May Bass at Clarks Hill
with Tony Green
May fishing is good anywhere you go in Georgia but blueback herring have made Clark’s Hill one of the best bets in the state to catch big largemouth this month. And they are hitting on top, the most exciting way to catch bass. You can’t go wrong with a trip to Clark’s Hill in May.
Clark’s Hill is a big 72,000 acre lake on the Georgia/South Carolina border. Built in the early 1950s it has 1200 miles of shoreline and is full of islands and humps. There is good access all over this Corps of Engineers Lake even with the water level down six to eight feet this year.
Tony Green was born in South Carolina but moved to the Macon area when he was three years old and has lived and fished there all his life. While growing up he went to Clark’s Hill a lot, camping and fishing with his family. They caught crappie and bass on those trips.
About eight years ago Tony joined the Procasters Bass Club in the Macon area and got into tournament fishing. He has made that club’s state team most years and enjoys the competition and chances to learn more about bass fishing by being in that club.
Tony has fished the HD Marine Trail for several years but took this year off. You can find him entered in a good many Berry’s and R and R Tournaments. He also fishes some pot tournaments and a few BFL tournaments in the area.
This year in March Tony beat out 417 other club fishermen in the Georgia Bass Chapter Federation Top Six tournament at Clark’s Hill to win first place. His eight bass weighing 30.4 pounds beat out second place by over three pounds.
Tony loves Clark’s Hill in May and tries to make several trips to the lake every year this time of year. His club also tries to schedule tournaments on Clark’s Hill or Hartwell in May to get in on the great fishing both lakes offer. The herring bite is similar on both lakes and can be some of the fastest action of the year.
The pattern is fairly simple in May on Clark’s Hill. Bass have mostly finished spawning by the first of May and they have moved out and are feeding heavily. Find the herring spawning on main lake structure and you will find big bass nearby. The herring spawn on hard bottoms near deep water and like long points, humps and blow throughs.
A blow through is a saddle or dip between the main bank and an island or between humps or islands on big water. Wind blows through these shallow areas and the waves wash away the soft soil, leaving gravel, rocks and hard clay the herring like. The same action clears soft bottoms away leaving the hard stuff on long points and humps, too.
Tony will have three rods rigged and ready to take advantage of the herring bite. His first choice is a big Spook or Sammy on an outfit he can use to cast it a long way. The topwater plug is worked as fast as he can move it early in the morning, fishing water from a foot or less deep to about ten feet deep. Topwater baits are better first thing in the morning.
As the sun gets on the water Tony will usually switch to a Fluke and fish it over water three to six feet deep. The sun moves the bass a little deeper but they will usually still come up to eat something near the surface. Herring like the sun and will usually be near the top on sunny days.
After the sun gets bright Tony thinks the bass move a little deep and are less likely to come up, so he will drag a big Carolina rigged lizard along the points and break lines in six to ten feet of water. He likes to use the bigger lizards to attract bites from bigger fish.
Before a tournament Tony will try to be on the water at daybreak and ride, looking for places the herring are moving and he sees surface activity. During the day he will throw a spinnerbait or crankbait around spawning areas and watch for herring following the bait back to the boat, or will sometimes hook one. If he finds the herring near a spawning area he knows the bass will be nearby.
Tony is always looking for “nervous” water while fishing. Any small movement on top indicates the herring and bass will usually be following them. He will move toward any activity he sees and cast to it. That is why it is helpful to use a rig you can cast a long way.
Although the water is down this year the herring will still spawn near the same spots they have used in the past when the lake was full and will use in the future. Tony thinks the low water may actually make the herring bite better this year because low water may push the bass out of the creeks to the main lake even faster.
The following ten spots have all produced fish over the years during the herring spawn. You can check them out to see what Tony looks for then find others. With the lake low you can see exactly what the structure looks like and get a good picture of it when the water covers it.
1. N 33 41.329 – W 82 17.915 – Mims Branch just downstream of the Highway 47 Bridge has Ft. Gordon Recreation Area in it. The downstream point of this creek is an excellent place to find herring spawning and bass eating them. The point is rocky with some sand and clay so the hard bottom attracts the herring. Two smaller side points add to its attraction to the herring and it is near deep water but runs way out, making it even better.
The point you want to fish runs out toward green channel marker L 15. There is a hard drop on the upstream side of the point. You will see a tall light pole and light on the point to know you are in the right place.
Start on the downstream side out from the light pole and work all the way around the point. Start at first light keeping your boat out as far as you can and still make casts with your top water baits right on the bank. Some times the bass will be extremely shallow and will be looking for herring in a few inches of water so start real shallow.
Work around the point to the upstream side, working your topwater baits back to water about eight feet deep then reel in and make another cast. Work your bait fast. You can not take a top water bait away from a bass that wants it and they seem to like a fast moving bait. Fishing fast also allows you to make more casts in the short time before the sun gets on the water.
As the sun comes up fish back around the point, staying out a little deeper and working water three to six feet deep with a Fluke. Then fish back around the point even further out dragging a big lizard along the breaklines in six to ten feet of water.
2. N 33 42.251 – W 82 17.560 – Across the lake a long arm of land runs out on the north side of Bussey Point and there is an island off the upstream end of it. A shallow point runs out upstream on the upstream side of the island and there are also several humps around the point. This is an excellent place to find a lot of bass and herring.
One of the small humps had a danger marker lying on its side on the hump right at the water line when we fished. The water was right at eight feet low. Start fishing out from that danger marker and work the whole area. You will see some of the high spots just above the water and there are others all around. Work from the end of the point around all these high spots.
Always watch for any surface disturbance and cast to it. Tony’s description of “nervous water” gives you a good idea of the little ripples the herring will often make on the surface. If the herring are there the bass will be nearby. Cast to any swirls you see, too.
3. N 33 41.733 – W 82 18.848 – Back across the lake on the upstream side of the long point on the upstream side of Mims Branch you will find a long shallow point running out toward green channel marker L 21. There is a big round cedar tree on the point that stood out a few weeks ago but might blend in more now that the trees have more leaves on them.
Start on the downstream side of the point and fish upstream, keeping you boat close on the first pass so you can almost hit the bank then fishing further out on your next pass. This flat runs way out and there are a lot of rocks on it that are normally about eight feet deep at full pool There are some stumps and brush piles on this point and they help, but the hard bottom is more important for the herring spawn.
4. N 33 41.568 – W 82 19.397 – A little further toward the bridge on this peninsular on the upstream side of Mims Branch is the swimming area. There is a small island just downstream of the swimming area and a point runs out there. You will see the bathhouse on the bank and some lights and benches on the point.
Start fishing near the downstream side of the little island and point and work around it. If you fish fast you can hit this point and two more before you get to the swimming area, throwing topwater before the sun gets on the water. Then work back around them. All three parallel points hold bass and herring spawn on them so watch all for activity as you fish.
This area and the others are even better when some wind blows in on them. You won’t be able to see the surface activity as well but wave action will help the bite. Waves seem to disorient the herring and make them easier prey, and waves also break up the light making it a little more difficult for the bass to tell your bait from a live herring.
5. N 33 42.159 – W 82 20.318 – Across the lake on the upstream side of the cove where Cherokee Ramp is located is a marked hump. It is way out of the water now and you can see how it has a big pile or rocks on the downstream side and tapers off toward the bridge. It drops fast at first down to about six feet deep at full pool but then flattens out. On the downstream side are three small high spots.
All these high spots hold bass and herring. The downstream side of the marked hump seems to hold more bass. Start out in front of the hump about even with the rock pile and work around it toward the ramp. Cover all this area with all your baits. Watch your depthfinder to note the contours since it changes a lot around this hump. You don’t want to get in too close, especially after the sun gets on the water.
All the tournaments held out of Cherokee Ramp make this an even better spot. The bass population is constantly supplemented by released bass so the concentration in this area is high.
6. N 33 41.910 – W 82 20.829 – Go under the bridge and head toward the right bank. Not far out from the riprap you will see an island that is usually not much more than a hump before you get to the bank. It has a danger marker on a pole on it but has a lot of rock out of the water right now. Some cypress trees have been planted on top of it.
Fish the outside of this hump, starting on the end toward the bridge and working to the upstream end. That side gets most of the waves, has a harder bottom, and drops off faster. Work it will all your baits before leaving the area.
7. N 33 40.428 – W 82 21.766 – Cliatt Creek is the one with Mistletoe State Park in it. There is an island on the downstream point of this creek. Go in on the downstream side of this island and you will see some humps and points running way out toward the lake. All are good for the herring spawn. The river makes a big bend right here and they are on the outside of the bend and that makes them even better.
You can see the rocky humps and point with the water down and there are stumps and brush on them as well as the rocks. All help make it a good spot. Note the brush piles while fishing in close and hit them later with the sun on the water. Bass will often hold in brush and around stumps in six to eight feet of water after the sun gets bright so dragging your Carolina rigged lizard through them is a good bet.
8. N 33 40.555 – W 82 22.194 – Out off the end of the island there are some good humps to fish. One was barely above the water when we were there, with less than six inches of it showing, so be very careful in this area if the water has come up above eight feet low.
You will see a marked hump out from and a little downstream of the island and the smaller hump is out from it. Again, this is a big area where lots of herring spawn so watch for activity to tell you exactly where to fish. Also keep an eye on your depthfinder to keep your boat in a good depth.
Fish all around the marked hump and the others that are out from it. Make long casts. The water is usually clear in these areas and longer casts help by not spooking the bass and herring with your boat. Long casts with all three baits are best.
9. N 33 40.278 – W 82 22.582 – The island on the upstream side of Cliatt Creek, just off the campground, has a rocky point running out on its downstream end. The rocks run out toward the middle of the mouth of the creek. About in the middle of the island on the outside a long clay point runs out toward the middle of the lake.
Start fishing on the inside of the rocky point and fish around it. Continue upstream and fish the clay point, too. Fish all your baits on both points and the hard bottom between them. Keep and eye out for surface activity in the area as you fish.
10. N 33 40.363 – W 82 23.734 – Straight across from Mistletoe is a long ridge with a small island on the upstream side. This ridge runs parallel to the river. Go upstream past it and there is a big island on your right. Upstream of this island is a marked hump. The danger marker was bent over at an angle when Tony and I were there in mid-April. We got a bass here that pushed three pounds even that early.
Start on the downstream side of the marker and fish around the hump. This area has a lot of high spots that all attract herring and the marked hump is good year round. It is best for the herring spawn since it is the outside hump of the group but all will hold fish. Work this area carefully and watch for changes in the bottom to tell you which areas are best.
These ten spots are all close to Mistletoe Park and Cherokee Ramp but there are other similar places on Little River and the Savannah River. Check these out but don’t limit yourself to this small area of the huge lake. You can find many similar herring spawning spots that hold largemouth for you to catch all over the lake.