Russell Bass Move To Summer Hotspots
All-American Carter McNeil marks a map with 10 locations.
If you want to catch a lot of bass on a beautiful lake with a natural shoreline and clear water, head to Lake Russell. Just make sure you keep some small spotted bass for a fish fry!
Lake Russell is a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers lake on the Savannah River between Hartwell and Clarks Hill. Shoreline development is restricted, so it is one of our prettiest lakes. With no houses around the lake, it doesn’t get nearly as crowded with pleasure boaters.
The lake has a lot of good rocky points and humps that spotted bass love. And the channels are marked by poles where they drop off, so it is easy to find points, channel drops and bass. Brushpiles have been put out on many of the pole markers, and there is standing timber all over the lake. Great cover is easy to find on Russell, but a good map sure helps!
Spots were illegally introduced into Russell not long after it was filled, and they have overcrowded the lake, as often happens. Spots are fun to catch and eat, but they tend to take over a largemouth population. Russell has a history of being a great largemouth lake, but it’s beginning to see too many “rats,” spots around 12 inches long. There is no size limit on spotted bass, so you can keep 10 a day to eat, and most Russell regulars would thank you.
Carter McNeil lives near Lake Russell in Abbeville, South Carolina and fishes with the Abbeville Panthers High School team. He also fishes many pot and open tournaments on Russell and other area lakes. His grandfather Danny Whaley and uncle Trad Whaley are well-known tournament anglers, and they brought Carter up fishing and taught him a lot. Carter fished his first tournament when only 10 years old.
Their training has paid off. Carter is going to Bethel College this year on a fishing scholarship. He earned an incredible honor this year when B.A.S.S. named him to their inaugural High School All American Bass Team, one of only 12 young anglers nationwide to get that recognition.
The press release on the All American Team said about Carter, “He and his partner won the B.A.S.S. Nation High School Southern Divisional on the Pee Dee River in April and took third place in the 2015 Costa Bassmaster High School Classic Exhibition. McNeil is the founder and president of his fishing team and a volunteer for Corps of Engineers projects aimed at planting aquatic vegetation on South Carolina’s Lake Russell.”
He also volunteers for the Claire Whaley foundation tournaments that raise money for families with special-needs children. Carter likes fishing Russell, and he does well in tournaments there.
He says in June the bass will be on their summer holes—points and humps out from spawning creeks, and they can be caught on a variety of baits.
“Shallow water that drops off fast into deep water is key this time of year,” Carter said.
Any hump or point that falls into the channel will hold bass, and the key depth to catch them is 8 to 15 feet deep. He wants his boat to be in at least 20 feet of water when casting to water 8 feet deep.
Having the right baits to cover those key depths is fairly simple. A Norman’s Deep Little N, a drop-shot worm, a shaky head and a Pulse Jig all work well and are really all you need for a good day of fishing on Russell in June. However, for bigger fish, he will have a big worm like a Texas-rigged Zoom Ol Monster to flip standing timber.
The following 10 locations identified by Carter are good right now and give you examples of the kinds of places you want to fish in June.
No. 1: N 34º 08.284 – W 82º 41.570 — Go up the Savannah River to channel markers 43 and 45, and stop about one third of the way across the river out from them. There is a hump that comes up right by the channel that tops out about 10 feet deep. There are brushpiles on the hump and standing timber around it. You will be at the tip of a triangle with the two channel markers on the bank as the base.
When you find the hump, stop off the river side of it with your boat in 30 feet of water, and cast to the top in about 10 feet. Carter starts with a Deep Little N in a baitfish color like sexy shad or glimmer blue, with some chartreuse in it. Cast past the top of the hump so the bait is hitting bottom on top of the hump in 10 feet of water. Carter got a keeper spot on the crankbait here the day we fished.
Carter reels his crankbait fairly fast and sweeps his rod every few feet to make the bait dart forward. He says bass will often follow the bait, and when it speeds up, they will eat it. Fan cast all over the hump from the river side with a crankbait, and then fish a jig-head worm, drop shot and Pulse Jig around it, too.
No. 2: N 34º 08.039 – W 82º 41.513 — Go in toward the small creek with a big island in the mouth of it just downstream of channel marker 43. Behind and downstream of that channel marker, a ditch comes off the bank in the mouth of a spawning creek that is behind the island. Bass move to the ditch in June. Stop in about 20 feet of water, and cast to the top of the flat along the ditch.
This is the kind of “feeding table,” a flat area that drops into deep water that Carter concentrates on in June. Fish your crankbait over the top of the flat and ditch edge then try your other baits. Remember that bass seem to feed best in 8 to 15 feet of water so work that depth hard.
Carter keeps a morning-dawn-colored Robo Worm on a drop-shot rig ready to drop down to fish he sees on his depthfinder. He likes a fairly heavy lead to get to the bottom fast and stay there as he gently twitches his rod tip to make the worm jiggle in place. His leader is about a foot long.
No. 3: N 34º 07.677 – W 82º 40.182 — Across the river and a little downstream, a fairly big creek enters the lake between channel markers 42 and 44. In the mouth of the creek, not far off the upstream point of it, you will see four shoal markers. Out from the downstream point of the creek there is a good hump. It is way off the red-clay, small bluff bank on the point.
This hump tops out about 15 feet deep, and an old roadbed crosses the deep side of it. Sit out on the river side in 30 feet of water, and cast across it. Carter will switch to a DD 22N on deeper places like this, so he can bump the bottom.
The bottom here is hard, a key since Carter says bass like hard bottoms. Fish this long hump. It will drop off some on a more narrow area and then come back up on the end of that section. Fish that area where it comes back up shallow.
No. 4: N 34º 07.163 – W 82º 40.277 — Back across the river and downstream, channel marker 35 sits on the upstream side of a point where the channel hits it. On the back side, the point drops off fast, and there are some brushpiles here and on almost all the other places, too.
Stop in at least 20 feet of water on the back side of the marker, and cast your crankbait and jig head up on it. Rocks here hold mostly spotted bass, and we got a couple of small ones when we fished it. Work from the end of the point toward the bank a short distance, keeping most of your casts in the area around the pole.
Current moving across this point in both directions—from generating power and pumpback at the dam—makes this and other places much better. Baitfish move across the shallow water with the current, and the bass wait on them to feed as they pass.
No. 5: N 34º 06.090 – W 82º 39.937 — Downstream on the same side, Indian Creek enters the lake between channel markers 29 and 31. There is a small island on the downstream side and underwater timber signs warn that the creek is full of standing trees. You can see many of them sticking a little out of the water.
In tournaments or other times when bigger bass are the goal, Carter will go to timber like this and flip it with a big worm. He rigs a big worm or lizard Texas style behind a 1/4-oz. sinker for a slow fall and flips it to the trees, letting it fall on the shady side of the trunk. The bigger the wood, the better. Bass will hold on these trees at different depths at different times of the day, and the higher the sun, the deeper they go.
Carter will work through the trees, targeting the bigger ones, going into the creek. He lets his worm fall, watching his line for a tick or if the worm stops falling before hit should. That is the time to set the hook. He seldom lets his worm go all the way to the bottom, expecting the fish to be suspended in the tree.
No: 6. N 34º 05.817 – W 82º 39.543 — Farther downstream, on the same side of the river, there is a big double cove between channel markers 27 and 29. The middle point of this cove is a good feeding flat, and it drops off into deeper water on the downstream side. Carter says many fishermen ride past places like this a little off the main points, so they don’t get fished as hard as the spots marked by poles.
Stay on the downstream side of the middle point out in 20 plus feet of water, and cast up on the point to 8 to 10 feet of water with all your baits. When fishing a Pulse Jig, Carter puts a white or translucent fluke on a 1/2-oz. head and counts it down to the depth fish are holding. He then reels it back with a steady retrieve, keeping it at that depth.
The Pulse Jig is a wobble head jig and is a more subtle bait than the crankbait, but you can fish it faster than a jig head or drop shot. Keep it near the bottom, and don’t set the hook when you feel a hit. Just keep reeling until your rod loads up, and then sweep it to bury the hook.
No. 7: N 34º 04.238 – W 82º 39.332 — In the mouth of Beaverdam Creek, just upstream of Elbert Park, usually called the Highway 72 ramp, the first big cove on the left going upstream has three islands in the mouth of it. The downstream one has a shoal marker on a point running off it toward the channel.
This big long point has some rocks on it, and fish feed on it. Stay out in about 20 feet of water, and cast up on the top of the point to about 8 feet, and work your baits back. Stay on the river side of the point.
“Wind is your aggravating friend,” Carter said.
Some wind blowing across these spots helps, just like the current helps, making baitfish move across them. It makes boat control and positioning more difficult, but wind can help the fishing as long as it is not so strong it keep you from being able to fish. We caught a couple of small spots here, so bass were on it already in mid May.
No. 8: N 34º 04.909 – W 82º 40.477 — Going into Beaverdam Creek, channel marker 8 sits on a hump off the bank. There is a shoal marker between it and the point. Carter says this is one of the biggest community holes on the lake, and there is a race to it in tournaments because it holds so many bass. The water drops off on the downstream side of the channel marker and forms a ledge going toward the bank. Stay on the downstream side in deep water, and cast up on the hump around the channel marker. Then work all the way to the point. There is a big flat that is an excellent feeding area, and fish hold all over the edge of the drop, so fish it carefully.
No. 9: N 34º 04.880 – W 82º 41.725 — Farther up Beaverdam Creek, channel marker 9 sits on the creek side of a small island. It marks a point coming off the island that drops into the channel. Carter says it is a very good rocky point that has some brush on it.
Stop on the downstream side near the island, and fish that side of the point out to and past the channel marker. This is the deeper side and holds the most fish, so Carter works it rather than the flatter upstream side. Fish all your baits. With the shaky head, Carter slides it along the bottom until he hits brush or rocks, then he stops it and shakes it a little before moving it more. He uses a 1/4-oz. homemade head and likes a Zoom red bug Trick Worm on it.
No. 10: N 34º 05.260 – W 82º 42.390 — Going upstream, Beaverdam Creek makes a fairly sharp bend around an island on the left side. On the right just off a point, channel marker 18 shows where a good flat drops off into the channel. The channel swings in right by it, making it even better.
Stay out in deep water, and cast along the shallow flat that runs parallel to the channel around the marker. Here and other places, keep a watch on your depthfinder for bass holding out in the deeper water. Carter got a spot here by dropping his drop-shot worm down to fish he saw holding well off the flat.
Check out these places, fish them the way Carter suggests, and try his baits. Once you get the pattern down, you can find many similar places all over the lake and catch bass.
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