Lake Hartwell Fishing Report May 22 2019 | Sponsored by Hayes Automotive
Written by Rick Owen – Lake Hartwell Professional Fishing Guide
So it was just a few months ago and you said, “man I will be glad when it warms up!” Now this proves we need to be careful what we wish for as those ninety degree days are now on us. Ninety plus degrees in the shade is bearable but on Lake Hartwell it can be brutal. My boat has a T-Top which makes it about ten degrees cooler in the hottest part of the day but even with a T-Top you had better keep the cold water and Gatorade flowing or you just might find yourself in trouble. As a retired Striper Guide I have a lot of memories of some really good trips and then some that I remember that still make the hair stand up on the back of my neck. One of those memories involved fishing Leadcore line and Cisco Kids in late July and a few good clients that got lucky enough to be with me when the Leadcore line bite was perfect in the middle of the day. Now if you have never reeled in a bunch of big Stripers fishing Leadcore in the middle of the day when it’s about one hundred degrees in the shade then you will not be able to relate to this story.
I’ll sum it up with I’m about four miles from the dam and I’ve got a client who is now in the floor of the boat no longer sweating which tells me his body is one big heat stroke in the making, so to say the least he is in serious trouble! When you get so hot that your body starts to shut down you better be calling 911! Long story short my first aid training really paid off and the ambulance was waiting on us at the dock. When I got to the hospital later that day my client was still in the ER getting IV fluids and all he could talk about was when we were going to go fishing again and how much fun he had had. He recovered and we did get the chance to fish together many more times but you can be assured that I will force water and Gatorade on someone in a skinny minute when it get as hot as it is now, and it’s not even Summer yet. The latest forecast is for up to 100 Degrees in the coming days so Please Be Careful! Fishing continues to be great this month! For all practical purposes you can say that the spawn is now over for all major species and the fish will be feeding aggressively as they move to deeper waters. It’s still my suggestion that May is a month that produces the early morning and late afternoon bite. I will continue to be in the water before sun up and when I fish later in the day I’ve found that the fish bite the best after seven o’clock and they will bite well until dark.
If you are one of the few who don’t mind fishing after dark under lights the bite will be good all night especially with the bait beginning to spawn. This past Saturday we fished 32 boats for the Outdoor Dreams Foundation. Everyone caught fish and what a true blessing it was the get the ODF Kids out for their Outdoor Dreams Foundation Fishing Lake Hartwell Annual Fishing Event. A special thank you to the Appalachian Striper Club and Lake Hartwell Fish and Marine and the many others who brought their boats out and took the time to take a kid fishing. I know that the kids had a great time and the memories that were made will always be cherished. The current Lake Hartwell water levels remain above full pool and the current levels are at 660.73 which is.73 feet above the 660 full pool levels.
The current water temperatures are now in the mid-seventies during the early mornings and are in the high seventies after the sun comes up by mid-day. I did see eighty degree water this past week and after the heat wave that we will see this week I’m sure the surface water will rise to eighty degrees and hold at that temperature during the mid to late day. If you are interested in booking a fun day of fishing for Stripers or our hard fighting Hybrids on Lake Hartwell give Captain Mack a call. The fishing will be great and now is the best time to fish Lake Hartwell.
STRIPED BASS & HYBRIDS
Striper and Hybrid fishing on Lake Hartwell continues to be great with the fish still being caught all over the lake. The Hybrid Bass bite is strong right now and fishing down rods while drumming for fish will put fish in the boat every trip. We are catching some really big Hybrids and if you get them under your boat it will not take long to empty a bait tank. The Stripers and Hybrids seem to be more focused on smaller baits so when purchasing your bait be careful not get all big herring; I suggest one dozen big bait for every four dozen smaller baits. Lake Hartwell is currently loaded with small Stripers and Hybrids from recent stocking. Now this is a good thing and in a few years it will be a great thing.
If you get a school of these small fish under your boat you will have to leave them or they will empty your bait tank. I suggest that we leave them alone and not kill or stress these fish until they get another year or two behind them and then they will become quality Lake Hartwell fighting machines! Now that the water temperatures have reached into the high seventies the fish are moving back down the lake and can be caught at the mouth of most all major creeks and rivers in many areas of the lake. Stripers and Hybrids are biting early morning before daylight mainly on points as well as just before sunset in the evenings. The live bait bite is great and if you like to catch fish on down rods and freelines you won’t be disappointed. Pulling big baits behind your Perfect Planer Boards is your best chance to catch a trophy Striper in May. The point fishing around islands or shoals is still really good so if you don’t have a problem beaching your boat on a red or sandy point you will want to give it a try. Live bait or cut bait both are working well before daylight on shallow points.
My favorite way to fish this method is to fish live or cut bait Carolina rigged off the bottom with bait thrown out around the back of the boat once you get beached. The best bite seems to be in twenty to thirty feet of water after the fish pull off of the banks. Freelines with or without planer boards are catching bigger fish after the sun starts to come up and they will usually bite up until it begins to get hot, I usually fish free lines until ten o’clock and by then the fish are usually too deep to hit a free line. I’ve found that many times that the larger fish come off the freel ines especially if you use lighter tackle or while fishing my Captain Mack Umbrella Rigs after the sun gets above the tree tops which slows the live bait bite down quickly. Something new for this report will be my bait suggestions for the week, so give this a try.
• Small Herring are working the best on Lake Hartwell right now. Down size your hook and you will do well. My go to hook is an Owner MUTU #1 Light wire circle hook. I guarantee you that you will not miss fish with this hook and it works great for all herring sizes.
• SteelShad is a go to bait for schooling or breaking fish. This bait will catch all bass species when cast to points or in deep or shallow waters.
• Captain Mack Umbrella Rigs. I will not go to the lake without them
• Captain Mack Mini Mack’s – they will catch you some good fish if trolled. I’m using them as a search tool when looking for fish in deep water coves where I normally catch fish.
Bass fishing continues to be great and we are seeing some really nice catches of largemouth Bass and Spotted Bass! I would suggest that the bass are shallow as this past weekend I counted twenty two boats fishing the shoals near Broyles at one time right after their blast off. These teams focused on the shallow water bite and I saw a lot of jerk baits and topwater baits being fished aggressively. All of the bass clubs are fishing now and you will find a tournament somewhere on Lake Hartwell every week. Many clubs have started their evening tournaments which usually weigh in around 9 pm. Largemouth and Spotted Bass are still being caught on Weedless Wonders, SteelShads, Mini Mack’s and various Crank baits, Spinner baits, Topwater baits, Jerk baits and of course your favorite plastics. I personally have been catching a lot of really good fish using my SteelShad baits casting them to docks and around bridges in the early mornings and late afternoons. The Mini SteelShads are working really well on shallow points early in the mornings when the herring and threadfins are in the shallow water. When it comes to Lake Hartwell Bass fishing it seems to me that whatever you have the most confidence in will be your go to bait now that the Bass are finishing up the spawn. The Lake Hartwell Shad spawn should start very soon and this will bring the bass into shallow waters to feed so be on the ready for the upcoming shallow water blast, this will make the top water bite a fun way to catch Bass. Many of the larger Bass have moved back to their favorite docks and the Spotted Bass are starting to show up schooling on shallow points at day break early in the mornings.
Go to baits for this week:
• SteelShad in all sizes and colors are working great. The mini SteelShad is working the best on points in the mornings when the bait is shallow.
• Captain Mack Mini Mack’s with blades. This bait is catching some hogs while being fished off of deeper points or around bridges and docks.
• Ned Rigs and hard and soft Jerk Baits of your preference.
• Captain Mack Weedless Wonder Shakey Head with the plastic of your choice.
• Top Water Baits. There are too many types to mention but my two favorite are made by SteelShad and Sebile.
The Crappie bite continues to be great on Lake Hartwell! Fishing under bridges in the late evening under lights continues to produce some big slabs using very small minnows. This past Saturday we had a Crappie Pro
fishing a group for the Outdoor Dreams Foundation. They weighed in ten good fish with the largest being a big one pound slab winning the trophy for their division. The bait of choice was hand tied bait in a blue color. If you want to know more about these jigs let me know and I will supply you some contact information. The docks that are located in deeper waters are still holding some big fish and if you are good at shooting docks you will be able to catch some really good fish. Blue Ice jigs are working great as well as long lining baits with live and artificial baits. Next week’s report will provide more information on the World’s largest Crappie fry as well as the upcoming Crappie Expo and Mr. Crappie Classic Invitational.
Go to Baits:
• Blue Ice Jigs seem to be the go to color on Lake Hartwell right now. Bobby Garland is my choice.
• Small Minnows under floats.
• Chartreuse Jigs are working in when other colors fail.
• Custom Jigs are working if you can find the right ones.
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