaits along the main channel. They seem to be so spread out that it would be hard to know where to slow down and target them. 

Wendell isn’t on the striper either, but he has just started to see a few roll like they do in the winter. Without the gulls there it’s hard to make much of a pattern. 

October 26

Lake Russell water levels are at 474.35 (full pool is 475.00) and the water is fairly clear. Morning surface water temperatures are back up to 67-69 degrees.

Just a few days ago the bass fishing had gotten fantastic on Lake Russell, and Guide Jerry Kotal (706-988-0860) reports that fish were getting in tight schools on the bottom. They caught more than 70 fish on one spot about 25 feet deep in a creek. But then the water temperatures started to warm up again, and fish scattered out and suspended. 

Now that temperatures are closer to 70 again the fish that Jerry has been finding are in 25-27 feet of water in the creek channels and around brush. Some are on the bottom while more are suspended, and, again, they are more spread out. The bite has also gotten a little more finicky, and yesterday they would only take herring and refused to eat any artificial lures.  There have also been some perch mixed in with the bass, but for now both the white and yellow perch seem to be as scattered as the bass!

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

This is the time of year when Jerry always seems to lose the striped bass, and unfortunately this year is no exception. They get super spread out, and unfortunately there just isn’t a big enough population on Russell to easily target them if they are very scattered. Once it gets colder the fish will group up again and be easier to find. 

October 21

Lake Russell water levels are at 474.16 (full pool is 475.00) and water conditions are better as the turnover seems to be about done. Morning surface water temperatures are down to about 68 degrees.

With the turnover mostly in the rear-view mirror the fishing has picked up on Lake Russell, and Guide Wendell Wilson (706-283-3336) is back on the lake and catching fish. 

While they are mostly targeting bass, it’s the time of year and pattern where they are getting a mixed bag including spotted bass, crappie, yellow perch and white perch. The fish are grouped up in the same areas about 20 feet deep in the creeks, and they real key is to find the bait schools that they are hanging around. Many of the fish are on the bottom and they will take minnows on a drop shot or jigging spoons. However, some of the fish are also suspended around the bait and they are catching particularly bass on small crankbaits worked through the middle of the coves. 

Even though it can be less pleasant to fish, the bite is noticeably better when there is some wind.

Wendell hasn’t been on the main lake as much but the striper seem to be there, and they found some good ones breaking near the dam earlier this week. 

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

October 13

Lake Russell water levels are up to 474.16 (full pool is 475.00) and the water is still turning over. Morning surface water temperatures are still around 72 degrees.

Unfortunately there isn’t much good news to report on Lake Russell this week, and if you read the Clarks Hill report you saw that Guide Wendell Wilson (706-283-3336) has moved over to that lake until things settle out on Russell. His last time out Wendell was trying for a mixed bag but could only get bit on one particular spot – a particular brush pile in a creek at about 22 feet. They only caught about a dozen fish and decided to seek greener pastures.  

Similarly, Guide Jerry Kotal (706-988-0860) reports that yesterday was his first trip this year without a striped bass. He was still fishing main lake points in about 30-35 feet of water, and while they marked some fish they would not eat. 

They did catch some spotted bass that were schooling, and they caught others in about 25 feet of water on the bottom. However, the fish are extremely scattered and not really feeding.

Since Jerry has been trying to get striper he has not spent much time in the creeks, but there may be better numbers of spots back there than on the main lake. 

Things should get much, much better once the lake finishes turning over. 

October 6

Lake Russell water levels are down to 473.43 (full pool is 475.00) and, even though they haven’t even gotten a sprinkle of rain, the water is still pretty brown from the turnover. Morning surface water temperatures have dropped to about 72 degrees.

Almost out of nowhere the bass fishing has really improved on Lake Russell, and Guide Wendell Wilson (706-283-3336) reports that the fish seem to have magically reappeared and showed up in the places where he is fishing. The spots are on the move, and he is seeing them both on the bottom as well as suspended chasing threadfin shad. Sometimes he marks the suspended fish on the depth finder, but even though they are not seeing them splashing at times they can see shad showing themselves and running on the surface. 

For fish that are on the bottom you can fish drop shots, but for fish higher in the water column throwing a Shad Rap or a ¼ ounce Rattle Trap is a good bet.  Most of the fish have been in the creeks and large coves.  

In addition to the creeks, where he is also seeing bass, Guide Jerry Kotal (706-988-0860) adds that he is also seeing more fish shallower on the edge of points. 

His boat is also still doing well with the striped bass, and even though they aren’t catching the numbers anglers might expect on other lakes the quality is impressive. Yesterday they got five between ten and fifteen pounds. 

Fish are still on the lower end off long points around trees, and fish have generally been about 25 feet down suspended in 30-35 feet of water. 

Wendell points out that it’s also worth keeping your eyes open for schooling activity while you are down-lining in deep water. Recently he has seen them schooling over water as deep as 70 or 80 feet. 

A good Russell striper caught with Guide Jerry Kotal
A good Russell striper caught with Guide Jerry Kotal

While his boat is still picking up some crappie in the creeks around brush in about 16 feet of water, it’s gotten tougher to catch them. That seems to be because the more aggressive spotted bass have essentially run them off. You can still pick up some crappie, but you will probably get more spotted bass on minnows or jigs.  There may be places where the crappie can be found but not the spots but so far Wendell hasn’t found them. 

The catfish seem to have moved much deeper, and while Jerry’s boat has not caught any in the 25-35 foot range somewhat incredibly he has found them deeper in about 60 feet. This is consistent with Captain Chris Simpson’s report that in the fall catfish will often go very, very deep once there is sufficient oxygen at all levels. 

 

Search