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AHQ INSIDER Lake Russell (GA/SC) Summer Fishing Report – Updated August 4

  • by Jay

August 4

Lake Russell water levels are at 474.45, inches below full pool of 475.0.  Water temperatures are as high as 91 degrees in some places and clarity is normal.

Guide Jerry Kotal (706-988-0860) jokes that in the heat of the summer it seems that there may not be any largemouth bass alive in Lake Russell, but luckily decent numbers of spotted bass can be caught.  Jerry says that he is catching spots with guide parties down-lining live herring in 20-40 feet of water in the main lake, but artificials should pick up some fish too.  They have caught one largemouth in this pattern but 99% of the catch has been spots.

While his boat hasn’t been targeting bass very often this month, Guide Wendell Wilson (706-283-3336) reports that he has picked up some nice 4- and 5-pound largemouth mixed in with striper (report to follow).  Perhaps that offers a clue about where the largemouth are “hiding.”  Wendell says he believes the best pattern for targeting spotted bass with artificials is to fish main lake points and drag a Spot Remover in 18-20 feet, or fish a drop shot rig in the same areas.  Wendell has not observed any schooling.

Despite only a fair bass catch, Wendell says that overall his boat has had a really good summer.  One of the chief reasons has been some very good striped bass fishing.  His boat has landed some 30-35 pound fish, and in one week they had seven fish in the 20-35 pound range.

The best pattern has been fishing down-lined herring in about 50 feet of water on the lower end of the lake, and fish have been in the main river as well as the creek channels of the major creeks (Beaver Dam, Rocky River) which fish more like rivers anyway.  Fishing 18-24 feet down in 50 feet of water has been a good range.  Fish are following bait and depending on weather may move deeper in the near future.

On the other end of Lake Russell people are also catching some fish in the Hartwell tailrace where water temperatures are only in the upper 50s.  In this area free-lining has been the best pattern, with herring working a bit better than trout right now.

A big Lake Russell striper caught this summer
A big Lake Russell striper caught this summer on Guide Jerry Kotal’s boat 

In addition to strong fishing for linesides, Wendell says that it’s also been a really good summer for crappie. Usually by this stage of the season the spotted bass have taken over the brush piles, but that hasn’t happened this summer.  The fish are mostly in the coves off the main lake where there is some clearer water, and they have generally been in 20-24 feet of water.  Fishing 12 feet deep down to the bottom with minnows has been the best pattern.

Jerry reports that the catfishbite is still pretty good, and while some fish are being caught in 10-15 feet of water the best fishing has been in 20-30 feet.  Fish are spread out and scattered in random places everywhere from the backs of pockets to main lake drops.  Cut herring has been the best bait.

June 21

Lake Russell water levels are at 474.46 (full pool is 475.00), and surface water temperatures are back to the mid-80s after falling into the lower 80s over the weekend.

Largemouth and spotted bass are getting into a normal summer pattern on Lake Russell, and Guide Jerry Kotal (706-988-0860) reports that means fish can be caught in 20-40 feet of water around creek channels and ledges.  A lot of fish are around the mouths of creeks, and drop-offs near timber but where there are not too many trees are good.  Live bait is the easiest way to catch fish, but they will also take drop shot rigs as well as deep diving crankbaits fished along the ledges.  For drop shot rigs any plastic worm with some green will catch fish – including green pumpkin and watermelon green colors – and for crankbaits anything in a shad pattern will work.

While it is possible to catch some Russell bass on topwaters during the summer, Jerry says that most of these fish are on the smaller side.  It’s unclear why but Russell doesn’t fish like Clarks Hill or Hartwell where anglers can fish topwater lures all day (including over deep water) in the summer.

Guide Wendell Wilson (706-283-3336) hasn’t been targeting bass as much recently because of other strong bites, but he says that he has seen a bit of schooling where fish are running shad.  When he has caught bass they have been in a typical summer pattern off main lake points with brush.  A Spot Remover with a green worm is tough to beat, and Jerry (who also fishes this pattern) points out that anglers are more likely to get a comfortable breeze out on the main lake.

While bass fishing has been pretty good, Jerry reports that the catfishbite has been wide open.  Fish are all over from 2 or 3 feet out to 20 or 25 feet, and they are starting to get in the deeper creek channels as well as up on flats.  Fish can be caught all over including in all the creeks.  Some catfish are trying to spawn, and some already have.  Catalpa worms and cut herring are tough to beat.

A nice catfish caught on Guide Jerry Kotal's boat
A nice catfish caught on Guide Jerry Kotal’s boat


An assortment of Russell cats from Jerry's boat
An assortment of Russell cats from Jerry’s boat

Wendell hasn’t spent as much time targeting bass recently because the crappiebite has been so good, and he reports that they are catching both numbers as well as good-sized fish.  35-70 fish in a 4-hour trip has been the norm, and fish have run up to 15 inches and better.  The best pattern has been fishing brush piles in 15-18 feet with minnows, and anglers basically have a choice about whether to target numbers of fish or big crappie.  For numbers of smaller fish head further up the creeks, while for bigger fish they are closer to the main lake in their typical fall areas in deeper, more clear water.

Striped basshave been a little scarce recently, and later in the summer they should show up on both ends of the lake (in the Hartwell Tailrace and down towards the dam).  For right now the biggest concentrations of bait have been in the mid-lake from Coldwater to Sander’s Ferry Bridge, and Wendell suggests pulling free-lined herring across points in this area.  The bite should get better as the summer goes on.