The Lake Russell Reef Marker Staycee Scenario For Magnum Spots

When Brandon Davis casts a Staysee jerkbait on a Lake Russell main-lake point or hump, he expects a magnum spot to hammer it.

Brad Bailey | April 7, 2006

This 3-lb. Lake Russell spot hit a Staycee near a reef marker.

It is time to take Staysee fishing. At Lake Russell. On main-lake points and humps south of the Hwy 72 bridge.

According to bass fisherman Brandon Davis of Athens, that’s the formula for some great spotted-bass fishing in April.

On March 18, Brandon and I were on the lake to test the theory. We put in at the Elbert ramp, went under the Hwy 72 bridge and pulled up at the first channel marker on the South Carolina side. Marker 22 sits on a pole on the south end of a small, rocky island. There was a loon working bait just off the point, and gulls working the loon — a good sign.

Brandon picked up a rod with a chartreuse-shad-colored Staysee 90 SP tied on.

I knotted on an aurora blue Staysee — that I borrowed. Editors can’t afford these pricey bass-catchers. Well, they aren’t that bad, about $15.
The Staysee is a neutral-buoyancy jerkbait made by Lucky Craft. The lipped lure with an amazingly realistic paint job looks like an erratic blueback herring wiggling through the water. It runs about seven- to nine-feet deep, and when you don’t retrieve, it stays down.

The Staysee catches fish, which is encouraging bass fishermen to spring for the cash for the lure.

Brandon fishes a Staysee on 10-lb. P-Line fluorocarbon in the clear water of the south end of Lake Russell.

Lake Russell is primarily a largemouth-bass lake, but the population of spots is growing. For tournament anglers, a limit of the fat spotted bass from the south end of the lake is a good way to start — and then go look for a big largemouth to anchor the string.

“You can catch spotted bass in other areas of the lake,” said Brandon. “But the best spotted-bass habitat is south of the Hwy 72 bridge.”

Brandon made a long cast with the Staysee then reeled the lure down.
“First you want to get it down to the strike zone, and then you want to begin to jerk it back,” he said.

Brandon began a two-stroke, jerk-jerk-and-pause retrieve. The tip of his rod was held low, and it moved a foot or so every time he popped the rod to make the lure dart erratically.

“You see some guys really whipping their rod three or four feet,” said Brandon. “Sometimes that’s what the fish want. Sometimes they want a regular rythym, other times they want it more erratic.”

Brandon’s Staysee scenario at Lake Russell is to keep his boat in about 20 feet of water and cast up to a 10- or 12-foot depth on fast-breaking, main-lake points and humps.

“This is easy fishing,” said Brandon. “All the humps and points that you want to fish have marker poles on them to show you where they are. You just have to hit a few of them to find active fish. When you find a point with feeding fish, you can usually catch two or three before they quit. Then if you come back in an hour or two, there may be more fish that have moved up.”

One of the first details about fishing a Staysee that Brandon pointed out was to keep your drag set light.

“These baits have small treble hooks,” he said. “I keep the drag as light as I can so I don’t pull the hooks out. You can still thumb the spool if you need to put a little pressure on the fish, but usually you are out in deep water and there isn’t much for them to wrap around.”

We fished several main-lake and secondary points on the South Carolina side before crossing to the Georgia side to a marked hump off the north end of a small island. As Brandon said, there are reef markers and channel markers everywhere. The hump has two markers on it, and we began to circle in the 20-foot range chunking the Staysees, and we soon got the skunk out of the boat.

I had nearly completed a retrieve when my rod loaded up, then line began to peel off. It is a little disconcerting to have the drag set so loose, because it’s hard to put any pressure on the fish — but the fish did not come off. In Lake Russell’s very clear water, we could soon see the fish coming in — a spotted bass that would register 3.1 pounds on Brandon’s digital scales. The fat spot looked like it had swallowed a tennis ball.

“With five of those, you would be in good shape in any tournament on the lake,” said Brandon. “Usually when you are out on these main-lake points, the spots you catch are going to be good ones.”

This is open-water fishing. The markers where I caught the spot were a couple hundred yards off the bank. Just off the bank was another reef marker that we did not fish.

“I am not interested in that one,” said Brandon. “That would be just like fishing the bank.”

The open-water points and humps we fished had one thing in common, deep water nearby and standing timber. As we pulled off the hump with two markers, the depth dropped suddenly to 56 feet and timber showed up on the graph.

“The spots will winter in that timber and then move up onto the points and humps to feed,” said Brandon. “They don’t have to move far.”

Lake Russell also has some good-sized stripers. Will a Staysee catch a striped bass?

“Yeah, they will catch stripers,” said Brandon. “And they will scare you to death because they’ve got your $15 lure in their mouth.”

When you play a striper that has a Staysee in its mouth, you play it very carefully.

One unmarked hump we fished was about 50 yards off the bank and came up from water 30-feet deep to top out at six feet. “Spots will use a place like this to spawn,” said Brandon.

The first time we fished the hump, Brandon missed a fish. When we returned, he didn’t miss, but the bass was an odd one.

“I was just dead-sticking it (letting the lure suspend motionless) when it hit,” he said as he played the fish, then: “Get the net, this is a good one.”
And the bass was a good one, sort of.

The largemouth weighed 4.2 pounds, but it was in miserable shape with abrasions and cuts. It was either having a severe bout of springtime bacterial infection or maybe had survived a ride through the pumpback turbines at the nearby R.B. Russell dam.

We saw a number of bass boats on the lake the day we fished. Apparently a lot of them were practicing for the Hwy 72 Marine tournament which was held March 20. James Sanders and Charlie Hale won the tournament with six bass that weighed 17.06 pounds. The main-lake point, jerkbait pattern was one of the winning patterns.

During the day, we side-tripped into a couple of pockets of standing timber, sliding Brandon’s Triton through the trees. Brandon has been on the Triton Pro Staff with Boating Atlanta since ’97.

“The spots will move into this shallow timber and stage, waiting for the water temperature to come up to spawn,” said Brandon.

Fishing timber is definitely not a Staysee scenario, and we switched to spinnerbaits. For nearly all applications, Brandon uses one spinnerbait, a 1⁄2-oz. Strike King with a chartreuse/white skirt, a white trailer, a red-bleeding trailer hook, a painted chartreuse willow-leaf blade and a white Colorado blade.

“That’s my combo,” he said.
In the standing timber, he makes long casts, then counts the spinnerbait down for a five or six count, then begins a slow-roll retrieve. He particularly targets cedar trees, which have more limbs and provide more cover.

“Sometimes when it comes over a limb, just when it releases they’ll hammer it. And you area’t going to catch a 12-inch fish out here. It will be three pounds or better.”

Back on the Staysee pattern, we fished a dozen different channel markers, including Marker 14, Marker 18, Marker 20, and they all look good.

The river channel comes in tight against the point between markers 14 and 16. “This is a good place all summer,” said Brandon.

Marker 18 is on a rocky point in front of a small island with red clay banks. Behind the island is a little flat where spots will spawn.

“The Staysee bite usually begins in March and it’s a hot pre-spawn pattern leading up to the spawn in April,” said Brandon. “But after the spawn, the spots will still pull up on these points and humps to chase bait, and they’ll still hit a jerkbait.”

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