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Protected Pockets For March Clarks Hill Bass

Strong winds are more common than not in the early spring, and that’s a factor on big Clarks Hill.

Ronnie Garrison | February 25, 2022

Bass at Clarks Hill are on all three stages of the spawn in March. You can catch bass by targeting spawning areas, and you can catch them on a variety of baits. On the lower lake you are likely to have a mixed bag of spotted bass and largemouth, but up the Georgia Little River above Price’s Bridge, spots are rare… at least so far.

At 72,000 acres and with 1,100 miles of shoreline, Clarks Hill is a big reservoir. March winds can go from an irritation while fishing to a dangerous and life-threatening situation in a few hours, so be aware of the wind when you are planning fishing trips this month.

Sterling Banks grew up in and still lives in Beech Island, South Carolina and has long fished Clarks Hill with his grandfather for “anything that would bite.” Sterling bought his first bass boat when he was 17 years old and started concentrating on bass. He found out he loved tournament fishing. He has been fishing with the Augusta Bass Club for about eight years and now he fishes BFLs, the Palmetto Boat Center trail, the Clarks Hill Committee Winter Individual Tournaments and most local pot tournaments. He fishes many of the Saturday Morning Open Tournaments (SMOT).

He has a great record for a young fisherman, including second place in Angler of the Year in the Augusta Bass Club his second year. Last year he won that title in his extremely competitive club. He also won the first Clarks Hill Classic, taking home $10,000! 

Clarks Hill is a good bass lake, particularly in March. Sterling Banks grew up fishing the lake, and he marked a map to set a pattern for bass in all three stages of the spawn.

Sterling looks for some early spawners that will be bedding even in early March, but he said most bass will still be prespawn. 

“Bass start moving up to spawning areas in late February,” Sterling said. 

Later in the month, those early spawners will be feeding postspawn, while others continue to move up prespawn and join those bass on the bed.

Sterling likes to fish fast but cover water carefully, looking for the bigger-fish pattern. He will have a swimbait, a squarebill crankbait and a spinnerbait ready to cover water quickly. When he finds some fish worth catching, he will slow down with a shaky head, a jig ’n pig and a weightless Senko. He always keeps a topwater bait ready because he expects to see some fish schooling on top this month.

We were scheduled to go out after one of his Clarks Hill Committee Winter Individual Tournaments in late January, but it was canceled due to high winds. That made us regroup, like you should do in case of high winds. With the northwest wind, we stayed in the Keg Creek area, sticking with protected areas. If wind forces you to find a protected creek this month, pick it apart, looking at spawning areas and finding exactly where the fish are that day. You can be safe and still catch fish, and you may learn some new things about the cover in the creek you choose.

The following locations give you an idea of the kinds of places Sterling fishes this month, and these 10 places will definitely hold fish.

No. 1: N 33º 39.197 – W 82º 17.402 — Going up Keg Creek past Wildwood Park, watch on your right for a small pocket with docks around it. There is a blue-roofed dock just inside the downstream point that has a dock with no top just outside the point. Stop at the uncovered dock, and fish around the cove. Sterling says bass will move up to spawning pockets like this, and the first ones up often hold under docks that have black floats. Later bass moving in will hold here, as well as some postspawn fish. The water here is usually clear enough you may see them as you fish around the cove, but even if you don’t, run a spinnerbait or swimbait right beside each float.

Sterling’s choice is a 3/8-oz. Greenfish Tackle double willowleaf bladed bait with one gold and one silver blade and a chartreuse-and-white skirt. He can fish it quickly and watch for activity around the docks. If the water is near 62 degrees, he will also look closely at the bank between docks for bass on the bed.

If he is seeing bigger fish, or if he is looking for quality fish in a tournament, Sterling chooses a swimbait to run by the dock floats. He says swimbaits tend to get fewer but bigger bites.

No. 2: N 33º 38.780 – W 82º 17.787 — Across the creek and a little upstream, there is a small pocket at the edge of Wildwood Park, and then there is a fairly flat bank up to the next narrow cove. Just upstream of the first pocket is a small point with a group of sweetgum trees in the water. It also has a big rock on the bank and another that was barely visible with the water 2 feet low like it was when we went out.

Stop on this point and fish upstream to the next small cove. This big flat is a spawning area, but Sterling expects to see bass cruising it looking for food prespawn and postspawn. He will keep his boat in about 12 feet of water and cast his spinnerbait or squarebill, moving along quickly while watching for any cruising fish or any on the bed if the water is warm enough. 

Try to hit any cover like rock or wood you see with both baits. Sterling likes a Strike King 1.5 crankbait in craw or chartreuse and white. A squarebill will bump off cover, and when it deflects is often when you get bit.

No. 3: N 33º 39.736 – W 82º 16.454 — Go to the last island between Keg and Chigoe Creek, and fish around it if the wind is not too bad. There is a sign that says “Grace” with a wreath on top on the Chigoe Creek side, and there’s a small cross on the Keg Creek side. Stop out in 20 feet of water off the end of the point, and cover both sides and the end of the point with your jig ’n pig and shaky head.

This point is good year-round since it is a main creek point with very deep water and rocks, but prespawn and postspawn bass use it moving in and out of the creeks, and spots will spawn on it, too. Sterling rigs a 1/2-oz. green-and-brown Greenfish Tackle Cane Boss Jig with a green-pumpkin Zoom Speed Craw on it. He often dips the tails in chartreuse JJ’s or Spike-It, and also likes to soak the trailer in clear JJ’s Magic. 

Try to fish the entire point from 2 feet to 20 feet deep with both baits until you find where bass are holding that day. Concentrate on the depth where you are getting bites.

No. 4: N 33º 39.698 – W 82º 17.049 — Going up Chigoe Creek there is a small island on your left with two bushes on it. The marker pole has a U.S. flag on it. Stop out in 20 feet of water, and work all the way around the island, hitting the rocks on the bottom in shallow water with your squarebill and deeper rocks with your jig ’n pig.

This is another transition area in March, and spots will spawn here, too. It is also a herring spawning area. Many largemouth head out to places like this to take advantage of the herring spawn as soon as the bass come off the bed. Before herring were introduced into Clarks Hill, the postspawn largemouth tended to stay in the coves and feed, and some still do, but many postspawn largemouth now head to open water.

That is why Sterling keeps a topwater bait like a Sammy on deck even in early March. He says he often sees fish schooling on top this month and wants to be ready to cast to them. A chrome Sammy works well, too.

No. 5: N 33º 39.633 – W 82º 17.306 — The next marker on your left, just before you get to the powerlines, is a drum-shaped danger marker on a pole. Sterling calls these places “drum holes.” They hold fish year-round, but they are especially good now as bass are moving both in and out.

Stop in 30 feet of water and work around it like in hole 4. The bottom drops fast, and there are rocks all the way around the marker, as well as some brushpiles, too, so watch for them. This is another good herring spawning area.

No. 6: N 33º 39.523 – W 82º 18.148 — Near the back of Chigo Creek the channel makes a sharp turn to the left. There is a small cove to the right and another smaller creek enters almost straight ahead in the turn. The point to the right of this smaller channel between it and the cove is clay with rock on it and runs way out.

Stay out in 20 feet of water, and cover the entire point with a jig and shaky head. The end of the point drops into the main channel, and the left side drops into the smaller channel, making it a great prespawn and postspawn point.

Work both baits slowly, hitting every rock on the point. Sterling rigs a green-pumpkin Trick Worm on a Greenfish Tackle Crawball shaky head, and he often dips the tail in chartreuse JJ’s Magic. He crawls it along the bottom, shaking it a little when he hits rock.

No. 7: N 33º 40.083 – W 82º 17.453 — Going out of Chigoe Creek past the powerlines, the first big cove on your left splits into two small arms in the back. Go back into it to the small point on your right across from the point that is between the two arms. Start fishing at the dock on the right that has a big ski boat under it.

Fish all the way around the cove, running your spinnerbait, squarebill and swimbait along dock floats and any cover between them while also watching for bedding and cruising fish. This arm has clay, rocks, sand, little cuts and docks—everything prespawn, postspawn and spawning bass need.

Here and at other places, if Sterling sees fish or catches a couple on his spinnerbait or swimbait, he will go back over the same docks with a weightless 6-inch green-pumpkin Senko. He pitches it right beside the floats and between them, both on the outside and inside of the dock, and he watches his line as the bait sinks.

Sometimes the fish hold right against the float, other times they may be suspended anywhere from the float down to holding on the bottom. Try to figure out the depth they are holding. If there is any brush in front of or under the dock, work it with your Senko or shaky head. Sterling’s forward-facing sonar helps him find the brush.

No. 8: N 33º 39.970 – W 82º 16.969 — The downstream point of the next big cove has big boulders from the bank out to 30 feet deep, making it a great staging area for both prespawn and postspawn fish. The bottom is clay, and that combination of rock and clay is a good crayfish habitat, too. March bass love crayfish.

Stay out in 30 feet of water and count every rock—fish slowly—from 2 to 30 feet deep with your jig. Crawl it up one side, across the top and give it line to stay against the rock on the downside. Make your jig look like an easy crayfish or bream meal.

No. 9: N 33º 39.926 – W 82º 14.908 — Go out to the mouth of Keg Creek to the small island just off the bank on your right. It is about halfway between Petersburg Campground and Trade Wind Marina. Stop on the main bank point behind the island.

Watch for schooling fish out on the blow-through, but start fishing as you go upstream, hitting the big flats going into the next two upstream pockets. These small main-lake pockets are some of the first places bass pull up on for the spawn. 

Go all the way from the island to the upstream point of the second pocket, keeping your boat in about 12 feet of water and casting your spinnerbait and squarebill while watching for cruising fish. Cast up to 2 feet of water, and try to hit any cover out to 12 feet deep.

If you see cruisers, cast your swimbait or weightless Senko ahead of them. For this and dock floats, Sterling rigs a 5- to 6-inch shad-colored Berkley Hollow Belly swimbait on a 5/0 belly weighted hook. Run the bait in front of any fish you see.

No. 10: N 33º 39.870 – W 82º 15.696 — Go back upstream to the rip-rap point that has a wooden seawall. It’s on the upstream side of Petersburg Campground. Watch for schooling fish and any herring spawn activity on this point. Keep your boat in at least 12 feet of water, and cast your squarebill and spinnerbait while you look for cruising or bedding bass.  

Fish around the two small pockets upstream of the campground—this is similar to the coves in hole 9. These coves are protected from any winds out of the south and allow you to fish on windy days.

Check out Sterling’s places to fish this month to see the kinds of coves and structure he likes. Every creek on the lake has similar places. Try his baits or use your favorites to catch March bass on Clark Hill.

 

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