Freshwater Fishing Trends - May 19, 2017

Information on fishing trends provided courtesy of, South Carolina's premier fishing report source. Customers of the Angler's Headquarters online tackle store have access to daily updates and full-length reports on its site.

Piedmont Area

Lake Russell (Updated May 19)

Lake Russell water levels are at 474.19 (full pool is 475.00), and water temperatures are in the mid-70s and above.

The gradual decline of the spring bass bite on Lake Russell continues, and Guide Jerry Kotal (706-988-0860) reports that as temperatures rise the bass have started to scatter out as they make their way towards deeper water. A few fish can still be caught shallow in the backs, but most of the fish are starting to be found off points in 25-30 feet of water around timber. Drop shots and shakey heads are both working.

Guide Wendell Wilson (706-283-3336) concurs and says that fish are acting like it's June already. The bass spawn is pretty much over with and the herring spawn is about the same, although decent numbers of herring remain fairly shallow. Sometimes in the morning you can find bass around these schools.

In addition to fishing soft plastics off deeper points, Wendell advises trying underspins with a fluke off points for larger, tournament fish.

Crappie fishing is also getting tougher on Russell. Wendell has caught a lot of fish on shallow brush about 3 feet deep over 10 feet of water, but they have mostly been small. The better fish seem to be out on the same brush as the spotted bass where they are picking them up on drop-shotted minnows.

On both ends of the lake Wendell reports that striped bass can be found, and up towards the Hartwell dam they can be caught on large herring or gizzard shad fished on planer boards. On the lower end of the lake down-lined herring is the best bet, fishing about 20 feet down over 60-70 feet of water. If conditions are cloudy you can fish free lines on the lower end, too.

Overall, the best Lake Russell bite right now is for channel catfish. Jerry reports that fish are feeding very well in about 10-15 feet of water, although some are out to about 20 feet. Fish are scattered out but the best action is in the creeks and pockets. Cut herring is hard to beat.

Lake Thurmond (Updated May 19)

Clarks Hill water levels are at 322.41 (full pool is 330.00), and morning surface temperatures are up to the high 70s.

As surface temperatures start to brush the 80s on Clarks Hill, Buckeye Lures in Augusta reports that the blueback herring spawn is mostly done – even though there are probably still a few isolated spots with spawning herring. With that the bass are schooling less, and even though they haven't left the same points where they were ganged up shallow they are sliding out deeper into the 6-12 foot range. Mop jigs and Carolina rigs are a good way to target these fish. There will still be times when they will briefly come up to the surface, but it usually only lasts for 15-20 seconds, typically in the morning, and so you need to have a lure ready.

In addition to fishing points, there are also fish being caught off humps in the 10-20 foot range. Right now fish are on the top of the humps, and Spot Remover Magnums as well as jigs will catch them.

Finally, some better fish are starting to feed on bream in the shallows early and late. Double-bladed buzzbaits are working well.

On the striped bass front, Captain William Sasser (864-333-2000) reports that fish are in a pretty normal pattern – but they are several weeks ahead of schedule with the heat. They are catching numbers and big fish. It's pretty much a down-line bite right now, and it's been a few weeks since they were getting a lot of action on free-lines. At daylight fish can be caught in 30-50 feet of water on the bottom off main lake points, and as the sun gets up they move into the same depth over 60-70 feet. Plenty of fish are also being caught around the dam. A few fish can be found breaking the surface but it's sporadic at best.

William advises that crappie have moved out of the backs, and his boat is catching them about 10 feet down over 15-20 feet of water in the Savannah River and the Georgia Little River. Fish are over brush.

Catfish are spawning around bridges and riprap, and shellcracker are bedding all over the lake.

Lake Wylie (Updated May 17)

Lake Wylie is at 98.0 percent of full pool, and surface temperatures are in the mid-70s. When the lake levels came up with recent rains the water got pretty stained, with the rivers downright dirty, but the lake is starting to settle out again.

It's a pretty a tough period for bass fishing on Lake Wylie, and guide and FLW Angler Bryan New (704-421-5868) says it's unclear when the bite will improve. While there are a very few straggler fish on beds the spawn is mostly finished, and fish are basically in a post-spawn/in-between pattern.

The fish are largely scattered between shallow and deep water, and in the shallows some fish can be caught on small topwater baits. The bait really doesn't seem to matter--it's more an issue of personal preference. Jigs fished around docks will also catch some bass, and the very tail end of the shad spawn is also providing a little action. In the stained water Chatterbaits and square-billed crankbaits are a good option.

For about three weeks now there have also been some fish out deep, and Bryan looks for this bite to get better as the water clears. Fish will be found in 15-32 feet of water off long tapering points, little points off the side of flats, and around other offshore structure. Carolina rigs, football jigs, swimbaits such as Keitech 4.8s, and crankbaits like a 6XD or DD-22 will all catch fish. Once the fish get out deep, early in the season is typically better for deep fish than after they have been pounded for months.

Midlands Area

Lake Greenwood (Updated May 10)

Lake Greenwood water levels are in the low to mid-70s, and water levels are at 439.1 (full pool is 440.0).

Unfortunately, not much has changed in the last couple of weeks with bass fishing on Lake Greenwood, and veteran tournament angler Stan Gunter reports that fishing remains really tough. Basically, the fish still seem to be in a post-spawn funk.

One recent tournament was won with an impressive 22 pounds, but that was the exception that proved the rule. Instead of targeting post-spawn fish the winning angler caught three very nice fish off beds. Unfortunately, there aren't very many fish left at that stage of the spawn.

Early in the morning you can catch fish with topwater lures fished around sea walls, but after the sun gets up it is hard to buy bites. The fish haven't gotten out on the deep stuff yet, probably because it just hasn't gotten hot enough, and the in-between fish are just not feeding that well. The best bet once the sun comes up is flipping docks and hoping for some bites.

Fortunately, bass aren't the only species that swims in Lake Greenwood, and the catfish bite has been excellent. Captain Chris Simpson reports that drifting flats and creek runs with 5-15 feet of water has been the most successful pattern, and herring, shrimp and white perch have been the best baits.

In the lower half of the lake the down-rod bite for striped bass has been good fishing 10-22 feet down with live herring and shad.

Lake Monticello (Updated May 17)

Lake Monticello water temperatures are in the mid-70s, and conditions are clear. Lake levels generally fluctuate daily.

It's an in-between time for catching bass on Lake Monticello, and tournament angler Andy Wicker of Pomaria reports that that means that fish are scattered out between deep and shallow. In turn, that makes for a tough bite!

For now the best way to put a (likely small) limit of fish in the boat is to fish shallow and cast at the bank with topwater lures, particularly in the morning and late. During the day you need to fish subsurface baits in the same areas. At daybreak there is still the tail end of the shad spawn, and during the day bass are feeding on bream up shallow.

Right now the deep schools just aren't big enough for a consistent bite out there, but there is little doubt that is the direction the fish are headed. Already some are deep, and within the next week or two fishing in 20-30 feet of water around points and humps will be the best way to catch fish. Big jig, big Texas-rigged worms like Ole Monsters, deep diving crankbaits like Strike King 6XDs and 10XDs, and even spoons if you see fish directly under the boat will all work.

On the catfish front, Captain William Attaway (803-924-0857) reports that the free-line bite is starting up in a big way on Lake Monticello. While this is generally a way to catch large numbers of fish likely in the 1½ to 3- or 4-pound range, there are certainly some 20-plus pound fish caught this way. Depths vary from day to day, but it's a good bet to start out looking in 100-plus feet of water with baits suspended about 15-20 feet down. For free line fishing small pieces of white perch or herring will both work.

If you want to target bigger fish the best bet is to anchor in about 20-40 feet of water and put out cut gizzard shad or bream. Mussel beds, long points and humps are all good places to look right now, and if you can find 35-40 feet of water near a steep drop-off that is hard to beat.

Lake Murray (Updated May 11)

Lake Murray water levels are at 358.02 (full pool is 360.00), and surface water temperatures are in the mid-70s over much of the lake. The lake is fairly stained from recent rains.

At times it has been a trying spring for anglers targeting Lake Murray bass, and tournament angler Andy Wicker said that for much of the last month it has looked like the herring spawn might also be a bit of a disappointment for bass fishermen. However, in the DOT tournament recently on Lake Murray Andy was pleasantly surprised by the bite that he and his tournament partner found. Practicing “on the water” they caught 17 pounds for third place in the 20-boat event, while the winning team managed a little over 20 pounds.

Andy says that he saw some of the biggest groups of herring he has seen in a while, and on several occasions they saw schools of hundreds of herring swimming across shallow points. The best action was on the main lake, and they were able to target the fish with typical topwater lures for this time of year as well as flukes. They couldn't catch a bass on swimbaits but managed dozens of striper. In an encouraging sign they caught fish right through the day instead of having the bite die as soon as the sun got up. Andy suspects that the full moon is accounting for a very strong herring spawn.

In addition to catching striped bass shallow around herring points, Captain Brad Taylor (803-331-1354) reports that a bunch of striper are starting to set up in the main lake about 40-50 feet down where they can be caught on down-lined herring. These fish could be close to the bottom or at that depth over much deeper water. Early in the morning he is pulling free-lines and planers boards, and there is also some cut bait fishing around main lake humps. The best pattern is to move baits from the shallower to deeper parts of the humps as the sun gets up.

Crappie are biting pretty well, and Brad reports that they are having the best success fishing in main lake pockets 10-12 feet down over brush in 15-20 feet of water.

On the catfish front, Captain William Attaway (803-924-0857) reports that it's a good time to fish for channel catfish on Lake Murray. Right now the best action is around secondary points, humps, and back in coves, with the best depth range 25-35 feet during the day and 1-15 feet at night. In large part because of boat traffic night fishing is usually better. At night fish will be exploring fallen timber and riprap – the same types of places they will spawn very soon.

While you can catch probably catch bigger fish on cut bait, you have to deal with the gar and turtles and so William's preferred bait right now is dip bait. Sonny's Super Sticky is his personal favorite.

Lake Wateree (Updated May 8)

Lake Wateree is at 98.1 percent of full pool, and while water levels are fairly high the clarity is decent for Lake Wateree. It's not overly muddy.

Bass on Lake Wateree are definitely in the post-spawn period right now, and tournament angler Dearal Rodgers of Camden reports that fish are in a pretty typical late spring pattern for Wateree. They can be found around shoreline cover such as grass, stumps, laydowns and docks, and in the morning throwing a buzzbait or spinnerbait is the best bet. Once the sun gets up flipping around docks or grass is the best pattern. As is normally the case at this time of year on Lake Wateree, probably because post-spawn fish are suspended, flipping soft plastics such as lizards, craws, or a 1/8 ounce shakey head worm is working better than jigs. Once it starts to get hot jigs usually come back into their own once fish relate more to the bottom.

It's been a good season on Lake Wateree, but veteran tournament angler Will Hinson of Cassatt reports that the crappie spawn is finally over and done with. While there are a very few straggler fish left in the creeks, generally they are moving out to main lake brush in 15-21 feet of water. Early they are suspended just above the brush, but as the sun comes up they sink down into it. Some people are catching fish tight-lining minnows over brush, but Will has had the best success jigging Fish Stalker jigs on single rod.

Santee Cooper System (Updated May 19)

Santee Cooper water levels are at 75.41 in Lake Marion (full pool is 76.8) and 75.35 in Lake Moultrie (full pool is 75.5). Water temperatures are in the upper 70s, and particularly Lake Marion is muddy – while the lower lake is a little better.

While there haven't been a ton of changes in the catfish action on the Santee Cooper lakes, Captain Jim Glenn (843-825-4239) reports that the big fish bite has slowed somewhat during the day. They are still catching lots of 2-6 pounders, with the occasional 12-14 pound fish mixed in, mostly drifting. The big fish reports that have come in have been at both ends of the depth range. Some big fish have been caught in less than 15 feet of water, while some have been in over 38 feet. It's fair to say the bigger fish are scattered out.

Overall the very small fish that were deep earlier in the year have moved shallower, and they can be caught most consistently in the 6-15 foot range now. That may be related to the location of the mussels they are feeding on.

Captain Steve English's (843-729-4044) boat advises that bream fishing has been a little off this spring, and there aren't the numbers of shallow spawning fish that are usually caught. On the brush the fish are pretty small. The slow bite may be related to the very stained conditions.

Crappie fishing has also been a little slow, and while Steve's boat is still having the occasional 20- or 30-fish day overall numbers are down. The fish they are catching are about 8-16 feet deep over brush in 14-30 feet of water.

There are still some bass being caught shallow, but there are not the numbers of super-shallow fish that were showing up a few weeks ago. Post-spawn fish are starting to head out to deeper water.

Mountains Area

Lake Jocassee (Updated May 19)

Lake Jocassee is up to 91.5 percent of full pool, and water temperatures are in the lower 70s. In the backs there is a fair amount of stuff in the water (pollen, leaves, limbs), but overall clarity is very good.

The trout bite is still progressing nicely on Lake Jocassee, and they are starting to get some nice late spring catches on Guide Sam Jones' (864-280-9056) boat. He reports that fish still haven't all moved into the big water near the dam, and there are some rainbows at the dam and some up the rivers. Most of the brown trout are still up the rivers.

Overall fish are very scattered, and they have caught fish lately as shallow as 28 feet and as deep as 70 feet. Sutton and Apex spoons have still been working well, and Sam hasn't been fishing bait because of all the small catfish still around. He has been pulling spoons a little faster than usual in the 2 – 2.2 knot range.

Lake Keowee (Updated May 18)

Lake Keowee is at 95.7 percent of full pool. Morning surface temperatures have risen to around 74 degrees on the lower and upper ends of the lake, and into the upper-70s mid-lake. Clarity is normal.

Lake Keowee bass appear to be coming out of a post-spawn lull, and veteran Lake Keowee fisherman Charles Townson of the Keowee Anglers reports that the bite seems to be improving as fish are quickly moving into a typical summertime pattern. The early morning bite has gotten much stronger, although fish are not often being found in large schools yet. Early in the morning some good fish are being caught around points, flats and humps with topwater lures, shallow-running crankbaits and spinnerbaits (if windy). As soon as the sun hits the water this bite generally dies. However, as the sun gets up the same fish can be caught with a little deeper running crankbait such as a Rapala DT-6. The key is finding areas holding shad where fish are actively feeding. After the morning bite, fish can be caught deeper on drop shots or shakey heads with finesse soft plastics. Some fish are also chasing bait on the surface, so always have a bait ready to throw at these fish.

Lake Hartwell (Updated May 10)

Lake Hartwell water levels are up to 652.80 (full pool is 660.00), and water temperatures range from the upper-60s to low-70s. They dropped significantly recently but are now rebounding towards the mid-70s again. On windy days the water is a little dingy but overall clarity is good without significant rain of late.

Usually this is a time of year when there is a wide open topwater bite on Lake Hartwell, but right now Guide Brad Fowler reports that bass fishing is very tough. On Sunday it only took about 16 pounds to win the Skeeter tournament, and in the BFL tournament on Saturday it only took about 12 pounds to get a check.

Surprisingly, Brad says that there are still a ton of fish bedding on Lake Hartwell. Even though surface temperatures warmed very quickly deeper levels did not really move up, and so the spawn isn't as far along as one might think. Resident shallow fish bedded early but deeper fish just didn't come to the banks very quickly.

One group of fish has been on bait for about a month, and it's easy to catch lots of small ones off shallow points on topwaters, even as the herring spawn winds down. You can also catch fish on drop shot rigs. However, quality fish are elusive.

In contrast striped bass action is good, and Captain Bill Plumley (864-287-2120) reports that you can catch fish about any way you want to target them. Striper are out on points, in pockets and coves, and generally scattered all over. Down-lines fished 25-30 feet deep are working, and pulling free-lines is also catching fish. Fishing cut bait in 15-30 feet of water is also successful. Bill has seen little schooling recently and the fish have been close to the bottom.

Guide Chip Hamilton (864-304-9011) reports that he is finding fish in the same general range, and he believes that fish were in the backs but they are now working their way out towards the deeper creek channels where they are staging. He is catching fish on down-lines fished in 30-40 feet in pockets, gullies, and coves, and on days when fish seem higher in the water column he is pitching free lines to them. He has seen some schooling activity on rainy days.

Captain Bill reports little change in the catfish, with channels scattered all over the place and feeding well. Blues can still be caught anchoring and drifting in 5-30 feet of water.

Crappie are still relatively shallow, and the best reports are coming around brush in 5-6 feet of water in the creeks. The best brush is fairly close to deep water.

South Carolina freshwater recreational fishing regulations.