March 09, 2018
With the spring movement to spawn, these South Carolina lakes become shallow bass fishing factories.
South Carolina bass fishermen have access to sensational shallow-water action during April. Success this time of the year, however, is not simply making repetitive casts to visible shallow water targets, although that's certainly part of the process. The key is fishing high-percentage targets that tend to congregate bass.
We'll take a look at lakes that are traditionally hotspots for April fishing with details on some great cover and structure patterns to work. As in any situation, the better you refine the daily pattern the more fish you'll catch.
Here are some great spots for 2018.
Lake Greenwood is one of those lakes where some local knowledge can make a big difference in bass fishing success. During April, most of the largemouth bass activity is in shallow water and one of the keys to the best areas will be forage.
The timing of the spawn is impacted by water temperature and other external factors, but the move to the shallows during the pre-spawn and continuing into post-spawn will be occurring generally from mid-March and throughout April.
By this time of the year most of the bass will be in the major creeks and tributaries, as well as some pockets and small coves off the main lake. They will generally position themselves in the shallow, warming water either very shallow around visible cover or staging in just slightly deeper water.
The Saluda and Reedy river arms of the lake are both chock full of shallow water cover for largemouth, but by April the entire lake can be very productive.
Some of the largemouth will get into very skinny water around weeds, stumps, logs and other natural cover anglers can target. But not all the bass, especially the largest fish, stay in the ultra-shallow water for extended periods.
Look for a lot of bass to be reasonably shallow but staging just off the shoreline, often in water 5- to 6-feet deep. This is where local knowledge is helpful, because in the many tributaries and creeks, stumps and logs are in this depth range but not visible above the surface. If you've got sidescan sonar capability you can shorten the searching process, and time spent slowly scanning parallel to the shoreline in the creeks and coves can pay big bass dividends.
Not only can you find the stumps and logs, you can often spot the presence of fish orienting to them. This gets you in the game quicker and after that catching fish becomes a matter of working out the right lure and depth pattern.
Generally bass will orient to points, pockets and places along the shoreline where the depth changes. Small ditches or cuts across a flat, even minor depth changes, are good targets. In the back of larger creeks the fish may fan out on the flats and orient to the woody cover near slightly deeper water.
Another pattern good for spawning bass as well is to fish docks in this depth range. Running crankbait baits and spinnerbaits are excellent techniques. Flipping is a favored tactic of many local anglers who search for hawgs on the bed. Flipping not only enables anglers to effectively check for spawning fish, but to catch quality bass orienting to this cover. As the water warms, bream, perch and shad will be in these depths and all are good forage sources that attract and hold bass.
Early in April you can also find some fish slightly deeper by working shakeyheads around points and along rocky banks that tumble down to 10-foot and deeper water.
But some bass will move shallow and occasionally school on shad in the coves and pockets by late March. In addition to finding bass around shad in the pockets, work around rip-rap, sea walls and other targets that drop quickly into slightly deeper water. Pop-R's, Bang-O-Lures, floating worms and chatterbaits are all productive on these targets. Swimming minnow lures, and Texas and Carolina rigged worms are very good for working the shoreline cover.
Crankbaits can be especially effective around bridge abutments and while these are year-round targets, they certainly produce during April. These areas can be also be effectively fished with jigs with plastic or pork trailers. With a crankbait, cast beyond the piling, get the lure down deep and then slow the retrieve as it swims pass by the piling. Look for current around the pilings because current will attract forage.
Pro Adrian Avena: Big Bass on Big Worms
April brings great news for Lake Wateree bass fishermen: Large numbers of fish as well as a healthy number of big bass are actively roaming the shallows. Lake Wateree has long been noted as a very fertile lake with a huge forage base, and according to SCDNR fisheries biologist Robert Stroud, the lake remains very fertile. Stroud says the forage base, fertile water and ample shallow water cover and vegetation leads to excellent largemouth bass production.
Lake Wateree has become a very popular tournament lake, despite being relatively small compared to some South Carolina lakes (Wateree has just under 14,000 surface acres of water). However, the many creeks and large coves on the lake offer over 190 miles of shoreline with a very diverse cover. On any given day in April several patterns can produce excellent action.
By April many bass load up in the shallows down to 5-feet deep. Also, many fish are caught deeper, especially late in the month and on bright, bluebird days. The typical water color varies with dingier water usually in the upper end of the lake, especially in Wateree Creek.
Fishing shallow cover around grass or weedbeds, docks points and rocky banks can all be productive.
But the presence of forage in the area is a key and most bass fishermen use graphs to ensure an area has ample forage. However, as the days get deep into April, bream begin to flood the shallows and become a favored food source for bass. Most major bream bedding at Lake Wateree usually begins in May, but in late April it's not unusual to see some bream bedding activity on the shallow gravel areas adjacent to weedbeds. If you spot this situation logic dictates you check to see if a couple big bass lurk nearby. Big swimbaits in a bream or otherwise colorful pattern are a good choice in this situation.
One of the most popular and productive patterns during April is working the weedbeds that flourish throughout the lake. The weedbeds will begin to emerge during April — the exact timing is dictated by external factors — but as soon as they emerge, they're productive. But not all weedbeds are created equal. Anglers can find scattered fish by randomly fishing weedbeds in the back third of major creeks, but working specific targets yields much more consistent results.
Work the weedbeds on points, at the mouths of coves and especially in the backs creek and coves with significant deeper water access. The bass won't necessarily be in that deeper water. But that does tend to congregate the fish in specific areas. The end of the weedline, or the wall, of some of these weedbeds falls into 4 or 5 feet of water. Weedbeds with that kind of abrupt drop at the end are more likely to hold more and larger bass.
Bass move throughout the weeds foraging, and thus spinnerbaits and chatterbaits work well, but on Lake Wateree a time-tested pattern in April through May is working buzzbaits through the weeds.
At times bass will be back in the weeds, on other days they'll hold on the edge and on the really good days, both. Remember, though, this is not a random type of fishing. For example, if the pattern is that fish are holding in open pockets of weeds, exploit that. If bass are caught primarily along the edgeline of the weeds, then working parallel to the weedline edge can significantly increase the catch rate.
Also weightless plastic worms, such as a trick worm, as well as Texas rigged worms with a 1/16 ounce weight produce well. Green pumpkin and black with red glitter are two local favorites.
Other highly successful patterns relate to the pre-spawn and spawn, and April is usually the big bass spawning month on Wateree, although a warm winter can back it up a couple weeks.
Shallow stumps, fallen trees along the shoreline and docks are also prime targets. As with weedbeds, areas where shallow water drops into slightly deeper water is the high-percentage bet.
Docks that end in at least 4 feet water are prime targets and are ideal for skipping a jig under. Fishing tough-to-reach spots makes a big difference on some days.
Lake Marion generally warm quicker than many South Carolina lakes and by April the early bedding action is over, but plenty of great-shallow water fishing remains during April.
Marion Bass move from the ultra-shallow spawning grounds after the spawn, but they may only go to slightly deeper water, typically 3- to 6-feet deep. These fish will now directly relate to heavy cover. At Marion that cover can take many forms, including cypress trees and the "cypress knee" system that often extend several feet around the base of the tree. Weedbeds of all descriptions abound and stumps, logs and the small ditches and drains across some of the flats, and the adjacent cypress or gum trees stumps and logs attract and hold some huge largemouth.
While March is often the peak month for trophy largemouth because of the early spawn, April is outstanding for both huge bass as well as large numbers of fish. Longtime Bass guide Inky Davis (803-478-7289) says that some bass spawning does occur in April. He notes that if anglers are looking for perhaps the best mix of quality and quantity bass action in shallow water, they will be hard pressed to beat April at Lake Marion.
Davis said one key to successful fishing during April is to cover a lot of territory.
"I focus on the shallow water cover such as cypress trees, stumps, weeds, pads and grass, but I will also work some of the slightly deeper ledges that drop into deeper water. The huge variety of potentially productive places is one of the really good things about Lake Marion in April."
Davis says the entire lake is productive but the patterns change from the upper to lower end of the lake. In the upper end, most of the patterns relate to natural cover, while on the lower end in Taw Caw, Eutaw, Potato and Wyboo creeks, there are more manmade targets including docks, bridges, rip-rap and underwater road beds.
Davis says as a rule the early mornings in April are best for bass feeding actively.
"I'll work topwaters and crankbaits around the grassbeds and the drops near cypress tree points," he said. "Once the sun gets up, the fish retreat to shade, but will still be in the same basic depth of water holding tight to the trees and weeds. This is where casting accuracy really begins to make a difference. Six inches can be a big miss at this time, so get that lure on the money especially if you are worm fishing around trees. Look for shady sides of your targets to be the most productive."
Davis notes that a lot of fishermen think that Lake Marion is basically flat on the lake bottom and everything relates to shallow-water cover. But that's not the case.
"In reality ridges and cuts run through the lake, even in shallow flats," he said. "These depth changes are not as dramatic as on other lakes, but they have the same effect on largemouth."
Good lure choices include plastic worms rigged Texas or Carolina style in pumpkinseed, redbug or watermelon colors as well as crankbaits, spinnerbaits and swimming minnow-imitating lures.
SLEEPER LAKE: WILLIAM C. BOWEN
Lake William C. Bowen encompasses 1,534 acres, formed by the South Pacolet River. It contains approximately 33 miles of shoreline.
The lake is just north of Spartanburg, and I-26 crosses the lake between mile markers five and ten.
The bass fishing at this lake is hardly a secret to local anglers, but the small size of the lake is one reason is a hidden bass fishing jewel.
Spring fishing in shallow water around the shoreline is very good.
Docks, and a diverse array of shoreline cover types provide good targets, but the lake has shallow bars and humps as well.
Anglers in the upstate may want to check Lake Bowen out during April. Good access and launching ramps are available.