We launched from Aqualand with the plan to be running Flowery Branch from the power lines to its mouth with Lead Core. We saw multitudes of Stripers but no takers here. Next we tried the main channel from the FB mouth to lake marker 18. Still no bites to be had. These two patterns had worked well in previous years with the same 85° water temperature. Since time was of the essence in the tournament it was time to change gears. We crossed over the lake to Vanns Tavern heading to the No Ski buoy in Two Mile Cr. As we passed the humps in front we got the Umbrella Rigs out. Looking at the screen we were on spaghetti. It was hit after hit boating a Striper on each pass. They were taking both the white & chartruese colors. Unfortunately all of the Stripers we caught were no longer than 22″ and it would take at least two fish 28″ to place in this tournament.
Needing some bigger kickers we decided to head to the Flowery Branch bridge but were run out by the boats popping out from Hideaway Bay marina. With little time to send the photos to the virtual weigh-in we headed in to get off the washing machine of waves. Thank you Charlie Perkins and Don Finfrock for the assist.
Those recent rains turned the water temperatures down again slightly and while they were back on the increase it was Fish On today. Bob & I caught 9 Stripes this morning 20′ down over a 25′ bottom in 80° water temperature. Rods were going down left and right until we ran out of bait. No telling how many we lost. We were down to one Blueback in the tank so we cut it half and both of us tried to catch one more each using the cut bait method each holding a rod. We even caught one Largemouth bass.
Another 72° morning at 6am started today’s search launching at East Bank ramp again. Today we were to search different areas so we began where the Big Creek channel meets Shoal Creek. The water temperature was 82.7°. Weatherman said 7 mph winds today and it had already started at 3 mph. After not seeing anything we headed for Three Sisters but changed our direction when we spotted 4 Striper boats close to Shady Grove campground. We pretty much skirted the other boats so as not to horn in on them. We did not see anyone catching anything. After a few minutes each boat started to move out. Whatever was going on here we missed it. We hung around the island in Six Mile seeing several marks down 50 feet but no takers. We also left that area to the remaining boat and headed further into Six Mile Creek. With no luck in open water it was time to head into the creeks. We finally found some Stripers in 50′ of water and they were staggered from 8′ to 38′. As luck would have it we started catching and Bob landed a 28 ½” Striper on a Downlined herring. It was an exciting fight.
We kept circling the area as the marks became consistent. I brought in a Spotted Bass then Gary hooked another 28” Striper.
We missed a couple more hits then we got a couple more Spots. The bite shutdown after that around 11am. We decided to call it a day. As we approached the main channel we saw the waves white-capping. Needless to say it was a rough ride back to the ramp occasionally slowing to crest over the waves.
Today the air temperature was to start in the high seventies at 7am. We got our 3 dozen herring at Oakwood Bait & Tackle on McEver Rd. My plan was to use Downlines early then change off to Lead Core. While it was a little early in the season for Lead Core the late May and June temperatures were well ahead into the eighties so that meant pushing the methods in my monthly logs forward. We launched at East Bank and pulled a couple of herring on Freelines from the ramp to the mouth of the bay. The water temperature was 82.7 degrees. We did see some marks but there were no takers. Reaching the mouth of the bay I added a couple of Downlined herring and headed out to the main lake humps. Our first Striper hit on a Freeline. The next couple of Stripers came on the Downlines so we switched the two Freelines to Downlines. This Striper was 26 1/2″ long. We used the Seaqualizer to release this fish as we had it out too long for pictures and his survival rate was slim in the now 83 degree surface temperature. He was released 40′ down.We saw a multitude of marks beside the humps but only on the west side of them. After getting a couple more into the boat the Downline bite shutdown. It was time to get out the Lead Core. We targeted the 24 to 28 foot depth and let out one Lead Core at 5 colors and the other at 7 colors at 3 mph. Within minutes it was Fish On.
Gary pulled this 23 3/4″ Striper in on one of the Lead Core lines that had a 2 oz. Capt Mack’s jig with a chartreuse swim bait trailer. We pulled the Lead Core for another hour and a half but the bite was over. Gary had to leave by noon so we headed back to the ramp.
With only 2 people in the boat and multiple lines going down it made fishing today a little chaotic. But I guess that’s a good thing? We needed just one more in the boat to keep track of which lines were being hit and bending into the water at the same time over and over. No sooner than we got the first line in the water we got hit. It was a single 4 pounder just before Prather Bridge and then a double just past the second bridge. I brought 11 rods and some were on the floor of the boat, some were leaning against the gunnel either needing another bait or maybe a hook. We still managed to get 6 Hybrids into the boat. No telling how many we lost. We did get a few Spotted Bass, however they were stealing our Bluebacks left and right. With all the Hybrids hitting and the swarms of bass we actually ran out of bait. The ticket to getting these Hybrids again today was still the Carolina Rigged Downline. The weather was fantastic and about 77°, no wind, just blue skies and budding trees.
We had a late start Thursday but managed to get on the Tugaloo River by 11am launching at Stephens County park. We were supposed to head north about 3 miles up river, but that was for the early morning bite. Being later in the day Don & I decided that since we missed the morning bite we would head about three miles south to the wider river curves at a place where we have done well in past years. Well when we got there we did not see any marks or bait. We put out a spread anyway which consisted of Planer Boards, Carolina Rigged Downlines, Freelines, Directional Bobbers and a mini Mack behind the big motor. We kept our speed between .5 and .7 mph. We got several bites on the Downlines but did not land any fish. We had a quick bite of lunch on the boat thanks to Charles bringing smoked ham sandwiches, chips and chocolate cookies. After lunch we decided to head up river to Prather Bridge where we did well in the previous week. Even though the water depth was 17 feet deep at best and the water temperature was 58 degrees we were marking fish everywhere. We put out the same spread once again. We missed a few more and realized that they had been only hitting the Carolina Rigged Downline all day. So we dumped the Planer Boards and Freelines and set out 6 Carolina Rigged Downlines. The power plant had begun generating but only about 2 miles an hour and with no wind we had out first Striper in the boat in minutes. This was about 4pm. A few minutes later we boated a nice Spotted Bass. We didn’t have much time left to fish and now knowing that the fish were wanting Bluebacks at a speed of 1.2 mph we were running out of time, and with the 5 mph gusty wind it became difficult to control the boat. We started getting snagged on most of the rods so we decided to call it a day.
Traditionally the Hybrid Bass river run takes place on the Tugaloo River Lake Hartwell from March 15th to April 15th. We met at the bait shop this morning at 5:30 and loaded up with Blueback Herring and Gizzard Shad both 3″ and dollar bill sized baits. Next stop was the Rabbittown Cafe for some breakfast. After a good fill up it was time to head to the Stephens County ramp to launch the boat. We headed north through the narrow channel toward the two bridges up the river about 3 miles. As soon as we saw the pylons of one of the bridges we stopped motoring and put out a spread of Planer Boards, Freelines and Carolina Rigged Downlines. The water temperature was 52 degrees and the barometer indicated that fish were eating. After a few minutes we had our first little football on. These Hybrids really put up a fight and you think you are bringing in a monster.
This was Gary’s first river Hybrid caught on the outside Planer Board 30′ from the board, then another 50′ out using a dollar bill sized Gizzard Shad. Shortly after we caught another Hybrid using the Carolina Rigged Downlines a foot off the bottom using one of the 3″ Gizzard Shad baits. Then another came on the other Downline using the same bait.
Now that we determined what the Hybrids were wanting, we began to bring in the other rods that were not producing and change them to Downlines with the same 3″ Gizzies, Carolina Rigged. We continued to fish until our trolling motor batteries died due to sustaining high speeds for more than 10 minutes at a time just to keep up with the water generation. The wind had picked up a little as well making small white caps. We decided to head in and plan to come back another day. Many thanks to Bill Chasey and Gary McConnell for the good times.