Our Lake Hartwell Fishing Report for March 18, 2020

It’s finally here, the first day of SPRING starts tomorrow and I’m just a little bit excited! There are so many situations going on around us right now that none of us can change but one thing that never changes is the fishing conditions on Lake Hartwell during spring. I had a conversation with a good friend this past week and he was so depressed. No March Madness Basketball, No NASCAR, No Masters, No College Spring Football games, No High School Sporting Events with his grandkids, Rick he said, they even closed Disney World! So many problems and I sitting on the prescription for all of these issues all summed up into a nut shell, Just Go Fishing! If you are looking to get the family out of the house on a field trip and you have never been on a guided fishing trip or it’s been awhile then you are really missing out. I promise you there are no virus issues in the fresh air of Lake Hartwell and we can provide your family a better time than Mickey or Minnie Mouse. So don’t give in to what’s going on around us, you might not be able to run to the beach or the mountains or some other favorite vacation spot right now while the kids are out of school but you can tuck a rod under their arm with a big fish on the other end and have just as much fun without any worries, so let’s Go Fishing!  

The Lake Hartwell bite has been fair to good overall the past seven days even with continued poor but improving water conditions. Be careful when running up or down the lake as there is still a lot of floating debris in the water. The Lake Hartwell water levels at the time of this report are 661.27 which are 1.27 feet above the 660 full pool levels. The current water temperatures are holding at 58 plus or minus degrees with many creeks reaching sixty degrees but I would bet that the water temperatures will begin to rise very soon with the air temperatures reaching seventy degrees several days this week. We will see another cold front next week which will hold the water temperatures but the conditions are perfect for the bite to become very good soon.


Striper and Hybrid fishing is still not at its peak yet but when it happens it’s going to be like someone turning a light switch on and the fishing will go from hit and miss to wide open. The fish are getting ready for their false spawn and when this happens the fishing will be fast and furious and will last for several weeks or until the spawn is over with. The quality of the fish that we are catching now is really good so the Stripers and Hybrids are not showing any signs of stress this year. Now is the best time to load up the Perfect Planer Boards and fish a good spread of live bait to catch Stripers and Hybrids! Stay tuned and I will let you know when the switch is thrown and when it will be time to move up the lake for the spawn. It’s good to remember that not all the Stripers and Hybrids spawn at one time, so you will have the opportunity to catch fish go up the rivers to spawn while other are coming out of the river after the spawn. No matter if you catch them coming or going the bite will be aggressive! With school being out now for unseen circumstance’s it is the perfect time to get the kids out on an on the water field trip so they can experience a fun day of fishing when they normally would be in school. It will be good for the kids as well as for the parents as many are troubled by the current situations and need something that will bring a smile to us all. I’m still looking forward to hearing more from those who have fished Instructional Trips over this past year as they all catch some good boxes of fish this year. I have been so blessed to meet and fish with many fishermen over this past year and been able to share many fishing techniques with these folks. They may not know it but I’m the one who learned a lot and I’m the one who feels blessed for getting too fish and make friends with these good folks. If you want to book a fishing trip for the upcoming spring season on Lake Hartwell or get your Instructional Trip done before the spring bite takes off then now is the time to get these trips booked. I’ve been told that I give to many secrets away when it comes to Striper and Hybrid fishing, well I plead guilty but I want to be known as the Striper fisherman that shared his all. We will be fishing all of these Instructional techniques during the end of this winter pattern and will be teaching these techniques during our spring and summer 2020 Instructional Trips. 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, and don’t forget I’m just a phone call away. I would make a serious suggestion being if you are not  pulling Umbrella Rigs, Mini Mack’s and big baits on your Perfect Planer Boards you might want to rethink that. I’ll outline those techniques at the end of the report.  It’s time to pull some Perfect Planer Boards with a big Gizzard Shad close to the banks or in the backs of the creeks where the big fish roam. 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 do not respond to the live bait then I switch over to the Captain Mack Umbrella Rigs, the rigs can also be a big plus in windy conditions, where live bait fishing may be compromised.  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. If you have ever wanted to be one of the boats that come to the dock with your limit after a good spring fishing trip you might want to book a trip really soon. 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 good 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!
  • 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’s 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. They can be purchased at Lake Hartwell Fish and Marine as well as Academy Sports. If your favorite bait and tackle shop does not carry them you might want to ask for them. I like to get my tackle where I normally shop and I hate to go to the lake without everything that I need to catch a good box of fish.
  • Captain Mack Mini Mack’s – they will catch good fish if trolled, either as a free line or behind a Perfect Planer, on the trolling motor at .08 mph.  These rigs are hard to find right now as they sell out quickly. They can be found at Lake Hartwell Fish and Marine and I personally would ask my favorite fishing store to purchase them so that you always have a good supply at your go to bait shop.
  • Perfect Planer Boards. This is the best Planer Board I have ever used. 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 their boats 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. The clients that I have fished since installing these new rod holders have already said that they are the BEST that they have ever used and are looking to install them on their boats. (If you are buying a new boat this year please check out the Stealth QR2. Do not scratch up your rails with other rod holders when you can install a Stealth QR2 that will leave no marks on your new rails and will do you an excellent job.)


This past week has been really good for Bass fishing. The Bass bite has moved into shallow water with some good sight fishing paying off. It’s time to put some heavy fish in the boat with the fish pulling up on their beds. If you drop a lizard into one of these beds or any other type plastic you had better be sitting on ready as the Bass will not tolerate this at all. Currently Jerk baits and Ned Rigs as well as Carolina Rigs and the Weedless Wonder rigged with a Robo Worm are working well to catch a limit of fish. A Captain Mack Mini Mack fished off of points will get the job done with the Spotted Bass jumping on this bait on every pass. Several Bass clubs are fishing tournaments every week so be prepared to jump into the wakes as these folks chase the bite.

  • Crank baits and Jerk baits in the color of your choice, with all the rain I would suggest something in a shad or chartreuse color. Deeper diving crank baits are getting the job done in a shad or blueback color.
  • Ned Rigs and hard and soft Jerk Baits of your preference, the Robo Worms are working best. We are catching some good fish on swim baits 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 as well as some new colors we are using. 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!
  • Captain Mack Mini Mack’s. If you want to catch some big Spotted Bass this is a go to bait!
  • Robo Worms are working the best for us. There are several colors that work great!
  • Steel Shads in various colors and sizes.


The Crappie USA Tournament Trail that would have been held on Lake Hartwell on March 20th and the 21st has unfortunately been cancelled due to the C-19 event. However, that does not mean you can’t go!  Live minnows and jigs all work great this time of the year and I have had very good luck with the Crappie Country Jigs that I’m buying at Lake Hartwell Fish and Marine, don’t over-look changing up colors when you are marking fish and the bite is slow especially if the water is muddy. Chartreuse colored jigs works great in stained water on Lake Hartwell. Long lining for Crappie is working great right now and this gives you the ability to cover a lot of water. A trick to try that’s working for me, tie a minnow onto the bottom of your line and add a Crappie Jig about a foot above the minnow. The movement of the minnow is all the action you will need to get the bite on the jig. Don’t overlook a float as you fish over the tops of brush, this can be the best bite of the day.

 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 Kota 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 – 770-235-8135


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