Lake Russell Summertime Spotted Bass
Fish the marker poles for lots of July bites at Lake Russell.
Ronnie Garrison | July 2, 2018
Does catching 100 bass a day sound good, even if they are smaller spotted bass? Lake Russell is full of spotted bass in the 11- to 13-inch range to the point of being badly over crowded with these aggressive bass. That makes Lake Russell a great place to go this month to hone your hook-setting skills and try out new baits. And it’s a great reservoir to take a kid big-lake bass fishing where they’re going to get bites and have a lot of fun.
Lake Russell is a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reservoir on the Savannah River between bigger Clarks Hill and Hartwell. Dammed in 1984, it is also one of our newest major reservoirs. In its early years, largemouth abounded with quality bass common. Most tournaments took 20-lb. stringers to win.
Due to midnight stockings by bucket biologists, spotted bass have taken over the lake. Now a 12-lb. limit will do well in tournaments, and largemouth are rare. A few are still caught, and some decent spots can be caught if you tailor your methods and baits for bigger bites, but you won’t catch nearly as many fish.
Daelyn Whaley is a rising senior at Abbeville High School and is on the school’s fishing team. Her father, Trad Whaley, a well-known tournament angler in the area, and he is the school coach. She definitely comes from a fishing family. Trad also mentored his nephew, Carter McNeil, who was a BASS High School All American a couple of years ago and now is doing well on the Bethel University fishing team.
Daelyn started fishing with her dad and granddad as soon as she could pick up a rod, and she fished her first tournament when in the sixth grade with her dad Trad. She has learned the mechanics of fishing, as well as how to find fish under varying conditions. She is a five-time national qualifier on the high school trails, and she and her partner were the only all-girl team at the nationals last year.
Daelyn’s record is impressive. She is a two-time South Carolina state champion, one time on the South Carolina DNR championship and the other on the BASS High School trail.
Lake Russell is one of her favorite lakes, especially for having fun catching lots of fish.
“Lake Russell is one of the easiest lakes to pattern July bass,” Daelyn said.
According to Daelyn, all you really have to do is go to the channel marker poles, fish around them, and you will catch bass.
All of the reef marks indicate the kind of structure bass like in the summer. Most of them have rock structure, and fishermen have added brushpiles on most all of them.
For the beginning of a July trip on Russell, Daelyn will have some topwater baits ready to fish shallow to try to catch a largemouth roaming the sparse cover on the bank. A Zoom Horny Toad, a Pop-R and a walking bait will draw strikes from any shallow largemouth.
After a brief go at shallow fish, it’s time to fish for the deeper summertime bass. A shaky head, a drop shot and a Pulse Jig will be the baits of choice for fishing the points and humps marked by poles. Those baits are best for numbers. For bigger spots, a crankbait is the best bait to throw.
Daelyn says spotted bass like to move horizontally rather than vertically at Russell. They suspend off the more shallow structure, either over open water or in the plentiful standing timber. In July, they usually move to 10 to 15 feet of water on the humps and points, but bigger fish will usually be a little deeper.
Once you find the depth they are feeding, you can concentrate your casts to that depth. Rocks and brush at that depth should be your targets.
We fished the following places in early June and caught bass on almost all of them.
No. 1: N 34º 03.955 – W 82º 39.130 — The coves at the Highway 72 boat ramp are constantly restocked with bass brought to weigh-ins during Lake Russell tournaments. The coves in this areas have some grass in them that holds fish shallow, especially under low-light conditions. It is always worth the time to fish around the two coves since you might, as Daelyn says, “luck into a largemouth.”
Start just inside the first cove past the ramp, and work around it with a Horny Toad, casting it into the grass and burbling it back out to the boat. There are also some logs and other wood cover here that is worth a cast. Daelyn likes a black or white bait, depending on the bait present. If you see any shad in the area, choose white. Otherwise black is better, since the bass will be feeding on bluegill.
The middle point between the two coves is also worth a few casts with either a drop shot or shaky head. Fish all around this point, fan casting both baits across the point from all angles.
No. 2: N 34º 04.769 – W 82º 38.659 — Rip-rap always holds bass, and a good place to check it out is the railroad bridge across the mouth Savannah River just upstream of Beaverdam Creek. Go to the point on the right (as you’re heading toward the bridge from Beanverdam), and cast your popping or walking plug near the rocks. Keep your boat out from them so you can work the bait at a 45-degree angle, covering the rocks from against the bank to 10 feet deep.
Shad colors like silver or white are good, but Daelyn often uses a gold plug to offer them something a little different. Fish all the way around the rip-rap. Also try some casts to the pilings. Work a topwater right beside them, and run a wobble head jig by them. Fish different depths, and if the fish are consistently down 15 feet deep, you can get right over them and wiggle a drop shot at their depth.
No. 3: N 34º 04.908 – W 82º 38.379 — Just upstream of the railroad bridge, the second main-lake point on the right has a big hump off it. It used to have a pole marker on it. This is a good place to find fish feeding, since it has a lot of brush on it.
Start with your boat off the sides in about 30 feet of water, and cast a Pulse Jig or shaky head across the hump. The hump tops out about 15 feet deep, and current coming down the river hits it since the channel runs just off it. Also try a deep-running crankbait over the hump. The crankbait seems to draw bites from bigger fish, but you will get fewer bites. Daelyn likes a 5XD or 6 XD or DD22N in shad colors with a little chartreuse. Try to hit the tops of brushpiles with your crankbait.
As you fish around the hump, keep your eye on your depthfinder for brush. When you see a brushpile, use a drop shot worm to fish it. The deeper brush, 20 to 25 feet deep, is more likely to hold bigger fish than the brush in 15 to 20 feet of water.
No. 4: N 34º 05.001 – W 82º 39.561 — Going up Beaverdam Creek, look for red pole marker 4. It has an osprey nest on it, as most do. Daelyn says there is a lot going on here that bass like. The big flat that narrows to a point is an old roadbed. There is brush all over it, and the creek channel makes a big bend just off it.
Keep your boat in 25 feet of water, and make long casts with your shaky head, Pulse Jig or crankbait. Also watch for brush under you for the drop shot. The “Pulse Fish” is a Pulse Jig that is Daelyn’s favorite. It is made locally and comes in two bait packs either with or without a fluke-like trailer. It is easy to fish. Cast it out, let it sink to the desired depth, and reel it slowly back to the boat. Its wobbling action will get bites from any bass feeding around the area.
No. 5: N 34º 04.921 – W 82º 40.497 — Red marker 8 is the biggest community hole on the lake, according to Daelyn, for a good reason. It always holds lots of bass. It is at the edge of a huge flat where Beaverdam Creek makes a big swing around it, and a smaller creek branch comes out and joins it.
Start near the pole on the downstream side, and fish it hard. The downstream side is best. Watch for brush around it. Make long casts with all your baits. Current helps, as does a little wind on the point. Afternoons are often best here since current is more likely to be running then, especially on hot afternoons. And weekdays typically have more current than weekends.
No. 6: N 34º 04.937 – W 82º 41.225 — Across the creek, green marker 7 indicates a point where a roadbed comes out. There is brush on it, and the channel swings in by it. Stop out in 15 feet of water, and fish the channel lip at that depth as you go around it. Then fish up on top of the point with all your baits.
A deep-running crankbait will often catch bigger bass. Trad hooked the biggest fish of the day here on one, a spot that looked to be close to 3 pounds. If you are catching fish on a crankbait, you will often move the school to the boat. Keep a watch on your depthfinder, and when you see fish under the boat, use a drop shot to catch them.
No. 7: N 34º 04.866 – W 82º 41.718 — Green channel marker 9 is on the end of a long island in the mouth of the creek with Beaverdam Marina in it. The creek channel runs right beside the island, and the point of the island around the pole has pea gravel on the bottom, something spotted bass love.
Stop on the downstream side of the marker pole, and fish around the point. There is a slight indention in the point on the downstream side that is a key spot. Start with your boat out in 15 plus feet of water, and cast your crankbait to bump the bottom 12 to 15 feet deep. Then follow up with Pulse Jig, shaky head and drop shot.
Daelyn likes to put a 6-inch Berkley Havoc Bottom Hopper about 6 inches above a 3/8-oz. weight. Translucent colors are usually best in Russell’s clear water. Fish the bait on 6- to 8-lb. fluorocarbon line, and either cast and drag it or fish it vertically in brush.
No. 8: N 34º 05.366 – W 82º 37.837 — Back under the railroad bridge, Rocky River is to the right, and the Savannah River goes to the left. Going up Rocky River, at the mouth of it red marker 2 has the usual osprey nest on it, almost blocking out the number. The river channel swings in to it, and it is deep all around the marker.
Keep your boat out in 25 feet of water, and work all around the pole. There is rock and scattered brush on the bottom, and as in all these places watch for fish and brush under the boat to lower your drop shot. Wind does not affect these places as much as current, but current really turns the bite on. When the current is moving, keep your boat on the down-current side, and cast up current, moving your baits back with a more natural baitfish action.
No. 9: N 34º 05.906 – W 82º 37.647 — Red marker 9 in Rocky River sits off a point at Calhoun Falls State Park. This point has a rock ridge that runs off it that is a key spot. Watch for it on your depthfinder, and probe for it with your shaky head. Fish all around this point, starting on the downstream side. All your baits are good here. A shaky head will let you feel the bottom a little better than the drop shot will. Daelyn uses a 1/8-oz. head when fishing shallow, but for depths of 10 feet or more, she goes to a 1/4-oz. head. A Berkley Havoc Bottom Hopper in green pumpkin is a good choice to put on it.
No. 10: N 34º 06.107 – W 82º 37.727 — The next point upstream on the right does not have a pole marker on it, but it a good summertime point. Daelyn says when tournament fishing, unmarked points like this will usually get less pressure, so seek them out. This is a round clay point at water’s edge, but it runs out and narrows as it runs toward the channel.
There is brush on it, and it holds fish like the other places. Keep your boat out in deep water, and fish all around it, covering it from the bank under low-light conditions out to 20 feet deep during the day.
All these places are easy to find and hold good schools of bass all summer. Check them out, catch a lot of fish, and have fun. Since Russell is so overcrowded with spotted bass, keep a limit to eat. You will not hurt the bass population by removing small spotted bass for the frying pan, and you might even help bring back some of the largemouth action once well-known at Russell.
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