Lake Hartwell Fishing Report January 10 2020
Just when you think you might have a winter pattern all figured out that would allow you to know when and where to go catch some good fish then the weather makes another unusual change. I can tell you this, based on the last few years of the January Striped Bass Challenge I personally will not be making any plans to fish that week anytime in the near future. For the past few years I don’t know if you could find any tougher weather conditions to fish in than what these Striper Teams have experienced over these last few tournaments and this past Saturday was no exception.
Lake Hartwell this past weekend was a mess after all the heavy rain that we received that dumped enough water into the lake to flood the backs of the creeks where the big fish would have been hanging out and on top of that the wind was so tough this past Saturday that I watched experienced boat Captains fight to put their boats back on their trailers. Well enough said about this past week because we are still getting warmer days and at the time of this report we will see nearly seventy degree weather again this Saturday with 100% chance of rain.
All my life I have been taught that 2020 meant that you had perfect vision, so over the next few weeks I will try to look into what I believe that this year will hold for us as well as look into this past decade and compare it to what we all should experience in this new decade. So all of this strange weather doesn’t keep me off the water and I’m always up for a challenge and I know I can find fish so, Let’s Go Fishing! The Lake Hartwell bite still remains good with the water temperatures holding due to the current warmer days over the last two weeks.
I predict that we will see much colder weather over the next few weeks as we get into February so the temperatures will become more reliable for this time of the year. We will also see additional rain forecast with rain remaining consistent during the remainder of this month. With the rain that we have seen lately Lake Hartwell water levels are back up from the nearly five feet below full pool levels that we saw just a couple of weeks ago.
The Lake Hartwell water levels at the time of this report are 658.99 which are 1.01 feet below the 660 full pool levels with much more rain forecast for the remainder of this week. The current water temperatures are holding at 56+- degrees depending on the current weekly air temperature as well as where you are fishing.
STRIPED BASS & HYBRIDS
Just when you think that the normal winter pattern for Stripers is going to allow you to find the big fish in their winter locations something unexpected happens and we get enough rain in just a few days to nearly fill the lake back up. Now that might not be a big deal to many fishermen but to me I love to fish in the backs of the creeks for the bigger Stripers and suddenly the water rises so quickly in just a few days that the trash fills these creeks which makes it impossible to pull live bait behind my Perfect Planer Boards without picking up all the trash, well it’s just not going to happen until the rain slacks off and that is not in the cards for now.
So it’s been a week of finding the clean and transparent water and catching fish on my Mini Mack’s and Captain Mack Umbrella Rigs and as always for me this keeps fish coming over the side of the boat. My hat is off the the teams that fished the 2020 Striper Challenge out of Green Pond Landing on Lake Hartwell this past weekend! Congratulations to Team Barely Tyme for their first place win with a total weight of 23.7 pounds of fish which
included the big fish of the tournament that weighed in as a twenty plus pounder which is what everyone was looking for.
First and second place were the only two spots that weighed in two fish in the low twenties. Third place through fifteenth place weighed in ten pounds up to eighteen pounds and then from fifteenth place down was all below ten pounds. The Striped Bass Challenge also raised enough money and food donations to provide over 119,000 meals for the Harvest Food Bank of Metorlina, now that’s a BIG DEAL and it shows just what kind of fishermen fish for Striped Bass! We will keep our fingers crossed and hope for better weather conditions for next year’s Challenge.
The current fishing conditions are still good in the Seneca and Tugaloo Rivers and in most all of the creeks that feed these major rivers if you can get in some clear water. I know I’ve said this before in other reports but during these tougher months that winter seems to provide I never go to the lake without a full arsenal of everything that I could possibly need to catch fish. So if you have ever been in the boat with me you will always see live bait, jigging spoons during the winter months and as always twelve months out of the year I have my Mini Mack’s and Captain Mack Umbrella Rigs. I can promise you that it takes everything that you can throw at these Stripers and Hybrids to catch the quality that you are looking for so having everything that normally works is a big deal to me.
We will be fishing all of these techniques during the remainder of the winter pattern and will be providing our 2020 Instructional Trips during these excursions. 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. I would make a serious suggestion being if you are not prepared to pull Umbrella Rigs or big baits or Mini Mack’s on Planer Boards you might want to look at the bottom of this report for my suggestions on gear to catch fish during the next few months.
It’s time to pull some Perfect Planer Boards with gizzard shad close to the banks or in the backs of the creeks where the big fish roam after the rains stop and the trash settles down. 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 not to eat my live bait then my Captain Mack Umbrella Rigs are my automatic tools for the guaranteed bite.
The Captain Mack Umbrella Rigs work great now that the real winter weather is showing up. 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.
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, so if you are interested in learning all the different techniques to catching Stripers and Hybrid Bass now is one of the best times to get in a teaching boat for an Instructional Trip or it’s a good time to get your calendar out and go ahead and book a future trip as they book up quickly when the weather begins to warm back up.
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 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 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 SUPER SPIN BUCKTAIL JIG. This Jig is great for schooling fish especially after they go down or if you need to cast a long distance to get to the fish schooling on top.
• 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 Umbrella rig 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.
• 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!
• Perfect Planer Boards. 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 his boat 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. You will be hearing much more about these rod holders as I put them to work on my boat! 2020 will be a productive year with the Stealth QR2.
The Bass bite has been tough this week with the bad weather but if you can find a windblown bank where the bait has been pushed up on the banks you will find fish. The fish are still on the points and the Spots are feeding aggressively on the points and in the middle of the lake over humps. Currently the shakey head bite fished on points and along banks are working the best over all the other fishing methods and baits that we are fishing so give the Weedless Wonder a try along the banks and docks of Lake Hartwell.
A crankbait in a Blueback Herring color is getting the job done later in the day if and when the sun comes up and Jerkbaits are also producing fish. You still can’t fish to shallow to catch some good Largemouth Bass in the backs of coves especially around docks and it looks like they are starting to bunch up in the backs of these coves. The Largemouth Bass are following the bait back into smaller creeks and they will bite when you find them.
With the water temperatures dropping I know the bass will begin being caught fishing lead jigging spoons (Captain Mack Super Spoons) directly over fish that are marked on your sonar. The resident Largemouth near my house can still be found packed up in the backs of many coves so when you find them you will boat some heavy fish especially if you can trick and older bass into taking your bait.
A Golden Nugget for some large Spots is to cast the Mini Mack off of points and over flats in thirty feet of water for some fat quality fish and have a Mini Mack ready for the large schools of fish. SteelShads, Mini Mack’s as well as various Crankbaits, Spinner baits, Topwater baits, Jerkbaits and swimbaits are all working. I’m finding that you can’t buy a bad color of Robo worm right now. The fish are taking the Robo much quicker than other plastics. Don’t overlook a Wacky worm when fishing the banks and points or around docks.
Go to baits for this week.
• SteelShad in all sizes and colors are still working and make a great jigging spoon. 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.
• 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 in schooling fish. This bait produces a guaranteed bite when fished in or near schooling fish.
• Captain Mack Super Spoons over suspended fish.
• Captain Mack under Spin Jig.
• 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.
• Ned Rigs and hard and soft Jerk Baits of your preference. 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. Use the plastic of your choice. 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!
The Crappies are ready to get in their winter pattern now but the bite has been tough over the last two weeks. As in all the other reports above us we need some cold winter weather instead of these mid to high sixty degree days with all the heavy rain. Just hang on the Crappie bite is surely going to get real good sooner than later. Hopefully the winter weather will continue to move in over the next few weeks.
Live minnows and jigs all work great and I have had very good luck with the Crappie Country Jigs that I’m buying at Lake Hartwell Fish and Marine. The jig bite is only going to get better as the water temperature and air temperature continue to drop. As the Striper bite gets tougher later in the year or into February I will fish for Stripers and Crappies all in the same day so when this happens then the Crappie bite will be my main reason to get on the water every week so stay tuned for further updates.
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 – 770-235-813