If you want some excellent summertime largemouth bass fishing, lakes Greenwood and Wateree are just the ticket. (July 2008)
Photo by Ron Sinfelt.
Largemouth bass fishing is certainly a year-round sport in South Carolina. The bass-fishing fever may reach a peak in terms of numbers of anglers during the spring when largemouths are near the shoreline. As the weather warms and the fishing patterns change, the number of bass fishermen dwindles as shallow-water fishing slows. However, there are plenty of bass anglers who never give up the chase. Both tournament anglers and just plain ol' die-hard fishermen spend long hours on the water.
The key to success during hot weather is to change the way you fish based on the specific lake. Many fishermen figure the bass go very deep and become lethargic, but that's not true in some lakes. In fact, while the fish may retreat a bit from the shoreline during the summer, they do not necessarily go very deep.
While some anglers may be surprised to hear it, many fishermen not only catch bass, they catch plenty of quality fish throughout the heat of the summer. While the excellent fishing is available at several lakes in South Carolina, we're going to examine two lakes that offer outstanding summertime fishing: Greenwood and Wateree. Moreover, the majority of the largemouth bass action in both lakes is in relatively shallow water.
In fact, that's one reason many anglers at these lakes find them great fisheries in the summer: The fish do not go extremely deep as a rule.
The bass are not tremendously deep in these lakes because both lakes tend to stratify during the summer months. This stratification causes the dissolved oxygen to become too low for fish to thrive at deeper water depths for extended periods. Thus, these two lakes will often produce sensational fishing in relatively shallow water during this time of the year.
The lakes share several other similarities. Both lakes have ample underwater structure and cover combinations at depths just above the thermocline. These structures are typically found at very fishable depths.
The best news is that you don't have to be a professional fisherman to score excellent catches. You can target relatively shallow water and be effective with a variety of lures, which greatly increases the chances that one of the effective lures or presentations will be one of your "confidence" baits.
The key is to be willing to spend the time to find the hotspots that change from one day to the next.
Bass fishermen will not all key on the same structures; usually, the structure anglers pick here will be based on the lures they prefer to use. For example, on Lake Greenwood I learned several years ago from an angler that the numerous shallow-water hazard markers around the lake have more in common than simply marking hazards. He noted, and demonstrated to me, that these hazards are typically shallow areas in the lake surrounded by deeper water. Some marked hazards are quite small, others somewhat large in size.
The attractive aspect of these for the bass is the typical quick deep-to-shallow change in water depth. The local expert who pointed this out to me considers these places to be prime summertime largemouth bass targets. These are not the only spots he'll fish, but he seldom passes one without chunking a few casts. Over the course of a day of fishing, he'll expect a half-dozen or more bites just from these places. During July, that many extra bites can very easily turn a decent day into an excellent one.
Typically, he's looking for aggressive fish on these areas. His feeling is any bass that moves from the surrounding deep water onto the shallow part of the structure is after one thing: food. The bass will be looking to feed aggressively, then retreat back to deeper water. Crankbaits are the lure of choice, but he'll usually cast a Texas-rigged worm a time or two as well.
The difference in the lower and upper ends of the lake is quite pronounced in terms of water depths. In the upper sector of the lake, there are numerous humps and ridges along the Saluda River channel that get to within 12 to 15 feet of the surface, right at the edge of the river channel. On the flat side of the hump, back toward the shoreline, the depth will fall back a little deeper before gradually rising near the shoreline. These high spots are outstanding areas for largemouths to congregate and can produce plenty of action in short order.
Farther up the lake, the two main feeders, the Saluda and Reedy rivers, form a junction. Each arm of the lake from there will produce good fishing in shallow water. There are many smaller largemouths to contend with at times, but working shallow-water cover down to 10 to 12 feet deep will produce bites right on through mid-day. Some of these will be quality fish and a few hawg largemouths can be hooked as well.
Some of the tournament anglers I've talked with do tend to target shoreline areas where the contour maps show the Reedy or Saluda rivers approaching close to the shoreline. Other spots you can locate on the maps are places where the rivers make sharp bends. The outside bend is generally considered to be the top contact point. If these bends occur near the shoreline, then that particular stretch of shoreline is a good bet on Lake Greenwood at this time of the year. These areas are more likely than other areas to produce a big fish.
Existing bridge crossings, both highway and railroad bridges, are excellent summertime areas. The riprap sections near the points of these bridge crossings are excellent summertime hotspots. Some of the bridges have wooden pilings and are also prime bass-holding structures. In both cases, the bass will sometimes suspend around these places, so don't just drag a worm along the bottom and consider the spot properly fished. For example, cast crankbaits and swimming minnow lures to cover the mid-depths and shallow-water areas.
In addition to the above-water bridges, there are several underwater roadbeds that cross portions of the lake and these are typically outstanding largemouth bass hotspots. One key area is to find the roadbeds that go all the way to the main river channel. Another prime spot is where two roadbeds intersect in the mid-lake area. The depths of these areas will vary with the portion of the lake you find them. Some of the spots are easily and effectively fished with crankbaits. Others may require the use of a Carolina worm rig. Some anglers will use jigging spoons and fish vertically along these structures. They use their graph recorders and watch as they move along the inundated roadbeds, looking for groups of fish.
Farther downlake, the shallow-water humps are sometimes more difficult to locate, but they are there. The topo m
aps I've seen do depict some, but other anglers who have sworn me to secrecy about the exact locations have shown me some places that do not appear on maps. They are well worth the time spent to locate. These spots can hold large numbers of quality fish during this time of the year.
Also, some of the anglers who enjoy fishing shallow water will exclusively fish shallow water on the deep, lower end of the lake. However, they will work the areas where the river comes close to the shoreline, especially points that taper toward the river channel.
Both night and daytime fishing are productive on the lake, with the lower end of the lake perhaps producing better by night. However, you can enjoy plenty of excellent largemouth bass action throughout the lake by day or night.
At Lake Wateree, the recipe for success is not much different in terms of generic structures than found at Lake Greenwood. There are some anglers who have fished this lake for years who actually look forward to this time. The fish get into quite predictable patterns at reasonable water depths. Most of the time the largemouth bass can be caught with deep-diving crankbaits, especially those that dig down to the 12- to 16-foot depths.
Of course, there are many different lures that will work well at these depths. If you fish one or two of them well and have confidence in them, you shouldn't hurt your chances by using them.
When the lake is at normal pool level, there are a tremendous number of structures where fish will hold at this productive depth range. Even on the lower end of the lake, where there's some deep water in the 50-foot range, there are many places in open water where underwater humps rise near the surface. Plus, there are scads of points in the lower end of the lake that taper from the shallow water along the shoreline to very deep water.
Most of the bass fishermen prefer the area from the Lake Wateree State Park downlake to the dam when fishing the offshore structures. From this point and uplake, there's excellent fishing as well, but not as much drop and hump fishing. Some anglers will work the steeper, quickly dropping shorelines and the heavy cover found in some of the larger coves and creeks in the upper portion of the lake.
Let's take a closer look at both of these methods on Lake Wateree.
Fishing structures that drop from shallow to deep water is productive throughout the day. Sometimes it actually gets better after early morning when the fish seem to congregate back along these structures. The bass sometimes make a foray to the shallows early in the morning, but usually that shallow water is close to these areas.
It's not unusual to encounter some schooling fish action near the points and drops. Swimming minnow lures and spoons are excellent lures to cast into these surface-feeding events. However, crankbaits and the trusty Texas-rigged plastic worm fished in shallow water down to 8 feet deep can be very productive very early in the morning and again late in the evening. Once the sun begins to poke above the horizon, the fish do seem to retreat back to the 12- to 16-foot depth range and load up on the humps and ledges.
The trick here, according to most anglers, is finding the fish. Once you locate them on a specific day, you can catch several hefty fish in short order. Patience and perseverance are two keys to success when fishing isolated, offshore structures on Lake Wateree.
One group of bass fishermen prefers the run-and-gun approach. These are the die-hard crankbait fishermen that work hard and move frequently. They motor from place to place, giving each spot plenty of casts and ample opportunity to produce. However, if they don't get the bites they're looking for, they move to another potential spot. It is important to know that areas that have produced before will be revisited on a regular basis. There are a couple of favored places that a buddy of mine has extreme confidence in at this time of the year. He'll fish them hard and if the fish are not there or just not active, he'll move. Typically, he'll return and check these proven hotspots every couple of hours. That gives the fish time to move into the area, or to simply be willing to bite.
On most days, he'll find quality fish in the 3-pound class loaded on one or more of these places. When that occurs, it's all worth the effort.
Another scenario that Lake Wateree anglers use is to have a rather large area where the fish typically show up and just "camp" out on it for hours at a time. Some of the humps and ledges are rather sizeable and give the largemouths a large area to target. In these cases, it's sometimes best to continually work around the large area. Generally, one of two things will occur. Sometimes the fish will be located in a confined area and several will be caught quickly. Then the action slows until you get back on other feeding fish.
Another scenario, and one that I've personally encountered several times, is to fish a general area and stick with that place for a while. In this situation, you may pick up a fish on a regular basis, but not experience the red-hot action described earlier. If you can count on a good bite every 20 to 30 minutes, then over the course of a few hours, you can have an extraordinary day. It's not always that productive, but at this time of the year, on the right structures, that kind of steady action is not that unusual either.
In either case, you can use deep-diving crankbaits as one weapon and the preferred tactic of many Lake Wateree regulars. However, the Carolina worm rig is another excellent choice for hot-weather fishing. This versatile rig will enable fishermen to fish the depths targeted by the deep crankbaits but also fish the adjacent shallower and deeper water areas without having to re-rig. In addition, regardless of which lure you prefer, when the action slows on that lure, you can often pick up another fish or two with the other. Employing both rigs at the appropriate time seems to be the most widely used method.
A final strategy for catching bass on Lake Wateree in the summertime is to focus on the shoreline cover. In this scenario, the fisherman will often target areas that drop fairly quickly from shallow water down to the 12- to 15-foot depth range. There are a number of steeply sloped shorelines found throughout the lake where this occurs. Many of these shorelines will have logs, boulders and stumps as ambush points for the bass. The most commonly used lure here is the plastic worm rigged either Carolina or Texas style.
This can be a "numbers" strategy for bass anglers, even during July. Typically, many of the fish caught will be in the 12-inch or shorter class. However, there will usually be ample numbers of quality fish as well. This method may require the most patience of all in that you may have to patiently cover large amount of territory before finding an area that has respectable fish. I know of several fishermen that employ this as their tactic of choice and they make excellent catches throughout the summer.
This methodical method is good throughout the lake, but it can really excel in the upper half of the lake, from the Beaver Creek area
and uplake. Specifically, the areas around June, Rochelle, Singleton Dutchmans and Taylor creeks are all excellent.
My experience has been that when you find a stretch that produces some quality fish, work it again thoroughly before moving on. Quality fish bites may only occur periodically, but with patience, you can score good catches in a full day of fishing.
One final technique that produces quality fish at times are the shallow water flats at the back of most of the larger creeks. Often the shad minnows will congregate in these places and the shallow-water forage that these minnows represent will draw some good-sized largemouths. While the specific type of fishing is a less dependable scenario than most of the other methods described, it can produce several good fish in short order when conditions are right. It's worth checking periodically during the course of the day.
Both lakes Wateree and Greenwood will produce quality largemouth fishing throughout the summer months. While it's certainly a different game than during the spring, adjust your tactics and thinking and you can enjoy excellent largemouth fishing even in hot weather.
Find more about South Carolina fishing and hunting at: SCgameandfish.com