Lake Hartwell Fishing Report January 31 2020
The picture attached to this week’s article is one of my favorites and one that my grandkids remind me of weekly as they ask about Captain Mack and as always I’m pinned down on when they can go fishing again with Captain Mack. Now I have a Striper Boat, and I know how to catch fish, but my grandkids have more heroes than just there Papa and Captain Mack just happens to be at the top of that list! Our last trip with Captain Mack the weather was VERY COLD but you would not have known it based on the grandkids.
Now I’m personally waiting on warmer weather before we book our next trip, I’m not having any problems finding cold weather on Lake Hartwell so before I drive back to Lanier I’ll be looking for some warmer weather. If you haven’t ever been out with Captain Mack you should add this to your bucket list, I can assure you that this will be one great trip! Today is the last day of January and February usually is the coldest month of the year but it’s a great time to experience new methods to catching fish when the water temperatures are at the lowest for the year and it’s also a great time to learn a few tricks to catching Stripers trolling so, Let’s Go Fishing!
The Lake Hartwell bite remains fair with the water temperatures dropping from the colder weather that we are now seeing. It seemed like winter took its time in getting here but now that we are into the normal or below normal winter temperatures the bite has changed quickly and it’s going to get colder. If the weather patterns get normal for this time of the year we should see additional rain and even the possibility of sleet, freezing rain or snow over the next six to eight weeks.
This year has been much like last year with the air temperatures being above normal and in this coming week we will see several days reaching into the sixties again which is not normal at all. We may very well have another year similar to last year where winter follows us into late march and then we almost skip spring and go right into summer. With the rain that we have seen lately it has brought Lake Hartwell water levels back up from the nearly five feet below full pool levels that we saw just over six weeks ago.
The Lake Hartwell water levels at the time of this report are 660.44 which are 0.44 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 46+- degrees depending on the current air temperature as well as where you are fishing.
STRIPED BASS & HYBRIDS
This week the weather has been cold one day and warms backs up into the mid-fifties or sixties the next. I love this type of weather and to adjust I just leave all my fishing clothes in the back seat of my truck so that I can make a judgement call when I get to the boat ramp. Now that the winter weather has finally gotten here the water temperatures have dropped low enough to slow the bite down and change most all of the live bait methods for catching Stripers and Hybrids. I’m not saying that you can’t catch Stripers and Hybrids on live bait but you will find now that the fish will not chase live bait on a down rod aggressively like they normally do when the water is warmer.
I usually fish Captain Mack Super jigging spoons over fish when I find them and most of the time they will be bunched up and hugging the bottom during this time of the year. This is also the best time to use lighter tackle so I will use a good spinning rod and reel for jigging and this is more than
enough to land a good fish when the water temperatures are low and there are not enough words to describe how much fun this can be with the lighter tackle. Now is a good time to take some shiners to the lake with you. The Stripers and Hybrids a lot of times will not chase a Blueback Herring because of the energy that it takes to catch this bait, but the shiner will freeze in most cases giving the fish the opportunity to inhale the shiner without any effort.
The current fishing conditions are good in the Seneca and Tugaloo Rivers and in most all of the creeks that feed these major rivers. 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 approach without a full arsenal of everything that I could possibly need to catch fish and during these colder winter days you just never know what’s going to work the best so it’s good to have all the tools in your tool box. (Especially on these strange days when the weather warms up into the sixties) I will say this, now is the time to down size all your baits and tackle, it will make the difference in catching fish or not. So if you have ever been in the boat with me you will always see live bait and 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 and my Captain Mack Super Spoons or a Captain Mack Jig’N Shad Spoons for the fish that are hugging the bottom.
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 these techniques during our 2020 Instructional Trips during these winter 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 Mini Mack’s and you want to pull big baits on your Perfect 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.
This past Saturday January the 24th we lost a legend in the Bass Fishing Industry. Forest Woods founder of Ranger Boats passed away at the age of 87. If you look into the life of this great man you will find that there is no one else who had more to do with building the Bass fishing world more than Forest Woods. A hard working man who built his first six bass boats in the back of a filling station to go on to build what many considered to best bass boat in the world. Forest made a great statement that I love to quote as I believe that it says everything that any one of us should take to heart. “Without work there’s no need to dream and without a dream there’s no need to work.”
These words were spoken by a man who turned nothing into something big
and his dream sits with all of us as we blast off at any fishing event no matter what type of boat we fish from. Rest well Forest Woods, and thank you for all that you have done for fishermen all over the world. With the water temperatures still falling lower causing the bite to slow down as the fish are not near as aggressive which means your presentation has to be much slower.
The water temperatures have dropped low enough now that fishing lead jigging spoons (Captain Mack Super Spoons) directly over fish that are marked on your sonar is a must to catch fish. I know that some of these reports seem to be repetitive but the conditions have not changed much. 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 suspended. We are also catching some good fish by dragging a football jig or Captain Mack Weedless Wonder rigged with a Robo worm along the banks to catch fish.
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 now biting like we all have been waiting for. After a couple of weeks of not building Crappie beds I’m back at it and many of these beds will have fish on them within two days of putting them out. Now that the lake is full and now that the backs of the creeks have cleared up you will be able to catch fish much quicker. 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, don’t over-look changing up colors when you are marking fish and the bite is slow.
This has worked well for me and it seems that the fish will eat something they have never seen before when the bite is slow. The jig bite is only going to get better as the water temperature and air temperature continue to drop. 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.
As the Striper bite gets tougher 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 Harttwell 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