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Lake Russell Bass Mapped For Fall

Ryan Johnson and his “Money Bass” methods.

Ronnie Garrison | September 26, 2022

Ryan Johnson with a Lake Russell spotted bass caught during a recent trip with the author.

Lake Russell spotted bass are feeding up as the water cools down, and you can catch a bunch from topwater down to deep brush—and everything in between. Choosing the right places to fish in October will increase your numbers and size. 

Russell is a 26,650-acre U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reservoir on the Savannah River between Lakes Hartwell and Clarks Hill. Filled in 1984, it is Georgia’s newest big major reservoir, and more attention to fish habitat left most of the standing timber standing when the lake was filled. The lake has many humps, long points and shallow bars, as well as deep rocky banks. 

Since Russell is somewhat isolated from big cities and shoreline development is prohibited, it is one of our least-used lakes. There are no docks to fish. Shoreline cover is limited to some blowdowns, rocks and a few patches of grass, but almost every point and hump has a fisherman-made brushpile on it. 

One nice feature on the lake is the channel-marker poles. They mark the ends of points and humps where they drop to the deeper water of the main channels, and they are usually in about 15 feet of water at full pool. The poles give fishermen a great guide of where to fish. And the lake has a pump-back feature at the dam, so current flows both ways many days. 

Ryan ”Money Bass” Johnson grew up in rural South Carolina fishing creeks and ponds for anything he could catch to eat. He always loved fishing, and in 2013, he joined the Rod Benders Bass Club and started tournament fishing.  

He now fishes the club tournaments, the Synergy Trail and Big Bass Tour. Ryan also fishes many local and charity tournaments on Lake Lanier and competed in the recent BFL there, his first, as well as youth and Wounded Warrior events. Ryan is also very active online, posting videos to his YouTube channel “Money Bass.” 

Ryan is especially proud of his club’s annual fund-raising tournaments. They have been on hold the past two years due to Covid but will return this year. 

Their “Open” will be on Lanier on Oct. 8, and their “Beat Down” on West Point is April 29. Rodbenders is a proactive club that raises money through these tournaments each year for charities like Camp Sunshine. 

“Lake Russell is my favorite lake,” Ryan said. “It is full of spots, and they are easy to pattern and catch.” 

Rodbenders fishes Russell every year, and Ryan practices there enough to know how to locate schools of spots for numbers and also how to find a kicker largemouth or bigger spot.

“In October, there are always some shallow, feeding bass on Russell, and they often are the bigger fish,” Ryan said. 

He will target those fish first thing in the morning when they are more likely to bite. He then likes to go deeper, looking for the “suburbs” where the fish live. 

For shallow water, a Texas-rigged creature bait, topwater, shaky head and both soft and hard swimbaits catch fish. When going to the deeper fish, Ryan will tie on a drop shot, but keep the shaky head and Texas rig ready, too. 

Spots often suspend, and that is when a Spybait and small soft or hard swimbait excel. And if the bass are suspended deep enough that the boat doesn’t spook them, the drop shot can be dangled video-game style in their face.

Ryan showed me the following 10 locations the first week in September, and fish were already on them. Bass will be in the same places in October, but they may focus a little shallower as the water cools. Most of these are what Ryan calls suburbs—the places bass live all the time. 

No. 1: N 34º 04.148 – W 82º 38.149 – Going downstream under the Highway 72 bridge, there’s an island to your left. Channel marker 22 is on the downstream side. The river channel runs near the island, creating a good rocky ledge on the outside. Rocks on each end make good points. The upstream point is longer, and there is a good brushpile on it. 

Start on the downstream side out from the marker in about 30 feet, and cast up into 15 feet of water on the point. Ryan will start with a shaky head or Texas rig, but he always has a topwater and drop shot ready. Bass school a lot in October, so keep a bait like a shad-colored Sammy ready to cast to active fish. 

Fish up the river side of the island, staying out in 30 feet of water and casting shallow. Early in the morning try casting your Sammy right to the edge of the rocks for active fish. Work your shaky head and Texas rig from the bank out to 25 feet deep. 

Follow the point out on the upstream side, casting across it. Find the brush that is about 15 feet deep, and work a Texas rig or shaky head through it. Get on top of the brush, and fish a drop shot straight down. Shake it slowly to entice fish that don’t want to chase bait. Ryan caught a small keeper here on his drop shot. 

No. 2: N 34º 04.158 – W 82º 78.275 — All bridges on Russell hold bass, and the Highway 72 bridge is no exception. Bass feed up and down the rip-rap and hold on the pilings. Both places allow them to move up and down the water column quickly, and there is always a lot of food holding around bridge cover. 

Ryan will start first thing in the morning casting a topwater like the Sammy to the rip-rap and working it right beside the pilings. Then he will back off the rip-rap and fish a shaky head and Texas rig on the rocks. 

If he sees fish suspended off the rocks on his forward-facing Humminbird, he will work the Sammy over them if they are less than 10 feet down. If the bass are deeper, he picks up a Tennessee shad colored Kitech 2.8 swimbait on a 1/4-oz. ball head and swims it through them for bites. A Spybait also works well for suspended fish, as does a hard swimbait like a Sebile Magic Minnow. 

Swimming the Kitech beside pilings where bass are holding will work, too, especially if they are shallow enough to be spooked by the boat. If they are deeper, he will get right on top of them and lower his drop shot and dangle it in front of their faces to get bit. 

Current will make the bass bite much better. Fishing all the rip-rap and pilings on this long bridge can take all day, so watch for keys to where you should concentrate your efforts. That pattern should work on other bridges, too. 

No. 3: N 34º 03.634 – W 82º 37.674 ­— Going down the river, channel marker 15 sits way off the bank to your right. A long point comes off the bank upstream of several small creeks and coves, and bass set up here and other similar places to ambush shad as they move into the coves. 

Keep your boat in 30 feet of water and fish all around the point, fishing your shaky head and Texas rig downhill. As usual, watch for fish under the boat and offer them your drop shot. Ryan rigs a 1/2-oz. sinker six to 18 inches below a VMC Spinshot style hook and puts a green-pumpkin Zoom shaky head worm on it. He fishes his drop shot on a Duckett 6-6 Medium Heavy spinning rod. 

The channel marker has an osprey nest on it. Any pole with a nest is worth extra casts, since sticks from the nest often pile up at the base of the pole, and bird droppings draw bream to the pole to feed, attracting bass. Work both a shaky head and Texas rig right by the poles to find any cover. 

No. 4: N 34º 03.417 – W 82º 37.967 — Go into the creek downstream of maker 15, and you will see two danger signs marking standing timber on the left side. Go to the point at the downstream one and fish the point, then move out to the edge of the timber and watch your electronics for fish. The first pole going in sits 25 feet deep on the outer edge of the timber. 

Ryan found a big school of keeper-size spots here both on the bottom 20 feet deep and holding in the timber over that depth. He caught several on his drop shot by “video game” fishing, lowering his drop shot to the fish he saw in the timber. I hooked one from the back of the boat by dragging a shaky head in fish I saw on the bottom on the back unit. 

Move along the edge of the timber until you find fish. Early in the month they will probably be closer to deeper water like they were when we fished, later they will follow shad back into the creek and coves.  

Also watch for balls of shad and slow down and look and fish carefully near the bait. The bass, especially spots, will follow the shad and be near them. Increase your odds by finding shad and then finding the bass. 

No. 5: N 34º 03.374 – W 82º 37.921 — Go out toward the river being careful to stay outside the timber. The last small pocket on your right will have three blowdowns on the right bank and one on the left. It has good deep water and is an excellent place to start early and catch a kicker largemouth or bigger spot. 

Work topwater over the wood, and then fish your Texas rig through the limbs, covering every bit of wood from the bank to the ends of the trees. Ryan rigs a green-pumpkin or watermelon-red Hula Grub or ZCraw behind a 3/16-oz. sinker. He dresses it up by dipping about an inch and half of the tails in chartreuse JJ’s Magic then dips the very tips in red JJ’s. He says Russell spots love this little extra. 

There is some wood in here that is not visible, so fish slowly and carefully. If you have good electronics, you can see it. If not, keep your boat in the middle of the little cove and cast all down both banks fishing all the way out to the middle from both sides. 

No. 6: N 34º 03.181 – W 82º 36.958 — Across the river and downstream, markers 14 and 16 are on either end of a rocky point. Marker 12 is a little downstream of a point where a shoal runs out. On the bank between 14 and 12 is a patch of grass, and an old danger marker has washed up beside it. Stop out from the old marker in 15 feet of water and fish upstream. 

If you like casting to the bank, this is a good place. Keep your boat a long cast from it in 25 to 30 feet of water, and work a topwater early in the morning from the edge out to the boat for active fish.  

Later in the day, fish your shaky head or Texas rig from 2 to 25 feet deep, crawling these finesse baits down the slope with little hops and shakes. Ryan rigs a Zoom shaky head or Trick Worm on a 1/4-oz. Davis head and dips the tails in JJ’s.  

Here like at every other place this time of year, watch for schooling fish and cast to them as quickly as possible. Ryan lays his Sammy rod with the tip over the side and the Sammy down about four inches, ready to pick up and cast quickly. And watch for fish down under the boat to show your drop shot to or suspended fish to catch on your swimbaits or Spybait. 

No. 7: N 34º 04.769 – W 82º 38.520 — Go up the Savannah River under the railroad trestle and stop on the right bank where the rip-rap ends. A steep clay bank starts here and runs to the point at the mouth of the big cove past it. Bass feed along this bank year-round since it is right off deep water and shad move along it in the fall. 

Start at the end of the rip-rap. Early in the morning, stay out and make long casts with your Sammy to the bank. In the afternoons this bank has some shade, and bass will often hold right on the bank in very shallow water in the shade. Your Sammy should get them to bite.

Work your shaky head and Texas rig from a couple feet deep out to 20 feet deep. There is some wood off the bank and some smaller points come out, giving the bass an edge to hold and feed. Fish all the little changes. 

If Ryan sees fish suspended down less than 5 feet deep and they won’t come to the top to hit his Sammy, he will run his swimbaits through them, fishing just above the depth the bass are holding. A Sebile chrome-and-silver 6-inch bait works great, as does his Kitech soft swimbait. 

No. 8: N 34º 04.836 – W 82º 39.257 — Go to the mouth of Beaverdam Creek to the BDC green and orange pole marker on the right behind the big island. It sits between the island and the bridge. A long clay point runs out from the bank and rises to a small hump that’s home to one planted cypress, a small sweetgum and a bush. 

Stop a little upstream of the marker where the depth drops, fishing from the pole in about 15 feet of water out to 25 feet of water. Current running across this point in either direction makes the bite much better. If it is moving, work your bait with it in a natural direction. 

Try all your baits here from top to bottom. After fishing a few hours trying different things, Ryan says you can usually focus on a couple of things that are working that day. Stick with what works best when you find it. 

No. 9: N 34º 04.924 – W 82º 40.048 – Going up Beaverdam Creek, marker 6 is on the left side of an island out in the middle of the creek. An old roadbed comes off the bank, drops deep, and then comes back up to run across the upstream side of the island. Bass in the deep suburbs use the roadbed to move up to feed around the island. 

There is some brush to fish here, as well as the drop-off where the roadbed comes up. But primarily this location is a big flat around the island and is a great schooling place in late September and October. Fish around the marker pole 12 feet deep out to 20 feet deep, and keep your topwater and swimbaits ready to cast to fish chasing shad up on the flat. 

No. 10: N 34º 04.391 – W 82º 35.519 — Going downstream, a small island sits out in the middle at the last big bay on that side before the bridge. The island has rocks around it and is the place bass stack up as the shad move into the creeks and coves in the fall. 

Ryan caught his biggest fish of the day, a solid 3-lb. spot, on his first cast with his shaky head here. There are rocks, but Ryan spotted a small brushpile on his forward-facing Humminbird as he dropped the trolling motor into the water. He cast to it and got bit. Fish all around the island, watching for brush and feeling for rocks. Try all your baits here, from a couple feet deep out to 25 feet deep. 

Spotted bass and a few largemouth can give you a great October day of fishing on Lake Russell. 

Give it a try.

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1 Comment

  1. MoneyBass on October 11, 2022 at 11:43 am

    Great article Ronnie! I am very impressed with the attention to detail in the article! You mentioned some gems that I didn’t realize you took note of when we were on the water. I will definitely discuss this day on this weeks livestream at http://www.MoneyBass.com. It was a pleasure meeting you, sharing some time on the water, catching fish and swapping fishing stories! I look forward to another great day on the water with you!

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