Hunt Hydrilla For Clarks Hill Nighttime Bass In August

When the sun goes down, both the bass and Woody Parks head straight for the hydrilla beds at Clarks Hill.

Ronnie Garrison | August 1, 2003

During some August days, Clarks Hill’s 72,000 acres of water seem devoid of bass. The heat shimmering off the water makes you miserable, and catching a bass to improve your mood seems impossible.

But, if you wait until late afternoon and nighttime to fish, you will be more comfortable and the bass will magically appear to bite your bait.

Clarks Hill is a big lake, and it can get real confusing. You can run way up the Savannah River and fish the cooler waters below Russell dam. You can fish the big waters at the Clarks Hill dam where bigger bass live. Small creeks offer all kinds of structure and cover for bass to hide in. Hunting for schooling bass chasing herring can pay off. And you can look for hydrilla beds that hold summertime bass.

The hydrilla has changed Clarks Hill over the past few years and offer bass excellent shallow cover where none existed before.

Blueback herring introduced into the lake a few years ago have also changed them, giving bass an excellent food source and making them relate more to the bigger water where the herring live.

For the past three years the water in Clarks Hill has been low, just like other Georgia lakes. It has been so low that there are two-foot tall pine trees under 10 feet of water right now. This has thrown another factor into the mix. Bass can find lots of cover other than hydrilla, and there is so much of it they are spread out like never before. Woody Parks grew up in Lincoln County and has fished Clarks Hill all his life. About 10 years ago he got started fishing tournaments and now fishes just about everyone he can enter on Clarks Hill. He and his partner Jason Williamson can be found getting a check at the end of most buddy tournaments on the lake, and both do well in individual competition, too.

Woody is currently in eighth place for the year on the BFL Savannah River Trail. He and his partner are in third place on the Super Bass Northern Division Trail and have won the big fish pot in three of the four tournaments. They also won the Russell Super Bass Tournament in late June with a two-day catch of 10 bass weigh- ing 36 pounds. He is sponsored by Soap Creek Marina and Reed Ice Plan.

Each Wednesday night during the summer Woody and Jason run a night tournament from 6:30 to 10:30 p.m. They often win them, and Woody says they have brought in five-bass limits weighing more than 20 pounds several times in these four-hour tournaments. Their best catch in one of those tournaments was five bass weighing 23.5 pounds!

Woody has fished with Raysville Bassmasters Club in the past and is currently a member the Augusta Bassmasters Club.

A 9-lb., 8-oz. hawg is Woody’s biggest Clarks Hill bass ever, and he tries to concentrate on bigger bass for tournament fishing. He says he doesn’t mind getting just five or six bites during a tournament if they are all quality fish. That is what it takes to win tournaments.

“If you aren’t looking at you are not going to win a night tournament,” Woody told me.

The big open water in the dam area is clear, so it has a lot of hydrilla beds in it. And bigger bass seem to hold there, providing the weight needed to win a tournament.

Hydrilla is the key to Woody’s night fishing at Clarks Hill. In the night tournaments he starts on hydrilla beds at 6:30 p.m. when they take off and fishes a spinnerbait over them if there is any wind. Bass will come up out of the hydrilla and eat a spinnerbait that looks like a blue-back herring scooting just under the surface.

If there is no wind, Woody throws a jig n’ pig or a big Zoom Ol’ Monster worm around the grass. He likes a brown jig and trailer, and usually fish black worms with red flakes, junebug or green pumpkin.

The worm is rigged with a relatively light 3/16- or 1/4-oz. Gambler Florida weight (a Florida weight

screws into the worm head to keep the weight atop the worm — much like pegging a weight). It is important to use a weight that will stay on the nose of the worm like this one does.

Rather than dropping the worm or jig into the hydrilla and dragging it through the grass, Woody fishes them with a swimming action, keeping in contact with the top of the hydrilla. This keeps the bait from fouling in the grass and also lets you fish faster, look- ing for active fish. The big baits attract big fish.

Woody Parks likes to swim a brown jig just over the top of a hydrilla bed to entice the bass to come up out of the grass cover.

A Carolina-rigged worm will work in most of these places, too. Especially if the hydrilla beds are thin and spread out in an area, a Carolina rig will allow you to fish faster to find the clumps of grass. Use the same big worm, drop down to one smaller or try a lizard. Use the same colors.

After dark the hydrilla beds will often pay off, and Woody will keep fishing the worm or jig. But he also likes to move to lighted docks and pitch the worm under them. Bass move in shallow to feed under the docks on baitfish attracted to the light, and the slowly-falling worm is hard for them to resist.

Around the full and new moons Woody will fish the jig more because he has heard crawfish hatch then. The crawfish are more active and a jig n’ pig is more effective for catching bass feeding on them. It can be fished around the hydrilla, on rocks or under docks.

The key to finding nighttime bass on Clarks Hill is finding hydrilla beds, says Woody. Once he locates hydrilla, he fishes spinnerbaits, jigs or worms just over the grass.

Since he is fishing for big bass around cover, Woody uses equipment that will get them to the boat. He likes 20-lb. Trilene Big Game line spooled on a Quantum PT 600 reel mounted on a seven-foot All Star or Falcon rod. That will help him land the bigger bass that hit. He will also throw the spinnerbait on the same outfit but will drop down to a little lighter line at times.

There are hundreds of places that hold nighttime bass at Clarks Hill, but Woody showed me 10 good ones that you can fish. If you try these and learn the patterns, then you can find many other spots similar to them. All are located near deep water giving bass easy access, a key according to Woody.

No. 1 on the map: N 33° 41.660 – W 82° 18.287 — The long main-lake point at Fort Gordon Rec. Area drops off on the end then rises to a small island. That point and the hump can be excellent for later afternoon and night-time bass. There is a mercury-vapor light on the end of the point to give you a little light after dark, too.

Start in the saddle between the end of the point and the island, feeling for the scattered hydrilla beds here. Woody likes to fish the downstream side of the point, working into the mouth of Mims Branch. The clay point drops off fast on that side, and bass will move in to feed as the sun goes down.

No. 2: N 33° 41.194 – W 82° 18.958 — The docks at Fort Gordon Recreation Center have some lights on them and are a good place to pitch worms. Start out on the ends over the deepest water, and work toward the bank. Pitch the worm as far up between the boats and dock and into any other openings you can find. Let the worm sink slowly all the way to the bottom. Watch your line carefully. Bass tend to move up near the floating dock as it gets darker. If you see your line twitch or stop falling, set the hook. It is a good idea to count your worm down. Then you know when it should hit bottom. If you are getting bites up off the bottom, you can reel in for another cast after your worm passes that depth. If most of your bites are coming right on the bottom in deeper water, you can switch to a bigger lead to get it there quicker.

No. 3: N 33° 40.698 – W 82° 17.149 — Head down the south bank toward the dam, and watch all the little pockets on your right. Go past the second big point and look for a deep cove with big rocks on the left point going in. There are a couple of double-wide trailers up on the point above the rocks and a wood house with a rusty tin roof on the right point. The cove has a no-wake buoy in the middle of its mouth.

There are several docks in this cove that are excellent to fish after dark. You can start out at the mouth and work all the way around the cove, fishing each dock. If you catch fish off one, fish it longer, and don’t hesitate to come back to it.

No. 4. N 33° 40.685 – W 82° 16.742 — Just past the little island headed downstream there is a boat ramp on a point facing downstream. The ramp itself and the point around it are good places to catch bass. Fish the ramp with a light-weighted worm and jig, and concentrate on the edges and end where the ramp drops off. Fish around the ramp with a Carolina rig to find any hydrilla growing on the point.

No. 5: N 33° 40.460 W 82° 16.365 — Head downstream past the next big island and watch for a big dock and ramp back in a cove. This is the IBW dock and it has a “Private Property Community Dock” sign on it. The ramp is to the left of the dock when facing it, and there is a no-wake buoy out in front of it.

Fish around the dock, working it just like the one at Fort Gordon Rec. Center. There are lights on this dock and they attract baitfish after dark, but bass will also hold under the dock in the shade before dark. Fish around the ramp, working its edges, before you leave this cove.

No. 6: N 33° 41.051 – W 82° 15.587 — As you come out of the above cove, watch downstream and you will see a big island with a causeway built out to it. There is a picnic area on the island, it is part of Ridge Road Park. The island sits out from the bank on the north side of the long point that separates Little River and Keg Creek.

On the upstream side of the island is a small, flat hump about 100 feet off the bank at full pool. It tops out at about eight feet and hydrilla grows around and on it. Bass feed here late in the afternoon and at night. If you idle across the upstream side of the island out about 100 feet, watch the island and you will see a gap in the trees. When you line up with that gap, you should be right on the hump.

Fish the top of the hump and all around it with either the Florida-rigged worm or a Carolina rig. Work the grass beds carefully, swimming the worm over the tops or dragging a Carolina rig through it. If there is wind blowing across this hump, which there often is, fish it with a spinnerbait, too.

No. 7: N 33° 38.520 – W 82° 18.459 — Run to the bridge in the back of Keg Creek and fish the riprap there. Look at riprap as a long narrow point with rocks on it, and hydrilla sometimes grows around them.

Start with a spinnerbait or buzzbait in close to the rocks, then fish a worm with a light weight on the rocks. Swim it just above them and make repeated casts to an area if you hit grass or other cover.

No. 8: N 33° 40.811 – W 82° 14.429 — Back out at the mouth of Keg Creek there are two shoal markers near the north point and even with the docks at Trade Winds Marina. The two shoal markers have a line of small trees between them, marking the top of the hump, which is lined with hydrilla.

There is often wind here, so start with a spinnerbait if it is blowing. Circle the shallow area with it first. Then fish all around this hump, feeling for the hydrilla with a Florida- or Carolina-rigged worm or lizard, or a jig. These shoal markers can be an excellent place to get on a school of feeding bass.

No. 9. N 33° 40.832 – W 82° 13.514 — As you round the islands on the downstream side of Keg Creek there are two shoal markers way off the last one. The second marker going downstream is a good one to fish. Fish all around it with a spinnerbait first then try worms and jigs. This is big water and you are right up from the dam, so it is a good place to find big bass holding and feeding.

No. 10: “If you need a keeper, fish the rip-rap at the dam,” said Woody. Although he has not caught any big fish off this big expanse of rocks, which is surprising, he says you can almost always depend on catching a keeper here to fill your limit. The rip-rap here seems to run forever off the Georgia side, and you can spend a lot of time fishing it

All these spots hold bass for Woody late in the afternoon and at night. You can check them out and learn the kinds of places he fishes, then find more just like them. And by fishing late in the day and at night you can avoid the heat. Even better, the bass bite then.

Editor’s Note: On Saturday, July 12, after this article was written, Woody won the Lincoln County – McCormick County Chambers of Commerce benefit tournament on Clarks Hill with five fish that weighed 16.3 pounds. He also had big fish, a 6.55-pounder. Second place weighed-in 10.5 pounds.

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