After spending a week on Santee Cooper practicing for and then fishing in the Costa FLW Series event, it was understandable that tournament angler Dearal Rodgers of Camden started out fishing the CATT event on Lake Wateree Saturday by looking for fish that had moved up shallow. In the Costa tournament Dearal had spent his practice concentrating on fish that were staging in slightly deeper water before moving up to spawn, but by tournament Thursday his better fish had moved shallower and he only managed about a 2-pound average. On Friday Dearal adjusted, fished very shallow areas in water as skinny as 8 inches and caught 20-plus pounds.
Considering the Santee experience as well the air and water temperatures (they saw water temperatures ranging between 63 and 65 Saturday), in the CATT tournament Dearal and his tournament partner Trent McLaughlin started out trying to look for shallow fish that had moved up to spawn. They looked in some of the warmest, northern-oriented creeks like Beaver Creek that are often the first to come on, and while some fish were up shallow more did not seem to be. They caught the majority of their fish on the way to a 17.66 pound bag, good for fourth place, fishing in 3-4 feet of water on out to 6-8 feet. Nothing was caught in the very backs. They did see a couple of beds that had been swept clean, but overall there were not a ton of fish up. They caught their fish on jigs, shallow and medium-running crankbaits and Texas-rigged worms fished around cover such as docks.
Things will likely be changing fast on Lake Wateree, but all things considered it makes sense to Dearal that fish weren’t a little further along – at least as of Saturday. The biggest wave of spawning bass on Lake Wateree is usually at the beginning of April, and even though temperatures warmed up rapidly in the last couple of weeks it may take a little while for fish’s reproductive cycles to catch up to conditions and for eggs to grow. Evidence for this theory is that the biggest fish weighed in Saturday didn’t look like they were about to “pop,” indicating that perhaps the spawn was still a bit off. Dearal looks for a massive wave of fish to spawn on the full moon towards the end of March, and when that happens fish will be caught around traditional very shallow cover and anglers should look around protected spawning pockets where fish will be bedding.
Lake Wateree is at 97.3% of full pool.