Tournament crappie angler Will Hinson of Cassatt, SC and his tournament partner Tommy Slice of Chapin, SC are fresh off a victory in the 80-boat national Crappie USA Super Event on Clarks Hill, in which they weighed in a whopping 29.81 pounds (14 fish, 2+ pound average) over two days. They are also coming off a third place finish in the South Carolina Crappie Association event on Santee this past weekend in which they weighed in 7 fish that went about 12 pounds. It’s safe to say that they know a thing or two about what crappie are doing around the state. All around at least the lower part of the state Will says that fish are shallow, and Lake Wateree is no exception.
It’s not unusual for crappie to head to the shallows on Lake Wateree in March, but the breakneck pace with which they are heading there this year is impressive. Will says that the migration to the shallows taking place right now is “dramatic,” with males pushing to the banks as hard as they can and females not far behind. They are fanning beds and literally seem to be racing to spawn before water temperatures get too warm!
In the Santee tournament on Saturday Will and Tommy long-lined trolled with jigs in 2-5 feet of water, and Will says the point of the corks was to keep the bait from getting hung on the bottom. They trolled 1.5 – 2 miles per hour. The same technique is effective right now on Wateree, and Will says that in all of the creeks including Beaver, Dutchman, Singleton, etc. fish can be caught this way in 2-8 feet of water. They can also be caught casting jigs under corks, especially around docks.
While particularly the males have moved up very shallow already to get things ready for the females, Will says that anglers who want to locate the bigger females don’t need to look very far away from the males. Will says that the females will be found within 50-200 yards from the males, and everything is in a “feeding frenzy” right now.
Overall, Lake Wateree is at 97.3% of full pool with water temperatures in the low to mid-60s – and peaking even warmer in the afternoons.
Catfish: Good. Captain Rodger Taylor (803-517-7828) reports that catfishing is strong on Lake Wateree as fish are in pre-spawn mode and feeding heavily. Overall fish are making their annual migration upward and laterally – that is, they are moving up the river towards the dam as well as towards the backs of the creeks. A typical pattern is to start out early in the day fishing the river channel, and particularly drops in the river channel. Anglers should put out baits to cover an array of depths, including on the ledge, where the ledge drops off, and the deep hole itself. One depth will be more productive most days, but it may vary from day to day. When there is current running the bite can be “on,” but if there is no current it is worth backing off onto some of the shallow flats in 6-11 feet off the river ledge. A secondary pattern is to move up the major creeks and set out cut bait in 4-6 feet of water. Birds will provide clues about where the bait and catfish will be located, but the fish are moving a lot. For right now gizzard shad or perch heads are the best baits.