Lake Hartwell Fishing Report January 3 2019
Happy New Year and Welcome Back to The Lake Hartwell Fishing Report! I can go ahead and tell you that 2020 is going to be a great year for fishing based on what we have experienced during this last year’s fishing and with some really good fish already being caught on live bait and Umbrella Rigs during the last week of December and into the first week of January 2020.
There’s one thing for sure the last two weeks of 2019 gave everyone the opportunity to spend some quality time on the water with the temperatures being more of a spring time pattern than anything close to winter. In 2020 we will be providing you a weekly up to date report of what the fishing conditions are on Lake Hartwell. As you can see in the attached picture taken from last Saturdays Striper Tournament that the Stripers are still biting and these are some respectable fish so load the gear up in the boat and let’s start out 2020 the right way and, Let’s Go Fishing in 2020!
The Lake Hartwell bite still remains good with the water temperatures holding due to the current warmer days over the last two weeks. We will see much colder weather over the next few weeks so the temperatures will become more reliable for this time of the year. We will also see additional rain forecast with rain remaining consistent during the remainder of this month.
With the rain that we have seen lately Lake Hartwell water levels are back up from the nearly five feet below full pool levels that we saw just a couple of weeks ago. The Lake Hartwell water levels at the time of this report are 657.11 which are 2.89 feet below the 660 full pool levels.
The current water temperatures are holding at 56+- degrees depending on the current weekly air temperature as well as where you are fishing.
STRIPED BASS & HYBRIDS
I have now doubt that Striper fishing in 2020 is going to be great! Just looking at the results of last weekend’s Lake Hartwell Outdoor Center Striper Tournament results gives us a good picture of what to expect this month and later in the year. When you weigh in fish in the mid to high twenties after the fish kill we saw in 2018 then things are defiantly looking up.
The live bait bite has been really good on blueback herring as well as gizzard shad. I also have not talked to anyone that pulls Umbrella Rigs or Mini Mack’s that are not hooking up with doubles and even triples on several occasions and there have also been some big fish caught while pulling Umbrella Rigs. These last few days have been windy with two days of heavy rain and you have had to work harder to keep your Perfect Planer Boards pulling at the right speed with the gusty wind but the bite on Planer Boards has been great and in my opinion that’s where your big fish are going to come from if you are at the right place at the right time during the remainder of this week.
Right now it does not matter which river or creek you are fishing if you work your way into the back of these creeks you will locate fish. One of the biggest creeks on Lake Hartwell that has always been one of my chosen go to spots during the wintertime experienced what I would consider a major setback as one hundred and ninety five thousand gallon of waste water was dumped into Coneross creek when a thirty inch pipe broke on December 27th causing this major spill. At this time the pipe has been repaired but I would be cautious at what this did to the fish in this major creek that normally houses a large amount of Stripers during this time of the year. It’s my hope that the fish left the back of the creek as the water quality changed.
The current fishing conditions are good in the Seneca and Tugaloo Rivers and in most all of the creeks that feed these major rivers. We will be fishing these areas during the remainder of the winter pattern and will be providing our 2020 Instructional Trips during these excursions. If you fished an Instructional Trip this past year you can use your Instructional Book to put yourselves in the right places to catch fish. I would make a serious suggestion being if you are not prepared to pull Umbrella Rigs or big baits or Mini Mack’s on Planer Boards you might want to look at the bottom of this report for my suggestions on gear to catch fish during the next few months.
Now that the seagulls and loons are all over the lake it’s not much of a problem to locate the bait and where there’s bait the fish are going to be very close. Its time to pull some Perfect Planer Boards with gizzard shad close to the banks or in the backs of the creeks where the big fish roam(if your trolling motor is leaving a mud trail you just might be in the right place to catch a big fish.) When I move back out of the backs of the creeks I deploy two ultra-light freelines behind the boat rigged with live herring to catch the fish that are feeding on top and you would be surprised at just how many fish I catch on these ultra-light rigs. I usually locate these fish one of two ways.
I locate them on my Humminbird Side Imaging or Down Imaging and the minute that I get them under the boat I drop my live bait and Mini Mack’s into the schools of fish. If the fish decide not to eat my live bait then my Captain Mack Umbrella Rigs are my automatic tools for the guaranteed bite. The Captain Mack Umbrella Rigs work great now that the real winter weather is showing up. If you want to catch fish during the next couple of months you should add Captain Mack Umbrella Rigs to your fishing gear for the guaranteed bite. Again we cover all these methods in our Instructional Trips and it’s a fun way to catch some good Stripers. One main item that we cover in our Instructional Fishing Trips is how to locate Stripers and Hybrids and then the best methods to catching them. There are many ways to catch Stripers and Hybrids on Lake Hartwell and our Instructional Trips cover all of these points.
Now is one of the best times to fish one of our Instructional Trips, it’s also a great time to witness first-hand what a changing season and pattern does to the fish and how to adapt to new fishing patterns. When you fish an Instructional Trip you will learn everything there is to know about catching Stripers and Hybrids on Lake Hartwell or your home lake and you will be given the chance to ask all the questions that very few professional Striper fishermen will share, so if you are interested in learning all the different techniques to catching Stripers and Hybrid Bass now is one of the best times to get in a teaching boat for an Instructional Trip or a good time to go ahead and book a future trip as they book up quickly when the weather begins to warm back up.
A Striper Instructional Trip will be the best trip that you will ever take and it will increase your odds of catching fish tremendously on any Striper or Hybrid lake. If you are interested in booking a 2020 Instructional Trip or guide trip give Captain Mack a call at 770-235-8135.
Go to baits for this week.
• Live Blueback Herring or Gizzard Shad fished on down rods and freelines. The bait shops are all suppling quality bait and several have the gizzard shad that you will need for that big fish bite. Be sure to add O2 from your Keep Alive O2 system to keep this bait healthy during your trip. The live bait bite has been tough but should get better soon.
• Okuma Classic Pro Striper Rods. This live Bait Rod paired with the Okuma Cold Water CW203D reel is a great match, this rod and reel combo is the perfect Striper and Hybrid combo and it is unmatched in its ability to handle a good fish while giving you all you need to enjoy the fight. This rod and reel combo is the perfect tool and I would give this rod and reel an A++ for Striper Live Bait Fishing. If you choose another reel that will be up to you but try the Okuma Classic Striper Rod side by side with your other rods and I promise you that you will see the difference immediately!
• Captain Mack SUPER SPIN BUCKTAIL JIG. This Jig is great for schooling fish especially after they go down or if you need to cast a long distance to get to the fish schooling on top.
• Any top water bait of your choice; I prefer a spook or anything in a chrome color. Flukes and swim baits paired with one of Captain Mack Umbrella rig trailers. The chartreuse trailer works the best for me.
• Keep Alive Oxygen System. This system will make a huge difference in your bait. I know from experience that this system will help keep your bait in perfect condition during your day of fishing and increase your odds of catching fish with the best bait you can put in the water.
• Captain Mack Umbrella Rigs. I will never go to the lake without them! The Umbrella Rig bite is a guaranteed bite now and the four arm nine bait rigs are working the best. These rigs are best fished using the Okuma 303 Coldwater series on a Captain Mack Trolling Rod.
• Captain Mack Mini Mack’s – they will catch good fish if trolled with your trolling motor at .08 mph or pulled behind your Perfect Planer Boards. Pulling this rig behind your planer boards is working great right now and gives you the ability to cover a lot of water!
• Perfect Planer Boards. The Planer Board bite can be an all-day bite right now as you cover a lot of water. It is working great right now and it gives you the ability to put more bait in the water which always increases your odds of catching more fish. I will fish Planer Boards every trip during the fall and winter months waiting for that big explosion that always seems to come behind a Planer Board.
• Stealth QR2 Quick Release Rod Holders. This is a NEW Technology Rod Holder and it is built for the fisherman that wants the best for his boat and the ability to fish at any angle that you would like to fish with a few simple adjustments that you can make without tools on the fly. Down rods, freelines or Umbrella Rigs these rod holders will get the job done and they come with a Lifetime Guarantee. You will be hearing much more about these rod holders as I put them to work on my boat! 2020 will be a productive year with the Stealth QR2.
The Bass bite has improved over the last week with the major weather changes bringing in the warmer weather. The fish are on the points and the Spots are feeding aggressively. Many of the Striper fishermen are complaining about how many Spots they are catching in there spread of Planer Boards while trying to hook up on a large Striper so the Spots are feeding. Remember that Lake Hartwell is a Blueback Herring Lake and that is a key to landing Spots when bass fishing.
Currently the shakey head bite fished on points and along banks are working the best over all the other fishing methods and baits that we are fishing so give the Weedless Wonder a try along the banks and docks of Lake Hartwell. A crankbait in a Blueback Herring color is getting the job done later in the day if and when the sun comes up and Jerkbaits are also producing fish. You still can’t fish to shallow to catch some good Largemouth Bass in the backs of coves especially around docks.
The Largemouth Bass are following the bait back into smaller creeks and they will bite when you find them. With the water temperatures dropping I know the bass will begin being caught fishing lead jigging spoons (Captain Mack Super Spoons) directly over fish that are marked on your sonar. The resident Largemouth near my house can still be found packed up in the backs of many coves so when you find them you will boat some heavy fish especially if you can trick and older bass into taking your bait.
A Golden Nugget for some large Spots is to cast the Mini Mack off of points and over flats in thirty feet of water for some fat quality fish and have a Mini Mack ready for the large schools of fish. SteelShads, Mini Mack’s as well as various Crankbaits, Spinner baits, Topwater baits, Jerkbaits and swimbaits are all working. Don’t overlook a Wacky worm when fishing the banks and points or around docks.
Go to baits for this week.
• SteelShad in all sizes and colors are still working and make a great jigging spoon. The mini SteelShad is working the best on points in the mornings when the bait is shallow. The Heavy Series is working over schools of bait in the main lake.
• Captain Mack Mini Mack’s with or without blades, both work great. This bait is catching some hogs while being fished off of deeper points or in schooling fish. This bait produces a guaranteed bite when fished in or near schooling fish.
• Captain Mack Super Spoons over suspended fish.
• Captain Mack under Spin Jig.
• KVD 1.5 Magnum Square Bill baits in the color of your choice, with all the rain I would suggest something in a shad or chartreuse color.
• Ned Rigs and hard and soft Jerk Baits of your preference. We are catching some good fish on swimbaits rigged with Captain Mack Trailers; again the chartreuse color is working the best.
• Captain Mack Weedless Wonder Shakey Head rigged with a Robo six inch Morning Dawn or Bluegill worms. Use the plastic of your choice. The Captain Mack Weedless Wonder is the BEST Bass bait that I know of for Lake Hartwell and I recommend that you not go to the lake without rods rigged with the Weedless Wonder!
The Crappies are in their winter pattern now but the bite has been tough over the last two weeks. Catching Crappie is not a problem but when you pull up on a brush pile or dock that’s loaded with fish and only catch a few before having to move to another spot is not typical for this time of the year.
If we get some consistent cold weather the Crappie bite will improve. The winter weather will continue to move in over the next few weeks so I still believe that the more clothes you have to put on means the better the bite is going to be and right now I just don’t have to put enough clothes on to Crappie fish. Live minnows and jigs all work great and I have had very good luck with the Crappie Country Jigs that I’m buying at Lake Hartwell Fish and Marine.
The jig bite is only going to get better as the water temperature and air temperature continue to drop. As the Striper bite gets tougher later in the year or into February I will fish for Stripers and Crappies all in the same day so when this happens then the Crappie bite will be my main reason to get on the water every week so stay tuned for further updates.
Go to Baits for this week.
• Small minnows fished on four pound test line under small floats pitched under docks or over brush will get you the bite you’re looking for. Tipping a jig with a small minnow is working also.
• Popeye Jigs are doing the job right now and if fished slowly in deeper brush piles they will produce the bite you are looking for. I will share a secret to fishing this jig later in the year as the water gets much colder so stay tuned and I will let you know when this idea begins to work.
• Give Captain Mack a call and order you a good supply of Crappie Country Jigs or drop by Lake Hartwell Fish and Marine and pick out a good selection from their large collection of colors and sizes. They come in some Crappie killer colors and they will produce some good fish.
• Humminbird Solix or Helix graphs and Minn Koto Trolling Motors. These graphs have superior side imaging and down imaging and are worth every cent if you are looking to locate Crappie. You have to find them to catch them and Humminbird gives you that ability.
Wishing you all tight lines and good fishing! Rick Owen – Lake Hartwell Professional Fishing Guide (Ret.) Certified SCDNR Fishing Instructor
To book your next Lake Hartwell fishing adventure please call Captain Mack Farr at – 770-235-813