Water temperatures on the Santee Cooper lakes shot up in early to mid-March, and on the path they were headed down it looked like summer would come by mid-April! It certainly looked like the bass spawn would essentially wrap up in March. However, “Not so fast” said Mother Nature, and over the last 10 or so days dropping air and water temperatures have paused what looked at the very least like it would be a very early spring. In fact, Captain Linwood Thornhill (843-509-8174) believes that because the weather has been so funny the biggest wave of spawning bass will actually come on the April full moon (the 22nd). While there are certainly spawning and some post-spawn fish to be found right now, he believes that for more fish the spawn is still ahead of them.
As far as how to catch them, Linwood says that one group of very shallow fish who are close to spawning can be caught in 1-3 feet of water on worms, jigs and sometimes spinnerbaits. They can be found around both trees and grass. Pre-spawn fish that are closer to staging than actually going on the beds can be caught in 3-6 feet of water, and they will be found around creek beds and the outsides of shallow brush. While Linwood does not bed fish, some people are. He says that there is good visibility in the backwater ponds – while on the main lake conditions are less clear.
Obviously over the coming weeks and month a greater and greater number of fish will be post-spawn, and for post-spawn fish Linwood finds that they will often hang around cypress trees and sometimes grass for a little while. They will also move out to deeper parts of creeks adjacent to areas where they spawned. Worms, Carolina rigs, and crankbaits are all good options, and at times topwater lures will work well – particularly if you see fish feeding on the surface.
In sum, Linwood rates the bite in both lakes as “good.” This is probably a pretty fair overall description, but there continue to be some incredible sacks winning local tournaments. For instance, in the March 26 CATT Steve Harmon and Bryan Cook weighed in an impressive 31.11 pound, 5-fish stringer (pictured below). Weights below them dropped into the more than respectable mid-20s range (2 teams had 25-pound sacks).