In extremely hot weather, big striped bass need three things: cooler water, oxygen and food. When the August sun turns the surface of South Carolina’s Lake Russell into a steam bath, stripers have two choices: the cool, deep water near Russell Dam or the cool, oxygenated water flowing through Hartwell Dam at the head of the lake.
“Fishing for big stripers on Lake Russell is usually good in August. They get pretty predictable then,” said guide Wendell Wilson of Elberton, Ga.
“There are two different patterns. One is to go upriver below Hartwell Dam and fish the cooler water in the tailrace with live bait on planer boards. Another is to go to the south end of the lake in the deep water near the dam and down-line live herring 20 to 40 feet deep.”
Up the lake, according to Wilson (706- 283-3336), the river is not very wide, so it’s best to pull planer boards with trout, gizzard shad and herring in 5 to 25 feet of water in the river channel itself, without trying to get right up on the bank.
“You have to use pretty heavy tackle up there because the stripers are big and they can get the line around stumps and rocks,” Wilson said. “The direction the boat is moving does not seem to matter, but you do need a little current moving. In the mornings you will have a back current going up towards the dam and later, sometime between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., you will have the current coming out of Hartwell Dam.”
Lighter tackle can be used in the deeper water near Russell Dam, Wilson said, because the submerged trees there are so far beneath the surface.
“There are big fish in both locations,” Wilson said. “Lake Russell has a lot of small stripers, but those two areas are good places to get a 20-pound-plus fish.”
But 20-pound stripers are not the only fish to go after during the heat of the late summer, he said.
Bass fishing may not be spectacular, but some spotted bass will school in the river channel, providing some fun with topwater lures, and some can also be caught drop-shotting plastic worms around brush piles in 25 feet of water, he said.
“Crappie fishing also is usually pretty good this time of the summer doing the same thing — drop-shotting live minnows instead of worms around those same brush piles,” Wilson said, “and catfishing is pretty good using cut herring and worms on the bottom in 15 to 25 feet of water.”