Even though tournament angler Andy Wicker only lives 10-15 minutes from his home body of water Lake Monticello, particularly in the spring he does so much tournament fishing on other lakes that he doesn’t get to fish it as much as he would like to. That changes in the summer, though, and he gets to spend a lot of time targeting big bass on Monticello. And Lake Monticello has big bass! While the intense, early summer heat has made the fishing a bit tougher, there are still a lot of very nice bass to be caught right now in this fishery.
Lake Monticello is unique compared to a lot of South Carolina lakes for at least two reasons, and both factors combine to dictate a deep bass fishing pattern. First, Andy says that Monticello doesn’t have a huge population of blueback herring like many other area lakes, and so the bass aren’t targeting herring schools. Whereas on Lake Murray bass might be in water as deep as 50 or more feet at times, they will generally be suspended in that depth following the suspended herring. In contrast, on Lake Monticello Andy believes the bass are primarily eating white perch (and it has a ton – probably more than any other lake, he says) and threadfin shad. Feeding on these baitfish bass will usually be on the bottom in deep water, and Andy says he catches bass fishing vertically under the boat in 45 and more feet of water.
The second major factor that makes Monticello distinct from other lakes, and which contributes to the deep pattern, is that water levels fluctuate greatly. It is not unusual for the lake to rise and fall 3-5 feet per day related to power generation, and Andy believes that may be one reason that he doesn’t have much luck targeting bass that are feeding on spawning bream. He has tried but the bass just don’t seem to be up there, and he speculates it may be because of the water level changes.
The result is that most of the time Lake Monticello in the summer is a true deep water bass fishery. Andy says that he spends most of his time targeting textbook main lake, deep water structure such as points, humps, and drops; even when he is fishing shallower there needs to be deep water nearby. His target depth range is 20-50 feet of water.
I asked Andy about whether the presence of brush helps, but he doesn’t find that it makes a huge amount of difference. Areas with brush seem to produce about the same number of fish as structure that has not had brush planted on it. In fact, one of the main impacts of brush is that it limits his lure choice. Instead of being able to fish his usual array of lures (deep diving crankbaits, Alabama rigs, jigs, flutter spoons, and worms) he has to spend more time fishing the worm. Another drawback to brush is that it doesn’t seem to last long on Monticello, which Andy speculates is due to the rapid lake level fluctuations. He’s been lucky to get more than a season out of brush that he has put out.
While the predominant summer pattern is fishing deep water, that’s not to say there’s nothing going on up shallow. In the first hour or so of the morning there are some good fish up shallow that will take a Pop-R, small buzzbait, or other topwater lure. Lake Monticello has a decent amount of riprap and that’s one of Andy’s favorite areas to concentrate on. But after the sun is up you won’t catch Andy spending much time in the shallows.
Finally, one added bonus on Lake Monticello is smallmouth bass. Andy says that they are pretty random (and lucky) but will be caught in the same areas where he is fishing for largemouth bass.
While Andy is catching and releasing some very nice bass on Lake Monticello, Captain Chris Simpson (864-992-2352) reports that the catfish bite is still wide open on Lake Monticello and anglers are filling coolers with eating-sized fish free line drifting. Both cut herring and shrimp will catch fish. The bite for big fish has also been pretty good. Anchoring on humps and points that allow you to fan cast baits from 10 to 40 feet of water has been the most productive pattern. Cut herring, shad and white perch cut into small pieces about the size of a mussel are the best bet.
I am very grateful to Andy Wicker for contributing this bass fishing report, as well as to Chris for his continuing insights, and I hope we are able to continue to offer both. That still leaves at least one hole on Lake Monticello, though, and if anyone has leads for a Lake Monticello crappie report, or can offer it themselves, please contact me by email to firstname.lastname@example.org, Facebook, etc.