Clarks Hill Lake is located in Eastern Georgia near the South Carolina border. Also called the Strom Thurmond Lake or Lake Clarks Hill, it is the largest lake constructed by the Army Corps of Engineers east of the Mississippi River, with 1,200 miles of shoreline and more than 250 islands. It is well-known for its bass fishing, especially its striped bass fishing.
Conditions, Structure and Species
Good bass fishing spots depend on three things: weather conditions, structure and the species of bass. Clarks Hill has largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, striped bass and striper hybrid bass. The lake extends almost 40 miles up the Savannah River and almost 30 miles up the Little River, and has depths up to 180 feet, so there is every kind of bottom structure imaginable. Eastern Georgia has all four seasons, with hot summers and mild winters, so the water temperatures vary dramatically between almost 90 degree surface temperatures at the height of summer to near freezing in mid-winter.
Know the Bass to Know the Lake
Largemouth bass like clear water; and after rains they will move further offshore to avoid murky runoff. They hold close to cover, so they are mostly found near logs and roots, rocky outcrops and vertical vegetation. In spring, they spawn in rocky shallows. Smallmouth bass will hold close to river and stream outlets on the lake, and seek structure next to active flows. They also spawn in spring on rocky flats. Stripers are originally saltwater fish; and they travel in schools, and these go where the food goes, so striper fishermen need to find out where the shad are holding to catch the stripers. The same holds true for hybrid stripers.
The Temperature-Depth Relation
As water temperatures rise in the summer, bass fishermen need to seek out deeper water in Clarks Hill Lake. Bass will move into the shallower water at night, and hold there in the early morning or late evening when the direct sun is not reaching them. In winter, bass will hold at moderate depths. Structure is still critical, because the bass use it to conceal themselves to hunt. A topographical map of the lake's bottom is very helpful, as is a depth finder on a boat.
Finding Hot Spots
For those who don't know the lake well, a guide may be well worth your while. Guides know the migration patterns of the various bass species, the idiosyncrasies of water and weather and what tactics yield what species in given seasons and conditions. If you aren't interested in a guide, focus on creek mouths for the most structure and baitfish. Creek mouths that have been very productive for bass include Grays, Lloyds and Rousseau Creeks on the Little River branch, and Soap, Murray and Fishing Creeks on the Savannah River axis. In spring, the flats near the Broad and Savannah River confluence are great spawning grounds for largemouth and smallmouth.
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