Our Lake Hartwell Fishing Report for September 16, 2020

Anyone who read last week’s report may have said that it was depressing, actually I heard that first hand but I have to write it as I see it. First of all this time of the year the fishing is always tough but let’s get into what I promised you last week. I did tell you in last week’s report that I had an appointment with Biologist from SCDNR and I do have the facts from that meeting to share with you so cheer up all is not doom and gloom. First of all,  I will discuss the beginning of our conversation which as everyone knows involves some pretty bad fish kills over the last few years. These major events did not go unnoticed by SCDNR, GADNR or the Corp of Engineers, who basically released a lot of water at exactly the wrong time of the year. (By the way SCDNR Biologist and GADNR Biologist are working very closely together, and the Corp is now working with both of those entities as well.)   You may have noticed that Lake Hartwell has remained full most of this year and short of normal generating needs the lake levels have not made much of a change. So number one for Striper and Hybrid fisherman there is too much water in the lake due to all the record rainfall that we have received this year, but now is not the time to lower it until the water levels cool and the lake turns over. I personally like the lake down at least three or four feet and I promise you that it makes a difference in finding and catching fish! Many times we are all guilty of sitting back and wondering if the folks responsible for keeping fish in the lake really care, and are they doing anything to help make fishing better? The answer to that is yes and yes! For the record, there are many Lake Hartwell studies going on right now as you read this article. Lake Hartwell is one of the biggest impoundments in the Southeast and it has always had a reputation as a big Striper lake with good numbers of quality Hybrid Bass as well!  There are still some big Stripers in Lake Hartwell, more than you think, however it is going to be a while before the numbers stocked recently that are listed in my Striper report will make the big boy list. I personally plan to release Stripers and if I’m looking for fish to eat it will be Hybrids or Crappie or Spots. So rest assured I plan to help out with some of the upcoming studies with the Biologist and we are all going to work hard to bring Lake Hartwell back to a Lake known for those Stripers and Hybrids that will bring fishermen back with successful fishing trips. So as I tell my best fishing buddies my advice is let’s let, Humminbird Find Them, Minn Kota Sneaks up on Them, Stealth Rod Holders Hold Them, Captain Mack Products Fool into biting while Okuma Rods and Reels Puts Them in the Boat! So let’s go Fishing!  

The Lake Hartwell bite has remained fair with the water conditions beginning to change for fishing. The levels at the time of this report are 660.17 which are.0.17 feet above the 660 full pool levels with very heavy rain forecast for later this week. This same time last year the lake was two feet below full pool. The current water temperature is into the mid to lower eighties and with cooler temps coming soon. There have been some storms over Lake Hartwell over the last week with more forecast for this weekend from the hurricane coming from the Gulf, so make sure you have plans to get off the water in a hurry if required. The Striper and Hybrid bite continues to be the best through the week when the dam is generating power. 


Striper and Hybrid fishing on Lake Hartwell has been tough over the last few years and according to the Biologist that I meet with last week this has a lot to do with what some of us call a perfect storm. We have received more rain than normal and the water temperatures have been much higher than usual. GADNR has done most of the stocking and in 2019 they stocked 266.000 Striped Bass and 513.000 Hybrid bass. Now in 2020 these fish should be about five inches long and by 2021 they should be about twelve inches by the third year. as you all know, 2020 has been tough on all businesses due to the Covid 19 issues but GADNR did manage to stock 27.000 Stripers and 693.000 Hybrid Bass, now that’s a lot of fish and if we are patient and practice good catch and release we will see a good turn around on Lake Hartwell. SCDNR did not stock any Stripers or Hybrids in 2020 due to the Covid issue but they will be doing their part again in stocking and they currently have many studies going on at this time on Hartwell. They do ask that if you catch a tagged fish that it would be very helpful if you would mail the tag to them and you will receive a very nice reward for your time, So Please Turn It in, it is a big part of one of the current studies. My best suggestion is to use a #1 Owner Circle hook and release any fish that you do not plan to eat. (This hook might look small but it is mighty and I have landed fish over thirty pounds on this hook and they are always hooked in the tough part of the jaw, not a  swallowed hook making for an easy release.) If the fish is hooked deeply, don’t try to dig this hook out, just cut the line and let the fish go and the hook will rust out and the fish will survive. It’s not uncommon for Striper and Hybrid fishermen to keep everything that they catch for bragging rights and pictures. As a retired guide in was always a big deal to pull up to the dock with fish hanging out of my ice chest just like many of the other guides are still doing, this may be good for business but it not good for the fishery on the lake. We are setting ourselves up for a five fish per limit as is the case on Lake Murray, now which by the way you can catch fish there every trip.  Lake Hartwell will soon recover and we should all treat it as if it’s our lake. We want to leave the lake in good condition for the kids who will become anglers in the future so let’s think twice before we kill more fish than we need. In the near future I expect to see some changes from the current studies that are taking place on Lake Hartwell. Although I don’t feel at liberty to discuss the details of all of these studies at this point, I can tell you that South Carolina and Georgia DNR are still shocking up big numbers of quality fish and they are tracking some big Stripers with tracking devices. Perhaps as avid Striper fishermen, what can we do to help? I know that starting right now we all can do our part to help the lake recover if we release the fish that we do not plan to eat. Let me assure you that I am convinced that there are not as many Stripers and Hybrids in the lake as what we saw many years ago, there are still enough for anglers  to find them and catch them. if you put in the work!  We teach everything that you need to know to catch Stripers and Hybrids so if you get a chance to get into a teaching boat, book and take that trip. This could 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 an Instructional Trip or guide trip give Captain Mack a call at 770-235-8135.

Go to baits for this week.

  • Live Blueback Herring fished on down rods and freelines. The bait shops are all suppling nice big quality bait. Be sure to add ice and O2 to your tank to keep this bait healthy during your trip.
  • Captain Mack Chipmunk Jigs and Trailers in all colors available.
  • Okuma Cold Water CW203D reels. What 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.
  • Oxygen System. This system will make a huge difference in your bait during the summer months. I personally believe that it will help keep your bait in perfect condition during a hot day and increase your odds of catching fish.
  • SteelShad are still working great for schooling or breaking fish. This bait will catch all bass species when cast to points or fished 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 good fish if trolled behind your Perfect Planer Board , on lead core line, on the down riggers, or cast to surfacing fish! 
  • Perfect Planer Boards. The early morning free line bite behind Planer Boards will return later in the fall so now is a good time to get your Planer Boards ready for the upcoming fall fishing patterns.
  • Chipmunk Jigs for Power Reeling or trolling on  lead core line. It’s time to stock up as Power Reeling and lead core pulling has now taken off. I suggest the 2oz with or without stinger hooks rigged on a Captain Mack Mustard Stick Rod. You will not find another rod that will work better for Power Reeling, pulling Captain Mack Umbrella Rigs or while pulling lead core line.
  • Parker Spoons also used to Power Reel. This bite will only get better as the bigger fish move into deeper water.


The Lake Hartwell Largemouth Bass as well as Spotted Bass bite continues to be fair based on a few reports that I’m getting from those weekend Bass Club Teams. The BassMaster Opens will be fished on Lake Hartwell September 23rd – 25th for the Eastern Open.  My grandsons are still catching resident Bass fishing from the dock using SteelShads and Weedless Wonders and Robo worms, The Weedless Wonder and the Robo worm seem to get the best bite. As soon as I recover from surgery and get released back to Lake Hartwell I will give you an accurate report. 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. The Heavy Series is working over schools of bait in the main lake. Be prepared to throw this bait at schooling fish for a guaranteed hook up.
  • 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 around bridges and docks.
  • Ned Rigs and hard and soft Jerk Baits of your preference. We are catching some good fish on swim baits as well.
  • Captain Mack Weedless Wonder Shakey Head rigged with a bluegill Robo Worm. Use the plastic of your choice. This 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 Shakey Head!


  I will be back later in the year with an updated Lake Hartwell Crappie Report when it cools off into the sixties and I start back Crappie fishing. I will be building and sinking a bunch of new Crappie Condo’s this year so I’m getting ready. I’m already starting to hear some good reports! 

Go to Baits.

  • Blue Ice Jigs seem to be the go to color on Lake Hartwell right now. You may want to move up to bigger jig heads as the fish move deeper. When every other color fails on Lake Hartwell we find that chartreuse still will catch fish. Bobby Garland is my choice but many other brands also work great.
  • Small Minnows under floats. This may not be your cup of tea but it still works and the bigger Crappie will take live bait when they won’t take anything else.
  • Chartreuse and white jigs are working well when blue ice or blue grass colors fail. 
  • Custom Jigs are working if you can find the right ones. It’s still a good idea to see what is selling the best at your local bait shops. If the bait shop is out of certain bait you may want to see when they are scheduled to get their next shipment so that you can give it a try.
  • Humminbird Solix or Helix graph. These graphs have superior side imaging and down imaging and are worth every cent if you are looking to locate Crappie.

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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