Hartwell Bass On The Fall Feed

Locations to catch bass on the fall feed.

Ronnie Garrison | October 2, 2018

Spots and largemouth at Hartwell respond to cooling water by moving shallow and feeding heavily in October. You can catch them on a variety of baits on main-lake points and humps, as well as on banks leading into coves.

Hartwell is a big 56,000-acre reservoir on the upper Savannah River. The lake regularly produces 20-lb. limits in bass tournaments. Many of those catches will include both largemouth and spots. Blueback herring have made largemouth more like the spots, holding and feeding in deeper, more open water structure and cover.

Levi Neave grew up in Seneca, South Carolina near the lake and is a senior at Clemson, where he is on the fishing team. He got serious about bass fishing and tournament fishing about seven years ago when he and a friend started entering local tournaments on Hartwell.

Levi Neave is a senior on the Clemson University bass fishing team.

Levi fishes Hartwell often and competes in local pot tournaments when his college schedule allows. October is one of his favorite months to fish, since the bass are easy to pattern and catch.

“Cooling water in October really turns the bass on here,” Levi said. 

As the cooler nights sweep across northeast Georgia, the bass move up on structure and feed heavily on herring, shad, bream and crawfish. They are coming out of their deep summer holes, and the fish continue to move and feed more and more shallow as the month progresses.

Topwater action is good in October, but slower-moving baits will catch bass, too. Levi will have a topwater plug, fluke, swimbait, spinnerbait and drop shot ready to fish all month long. 

Later in the month, on his deck will be a Horny Toad, shaky head, jig ’n pig and a Carolina rig.

Levi will be on main-lake humps and points the first two weeks of October. Depending on how fast the water cools, he then moves to banks leading into coves that come off the bank at a 45-degree angle and then drop into deep water. Rocks on these structures are his favorite cover to fish.

We fished these places in early September, before the bass had started their fall movement to shallow water. There were some smaller spotted bass on them even that early, and each day this month will have more and bigger bass moving up on these locations.

No. 1: N 34º 26.322 – W 82º 51.807 — Across the lake from the mouth of the Senaca River is a narrow island just off the Georgia bank of the lake. It’s just upstream of channel marker 25. The first cove downstream of the island is narrow and runs back off the lake. On the left side of this cove, two shallow points run out toward the middle of the cove.

This is typical of the kinds of places Levi likes the last two weeks of October when the water is cooler. The bank slopes off quickly with rocks on it, and there is good deep water close to it. He starts at the point on the lake end and fishes to the next similar point back in the cove.

Keep your boat in 25 feet of water, and cast a Carolina rig toward the bank. Drag it along the bottom, bumping the rocks and attracting bass feeding along it. They will be scattered out feeding, so move fairly fast, working your bait along the bottom covering it quickly.

Levi likes a heavy 3/4- to 1-oz. sinker on his rig to let him fish it fast. He ties a 2-foot leader and uses a finesse green-pumpkin worm. Around the full moon, he likes to dip the tail in orange dye to imitate crawfish that are molting. He will also fish a drop shot in the same areas.

Keep your topwater baits ready, and cast to any surface activity you see. Shad moving into these coves later in the month will make the bass come up to hit them, so be ready.



No. 2: N 34º 26.124 – W 82º 51.209 — Going down the lake, just past the mouth of the Senaca River, there is a small island on the end of a short peninsular coming off the left bank. It is right on the channel and drops fast into deep water. A shallow point comes off the downstream side of it, making it a perfect place for bass to push baitfish up and school on them early in the month. There were small keeper spots feeding here the day we fished, and Levi caught three.

Start by casting your topwater plug over the point, working it fast. Cast to any surface activity you see. 

Levi likes a chrome Gunfish and an Ima Skimmer. Work all around the outside of the island, keeping your boat in 25 feet of water. Cast your bait toward the bank and across the point. Also work a Fluke and swimbait over the same area.

If you don’t get bit on top, try a drop shot and Carolina rig, casting them up to shallow water and working the baits out to 20 feet. Levi says places like this usually hold about 75 percent spots and 25 percent largemouth. It is a good place to limit on spots, especially early in the morning. 

No. 3: N 34º 24.880 – W 82º 51.145 — Run down the lake to channel marker 17 just upstream from the mouth of Lightwood Log Creek. There is a hump with three small cypress trees on it toward the islands between the creek and lake. Upstream of the hump toward the channel marker, another hump comes up to about 16 feet deep, and this is a good schooling location this month.

Staying out in 25 feet of water, work your topwater bait over the hump. Then try Carolina rig and drop shot. Levi rigs a Robo Worm in sexy shad or morning dawn colors on his drop shot. He uses a 1- to 2-foot leader and likes the Spin Shot hook. He says it is easier to tie two knots rather than the typical drop-shot knot with the long tail. 

Levi says he uses a 1/2-oz. sinker on his drop shot. This allows him to fish it faster when he casts it, but it also gets it down to the bottom quickly when he sees fish on his Lowrance electronics. He says fish move quickly under bait this time of year, and he wants to get his bait to them before they move away. Always watch your electronics for fish near the bottom while fishing.

No. 4: N 34º 24.694 – W 82º 51.113 — Going downstream, straight out from the hump with the three cypress trees there is a long point that runs out from the hump. Bass school on it, and you should fish it like the last location. 

A fluke will sometimes get bit when the bass won’t commit to a plug on top, as will a swimbait fished near the surface. Levi keeps both ready to work over these places and to cast to schooling fish he might see. He rigs a white or albino Little Dipper on a 1/8-oz. belly weight hook and lets it sink to different depths until he finds the one the fish like. He reels it in steadily.

Levi starts with his boat in 25 feet of water on all these type places but will move shallower if he sees activity. The fish tend to hold out in 15 to 20 feet of water on these places, but they chase bait up on them. There is brush on all these places, so watch for it on your electronics, and fish a drop shot in brushpiles, as well as to bass you see holding on a clean bottom.

Between holes 3 and 4, there is another hump. Fish will move from one to the other, so watch for activity on the other hump while fishing this one. The bass move a lot and can be on one hump early and then another one nearby later in the day, so try all three.


No. 5: N 34º 26.078 – W 82º 51.817 — Run back up to channel marker 25. Downstream of it and hole 1 there is a long, shallow point with mile marker sign 129 on it. A cove runs back on the upstream side of the mile marker. This is another good cove with a 45-degree angle bank on the left going into it.

Start on the cove side even with the sign, and fish into the cove. The bottom is rock and clay, and fish roam here while feeding on shad that are moving into the cove. Levi keeps his boat in 15 to 20 feet of water and throws a white Horny Toad at an angle ahead of the boat. 

Fish the toad all the way to the back of the cove to see how far the fish have moved back. When you get bit on the toad, drag a Carolina rig or drop shot through the same area. Work back out over the same water with a drop shot and Carolina rig to tempt any bass that didn’t want to hit on top. The heavy drop shot lead Levi uses allows him to fish it almost as fast as a Carolina rig to cover water.

No. 6: N 31º 27.051 – W 82º 51.921 — Run into the Tugaloo River to marker T 3 on the left bank. A good main-lake point runs off the bank just downstream of the marker, and there is a hump on the inside of the point toward the marker. Stop between the point and hump and fish them both, along with the saddle between them.

Work over the area with a topwater, fluke and swimbait. If the water is calm, those baits are best. But here and other places, if the wind is blowing and there is a good chop on the water, Levi will cast a 1/2-oz. white spinnerbait with double willowleaf blades. He fishes the spinnerbait fast just under the surface. With wind and chop on the water, bass will chase fast-moving baits near the surface. 

Then drag a Carolina rig or drop shot across the bottom. Levi will also try a shaky head if the bite is slow and he’s forced to move his bait slowly along the bottom. 

No. 7: N 34º 27.857 – W 82º 52.210 — Farther up the Tugaloo, marker T 6A is just off the right bank on a point. The point is on the channel and drops fast, and the pocket on the downstream side has a good sloping bank on the left side going into it.

Fish around the point with topwater and other baits. Then work into the pocket with a shaky head, drop shot and jig. Sometimes the bass are keyed on bream or crawfish, especially around the full moon on the 24th this month, and a jig ’n pig imitates both.

Levi uses a 1/2-oz. green-pumpkin jig and dyes the tails of his trailer with orange dye to imitate the crawfish. Work it like a crawfish moves, sliding it along the bottom and then hopping it like a spooked crawfish darting away.

No. 8: N 34º 27.138 – W 82º 50.917 — Go into the Senaca River, and stop on the point on your left at the gap between Andersonville Island and the first island off the tip of it. This rocky point drops off fast and has brush around it. Fish school on it year-round, but bigger fish are on it in the fall.

Stay out in 25 feet of water, and cast a topwater plug near the bank. Fish it out to the boat. Pay attention to where the fish hit. If they are close to the bank, move in some and cast at an angle to keep your bait in productive water longer. If they seem to be out from the bank, cast parallel to it.

As in other places, watch for fish and brush on the bottom, and fish it with drop shot or Carolina rig. Some days the fish don’t pay attention to a boat right on top of them, and you can fish straight down. If you see fish on the brush but they won’t hit, try a subtle approach—stay out from the brushpile and cast to it.

No. 9: N 34º 27.289 – W 82º 50.807 — On the other side of the pocket upstream of hole 8, a shallow point runs out toward the lake. It is flatter but has more chunk rock on it. Stop well off it in at least 25 feet of water, and make long casts across it with topwater and near-surface baits.

After working the point high in the water column, try your bottom baits. Fish from the top of the point out to at least 20 feet deep. Levi says you can also fish the swim jig at all depths of the water column, counting it down and reeling slowly to cover them.

No. 10: N 34º 29.680 – W 82º 49.960 — There is a gap at the upstream end of Andersonville Island where you can go through to Little Beaverdam Creek. An island is off this gap on the Seneca River side. On the upstream side of the island, a danger marker sits way off the bank. It marks a shallow point that runs off the island and then drops off into the river channel past it.

Early in October the bass will be pushing bait up on the point, and topwater and other baits worked over the point will catch them. Later, as the water gets cooler, the fish will hold out on the end of the point where it drops, and bottom-bumping baits will catch them. Watch for brush in this area, and fish it, too.

All these places are holding fish right now. Bigger fish will move to them all month. Try them with Levi’s favorite baits and yours, see how the structure and cover sets up, and you can find many similar places all over the lake.

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