If you don’t mind sweating while you fish — and you will sweat here — you’ll find your share of stripers (and hybrids) willing to make it all worth it at Clarks Hill during the heat of summer.
While some days can provide that “catching them on back-to-back casts” action, it’s usually less of a frenzy than that. But you’ll have enough action to keep coming back. And speaking of sweating, you actually want it hot enough that you’ll be sweating profusely. That’s because the hotter it is, the more water they release from the Lake Russell Dam, cooling the waters of Clarks Hill enough that the baitfish and stripers stack up there.
This concentrates the fish into several hundred yards of the dam, where the stripers constantly patrol, chasing and slashing at schools of baitfish. Topwater lures shine here, and can make it a day to remember for anglers.
It’s okay to sleep late
This is also the type of fishing that doesn’t require getting up early, so forget about beating the heat by arriving at daybreak. It takes the noon sun to get it hot enough for them to open the gates at the dam, which provides more energy to all the air conditioners in the nearby towns. Opening those gates allows the water from the cool depths of Russell to pour in, dropping the water temperature significantly and turning the bite on like a light switch.
A good strategy is to get your boat in an eddy or if you’ve got one, hit the Spot Lock on your trolling motor to keep yourself in place. Now just watch the water all around you. If you sit in that one spot, schools will appear close enough to cast to, but you can also quickly motor yourself to a lot of other schools that are just out of casting range. Just make sure you don’t get too close to the school.
Walk-the-dog type lures are great here. Spooks, Sammys, Cane Walkers, Skitter Walks — you name it — whatever your favorite brand of walking lure is, it will work wonders here. Whopper Ploppers are also killer lures here, and you will catch your share either burning it straight back or pausing during your retrieve.
Small boats are fine here
Schools will appear for just a minute or two, then go back down. Many anglers simply keep topwater lures tied on, waiting for another school to surface. Casting blindly can also bring some fish up, so that’s always good to try. Another good option when the fish go down is to cast Rat-L-Traps, allow them to sink a few seconds, then start your retrieve. The bites come fewer with this method, but you’ll catch them often enough this way.
Spend a day here and you’ll quickly pick up on exactly where the striper schools usually appear. You’ll learn a little more each time you go. One of the best things about this lake is it’s easy to navigate, even in small boats. It’s a big lake, surface-acre wise, but it’s small in some ways. It’s narrow in most places, especially at the dam, where you can almost have a conversation from one side of the lake to the other.