I love Clarks Hill but it surely has not been very nice to me this year in tournaments. I grew up fishing the lake and still have a place there at Raysville Boat Club and thought I knew the lake well. Now I am not so sure.
Last April I struggled to catch fish in a Spalding County Sportsman Club tournament. This past week I spent four days there, going over on Wednesday to practice two days to try to figure out something for a two day Flint River Club tournament over the weekend.
Fishing is always tough in August, and I much prefer to fish at night for bass, but the tournament was during the hot, miserable days. Our tournament was originally scheduled for Lake Russell, where spotted bass and different kinds of cover and structure make it a better choice in August. But since some of the club members couldn’t find a place to stay that they liked it was changed to Clarks Hill.
To make matters worse we put in at Soap Creek Marina up the Savannah River arm of the lake. Although it is only 17 miles from my trailer at Raysville to Soap Creek Marina by road, it is a 40 mile boat ride, one way, by water. Almost all my fishing at Clarks Hill has been up the Little River arm near Raysville and I did not want to make the long run in the tournament.
On Thursday I put in at Soap Creek and fished a little and looked at a lot of places on my deptfinder. It was too hot to sit still very long but I hoped to find something that would give me confidence for the tournament. I didn’t. I never caught a fish, and the places I checked just didn’t look good.
The only thing I found at all was schools of bait and fish under the two bridges in Soap Creek. I like fishing bridges and riprap and that is often a good pattern this time of year, especially since you can sit in the shade and fish! But I didn’t get a bite the little time I spent trying them.
On Friday I decided to check some of my better places near the boat club. Although I tried deep brush piles and similar places where I have caught August bass in years past, the only fish I was able to catch was around the pilings on the bridge near my trailer. So I knew I would not make the long run.
In the tournament, 11 members fished 18 hours in two days to land 53 keepers weighing about 85 pounds. There were four five-fish limits during the two days and two fishermen didn’t land a keeper either day. It was as tough as I expected.
Chuck Croft had gone over on Thursday and fished with two local fishermen before the tournament, and he found a pattern that paid off. He was the only one to have a limit both days and he won with 15.14 pounds. His partner JJ Polak came in second with six bass weighing 14.84 pounds. Niles Murray found a big fish and came in third with six bass weighing 13.20 pounds and his 5.97 pounder was by far the biggest fish. My eight keepers in two days weighed 9.24 pounds for fourth.
Chuck and JJ caught their fish on topwater plugs in very shallow water, and they said that pattern worked all day, a big surprise to me. I never really checked shallow water after the sun got up, just knowing the fish would be deep. Shows how much I know.
I fished a couple of deep points but I spent most of both days around the two bridges. I went to the first one at 7:30 Saturday morning and landed three keepers on a topwater popper by 8:30. Then it got tough. I checked some other places but was back at the bridge by 1:30 and landed my fourth keeper. Then, with just an hour left to fish, I caught my two biggest fish. All the last three hit worms.
Sunday I went straight to the bridges and caught two before the sun got up. With about 30 minutes left to fish, around 1:30, I got my third keeper. I tried a lot of things around the bridges but most of them just didn’t work.
Saturday morning there was fisherman fishing live minnows under the first bridge I went to. I talked to him and he said he had caught a lot of fish during the night but they had quit biting when it got light. It was discouraging when he told me he had caught crappie, hybrids, catfish and gar, but no bass, even on live bait.
If you go to Clarks Hill right now take live minnows and fish under bridges at night if you want to catch something.