Shallow Shad Attract Active October Bass On Lake Russell

A summer of tough fishing is over on Lake Russell. In the fall, the bass move back to the shallows and feed aggressively.

Ronnie Garrison | October 1, 2008

Lake Russell can be fantastic in the fall, when bass finally pull out of suspension in standing timber and move shallow. Terry “T.J.” Johnson is one of the lake’s best, and he showed GON 10 locations to find and catch Russell largemouths this month.

Only one big lake in Georgia offers undeveloped shorelines, lots of largemouth and spotted bass and relatively peaceful fishing. Lake Russell has everything a bass fisherman could want, and October is one of the best months to take advantage of a great shallow bite there.

Russell is a 26,650-acre U.S. Army Corps of Engineers lake on the Savannah River between Hartwell and Clarks Hill. It has a pumpback facility at the dam, so it stays full and does not have the low-water problems at the lakes on either end of it right now.

When it was built in 1984, standing timber was left all over the lake. This offers bass a lot of open-water cover, and fishing here is tough in the summer when bass suspend in the timber. This month the bass move back shallow to a wide variety of cover that is an angler’s dream.

Terry “T.J.” Johnson was born in Hart County and has always lived in that area. He has fished all his life and joined the Hartwell Bass Club when he was 16 years old. Over the years he has concentrated on fishing local pot tournaments like the night tournaments on Russell during the summer and the weekend tournament during cooler weather.

One of Terry’s sponsors is 72 Marine, and he fishes their tournaments and has won two of them on Russell. He consistently wins the night and weekend tournaments, too. In one three-week stretch of fishing all three tournaments each week at Russell, he won six and finished second twice out of the nine tournaments. He says he won 12 to 15 of the tournaments he fished on Russell this past summer.

Terry Johnson with a keeper large- mouth caught on hole 6, which is the rip-rap at the Middle Heardmont Road bridge in Beaverdam Creek.

“Lake Russell is a hard lake to pat- tern,” T.J. told me.

But the good news is the cooler weather in October makes it easier to find and catch them. Bass follow shad into the creeks and shallow water, and you can follow them and catch them shallow all month long.

To make things even more simple, T.J. says you can stay in Beaverdam Creek and catch fish all day, saving time and gas by not running all over the lake. Beaverdam has any kind of structure and cover you need to fish this month.

Since the bass are shallow and active, you can cover water quickly to find and catch them. Terry relies on a crankbait, spinnerbait or Trick Worm for most of his October fishing. Rig your rods with a Rapala DT-6 in shad or chartreuse colors, a three-bladed Buckeye spinnerbait in white with gold blades and a merthiolate Zoom Trick Worm. You’ll have all the baits you need for October bassing on Lake Russell.

If T.J. is on the water early or it stays overcast, he will also throw a Buckeye buzzbait, but most days he sticks with his primary baits. He is looking for bass feeding on shad, so he does not need big baits to imitate the blue- back herring. T.J. says bass at Russell seem to target shad more than the bluebacks this time of year, especially in the shallow water he likes to fish.

Rip-rap, humps, long shallow points and the backs of pockets with wood cover are the kinds of places T.J. likes to fish. He starts with the crankbait on all of them except the backs of pockets where the spinnerbait and floating worm shine.

One benefit to fishing shallow cover in October, especially in tournaments, is you are more likely to catch largemouths than spots. Largemouths tend to be bigger, although the illegal introduction of spots into the lake has hurt the largemouth population. Terry says he used to see five-fish limits heavier than 20 pounds on a regular basis, but those days are gone. An example of the shift is that T.J. caught nine largemouths heavier than 9 pounds each in the summer of 1993, but now he seldom sees a 9-lb. large- mouth since spots were introduced.

T.J.’s biggest Russell largemouth is an incredible 13-lb., 3-oz. monster, and he caught a 5-lb., 15-oz. spot from the lake. Back in the 1990s he weighed in a limit of five fish that pushed the scales to more than 30 pounds, and more recently his best tournament catch was five at 24.12 pounds.

The following 10 spots are typical of the kind of places T.J. fishes this month. Check them out using his methods, and you will get an idea of what to look for and how to fish Russell in

No. 1: N34° 04.734–W82° 42.103 — The creek just upstream of the creek with Beaverdam Marina in it is full of standing timber and holds fish year-round. In the fall the shad migrate toward the back of the creek, and T.J. says that is an excellent place to catch them all day long. It is not easy getting to the back, especially if the water is down a foot or two, but once you get back there you can stay all day.

There is a channel marked with green channel markers on poles on the right side going in. Those markers are right on the edge of the timber, and you can run it at full pool, but if the water is down at all, you have to idle in. Stay to the right of the markers going in. The first marker at the mouth of the creek has an osprey nest on it, and the way- point above gets you to the mouth of the creek.

When you get back in the creek to where it splits, that’s the end of the standing timber. Start working the banks with a Trick Worm, spinnerbait or crankbait, hitting any cover you see. T.J. says this is a good place to catch some big bass in October, so work all of it carefully, making repeated casts to areas where you catch a fish.

No. 2: N34° 05.677–W82° 43.749 — Running up Beaverdam Creek, the first bridge you come to is the Pearl Mill Road bridge, and it is a good place to catch bass. Bridges offer a narrowing down of the creek and a natural holding place for bass as they migrate up the creek. The rip-rap and pilings all hold bass this time of year.

Start on the corners of the rip-rap with a crankbait, and work it down the rocks. If you catch bass at a certain depth, try to parallel that depth line with your casts. If there is any current, position your boat downstream and cast back upstream, working your bait with the current in a natural way.

Remember the current can run both ways here due to the pumpback, and the wind can create current, too. If you can’t tell if there is current, look closely at the pilings to see it. Any cur- rent improves the fishing here and on other bridges.

On the downstream side of the bridge is a boat ramp. T.J. says to be sure to fish it, too, before leaving. Hit the rip-rap on both sides of the ramp and the ramp itself. Shad will hold around it and draw bass into it, and you can catch them on crankbaits or spinnerbaits.

No. 3. N 34 06.125 – W 82 44.286 — Heading upstream on your right, the second cove, the one just upstream of channel marker 32, has two “danger” markers on poles marking the standing timber in the back of the pocket to your left going in. T.J. says the timber in the back is unusually shallow, and this is an excellent place to throw a buzzbait, spinnerbait and a weightless Trick Worm.

This is a good early morning spot, but you can catch fish in it all day long, especially if the day is overcast. Fish all around this pocket, working your buzzbait, spinnerbait and Trick Worm over any brush or logs you see. Also fish around the stumps of the standing timber out in the cove. Work your Trick Worm near the surface, keeping it in sight so you can see hits and set the hook. Bass are active enough this time of year to come up and hit a bait worked near the surface.

No. 4. N 34 06.034 – W 82 45.464 — Across the lake, on your left going upstream just before you get to the rail- road bridge, a creek runs way back and has an old pond dam in it. You will see the lighter-colored water and some brush on the old dam near the back of the creek. The dam is cut on the right side. Stop just downstream of the old pond dam, and work it and all around the back of the creek with buzzbaits and Trick Worms.

Bass will follow shad back here, so watch for activity on top, especially early in the morning. You will often see balls of shad right on the surface and then see a bass bust them. Try to hit any activity with your buzzbait. If bass aren’t busting the shad, try your Trick Worm worked through the school of shad for bass holding under them.

Work any cover you see with both baits, too. Bass will hold on stumps, logs and brush waiting on passing shad, so offer them an easy meal. Remember to keep your Trick Worm in sight, and set the hook if it disappears. Use a bright color, so it is easier to see.

No. 5: N 34° 06.340 – W 82° 45.195 — Go out to the railroad bridge, and fish it. Again, the corners are the best place to find bass holding, and T.J. says to keep the current in your face. He works his crankbait along the rocks and by the pilings with a stop-and-go motion, trying to fish it with an irregular retrieve to make it look more like an injured shad.

On the rocks, work your bait across the corners and parallel to the rocks. Also make casts up by the pilings, and run your crankbait right beside them. Shad feed on the algae on the pilings, so bass look for them to be touching the concrete. Get as close to the piling as you can.

No. 6: N 34º 06.435 – W 82° 45.361 — Just above the railroad bridge is the Middle Heardmont Road bridge, and a boat ramp is just upstream of it. Both are good areas, so work them with crankbaits and spinnerbaits before going up the creek. Watch for shad along the rip-rap, and make some casts to any schools of bait- fish you see. Also watch your depthfinder. If the schools of shad are holding deeper, you can get an idea of the depth you need to fish from the depth they are holding.

If the bass seem to be sluggish and don’t want a fast-moving crankbait or spinnerbait, try a Trick Worm on the rip-rap. Cast parallel to the rocks, and work the worm back just under the surface a couple of feet out from the rocks. Bass will come up from the rocks below to hit, and any holding very shallow right on the edge won’t have to move far to hit the soft jerkbait.

No. 7: N34° 06.721–W82° 46.181 — Heading upstream after you pass channel marker 42, you will see a small island in the mouth of a pocket on your left. That island is part of an old pond dam that runs way out toward the creek channel and is a good place to find fall bass waiting on schools of shad. Stay well off the island, and watch your depthfinder. Make long casts upstream across the pond dam, running your crankbait back across it. Also fish a Trick Worm across it. The shallow water runs way out, so stay off it, and work all around it.

The water is usually clear here but will muddy up after a heavy rain, if we ever get another one in this area. Stick with light line in about 10-lb. test while fishing a Trick Worm so the line won’t spook the fish. Light line also makes it easier to throw a weightless bait. T.J. ties his line straight to the hook and does not use a swivel ahead of the Trick Worm. He says your line will twist some, but the worm has much more natural action and does not go head down from the weight of the swivel.

No. 8: N 34° 07.073 – W 82° 47.242 — Run up the creek until you see the powerlines crossing ahead of you. Start fishing on the upstream point of the second cut downstream of the powerlines (on your right going upsteam). Work a crankbait on the point, then switch to your Trick Worm back in the cut. Fish it going in and out, then switch back to your crankbait. Work the clay bank and small points going downstream all the way to where the bank has lots of rocks on it, about 300 yards downstream from the cut.

T.J. says this area always holds bass, and you can have a good catch just working this bank. It is the outside bend of the creek and drops off into deep water, and shad move along it going up the creek. Hit all the cover, trying to find the bass holding and waiting on shad.

No. 9: N34° 06.983–W82° 47.319 — Marker 45 sits in the channel. It is right at the powerlines where the channel swings to your right (going upstream) then swings all the way back across. There is a hump just down- stream of the channel marker, and the hump and the point across from it are three good places to find bass schooled up in October.

Throw your crankbait right on the bank of the point and work it out, stopping and starting it with an erratic motion. Bass will sometimes get in very shallow water this time of year, so cast as shallow as you can, and work your bait back. Fish it with a start-and- stop action all the way back to the boat.

No. 10: N34° 06.729–W82° 47.860 — Go up to channel marker 47, and you will see two long points on the right, one just downstream of the mark- er and the other just upstream of it. Work both points then turn and cast back toward the far bank. The creek channel here has standing timber on the far side of it, and bass often hold in it this time of year. They should be on the points feeding or holding out in the timber in this area. Keep your boat off the bank, but not as far out as the channel. Make casts across the channel to cover both sides. Work your crankbait across the lips of the channel and over the trees. Fish like this from 50 yards upstream of marker 47 to about the same distance downstream of it.

These 10 locations will all hold bass this month, and you can bet T.J. will be fishing them. Check them out, and you can find similar spots all over the lake. You don’t have to stay in Beaverdam Creek to catch fish. Other creeks will have similar spots, and you can concentrate on another creek without running around burning expensive gas all day.

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