On a lot of South Carolina lakes the prolonged warm weather this fall has actually helped the bite – especially for anglers who want to fish shallow. Instead of starting to move deep bass have continued to hang around only a few feet of water, staying in more of a fall pattern than an early winter pattern. However, tournament bass fisherman Andy Wicker of Pomaria reports that Lake Monticello is not one of those lakes! On most lakes Andy agrees that a prolonged warm spell in the fall can be a good thing, but with an absence of shallow cover on Lake Monticello it’s not a blessing. Lake Monticello fish want to be feeding deep – nearly almost 20 feet plus – and Andy says a weird, long transition period to that bite isn’t ideal.
As a result Andy has been doing things in the last few weeks on Monticello to catch fish that he wouldn’t ordinarily plan on doing at this time of year, including dragging a big shakey head worm, a Texas-rigged worm and fishing a drop shot. These worm fish aren’t generally the quality he would expect on a spoon, however. Some fish have been in brushpiles, and with water temperatures in the high 60s even late into the fall he has even caught some fish on topwater lures.
Luckily, Andy says all that is about to change! Lake Monticello bass fishing “is about to get good,” as dropping air and water temperatures will turn on the jigging spoon bite. Andy usually encounters the best spoon bite right after a cold snap, when threadfin shad will get sluggish and later in the winter even die. Bait schools can be detected on the graph as well as spotted by watching bird activity, and fish will be around bait in the wide range of 25-60 feet of water. But while fish will be caught across that entire depth range and even outside of it, 30-40 feet will the be key depth. Look for fish in their typical “holes” off long tapering points and around humps, and fish will also be found schooled up in channels and gullies. A lot of different spoons will catch fish, and Andy will fish Berry and War Eagle brands among others. The water is usually so clear that he shies away from bright colors and usually fishes silver, white, chrome and other “natural,” shad colored baits. Anglers jigging spoons will also catch white perch, and should not be shocked to jig up a catfish.
Speaking of catfish, Captain Chris Simpson (864-992-2352) reports that the free-line drifting bite for smaller catfish has slowed down significantly, but the bite for big fish should get better and better as temperatures continue to drop. For now Chris rates the bite as “fair to good” and advises anchoring on humps that top out in 20-40 feet of water that are surrounded by 60-80 feet. There is also some pretty good activity back in the coves in 40-50 feet of water, particularly in areas where there is a lot of visible bird action and in turn bait on the bottom. Drifting is not completely done but it’s getting pretty slow. Cut white perch and gizzard shad are both working equally well – unlike earlier this fall Chris is not finding a clear preference for either bait. Anglers who want to target small catfish will catch fish on really small pieces of cut herring, but they should not expect “summer numbers.”