Lake Wateree is at 97.3% of full pool, and water temperatures are in the 70-degree range. Water conditions are pretty normal for Lake Wateree with a decent amount of stain everywhere and water muddy up the lake.
It’s been a strange spring on Lake Wateree, and many of the anglers who got on a solid shallow pattern when it was so warm in March had trouble re-locating the better fish for the first few weeks of April. Dearal Rodgers says that certainly happened to him and his tournament partner. However, between the full moon and rising water temperatures the shallow bite is improving and fish are starting to get into a more normal mid- to late-spring pattern. In the benefit tournament for Donald Wayne Hinson of Lugoff, SC that was held Saturday, April 23 Dearal got back on top of the fish again and finished second out of 50 boats with 19 pounds. The winner Barry Holloman (who has been tearing it up all spring) had 20.60. Overall weights were down from the CATT Championship a couple of weeks ago when Joey Bramlett and Barry Holloman had 26.73 pounds, and Dearal wondered if slightly lower water levels were partly responsible. When fish are up shallow and bedding in a couple of feet of water having the levels drop even a few inches can be enough to make them spooky.
On Saturday Dearal said that very good numbers of fish could be found up shallow, and he speculates that of these fish about half were spawning and another half were post-spawn. Fish could be found in coves and around pockets, and a decent number of fish were relating to points. There are still some pre-spawn fish and they caught several that were still full of eggs. Fry guarders are also a significant pattern, and all of the fry guarders they saw and caught were around docks. In addition to spawning bass, with water temperatures in the 70-73 degree range they also saw bluegill up shallow spawning as well as shad. Pretty much all the shallow-running baits including buzzbaits, spinnerbaits, crankbaits, jigs and soft plastics are catching fish right now.
As May approaches the bass spawn will get less and less important, and the shad spawn will become more relevant for many Wateree bass fishermen. Dearal says that on Lake Wateree bass will spawn around grass, rocks and docks, and while all three are going on the bass they caught were feeding on shad spawning around rocks. They also found a couple of places were shad were spawning around grass – the traditional Wateree shad spawn spot – but from what Dearal could tell they were just getting started in those areas. Anglers can locate spawning shad by watching for them flickering on the surface, and they will also follow the bait back to the boat. Dearal says he finds it is important to mix up baits for these bass because they see a lot of lures and he will throw spinnerbaits, buzzbaits, crankbaits, chatterbaits, etc.
Catfish: No new report. Very good to excellent. Captain Rodger Taylor (803-517-7828) reports that right now is still the hot pre-spawn fishing period, and while fish can be caught in other areas of the lake the vast majority of the fish seem to have moved upstream into the upper 1/3 of the lake. Feeding fish are setting up on ledges in 6-25 feet of water, and they are eating cut threadfin shad as well as white perch. Fish seem to use the channel as a highway, and active fish move up onto the sides of the channel where it drops off to feed. Anchoring cut threadfin shad (gizzard shad have been a little hard to locate) has been the best pattern.
Crappie: Good. Tournament angler Will Hinson of Cassatt, SC reports that a few straggler Lake Wateree crappie can still be caught around the banks casting minnows and jigs, but he estimates that 90+% of the fish have already laid their eggs. That means the majority of the fish are in a post-spawn mode and are starting to head out to deeper water. Recently he has found the best pattern to be long-line trolling with jigs in about 9-14 feet of water, and Will and his tournament partner caught their fish in the last tournament behind the bridge in Wateree Creek. Further up the lake it has more color to it and so Will finds that darker colored jigs such as black and orange are working best. The next stage is that the fish will pull out to brush in 15-18 feet of water.