Our Lake Hartwell Fishing Report for May 20, 2020

What happens to boat owners when you combine low fuel prices along with a bunch of folks who have been confined to their homes from a pandemic and warm spring temperatures on Lake Hartwell? I can tell you just what happens if you want to go fishing, you had better get an early start before the sun comes up or you will be sitting in line at a boat ramp waiting to launch your boat. Warmer weather is finally here and the lake has been covered up with boat traffic and it’s really good to hear families and friends having a good time again. I can assure you they deserve a good time after all that we have been through with this pandemic. Laughter is good medicine and it long overdue. We are still teaching Instructional Fishing Classes on the water so give us a call and let’s learn something new and put more fish in the boat. So as I remind everyone who wants to catch fish, my advice is let’s let, Humminbird Find Them, Minn Kota Sneak up on Them, Stealth Rod Holders Hold Them, Captain Mack Products Fool Them and Okuma Rods and Reels Put Them in the Boat! So let’s go Fishing!  

The Lake Hartwell water levels at the time of this report are 662.27 which is.2.27 feet above the 660 full pool levels. These levels will continue to rise this week after several of inches of rain have fallen today and as the creeks and rivers continue to have runoff into the lake. I will be surprised if the lake is not at least three feet above full pool by this Friday. The current water temperatures are seventy four degrees before the sun comes up and reaching temperatures of seventy six by mid-day. This past week has been a wet one with heavy rain Monday through Wednesday. We will see some eighty degree days this weekend and the current forecast for June and July from the National Weather Service has quoted very hot temperatures for these summer months. 


I hate to report that Striper and Hybrid fishing has still been tough once again over this past week. This is not to say that the Stripers and Hybrids were not biting, we have caught fish on every trip but it has not been the large numbers or Striper/Hybrid mayhem that we normally see this time of the year on Lake Hartwell. This past week there was two Striper Tournaments on Lake Hartwell with many of the best Striper fishermen from anywhere around fishing these tournaments. The largest fish was caught by a Striper King member and it weighed 16.69 pounds. Now that’s a good fish but average weights were low as were the numbers. The Big Fish for The Appalachian Striper Clubs was 6.75 pounds. These guys primarily fish Lake Hartwell and they are excellent fisherman so this just shows you how tough the fishing is right now. I’m asked almost every day, Rick what’s going on with Lake Hartwell and the spring bite. I could give you many personal opinions and I wish I could give you one answer but I personally believe its many things at the same time much like a perfect storm. I can tell you this, the night time bite is much better than the day bite. If you have a generator and a good lighting system you can get in about twelve to twenty foot of water off of a point of the Seneca River and catch a good box of fish. The Stripers and Hybrids are also on the Lake Hartwell dock lights during the night but the minute you see daybreak these fish are gone. Let me assure you that the minute that the fish begin to bite I will be letting all of our readers know. Many guides have canceled trips due to the low numbers of fish being caught and they are like the rest of us , more than ready to see a normal bite return. 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 during the next month and don’t forget I’m just a phone call away. 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. Umbrellas are a great way to search for fish and clipping 15 to 25 foot points and humps with the rig can be an awesome pattern! We throughly cover the umbrellas, both the full size rig and the Mini in our instructional classes. 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! Give us a call at 770-235-8135to reserve your day1

Go to baits and tackle 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!
  • Captain Mack under spins are working throwing to breaking fish.
  • 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 Sportsman’s Warehouse and Academy Sports. If your favorites 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 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! 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 fair for Bass fishing. The Spotted Bass bite has been okay and the tournaments fished over this past weekend weighed in some smaller than usual bags of fish. The Skeeter Challenge was held this past weekend and if you had a two day average around thirty pounds you were in the money. Spotted Bass and Largemouth are still coming off of points and humps that drop off into 20-40 feet of water being caught on Alabama Rigs, Ned Rigs, Drop Shots, Shakey Heads and Carolina Rigs with soft plastics. Try casting the Minis to these humps and points, that has been a very strong technique! The Largemouth Bass are biting well off of points and in the backs of coves around structure or docks off of Spinner Baits and Crank baits. We are seeing some Spotted Bass schooling activity around the banks just at sun down in the early evening hours as well as in shallow waters in the early mornings. Most Striper and Hybrid fishermen are catching Bass off of freelines while Striper fishing so this should give you a good start and suggest that the Blueback Herring bite is good so don’t overlook your herring colors.

  • 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. Deeper diving crank baits are also working in these same colors.
  • Ned Rigs and hard and soft Jerk Baits of your preference, the Robo Worms are working best. 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 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 are working around structure as well as in open water.
  • Spinner Baits of your choice will get the job done.


The Crappie bite has continued to be really good right now and the fish are showing up all over the lake, find some structure and you will find some good fish. Patients will get the job done as you take your time and move from one place to another. Long lining baits and jigs seem to have produced well over this past week and should continue until it gets much warmer and stays warm. Live bait under a float and your favorite jigs are working well. This past week a Popeye jig was our jig of choice and a small minnow fished about five to six feet under a small float was working well.

 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 – 770-235-8135

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