10 Locations For Clarks Hill Prespawn Bass

Blueback herring and a widespread eradication of hydrilla make for a unique February pattern on Clarks Hill—a short, quick move toward pockets.

Ronnie Garrison | January 27, 2023

Caleb Hudson with a Clarks Hill bass caught at location No. 9 in Cherokee Creek.

Longer days have Clarks Hill bass stacking up in ditches near spawning areas and feeding heavily on flats near them. This is one of the best months of the year to catch numbers of bass and find a big prespawn female to brag about.

With 72,000 acres on the Savannah River between Georgia and South Carolina near Augusta, there is a lot of water to cover in the lake. Getting on a pattern and narrowing down the places you need to fish to find bass in February is critical for a successful day.

Clarks Hill has gone through major changes during the past 35 years. Built in 1950, it was showing its age with little cover and lower bass populations, especially big ones. Then blueback herring were introduced, turning the largemouth into more open-water fish.

Bass grew fast and fat, with 20-lb. five fish limits common, replacing the 10- to 12-lb. limits that had been winning tournaments. Then hydrilla exploded on the lake, going from a few pockets with it to over 3,000 acres in one year. For years, it was hard to find water less than 8 feet deep not thick with hydrilla. Bass loved it and lived shallower for a few years.

Then coots eating the hydrilla got a bacteria that killed eagles eating them. Over a 10-year period, more than 75 dead bald eagles were found around the lake. So the corps went on a spraying spree and introduced about 80,000 grass carp and almost completely eliminated the hydrilla.

With hydrilla gone, the Clarks Hill bass are back on the blueback herring patterns, living very deep in the winter and summer and staying in open water except for the spawn. And they go through the spawn cycle fast, moving up to spawn and then immediately heading to open water to feed on the herring spawn. February is one of the few times you have to catch numbers of quality fish back in the pockets, and it changes quickly, going from deeper fish early to shallow fish later in the month.

Caleb Hudson moved to Evans from Waynesboro when in middle school, and he joined the Greenbriar High School fishing team his freshman year. He is now a junior on the Emanuel College fishing team, and he comes home to work at Greenfish Tackle on college breaks.

When he can, Caleb fishes local weekend tournaments like Saturday Morning Open Tournaments, Haden Outdoor team trail, as well as his college tournaments. The week after Christmas, he and Tanner Hadden fished a special 20-bass limit tournament out of Wildwood, and they placed second out of 50 teams with 20 bass weighing 44.60 pounds.

Caleb has had a very good January on Clarks Hill, with several wins, including the Jan. 7 Super 6 Shootout with Jerremy Hudson when they won with a 20.22-lb. five-bass limit.

“Bass at Clarks Hill move near spawning areas, feeding up in February for the spawn,” Caleb said.

He said the bass like to hold 15 to 20 feet deep and move up on flats to chase baitfish. The bass will be closer to 15 feet deep in early February and shallower toward the end of the month.

Caleb has a very simple line-up of tackle. All he needs to catch bass in February on Clarks Hill are a Cotton Cordell jigging spoon, a Greenfish Tackle Stray Dog Crankbait, a Greenfish Creeper head and a blade bait. With those lures, he can cover water from the bank to any depth he needs to fish.

We fished the following 10 spots the week after the hard cold front at Christmas. The fish were not ready to start their move, but they were in the areas, just deeper than where they will move to in February.

No. 1: N 33º 39.503 – W 82º 16.300 — Going down Keg Creek past the powerlines, watch on your right for the second point between two coves. It is the second point upstream of the Petersburg ramp. A ditch comes out of the first cove and runs out down a flat off the point. It is a perfect place for bass to hold deep all winter and then follow the ditch up to feed on the flat before moving into the backs of the coves to spawn.

Stop way out on the point, and ease in on this location. Start watching for any cover 15 to 20 feet deep. Any rock or brush out deep will hold fish, especially early in the month. Caleb pitches a silver 1/2-oz. Cotton Cordell jigging spoon to any fish he sees on his forward-facing sonar, but you can drop it straight down to them if you don’t have a forward-facing unit.

Also fan-cast with a jig ’n pig as you work in toward the bank. Probe for any cover up to about 10 feet deep. When your boat is that shallow, pick up a crankbait that will run 2 to 5 feet deep, and fan-cast the flat, covering water from a foot deep out to 5 or 6 feet deep. Bass will be up on the flat on warm, sunny days even early in February, and they’ll more likely be shallow later in the month.

No. 2: N 33º 41.811 – W 82º 15.369 — Go across Little River to Bussey Point, the big point between Little River and the Savannah River. Stop in the mouth of the second cove on the right going up Little River. It is a long narrow cove, and there are multiple blowdowns on the left bank going in. Caleb does not fish the blowdowns—he stops in the middle of the cove in 30 feet of water and follows the ditch to the back.

Early in the month, fish the edges of the ditch from 25 to 15 feet deep. On warm days and late in the month, go to the back where there are a lot of Christmas trees on the flat in the back in 10 to 15 feet of water along the ditch. These trees are the last places where bass hold before fanning a bed and spawning.

Fish the edges of the ditch with your spoon and jig. Near the back, run your crankbait over and by any of the Christmas trees you find. Caleb uses a fire-craw-colored Greenfish Stray Dog crankbait. That bait runs 3 to 5 feet deep so it will run just over the top of brush 6 to 10 feet deep. Fan-cast the entire back of this cove with your crankbait.

No. 3: N 33º 40.516 – W 82 18.465 ­­— Heading up Little River, go into the last creek on the left before Mims Branch. Go back past the dock and swimming area on the left all the way to the back of the creek where it narrows down. Caleb says the back of this creek is one of the best flats on the lake in February.

Fan-cast the entire flat with your crankbait and blade bait. Caleb uses a silver 1/2-oz. homemade sonar blade type bait. He reels it fast enough to keep it just off the bottom from 3 to 10 feet deep back here. He says if you catch one bass, you are likely to catch many more—he has caught up to 80 fish here.

No. 4: N 33º 40.972 – W 82º 18.793 — Go up Mims Branch and stop in the middle across from the docks at the Fort Gordon Recreation Area. To your left, there will be three small pockets that indicate the start of ditches that run out and join near the channel. You can see some big boulders on the upstream point of the three ditches, and many more even bigger boulders are under the water here.

You can idle around and locate the boulders or fish around until you find them. Concentrate on water 15 to 40 feet deep. Early in the month, the fish will be on the deeper rocks. Later in February, the bass will move up the ditches to spawn in the backs of the pockets. Fan-cast with spoon and jig, bumping boulders, fishing up one side and down the other.

Caleb ties on a 1/2-oz. green-pumpkin Greenfish Creeper head and puts a green-pumpkin Zoom Speed Craw on it. He will often dip the tails of his trailer in chartreuse JJ’s Magic or other dye, especially if getting a bite is tough.

Cover the entire area from 40 feet deep up to the bank, following each ditch up to shallow water. Fish may be scattered all over all three ditches or concentrated in one small spot, so fish it carefully. This main branch place can hold large numbers of bass.

No. 5: N 33º 40.608 – W 82º 19.536 — Go to the back of Mims Creek to where it splits. The point between the split has rocks on it, and the bank going down the left split from it has a channel swing on it and is rocky. Bass move back here from the ditches and feed, especially along this rocky bank, before spawning.

Fish your crankbait down this bank, casting right to the edge of the water and working back to the boat at an angle. Also bump bottom with your jig and pitch it to any cover like the blowdown on the bank.

Back here, and in all other places, watch for fish schooling on top. Bass holding on the ditches follow baitfish schools and then chase them to the backs of the arms to pen them up. We saw schooling fish here in the right arm as we idled in, and we both saw what we were sure were 2-pound-plus largemouth coming completely out of the water. Caleb cast his spoon, but he hooked and landed a big striper, the only bite we got from them.

No. 6: N 33º 40.585 – W 82º 19.493 — Across the lake, Double Branches has several ditch arms running off to the right going into Bussey Point before the actual branches go in near Cherokee Creek. Going in parallel to the long point off Bussey Point at channel marker 6, go to the second big bay on the right. There is a small island near the bank toward the back on the bay.

Stop at the island and go back, watching for an old roadbed that comes off the left side past the island. It runs out across the cove, and there is an old culvert on the ditch near the middle.

Fish around until you find the culvert that tops out about 10 feet deep at full pool. Fish your crankbait, bladed jig and jig across the rise going out to the culvert and the culvert itself. Bass hold along it feeding just before going to the bank to spawn. Fish for scattered fish all over the flat in the back of this pocket, too.

No. 7: N 33º 43.280 – W 82º 18.030 — The next cove upstream has Bussey Point access ramp on it. The bank just past the ramp is a flat going back into the creek, but Caleb says the key here is all the stumps on the flat. He says this bank has more stumps in 4 to 8 feet of water than any other place he knows on the lower lake.

Bass will move up the channel toward the back and chase schools of baitfish up into the stumps to ambush them, and some bass will hold on the stumps waiting on bait to come by. This bank often holds large numbers of fish with some big ones mixed in.

Start just past the ramp with your boat out in 15 feet of water and make long casts to the bank. Here it is better to make casts straight to the bank to cover water from 3 to 10 feet deep with your crankbait, bumping as many stumps as you can. When you see or feel stumps, try pitching your jig to them, too. Fish down the bank about 150 yards toward the camp area back in the cove.

No. 8. N 33º 43.541 – W 82º 18.474 — Going upstream, the first creek where you see docks is Double Branches. Go back in it to the last blue dock on the left and stop out in the middle of the creek. The creek will split into the “double branches” ahead of you.

Bass stage along the ditches here and move to the backs of both creeks to spawn, often in March. Some will be very close to shallow water in late February, others will be out deeper so cover all the water back here.

Work the junction of the two branch ditches up both sides, fishing the flats on both sides out to the channels. Pitch or drop your spoons to any fish you see near the bottom out deeper. When your boat gets to 10 feet of water in the channel, cast your crankbait or blade bait to the bank and fish them back to the boat.

No. 9: N 33º 43.857 – W 82º 20.172 — Go up Cherokee Creek to the subdivision docks, ramp and swimming area on the left. The channel swings in along the bank the docks are on, and bass use it as a highway moving in to spawn, holding on the ramp and brush around the docks to feed.

Early in the month, check the opposite side of the channel across from these docks, too. There are some rocks where the water drops to 30 to 40 feet deep, and bass often hold on it in the winter before moving up the channel. Caleb dropped his spoon to the rocks when we fished and missed a couple bites, then caught a keeper spot. The next drop produced a 4-lb.largemouth.

With the longer days, the fish are more likely to be a little shallower holding on cover around the docks and ramp. Start at the swimming area and fish past the last docks, casting your Creeper head jig to brush around the docks and crawling it down the ramp. Forward-facing sonar helps find the brush, but you can probe for it with your baits, too.

No. 10: N 33º 44.023 – W 82º 20.365 — Go around the bend to the left past a boat ramp on the right, and you will see a blue dock with a deck on top on the left. That dock is on the outside channel bend, and there are blowdowns and rocks on the downstream side of it and brush in front of it to fish. Bass hold here as they move up the creek.

Keep your boat a long cast from the bank, and cast your Creepy head up near the bank. Work it slowly down the drop, bumping rocks and wood. Also cast it to the brush in front of the dock. Caleb caught three good keeper spots here when we fished.

All these places will produce fish for you in February. Check them out to see the kinds of places Caleb fishes, and you can follow this pattern all over the lake.

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