July 2015 Lake Hartwell Bass
with Trad Whaley
Hate the heat of July? Think it is too hot to go fishing? You should plan a trip to Lake Hartwell and enjoy catching quality fish on topwater plugs to make you forget how hot it is!
Lake Hartwell is a big Corps of Engineers lake on the Savannah River. The lower lake is full of long points, humps, standing timber and brush piles. Blueback herring are a favorite food of the bass in the lake, making them grow to good average sizes and making the bass feed on specific patterns this month.
The water on the big water is very clear and topwater plugs draw bass from the depths to smash them. Bluebacks tend to come to the surface on sunny days so the bass’s attention is focused toward the top, so surface activity is attractive to them. That combination insures good topwater fishing all month.
Trad Whaley lives in Abbyville, South Carolina and has fished Hartwell all his life. Although he has not been fishing a lot of tournaments lately he is well known in the area on the tournament trails. His father Danny is also a well-known tournament fisherman and taught Trad a lot about catching bass on Hartwell.
When he was just eight years old Trad started fishing team tournaments with his father and learned how to catch fish in competition. It paid off. Trad has won two BFLs on Hartwell and placed seventh in an FLW series tournament there. He also won many local tournaments over the years.
Right now Trad is concentrating on helping kids learn to catch bass. He is one of the coaches for the Abbyville High School Team and his nephew, Carter McNeil, who Trad taught about fishing, is one of the 12 students on the BASS High School All American Team this year. And Trad’s daughter Caelyn is a good bass fisherman winning tournaments although she just finished Middle School this year.
For July Trad relies on a small selection of lures. He will have a top-water walking bait like a Spook or Sammy, a top water popper, a frog, a wobble head jig and a Fluke ready for fishing near or on the surface. And he always keeps a drop shot worm ready for casting or dropping down to fish or brush piles he sees on his depthfinder.
“In July bass on Hartwell are on main lake structure feeding on herring,” Trad says. They will school on top in the morning then move to brush piles when the sun gets high. They will still come up to hit a bait fished over the brush even in the bright sun.
We fished Hartwell in mid-June and the bass were feeding. In just a few hours we caught or lost four or five bass in the four pound range and several more not much smaller. The following ten spots were holding bass then and will have even bigger schools on them now.
1 N 34 20.745 – W 82 49.680 – If you put in near the dam at daylight go to the riprap on the Georgia side of the lake. A small island sits off the riprap and the gap between the island and the riprap focuses any current and bass feed on herring on the rocks and the shallows around the island on top before the sun gets on the water
Bait is the key here and on other places. Trad asked me if I could smell the herring as we idled to the rocks to start out day. That is one way to know they are in the area. You can also see them on your depthfinder or, hopefully, see bass chasing them on top before the sun gets bright.
Fish the rocks and the shallows near the island with your Spook or Sammy. Always keep close watch for anything on the surface and cast to it. Make long casts, the bass are often spooky in the clear water. Walk your bait fast back to the boat and fan cast the area if you are not seeing surface movement.
2 N 34 20.752 – W 82 50.300 – Watsadlers ramp sits on the point on the north side of the first pocket at the dam on the Georgia side. A series of humps run off this point and there are shoal markers on some of them. Trad starts on the big flat between the ramp and the first shoal marker and fishes out to the humps marked by two shoal buoys.
Again start with a walking bait and watch for surface activity. Bass will scatter in the shallow water and chase herring before the sun gets bright, then move to brush piles on the humps. If you watch your depthfinder you will find many brush piles on every hump. In fact, there are so many it is often hard to fish them all.
Trad likes the Sammy 100 in chrome or similar colored Spook. He will also cast a Zoom white or transparent Fluke to surface feeding fish or fan cast it in these areas early. Sometimes the bass want something worked just under the surface and a Fluke is perfect for this. Make long cast with it and fish it back fast with a lot of action.
3 N 34 22.816 – W 82 50.602 – Powder Bag Creek is the first big creek north of the dam on the Georgia side. The upstream point of it runs way out and Long Point ramp is on it. Out from the downstream edge of this big point are three shoal markers forming a triangle. Line up the two just upstream of the one downstream and stop on the hump that comes up to 16 feet on top. You will be straight out toward the middle of the lake from the point and markers.
Fish all around the hump with topwater and Fluke, keeping your boat in 25 to 30 feet of water and casting to the top of the hump. This hump has a hard bottom like the others marked and that makes them better, but the brush piles on them are more important so keep a close watch for them as you fish.
If you find brush piles mark their location to fish over them. Bass concentrate around and over the brush even at first light and roam from there, so they are hotspots all day. If you get right on top of one before seeing it, remember where it is to fish later in the day.
4 N 34 23.138 – W 82 50.430 – Channel marker 7 sits upstream and out from hole 3. Upstream from it, out right on the river channel, a danger marker with “Danger Tree” on it marks standing timber on the edge of a hump. The trees, hump and brush piles on it make an ideal place for bass this time of year.
Keep your boat near the marker in 25 feet of water and cast over the trees and the hump. Work a topwater bait over them. Bass will school here but will also come out of the trees and brush to hit on top when the sun is up.
Some wind blowing across this spot and others makes it better. Trad says the perfect day is when the sun is fairly bright and the wind is making the water ripple. If the waves and ripples are big enough to make working the walking bait ineffective he will throw a popping bait like a Pop-R to make more noise to attract the fish.
5 N 34 23.076 – W 82 50.841 – Go back in toward the point just north of channel marker 9. There is a shoal marker on the upstream side of the big point behind it, the same point hole #3 is on the downstream side. Stop out upstream of the shoal marker in 25 feet of water and fan cast over it.
Trad will often idle in fast toward the hump here and in other places and stop before he gets to the 25 foot depth. He says the boat moving in will often push the schools of bait toward the hump or point and turn the bass on.
Fan cast all over the hump from the deeper upstream side. Trad got a solid four pounder here on his Spook and there were several more that size and bigger following it as he fought it to the boat. If two people are fishing it often pays off for the second person to cast to the fighting bass to catch followers.
6 N 34 23.238 – W 82 51.134 – West of hole 5 is the mouth of Gum Branch. Go toward it and the big white house sitting on a point back in it a little ways. There is a marked hump with bushes on top of it just inside the big point. Stop out in 25 feet of water and fan cast all around the downstream side and end of it. I lost a four pounder that hit my topwater plug three times before taking it here.
Work topwater first but also try a wobble bait like a Pulse Jig with a Fluke on it. Sometimes, especially when the sun is higher or if the wind is fairly strong, the Pulse Jig will draw strikes better than the topwater. Make long casts, let it sink a little then reel it in slowly. When you feel weight just keep reeling until the rod loads up. Trad says if you set the hook as soon as you feel the fish you will miss it.
7 N 34 23.430 – W 82 51.321 – Toward the mouth of Gum Branch an island sits west of channel marker 11. A flat around it drops off into the channel and bass hold on it and feed. There are a couple of ditches on it and many brush piles. The island helps concentrate any current in this area.
Stop in 25 feet of water and fish the flat on the river side. Try topwater then a Fluke and a Pulse Jig. Watch for brush piles on your depthfinder and fish them with a drop shot when you see them. Trad caught several bass out of brush here but they were smaller and there were several spotted bass. He says you can catch keeper size bass all day by fishing brush with dropshot but they tend to be smaller than the fish you will catch on topwater.
Trad hits many places fast during a day of fishing. He will pull up on a place like this and do what he calls his 1 – 2 – 3 – 4 punch – topwater, Fluke, pulse jig then drop shot. He quickly fishes all four baits then moves on to the next spot. We hit about 15 places in four hours and he says that is not unusual.
8 N 34 24.408 – W 82 51.270 – Go across the mouth of Lightwood Log Creek to the islands on the upstream side of it. Stop on the island closest to the bank, between it and the one further out. A point comes off this island toward the outer island and fish hold on it and feed.
The two islands concentrate current here and current always makes these spots better. For that reason, week days are better fishing since there is less current during the weekend. Many fishermen have seen this change from week day practice to a weekend tournament.
Fish all your baits here. With the drop shot, Trad uses a fairly heavy three eights ounce sinker and puts a Zoom Meathead or Tiny Fluke about 18 inches above it. He drops it to the bottom around the brush and moves it very little, with light shakes of the rod tip to make the bait dance. He will also drop the bait down to suspended fish and hold it at their level, shaking it a little right in front of them.
9 N 34 25.669 – W 82 51.527 – Going upstream a small double creek enters on the Georgia side between channel markers 19 and 21. In the mouth of this creek, out even with the island downstream at Lightwood Log Creek and the upstream point of the double creek, is a hump that holds bass.
This hump is near the river channel and comes up to a feeding table. It has brush on it to fish. Keepyour boat in deep water and cast to the top of it all around it. Trad says be ready to follow up with a Fluke if a bass boils on your topwater plug but doesn’t take it. We had several fish hit up to three times before taking the plug the day we fished. Following up quickly with a Fluke will often catch a bass that misses the topwater.
10 N 34 26.692 – W 82 51.527 – There is a big island right at the mouth of the Tugaloo River on the left going upstream at channel marker T1. A point runs off this island toward the channel. It slopes off on one side with a sharper drop on the other and current moves across it making it a good feeding spot.
Keep your boat out in 25 feet of water and fish across the point with the current if it is moving. Trad says the key depth here and on all other places in July is 18 to 25 feet deep. Fish hold at that depth in brush so watch for brush in it, but fish over it, too.
All these places held fish a couple of weeks ago and are even better now. Try Trad’s baits and learn from these places for the kind of structure and cover you want to fish in July and you can find many more all over the lower lake.