It’s winter in South Carolina, which this year means highs in the 70s one week, lows in the 20s and highs in the 40s the next, and then the crazy cycle will repeat itself. Given the up-and-down temperatures we have been experiencing it’s no wonder that Lake Russell bass are all over the place. Guide Jerry Kotal (706-988-0860) reports that earlier this winter a lot of fish were being caught relatively deep, but then the warm spell at the very beginning of February pulled a number of fish up shallow as the water temperatures entered the 50s. The latest cold snap has knocked the fish in the head again and probably put the shallow bite off as temperatures have fallen back into the upper 40s.
Through it all Jerry has continued to fish relatively deep, concentrating on the 40-50 foot range with drop shots and jigging spoons. He has almost exclusively been catching spotted bass this way. Before the last cold front a mix of spots and occasional largemouth were being caught relatively shallow halfway back in creeks, on the sides of points and around bluff walls with jigs and crankbaits. At the next warm snap later this week fish Jerry says bass will start to stage in those same areas again and get ready for the pre-spawn – it’s that time of year when they are looking for an excuse to go shallow.
Guide Wendell Wilson (706-283-3336) has also noticed something of a seasonal change already getting underway, despite the current cold temperatures. Even with the cold Wendell has noticed fish moving up a little bit, and he has been catching bass off the sides of points in 20-25 feet of water in the main lake and also at the mouths of creeks near the main lake. He has been fishing a drop shot rig almost exclusively.
Lake Russell water levels are at 474.07, and while the creeks are more stained than the main lake both areas are clearing up nicely. Wendell says the clarity in Coldwater has already improved to the point where anglers could fish there, although it’s probably too cold in the back.
Striper: Fair. Guide Wendell Wilson reports that it’s been an odd winter for Lake Russell striped bass, probably because water temperatures have stayed warmer than they typically do. As a result the gulls and loons haven’t provided the clues they usually do for locating feeding striper as striper haven’t been rolling on top (and attracting birds) feeding on stressed threadfin the way they usually do. Striper have been feeding deeper, and while birds will still provide a clue for areas of the lake that have bait they haven’t been circling feeding striper as much as usual. The best pattern for catching striper has been trolling (or casting) umbrella rigs or free-lined large herring in the main channel in the mid-lake area. While fish have been over 70-80 feet of water they are much higher in the water column than that.
Crappie: Fair. Guide Wendell Wilson reports that right now crappie can be found just off the bottom in 30 feet of water at the mouths of large coves off the major creeks. Fishing a minnow on a drop shot rig is the best way to target them. However, with warm air temperatures coming at the end of this week, in the next week or two fish should move into 20-25 feet of water in the same areas where they will be vulnerable to 1/16th ounce curly tail jigs trolling 12-14 feet deep. That is, they will move vertically up and horizontally shallower in the same general areas where they are currently holding. Fish will move towards the backs later, but right now neither the main river or the very backs is expected to be holding very many fish.