Lake Hartwell Fishing Report January 30 2019 | Sponsored by Hayes Automotive
Written by Rick Owen – Lake Hartwell Professional Fishing Guide (Ret.)
Okay, let’s get go over a quick summary as we end January 2019 and begin February which is normally the coldest month of the year on Lake Hartwell. Even though February is typically the coldest and toughest month to fish Lake Hartwell, we will still catch fish during this upcoming month. So what should we expect? Well, we are going to hear more weather forecast like arctic blast, wintry mix, black ice, hard freeze, wind chills, frigid and my all-time favorite, don’t get out unless it’s just necessary! Now if you enjoy fishing as much as I do then it’s absolutely necessary to go fishing. I may not fish this coming month as much as I normally fish but I’m going fishing!
On those days when it’s just bitter cold I go prepared with the right winter wear. Now I might look like the Michelin Man walking to the dock but I’m warm. When it gets really cold in February I just keep telling myself that spring is on the way. Now I may have most of the lake to myself in the next few weeks but let me challenge you to get out on the water during this coming month. I will be sure to keep you updated on the fishing conditions and try to keep you from having to run all over the lake to catch some good fish.
The current water levels are 658.90 which are 1.10 feet below the 660 full pool levels. The current water temperatures remain in the mid to high forties. These water temperatures should stay consistent until we start to see warmer temperatures which will be at least another month away.
STRIPED BASS & HYBRIDS
Striper and Hybrid fishing on Lake Hartwell has slowed some with the live bait bite being really tough right now. If you enjoy fishing live bait I would suggest purchasing some medium to large Shiners along with your Gizzard Shad and Herring in preparation for your down rod and free lines. The shallow water bite on free lines can be the best way to catch a trophy Striper on a cold day. I will be pulling big baits behind planer boards along the banks in the backs of Lake Hartwell creeks over the next few weeks and I would bet that I will catch a big Striper if I continue this method. My personal favorite spread will still be at least three planer boards on each side of the boat. I always put a big Gizzard Shad as close to the bank as possible. My middle planer board will always be rigged with a Captain Mack mini mack at my desired depth which depends on the depth I’m fishing in. My inside planer board will have another Gizzard Shad, Blueback Herring or a Shiner.
Don’t forget to put a big bait on a freel ine way behind your boat rigged under a balloon or a Redi-Rig Float and just let it swim along as you pull your spread. If this bait gets taken I assure you that you will know it right away as your bait will do everything possible to get away from this fish. My best tips for the next week would be this, don’t leave the dock without your jigging spoons. If you want to catch fish you must be prepared to use your spoons over schools of fish. Keep a good selection of Super Spoons and Berry Spoons in different colors and sizes in your tackle.
The other tip is there’s no such thing as a Gizzard Shad that’s to big! I’ve seen big Gizzard Shad eaten by Stripers that I still can’t believe they ate. When the water is cold a Striper will eat this bait without much effort. Be patient when they get after your bait, let them do their thing until you know that they have it. My last tip would be what’s working the best for me right now. Don’t overlook pulling your Captain Mack mini mack‘s behind your planer boards. Also be sure to carry and use your Captain Mack trolling rods with your nine bait umbrella rigs. This will continue to put fish in the boat!
Bass fishing still remains good with Largemouth and Spotted Bass being caught on Captain Mack’s Super Spoons, Berry’s Flex It Spoons, Weedless Wonder’s, SteelShads, Captain Mack mini mack‘s and Crank baits. I’m seeing a better bite on the Super Spoons and the SteelShad and downsizing the baits seems to have increased this bite. Jigging Spoons are a must have when you are fishing a Lake Hartwell winter pattern. SteelShad has introduced a mini-series that is ¼ ounce baits that work perfectly for casting and jigging. I would absolutely add these baits to my stash of jigging spoons.
Casting or vertical jigging the Super Spoons or SteelShads as well as casting them into schools of fish will get you hooked up on Largemouth and Spotted Bass. Don’t overlook the mini mack when bass fishing. If you have not tried the Mini Mack yet you are missing out. The rig works great for casting, trolling and yes power reeling; once you give this rig a try you won’t leave the dock again without them. The bass are still holding in coves and around docks and near or in brush piles, as well as chasing big schools of bait in and out of the creeks.
The crappie bite is still good and now that the colder weather has moved in to stay it will remain good and even get better later when the water starts to warm back up again, but this is still weeks away. Crappie fishing can be a morning or afternoon bite and if you enjoy spider rigging you can spend the day on the water moving from one spot to another. Now with the colder weather the pressure will not be on the fish as it normally is with many fishermen not willing to brave the cold temperatures. During the next few weeks the best bite will come from a slow presentation so when you find crappie bunched up don’t get inpatient.
I’m still catching crappie on several different Bobby Garland 2.25 Baby Shad Swim’R baits using a 1/16 chartreuse or chrome jig heads. These baits are not the only baits that will catch fish, but they are one of my favorites. I have caught a lot of crappie off of hand tied jigs, marabou and so many others as there are so many different types of jigs on the market, it will always be a fisherman choice. I plan on trying the ¼ ounce SteelShad mini-series this coming week for crappie fishing so I will let you know how it works.
Try to stay warm and be safe, slick iced downed boat docks and fiberglass boat floors are known to put the best of us flat on our backs.
Wishing you all tight lines and good fishing!
Rick Owen – Lake Hartwell Professional Fishing Guide (Ret.) Certified SCDNR Fishing Instructor