Att’s-Da-Way The Bass Like It: Attaway’s Map To Clarks Hill March Bass

Norm Attaway knows Clarks Hill bass, and his patterns for catching them in March will help you put bass in the boat.

Ronnie Garrison | March 1, 2004

If you like fishing shallow water for bass, there is an unusual condition at Clarks Hill this year that you should love. The lake level was low for several years, and now there is a lot of dead grass under water. This month the bass will be in that grass feeding and getting ready to spawn. You can catch a lot of bass shallow this month at Clarks Hill.

Clarks Hill was from six to 14-feet low for about three years, and grass grew anywhere there was a soft bottom. There are little pine trees out in 14 feet of water in some places. This cover has pulled the shad in real shallow, and the bass have followed them. Bass have been shallow at Clarks Hill all winter, and the longer days will have them moving toward bedding areas even stronger this month.

The bass swimming in Clarks Hill’s 72,000 acres of water have gone through several changes in the past few years. The lake has changed with the introduction of blueback herring and hydrilla. Both things have made the bass fatter and more plentiful, and so far the bad effects of both have not hurt the fishing.

The low water levels knocked back the hydrilla some, and it is mostly growing out in a little deeper water this spring. But in real shallow water from the shoreline to five-feet deep there is old, dead grass that covers most coves. Norm Attaway is well known in the Clarks Hill area. He has been bass fishing all his life and has been doing well enough in tournaments to be sponsored nationally by Skeeter Boats and locally by Hootie’s Outdoors. Living in South Carolina about 20 minutes from the lake gives him easy access, and he fishes Clarks Hill a lot.

Norm was Angler of the Year on the Carolina BFL trail in 2001, and you will see him getting a check at most bigger tournaments on the lake. In January he won a boat and motor at Clarks Hill in the first Palmetto State Team Trail tournament with a catch of five bass weighing 21.27 pounds. He knows Clarks Hill well and catches a lot of big bass on the lake in March.

The bass Norm caught in January were shallow. He said he was catching large numbers of bass up in the grass, but to catch the bigger tournament-winning fish he had to back off just a little and fish the ditches going into those places. His five winning bass came from two- to eight-feet deep, so they were not far away from the backs of the coves.

The pattern Norm fishes in March is simple. He finds shallow, flat spawning coves with ditches in them. The bass will be in the shallow grass or along the ditch edge, holding and waiting to move in. There are coves all over the lake like that, and most of them will hold bass.

Norm says bass spawn a lot earlier at Clarks Hill than most people realize. By early March a few bass will be on the beds in some areas, especially way back in the creeks where the water warms faster. The longer days make the bass start looking for spawning areas, and the warming water will make them bed.

By April, bass will still be bedding and feeding in these pockets, but more of the spawners will be out on the

Norm Attaway with a pair of Clarks Hill pigs that helped he and his partner, Mark Johnson, win a boat at the Palmetto State Team Trail tournament on January 10.

main lake in pockets that drop off into deeper water faster. It seems a lot of bigger bass spawn early in the backs of the pockets, and right now it is the time to find them.

When fishing the coves, Norm watches for visible bass on sunny days. If he sees fish holding in the grass, he knows they will hit there, and he will work the very backs of the pockets. If no fish are visible and he is not getting any bites, he will back off a little and fish the ditch edges running into the coves.

A 1/2-oz. white tandem Colorado/willowleaf spinnerbait slow rolled through the grass and along the edges of the ditches out to 10-feet deep works for Norm. He covers all of a cove with the blade and then concentrates on the ditch area, keeping his boat out in about 10 feet of water and working the ditch all the way up to where it’s only a couple of feet deep.

Any brush or stumps along the old ditch offer bass a place to hold, and Norm will make repeated casts to any such cover. If the bass don’t hit either the jerkbait or spinnerbait, he will drop a jig ’n pig into the cover to draw a strike. That is what worked in the January Palmetto State tournament.

Some wind blowing into the grass in the backs of the pockets will make the bass more active. Norm likes some ripple on the water and can usually fish faster and catch more fish in a windy cove. If it is flat and calm, he stays back and makes longer casts.

The rainy Sunday after Valentine’s Day I met Norm at Cherokee Landing to learn some of his patterns and places he likes to fish. He says there are similar places all over Clarks Hill, but he favors the area from Cherokee Creek to the mouth of Little River. We fished a couple of the following spots, and he caught two keepers on that day, under some of the worst possible conditions. We saw bass chasing shad in the backs of a couple of the coves, too.

The following spots will show you the kinds of places Norm likes to fish, and you can catch fish in them, but there are many others like them all over this huge lake.

No. 1: N 33º 42.853 – W 82º 20.051 — Cherokee Creek has several good spawning coves. If you put in at Cherokee Ramp and head into the creek, you will see a boat club on your left just past the second main point. There are a lot of trailers on the hillside and two boat docks out in front of them, with a boat ramp and swimming area between the boat docks.

The cove to the left of the first boat dock is a good one. It has a ditch running out of it and is shallow in the back, with grass under water. There is some white rock on the left bank going in, a traditional place to find bass at Clarks Hill.

Fish all around the back of the cove with spinnerbait and jerk bait. Stay back out in the middle of the cove and make long casts if there is no wind blowing into this pocket. It is usually protected and will be calm. If you don’t get hit in the grass, back off and work the deeper parts along the ditch.

No. 2: N 33º 43.050 – W 82º 21.026 — Run all the way to the very back of the left arm of Cherokee Creek, past the powerlines. There are some docks on your left going in and you can tell how flat the land is. Although some of the docks have brush around them, Norm does not concentrate on them in March. He will make a cast to one as he passes, but he is looking for bass back in the grass.

Start fishing on the left bank near the last two docks and work around the cove and into the next pocket past it. You will see an old roadbed coming out near the back of the second pocket, and that is where Norm caught a keeper the day we fished. Remember that wind helps the spinnerbait bite, but calm water means the smaller jerk bait is better.

No. 3: N 33º 43.198 – W 82º 20.855 — Come back out under the powerlines and go into the first pocket on your left past them. You will see some clay bank on your left going in. This cove has a defined ditch coming out of it and can be excellent. The old roadbed from hole No. 2 continues and crosses the back of this cove, too. Go all the way back into the right arm of this cove fishing all the grass.

Watch for fish on sunny days, and always keep an eye out for jumping shad and bass chasing them. Cast to them as quickly as possible, and be ready for a hit as soon as your bait hits the water. Those active fish will often travel a good distance to eat your bait.

No. 4: N 33º 42.863 W 82º 20.051 — Straight across Cherokee Creek is a good pocket. It will be the last big pocket on your left before you go out of the creek. This is where Norm caught another keeper when we fished. Go all the way to the back of it. On your left you will see a tree in the water and in the back of the cove are a lot of standing dead pines. Start fishing on the left side halfway between the point and the back of the pocket.

The ditch coming out here hugs the left bank, and you should stay out far enough to cast across it. Fish it and all the way to the back of that pocket, around to the first dock. If the wind is blowing into these pockets keep fishing this one and work around to the next one, too. Although it has no ditch, it will hold feeding bass if the wind is blowing into it.

No. 5: N 33º 43.578 – W 82º 18.452 — Run out of Cherokee Creek, around the big island downstream and go into Double Branch. There is a good ditch coming out of the right side, and bass will hold along it and all over the flat to the left of it. The cove to the left side also has a ditch, so you have two ditches and a big flat area to fish here. There are a couple of docks in the left-side pocket.

Start out with your boat in 10 feet of water and work in. Cover the ditch going in, making casts to the front of the boat as well as the sides. Fish all the way to the back of one pocket, then work the flat between them and into the ditch in the other one.

 No. 6: N 33º 43.580 – W 82º 17.701 — Go around the big point and into the creek past it. In the back you will see a small island. The cove to the left of the small island has a good ditch and grass in it. There is also a good bit of hydrilla here, out from the bank. Fish around it as you go in, especially if the bass are holding out in deeper water. You will see a big gravel pile on your left as you go in. Fish the flat on that side and around the back of the cove, back out to the island.

 No. 7: N 33º 43.482 – W 82º 17.543 — Go around the small island and into the next cove. We saw bass chasing shad here. Fish all around this cove like the others, working the ditch line and the grass going into the cove and all the way to the very back. If it is raining, this pocket gets a lot of runoff and that will draw the bait and bass to the very back.

No. 8: N 33º 43.074 – W 82º 17.090 — When you come out of the last cove, go around a small island with some pine trees on it. Go straight into the back of the cove downstream of it — there is a small hump on your left as you go in. Start near that hump and fish all around the cove, working the ditch line and the grassbeds in the cove itself.

 No. 9: N 33º 42.552 – W 82º 16.685 — Run around the main-lake point where a tornado leveled all the bigger trees. You will see planted food plots on the edge of the water. Make a hard left as you round the point and go toward the back of this little creek. The pocket on your right going in has deep water near it and a ditch coming out of it. Fish that pocket and around the ditch.

 No. 10: N 33º 42.068 – W 82º 16.281 — Come out of the back of the creek at No. 9 and go past a small island on your left. In the pocket behind the island there is an old channel marker washed up on the bank. It has been there for several years. Fish the cove and the ditch on the left-hand bank. Norm says he has caught lots of big fish here.

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