Freshwater Fishing Trends - May 11, 2018

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 10)

Lake Russell water levels are around 474.75 (full pool is 475.00), and water temperatures are in the mid-70s.

Bass fishing remains strong on Lake Russell, and guide Jerry Kotal (706-988-0860) reports that with the herring spawn now in full swing most of the fish are only in 2-3 feet of water early and late. They are being caught off points on flukes, topwater baits, and of course live herring, but with the hot weather Jerry thinks the herring spawn will not last too much longer.

During the day fish move deeper off the points to brush piles where they can be caught on drop shots and live baits. For right now fish are mixed between main lake points and points in creeks.

Guide Wendell Wilson (706-283-3336) reports that he is fishing a very similar pattern for both spotted and largemouth bass, and early in the morning he is catching fish off long, sloping main lake points. The further the points sticks out the better. He is throwing both large topwater plugs like Spooks and hard swimbaits such as the Sebille Magic Swimmer. Once the sun gets up then his boat is fishing Su-Spin blades with flukes a bit deeper in the same areas.

Wendell reports that the crappie bite has picked up, and they are catching fish trolling 1/32 ounce jigs 3-4 feet down in 6-10 feet of water in the backs of creeks. Fish are shallow, and they are catching some large post-spawn crappie as well as a few smaller ones that still have eggs.

A few striped bass are being caught on the lower end of the lake, and Wendell suggests pulling a large herring or gizzard shad on a planer board across points. The striper are not usually as shallow as the bass have gone, and so anglers should keep their boat in 20-30 feet of water. A few striper are mixed in with the bass off points at daylight.

Jerry reports that catfish can be caught in the backs of pockets in 4-10 feet of water on cut herring.

Lake Thurmond (Updated May 11)

Lake Thurmond water levels are at 329.88 (full pool is 330.00), and water temperatures are up to the mid-70s and higher in some areas. Visibility remains good overall.

On the catfish front, Captain Chris Simpson (864-992-2352) reports that the fishing is decent for 1- to 10-pound blues and channels anchoring on humps and points in the 10- to 25-foot range. Fan-casting cut herring is working best, but while using bigger pieces of gizzard shad may decrease the number of bites it increases the chances of hooking up with a big blue. And while you may have to deal with nuisance garfish, fishing live bream in the same areas may entice a big flathead or two.

As reported lots of anglers have been pulling free-lines and planer boards for striped bass, but Captain Chris notes that the recent warm weather have got the gar feeding so aggressively that pulling bait in the mid-lake area is almost impossible. Chris also reports that plenty of good-sized hybrids and striper up to about 6 pounds are being caught on down-lines in 20-35 feet of water but anchoring on points and cut bait fishing is catching more quality striper.

The herring spawn is very much underway on Lake Thurmond, but as on some other South Carolina herring lakes the bass bite isn’t as good as it can be. Augusta University bass team angler Josh Rockefeller says that there are bass on pretty much every point, but the trick is to find the biting ones.

For now the best bite seems to be on points that are about ¼ to ½ way back in the creeks, and Josh is finding plenty of fish but generally smaller ones on the main lake. That could change as it gets hotter. In the creeks the points that stick out the furthest have generally been the best (and most pressured), but there are some jewels that don’t look as good as they are. Orange clay bottoms with rock are ideal.

Traditional baits likes flukes and Gunfish are hard to beat, and you can also catch fish on a jig in the same areas.

Tournament angler Tyler Matthews with Buckeye Lures in Augusta has also found the herring bite a little spotty, although when the wind is blowing everything seems better. To prove the point that feeding fish aren’t on all the points, Sunday Tyler caught eight fish off one point over the course of the day and none anywhere else.

A 7.90-pound bass won the recent Oakley Big Bass tournament, reportedly on a swimbait, and there are also starting to be some fish caught early on buzzbaits.

In striped bass news William Sasser Guide Service (864-333-2000) reports that especially early striper and hybrids are being caught very shallow in 8-15 feet of water chasing herring. When that bite slows down they can be caught in the same areas but a little bit deeper off the sides of humps, shoals and points.

While some people are fishing planer boards and free-lines, their boats are pretty much sticking to down-lines although you can also throw small jigs first thing. After the sun gets up then they are moving out to 17-29 feet of water with the down-lines. The same pattern is going on from one end of the lake to the other, and in all arms of the lake.

Limited crappie reports indicate that fish have are in brush piles in 18-19 feet of water.

Lake Wylie (Updated May 10)

Lake Wylie is at 98.0 percent of full pool, and water temperatures are about 72-74 degrees.

The spawn is pretty much done on Lake Wylie, with a few fish still on beds but not many. As a result guide and FLW fisherman Bryan New (704-421-5868) reports that fishing has gotten tough and catches have been low.

The shad spawn is providing a glimmer of hope, and early in the morning when the bait spawns fish can be caught around banks, ripraps and docks on jigs, topwaters or buzzbaits. The shad spawn doesn’t continue once the sun gets up but the fish will still hang around those areas, but the bite really slows down.

Bryan has caught a few fish out deep, but they haven’t really gotten out there yet. Overall bass can best be described as in a post-spawn funk.

Midlands Area

Lake Greenwood (Updated May 10)

Lake Greenwood water levels are at 439.02 (full pool is 440.0) and water temperatures range from 73-75 degrees. The lower lake is pretty clear and up the lake is only mildly stained.

Greenwood is another lake without herring, and another tough post-spawn bass bite. SC BASS team boater Stan Gunter of Saluda reports that the largemouth bass spawn is pretty much over on Lake Greenwood, and the fishing has gotten tough.

Recently it’s been hard to get bites at all, and there has been no strong pattern. Stan has caught some fish throwing a Pop-R around seawalls, but most them have been on the smaller side. In the eel grass across from Greenwood State Park you can fish a swimbait and a jig, and they have caught some decent fish that way. A few fish have been picked up on shallow points.

The bites have been few and far between out deep, but Stan has picked up his best fish out there on deep brush with an Ole Monster worm Texas-rigged. These include the 7-pounder pictured below and a 3-pounder. The offshore bite is just beginning to get started.

Lake Monticello (Updated May 10)

Lake Monticello water temperatures are in the mid- to upper-70s, and lake levels generally fluctuate daily.

The spawn is pretty much concluded on Lake Monticello, and FLW angler Andy Wicker of Pomaria reports that as a result a lot of the fish have started to head out deeper. There is still a pretty good topwater bite early, and fishing a buzzbait or a Spook around points, steeper banks with some wood cover, or rare rocky points may get you bit.

Once the sun gets up you need to fish deeper, and in this transition phase between spring and summer patterns at lot of fish will be in the 15-foot range off points. Crankbaits, big worms and spoons are the best baits.

Around the end of May they will head into the 20- to 40-foot zone where they will spend much of the summer, and they will continue to be aggressive. When they first really school up it can be the best bite of the year. Around the second week of July they usually get more finicky and you need to throw finesse baits like drop shots.

On the catfish front, Captain William Attaway (803-924-0857) reports that as predicted the bite has picked up on Monticello. The best action has come fishing cut bait on humps and long points in 35 or less feet of water, and any time now he expects the free-line bite to take off.

Lake Murray (Updated May 10)

Lake Murray water levels are at 358.06 (full pool is 360.00). Morning surface temperatures are about 72 degrees and, although there has been a bit of an algae bloom up the rivers this week, overall the lake has pretty good spring clarity.

The striped bass bite remains good on Lake Murray, particularly for numbers of fish, and Captain Brad Taylor (803-331-1354) reports that they have had little trouble catching 40-50+ fish each day. Still, it’s taken some work to get a box of keepers.

Fish are all over the lake, with a lot of fish in the middle section although they are making their way down. Fish are being caught on free-lines, planer boards and cut bait, with 20-30 feet of water the best depth range. Even though blueback herring are up shallow on the points the striper are generally not up there very shallow eating them. There has been some schooling activity off the ends of points and ridges when striper intercept bait that is coming off those places.

The largemouth bass bite remains strange on Lake Murray, and veteran tournament angler Captain Doug Lown reports that even though the herring are up shallow it’s unclear whether their eggs are well-formed enough to be spawning. What is clear is that the bass bite is not wide open off the points, and overall catches have been off. Simply finding lots of bait shallow has not been enough to guarantee that bass are around or feeding, and a lot of people report having trouble getting a bite.

The best pattern right now is to start out in the morning fishing topwater baits or flukes off points until about 9:00 or 10:00, and then pick up a worm and hope to find fish deeper in the same areas. In many sections of the lake grass on the bottom can make it hard to fish off the points, and jigs and Carolina rigs can be unfishable in the goopy grass. You can try to fish a swimbait around the grass.

There are still some fish trying to bed, but overall the bite in pockets is pretty much done. In a week to 10 days fish are likely to be heading into a summer pattern and in the lower lake they should be suspending soon. Docks have been slow. As the lake gets warmer bass will be more and more concentrated on points out towards the main lake.

On the crappie front Captain Brad reports that he has recently caught some fish trolling in the creeks, but there are also some fish showing up on shallow brush. Random docks are also holding fish, but it’s difficult to figure out a pattern to which docks are productive. In the next week or so Brad predicts that post-spawn fish should start feeding up again.

In catfish news, Captain William Attaway (803-924-0857) reports that the bite is pretty good fishing dip baits and cut herring on shallow humps, points and in the backs of creeks. Thirty-five feet and shallower is the best depth range.

Lake Wateree (Updated May 10)

Lake Wateree is at 97.8 percent of full pool, and water temperatures are in the upper-70s.

Bass fishing has gotten tough on Lake Wateree, and FLW fisherman Dearal Rodgers of Camden reports that, as on the lake up the road, fish seem to be in something of a post-spawn funk. In the morning there is a shad spawn going on around grass and docks, and you can fish a spinnerbait, buzzbait, or frog. When the sun gets up there is a bit of a bite off points in the 10-foot range, throwing jigs and lizards. You can also fish the same baits off docks in the shade.

The offshore bite never really got going last summer, and at least so far it doesn’t seem to have started this year, either.

Lake Wateree crappie are starting to move deeper and become more structure-oriented, and veteran tournament angler Will Hinson of Cassatt reports that means they are starting to firmly establish themselves in brush. Early in the morning he is finding them suspended over the top of brush in 12-18 feet, and when the suns gets up they are dropping deeper into the brush. Most of these fish are from the mid-lake down. The main lake is holding the better fish, although some smaller ones can be found at the mouths of creeks.

Will is having the best success fishing brush with a single pole and Fish Stalker jigs in Ugly Green, black and chartreuse and black and yellow. Other anglers are tight-lining minnows around the brush. Bridges are also holding some fish.

Santee Cooper System (Updated May 10)

Santee Cooper water levels are down to 75.74 in Lake Marion (full pool is 76.8) and right at full pool in Lake Moultrie (full pool is 75.5). The upper lake is a bit dingy but in front of the dam is clear (for Santee), while the lower lake is clear except for a slight stain at the mouth of the canal. Water temperatures are in the mid-70s.

The bass spawn is winding down, and most of the fish are now in a post-spawn pattern. Early in the morning you can find some fish chasing shad if you are lucky, but with fluctuating water levels it has been tough to locate fish for most people. The upper lake is now dropping back to more normal levels after being flooded, but the lower lake is super high.

The best baits for fish chasing shad are spinnerbaits, crankbaits, and topwater lures. A good general depth range is 4-6 feet but it is better if there is deeper water nearby.

On the catfish front, Captain Jim Glenn (843-825-4239) reports that things have not changed too much. Drifting cut shad in 10-25 feet of water is still a good pattern for better fish, while in deeper water smaller blues are abundant. It is also worth anchoring early and late in shallow water if mornings are mild (and there is not a cold wind.)

There has been a ton of water flow through the canal recently, and if you get in the right spots you can find the fish.

All the water flowing into the lakes has changed the crappie bite, and Captain Steve English (843-729-4044) reports that the bite in the lower lake has slowed down. In the upper lake they are catching more fish, although they are generally smaller. In the lower lake they are catching fish in 7-10 feet, while in the upper lake they are a bit deeper.

Anglers are still catching bream around brush but fish have also started to go shallow. They are very scattered and it’s a matter of location, location, location.

Mountains Area

Lake Jocassee (Updated May 10)

Lake Jocassee is at 98.0 percent of full pool, and water temperatures range from the mid- to upper-60s in the morning to lower 70s in the afternoon.

Trout fishing continues to improve on Lake Jocassee, and Guide Sam Jones (864-280-9056) reports that they are catching lots of 14-16 inchers as well as some good fish up to 5 ½ or 6 pounds. Fish are still scattered, and they haven’t really zeroed in on any particular depth yet--although 20-40 feet remains the most productive. Some fish have also been caught deeper. The fishing is starting to improve at the dam, but overall fish are still scattered.

Lake Keowee (Updated May 4)

Lake Keowee is at 98.1 percent of full pool, and water temperatures are in the mid- to upper-60s throughout the lake. Water clarity is very high, with visibility at about 8-10 feet.

Veteran angler Charles Townson of the Keowee Anglers reports that most of the bass spawn is over, but there are still some fish that are in the final stages. The pattern is transitioning to a more typical early summer bite. Fish can be caught early on topwaters, crankbaits, spinnerbaits, and soft plastics on points and humps. After the sun comes out, fish are found more in the 15- to 35-foot range and can be caught on shakey heads and drop shots around points and drop-offs. Some fish can also be caught around docks using the same baits.

Be on the lookout for fish chasing bait at any time, particularly early along rip-rap banks. The early morning bite is improving and will get even better over the next few weeks.

Lake Hartwell (Updated May 10)

Lake Hartwell water levels are at 659.88 (full pool is 660.00), and water temperatures range from 70-74 degrees.

Striped bass fishing remains excellent on Lake Hartwell, and Guide Chip Hamilton (864-304-9011) reports that fish are still eating very well. They are targeting schooling fish and fishing free-lines first thing in 8-12 feet of water around points, saddles and shoals, and a little later they are fishing down-lines in 25-35 feet of water. Both a herring and a threadfin shad spawn are underway.

Fish are making their way down the lake, but there are still plenty of fish up the rivers. Chip sees the most fish not quite halfway down the rivers right now, and they are in the feeder creeks because of the bait. There are also some good fish on the main lake down by the dam but the fish are not as concentrated and so there are less on each point.

Captain Bill Plumley (864-287-2120) is finding a very similar bite, and he says that with the herring spawn under way you can catch them about any way you want to fish. To free-lines, planer boards and down-lines he adds pulling up on the bank and casting out live bait on the bottom, and the last two morning they have had forty fish by 8:30 a.m.

The same is generally true with the bass, and Guide Brad Fowler reports that you can also catch the fish doing about anything. While one would expect the bedding action to be slowing down he is still seeing a ton of fish spawning, probably because it started so slowly. There are also fish that can be caught around spawning herring, although they are scattered and it is not as easy as some years to target bass around herring. The herring spawn has trickled in like the bass spawn. There are also a ton of fish around the grass that grew up when the lake was down, and with all the life in the lake (bream, etc.) finally up shallow as of this past week Brad expects bass to hold in the grass for a while. A few fish are even deep around brush and points.

A bunch of different baits will work, but it’s hard to resist picking up a fluke or hard topwater lure like a Spook and seeing what’s around the points. You can also fish a buzzbait or floating worm around the grass.

Captain Bill reports that crappie are well off the banks 15-18 feet deep over brush in about 20 feet of water, and they will take jigs or minnows. At night they are also being caught on minnow around bridges.

It’s an in-between time for catfish, and Captain Bill reports that the blue cat bite has really slowed down, perhaps as they prepare for the spawn. The channels have not really turned on yet.

South Carolina freshwater recreational fishing regulations.