Clarks Hill Bass On The Fall Feed

Catch bass that are following baitfish to the mouths and into the creeks.

Ronnie Garrison | September 27, 2019

Topwater baits over rocky humps and points, and dragging jigs on them and down the sides as they drop off into deeper water—that simple pattern is a great way to catch Clarks Hill bass in October.

Clarks Hill’s 72,000 acres of water have gone through many changes since the river was dammed in 1950, but the last 30 years produced the most changes that affect bass fishing. Blueback herring started changing the way largemouth act about 30 years ago, and the new baitfish allowed bass to grow bigger.

Hydrilla spread all over the lake about 15 years ago, offering great shallow fishing, but the Corps of Engineers, by spraying and introducing grass carp, has just about eliminated it. It is hard to find any hydrilla to fish now.

Spotted bass started infesting the lake a few years ago and are now a significant population, especially on the Savannah River arm. For good or bad, they will forever affect the lake. Hopefully spots will not ruin the largemouth fishing like they have done on several of our other lakes.

The good news right now is that Clarks Hill bass fishing is great, with plentiful quality largemouth and some big spots you can catch on the right patterns.

Nick Kirkland grew up in Appling, fishing the lake with his dad Harvey, one of the best tournament fishermen on the lake. Harvey taught his son well. Nick lives in Evans now and fishes the lake an average of three times a week. He enters most tournaments, from club and local pot tournaments to the big ones like the Mr. Clark Hill, and Nick does well in these tournaments.

“Bass are coming out of their summer deep holes and following bait into the creeks in October,” Nick said.

Depending on how fast the water temperature drops, they will move into creek-mouth structure and cover, and then they will move farther back into the creeks as the month progresses.

Nick Kirkland with a Clarks Hill chunk. Cooler temperatures in October bring on a good bass-catching pattern.

Nick will have several baits ready for October fishing to work the kinds of structure and cover the bass use as they move. He will always have a big walking bait ready to cast to schooling activity. For early mornings, he will fish a buzzbait and floating worm. A jig ’n pig and, if the bite is tough, a shaky-head worm will be at the ready to fish deeper.

Nick targets main-lake rocky humps and points at the mouths of creeks. There will be fish on them all month long as they transition, especially this year since the transition seems to be slow and behind schedule. Blueback herring are the primary baitfish he wants to find, since the bigger bass prefer them, but they will also feed and concentrate around threadfin shad.

We fished the following 10 spots in mid-September, and fishing was still tough with the water very warm. A few fish were chasing bait on top, but most were still suspended over deep water and not feeding much during the day. The week before we fished, Nick placed second in a Sunday Morning Shootout pot tournament with only 8-lbs., 7-ozs., but he had big fish with a 4-lb., 11-oz. largemouth that he caught on a topwater bait. It was chasing bait off a hump.

The fishing is much better now and will improve throughout the month of October.

No. 1: N 33º 41.251 – W 82º 14.382 — The long island between Keg Creek and Little River is locally known as Monkey Island. The Little River side drops off into deep water quickly and is a good place to find bass feeding shallow early in the morning. It has rocky areas as well as dead grass up shallow that grew when the water was low.

Start at the downstream end of the island, and fish up the Little River side. Run a buzzbait from the bank out to about 10 feet deep, keeping your boat a long cast off the bank. Nick throws a 1/2-oz. Greenfish Tackle Toad Toter with a silver blade that is threaded with a white or black Zoom Horny Toad.

Fish fast, covering the water quickly. And keep a floating worm ready to cast to any fish that miss the bait. A merthiolate Zoom Trick Worm works well for Nick. He got a half-dozen hits here on his buzzbait, but the fish were not taking the bait and did not stay long enough for them to hit his Trick Worm, either.

Fish all the way to the gap on the upstream end of the island where you can cut through to Keg Creek. Nick says many tournaments have been won here before the sun gets on the water fishing this pattern.

No. 2: N 33º 41.515 – W 82º 13.278 — Across the lake on the South Carolina side, just off red channel marker S12, there are two small rocky humps that rise out of the water off the point. Nick says they call this the Camel Humps since they look something like the humps on a camel back. Out from them an underwater hump comes up to 10 feet deep on top, and this is the one he targets.

Stop downstream of the visible humps about 100 yards out from them, and ease upstream until the bottom starts coming up. The water is very deep here near the river channel, and he stops when his boat is in about 25 feet of water. Cast over the top of the hump with a walking bait, working it fast, and casting to any surface activity, even if way off the hump. That is how Nick caught the big bass in the tournament.

After working over the rocks with topwater, cast a jig up on top of the hump and work it down the drop, fishing to about 20 feet deep. Nick concentrates on the downstream side of the hump where there are rocks and as little brush on that side.

No. 3: N 33º 41.767 – W 82º 13.535 — Go up to red marker 14 to the rocky point. The channel is right off the point, so it drops fast. It is also at the mouth of a small creek. Those features make it a good ambush point for bass to eat baitfish as they move into the creek.

Stop out in 35 feet of water, and cast up to 10 feet deep, first with topwater then with your jig ’n pig. Nick fishes a green-pumpkin 1/2- to 3/4-oz. Greenfish Tackle jig with a brown Zoom Super Chunk or Ultravibe Craw. Use the lighter jig on top of the point, but switch to the heavier bait if most of your bites are coming deeper as you work down the drop.

No. 4: N 33º 45.639 – W 82º 14.164 — Parksville Ramp is back in a big bay with several small creeks in it upstream on the right. There are several small islands to the right side of the ramp between it and the creek on that side. The chain of islands continues with humps under the surface.

Nick fishes a hump a couple hundred yards off the last island. This hump comes up to about 16 feet deep on top. The lake was down a couple feet the day we fished and is usually pulled down about 5 feet in October, so adjust depths to account for water level. Stop out from the hump in 20 feet of water. This hump and others are easy to see on a good GPS.

This hump is another good ambush point that is back in a creek as the bait moves farther into the creeks. Nick works this one with his bigger jig since it is a little deeper. He casts the jig up on top and works it like a crawfish across the top and down the sides.

Nick says he has watched crawfish, and they will crawl along the bottom and then make three jumps when spooked, so he fishes his jig like that. Drag it a foot or two, and then hop it three times before letting it fall back, and then drag it again and repeat.

No. 5: N 33º 45.887 – W 82º 13.918 — Idle toward the outermost island, and watch for an old roadbed with rockpiles along it in about 16 feet of water. The roadbed runs across the front of the island and offers cover as well as a highway for bass to follow.

Cast your bigger jig to the rocks on the roadbed, working the bait slowly. Nick will set up on a place like this and others and fish it for about 10 minutes, then move on if he doesn’t get bit. He is looking for active, feeding bass, but if he fishes several without a bite on his jig or topwater, he will slow down a little and try a shaky head for less active bass.

No. 6: N 33º 46.772 – W 82º 13.544 — The bank between Parksville Ramp and the swimming area to the left facing the bank comes out and forms a hump way off the bank. It is only 10 feet deep at full pool and has rocks on the deeper side.

Nick first fishes from deep to shallow, casting up on top of the hump and working down the drop. But he will also get on top of the hump and cast out, fishing up the drop. This is especially effective if the fish are not active, and he will try his shaky head like this, casting a 1/4-oz. head with a green-pumpkin Trick Worm on it, dragging and shaking it on the rocks and any brush he finds.

No. 7: N 33º 46.649 – W 82º 16.259 — Dordon Creek is the next big creek upstream on the right. An island sits off red channel marker S42, and the downstream point of the creek runs way out toward the island. Go to the point behind the island, and you will see a group of willows in a sandy area on the bank. To the left of the willows, a small bluff clay point marks some rocks that run out at an angle in front of the willows.

Stop way off the bank. With the water down a little, you can see a shallow rock point that comes out and forms a ledge that drops almost straight down to 20 feet deep.

Nick sits a long cast off the visible rocks, casts his 1/2-oz. jig to the edge of the drop, and lets it fall down the ledge. He moves the jig very little since the drop is so steep. Keep your bait in contact with the rocks as it falls.

No. 8: N 33º 45.269 – W 82º 15.857 — Across the river between Dordon Creek and Parksville, at green channel marker 35 there are shallow flats that run way off the bank. Nick calls this area Georgia Flats. Two points form a “Y” here, and the water between the two points is about 25 feet deep. A rocky hump with canepiles on it is about halfway between the upstream point and a tiny hump with willows on it.

Individual fish were chasing bluebacks here when we fished, but they were very scattered. Nick always has a big walking bait ready to cast to them. He likes the big Ima Big Stick or Lucky Craft Gunfish with silver sides and black or blue back to imitate the bluebacks they are feeding on. The big baits allow you to make long casts to reach schooling fish, and they match the big bluebacks the bigger bass like.

Work over the hump and canepiles with the topwater baits first, and then drag your jig on the rocky bottom around them. Nick was surprised to see a new canepile here—it was very fresh and green. If you get right on top of one before seeing it, mark it and come back to it later, since your boat will spook fish that are suspended around it waiting on bluebacks. But the bass will come back.

No. 9: N 33º 44.182 – W 82º 15.821 — Going downstream on your right, behind green channel markers 29 and 31 there is a big pocket that runs back. There are two danger markers on your left not far off the bank on that side.

There are a lot of chunk rocks out from the first danger marker you come to. You can see some of them up on the bank. Stop way off the bank in 25 feet of water, and make long casts toward the marker with your jig, bumping rocks and jumping the jig. Work parallel to the bank along the outside of the marker. Baitfish follow this edge going in, and bass set up here to ambush them.


No. 10: N 33º 42.976 – W 82º 14.572 — The last big bay on your right before getting to the mouth of Little River is called Bass Alley. In the middle of it, behind green channel marker S19, there are two humps that rise up to 15 feet deep. The water is deep all around them, and the humps are rocky with canepiles.

Fish them like the others, working topwater over them and dragging a jig on the bottom. Some chop from wind really helps the bite here and in all other places. If the corps is pulling water, the current will be very light, but it does help.

Fish these places to see what Nick looks for in October. With 72,000 acres of water, there are hundreds more like them on Clarks Hill where you can catch bass this month.

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