Clarks Hill December Ditch Bass
Joshua Rockefeller details a solid winter pattern for Clarks Hill largemouth.
It’s December, which means the bass at Clarks Hill have moved to ditches in the backs of coves and can be caught on a variety of baits. The quality of the largemouth on this Clarks Hill pattern is good all this month, and this is a pattern that produces well this time of year.
With 72,000 acres of water and 1,200 miles of shoreline, Clarks Hill has miles of suitable ditches where bass stack up and feed this month. Backs of bigger creeks, as well as smaller coves with some kind of channel in them, are located all over the lake.
Joshua Rockefeller lives in Harlem and goes to Augusta University, where he is on the fishing team. In the Bassmaster College Series Southern Regional at Winyah Bay in South Carolina, Joshua and his partner Zachary Ramsey finished sixth.
Joshua fished with his dad growing up and started fishing tournaments with him while he was in high school, joining the Greenbriar Bass Club. While in high school, he fished on the Harlem High bass team.
“You should be able to catch a limit of 3-lb. bass out of ditches this month, with some bigger fish mixed in most days,” Joshua said.
Not all ditches will hold fish every day, but if you hit enough of them, you will catch some individual fish and find some ditches holding several bass.
Joshua’s favorite baits this time of year include a Buckeye Lures Sled jig head for drag baits, a Buckeye Lures Jigging Blade, a Zoom Fluke, a 6th Sense squarebill crankbait and a Rapala jerkbait. Those baits cover all depths of water where the bass are feeding, and they’ll catch bass this time of year on Clarks Hill.
The bass start moving into the ditches in late October when the water cools into the 60s, but the smaller ones go in first. When the water is consistently cooler in the low 60s, bigger bass move into the ditches.
Joshua’s favorite area of this vast lake is from Soap Creek down to Bussey Point on the Savannah River. Creeks and coves on both sides of the river have good ditches in this area. But this pattern holds up all over the lake.
We fished the following places in early November and caught many keeper bass, but the big ones had not moved back since the water was still in the upper 60s. Bigger fish are in them now.
No. 1: N 33º 49.094 – W 82º 25.086 — Fork Creek joins Soap Creek just upstream of the Highway 220 bridge. Go up it to the first big cove on the left. The upstream point of this cove runs way out and has dead grass on top. The Fork channel swings in right by it on the upstream side and forms a good ditch, and there is a rockpile on that side.
Stop way out on the end of the point, and work up the upstream side. Early in the month, work a jerkbait or squarebill from the shallow grass out to the ditch channel. Work a Fluke through it, too. Then follow up with a Sled and Blade, fishing them along the drop on the ditch side and down the middle of the ditch.
When you get near the bank, the rocks come out on that side so pick them apart by working jerkbait and crankbait over them then your sled through them. Some wind blowing on this point and others makes it better, but it does not seem to help much back in the ditches.
No. 2: N 33º 50.259 – W 82º 19.551 — Going into Haw Creek there is an open bay on the right where the creek narrows down and swings to the left. In the back of this bay several good ditches come in, forming the ideal kind of place Joshua fishes.
Start on the right bank a little downstream of the first ditch. There is a good rockpile here, and bass moving into the ditches often hold on it and feed. You can see rocks on the bank that run out under the water. Fish a squarebill, Fluke and jerkbait over them.
Joshua likes the Rapala Deep Shadow Rap jerkbaits. He will work it fast early in the month, then he’ll slow down as the water cools. Fish up the bank from the rockpile to the two ditches that run in here. Watch your electronics. When the ditch is about 12 feet deep, start casting a Sled and Blade along the edges and down the middle of both, and to the point between them. Then fish back into the two ditches.
No. 3: N 33º 50.850 – W 82º 19.704 — Because it has so many ditches and so much bait, Joshua says Haw Creek is one of the best places on the lake to fish this time of year. Farther back in it around the “S” bend, the long and narrow Jester Creek runs off to the right.
This creek has lots of blowdowns along the sides of it, with a good ditch running down it. Short side ditches run off the channel to the bank. Start at the first side ditch on the left going in. Stay out in the channel and work both sides of the short ditch with sled and blade, all the way out to where they join the main ditch.
Continue up the creek working ditches and blowdowns. Cast a squarebill crankbait and jerkbait to the blowdowns, and then fish through them with a Sled. When you get to 12 feet of water in the main channel, cast it all the way to the back. In the very shallow water in the back you can still fish the Sled and Blade, but a Fluke worked over it will catch fish, too.
No. 4: N 33º 48.576 – W 82º 21.714 — In the back of Wells Creek the channel goes to the right around an island then splits. Go to the powerline crossing, and stop just downstream of them. Fish the side ditch on the left, and then work all the way to the back of both arms.
On side ditches, Joshua starts at the mouth and makes long casts up the ditch, fishing the Blade and Sled through them. With the Blade, he lets it sink to the bottom, twitches it up, and lets it fall. If it gets in grass, a good thing according to Joshua, pop it out to clear it, and then let it fall back.
Follow up with a Sled, dragging it slowly along the bottom. Both baits can be fished in very shallow water. Joshua expects to find bass from a couple of feet deep in the back out to 10 feet deep, so cover that depth range carefully.
No. 5: N 33º 48.780 – W 82º 17.017 — Landam Creek has several good ditches in it. Go past the boat ramp on the left, and the creek splits. There is a shorter ditch on the right and the longer main creek ditch is on the left. Start on the upstream point of the first ditch. It has good rock.
Fish the rock with a jerkbait, Fluke and squarebill. Joshua likes the 3.0 6th Sense squarebill in blueback or shad colors. Try to bump the rocks with it. Then cover the point with a Sled.
Work on into the ditch, fishing the side ditches on the left and then the main channel from 10 feet deep to the back. Watch for loons feeding in the mouths of these ditches. They push bait back into the pockets to the waiting bass, and loons pushing baitfish will stimulate the bass to feed. Loons are a good sign bait is present, which is very important to finding bass.
No. 6: N 33º 48.8085 – W 82º 17.387 — Going out of Landam Creek there is a boat ramp on the right. Past it a long creek with docks in it runs back to the right. It is another good ditch to fish, and the docks along the bank hold fish, too.
Work back into the creek, fishing the side ditch on the right, as well as the docks on both sides. A jerkbait run beside the floats will draw strikes. Near the back of the creek it splits with a good ditch on the left. Fish to left ditch and the point on the upstream side of it. Joshua says the main channel is filled in, and he usually does not fish that arm much.
No. 7: N 33º 46.131 – W 82º 19.311 — Shriver Creek is another good December area with several ditches in it. There is an island where the creek splits. To the left of the island, a sail boat is anchored in the middle of the arm. Joshua says it has been there for years.
Go just past the sail boat to the left bank. There are several good rockpiles along this bank. Fish them with crankbait, jerkbait and Sled. Then work on back into the creek, fishing the short ditches. There are several more rockpiles back in here to fish, too.
No. 8: N 33º 46.414 – W 82º 19.887 — Go around the big island to the back of that arm. A boat ramp is back in here on the left. Just past it an old roadbed crosses the creek. Stop just past the ramp, and start fishing there.
Fish across the roadbed with all your baits, working the shallow ends of it with a squarebill and jerkbait. Fish the Sled and Blade in the middle of it where the old ditch runs by it. Then fish the four ditches in the very back, working them all from 10 feet deep up to 2 feet deep.
There is are three short ditches on the right. It goes around a long shallow point on the left at the split with rock on it. Fish it all the way out. A short ditch channel joins the main channel of the creek just off the end of it and can be a key spot.
We caught several small keepers on the point, so fish it carefully. Then follow the left channel on back, fishing it like the others. It splits again back here. Fish as far back as you can, fishing at least 2 feet of water. Also cast to the wood on the bank in here.
No. 9: N 33º 45.838 – W 82º 17.230 — The next small creek on the right downstream of Shriver does not have a name on the map, but it is a good one. The main arm runs to the right, and a couple of good short ditches enter on the left. Stop at the first one, and fish this entire area.
Joshua says there is usually good hydrilla here, but the corps is spraying it and grass carp have been put in the lake to eat it. Dying hydrilla really helps on a ditch, since it draws the baitfish the bass want to eat. The Blade looks like an injured shad trying to get off the bottom but falling back.
With the Sled, Joshua puts a 3.5-inch Zoom Craw on it, being careful to rig it so it stands up and does not lay flat. He wants to drag it through the hydrilla like a baitfish feeding on the bottom in the grass. Drag it along until it collects grass, and then pop it to clear it.
No. 10: N 32º 47.898 – W 82º 18.935 — Go back up the river past Shriver Creek to the next big bay on your left. It goes back past some small islands on the upstream side. On the left are several white rock points. Stop on the first one, and fish to the back of this ditch.
Joshua fishes the Blade fast, moving it constantly along the edges and in the middle of the ditch, fishing it somewhat like a casting spoon. The Blade is what he fishes mostly back in here. But the Sled will catch fish, too. He fishes the Sled as slowly as possible, just moving it along the bottom.
Time of day is important. Joshua says he catches most of his bigger fish after 10 a.m. and until late afternoon. You will catch the smaller bass earlier in the day. He seemed to prove this point, since he caught our best fish of the day on this hole about 2 p.m.
Joshua also prefers a cloudy, misty day. You can catch quality bass on sunny days, but you will catch more of them on a dark day.
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