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Lake Hartwell Fishing Report - May 7, 2021

Here come the crowds! This past week was one of the busiest we’ve seen with several major bass tournaments and pleasure boaters starting to show up with the warmer weather. The overall fishing saw a decline in production across the board for most species. This is typical for this time of year as everything is transitioning from the spawn. The weather forecast is calling for another push of cooler air for the weekend and some rain chances for next week. The lake level is still hovering around that 660-661 mark even with the heavy rains this past week. It’s time to break out the chum bucket as we touch slightly on cut bait as an often overlooked tactic.

The stripers and hybrids have definitely been spread out and harder to find this past week. The shallow point/shoal bite has been the best bet for any number of fish each day. It has seemed the fish are spread out pretty evenly through the lake with no one area producing better than the rest. Once the sun crests the trees the bite definitely slows. I expect things to stay fairly tough for guys to stay on fish from day to day for the next two weeks, as the fish finish going through this transitional period. We’ll have some great days with some tough ones mixed in. After the low light bite ends try down rods and free lines in the same areas but slightly deeper, with 20-40 ft being my preferred depth.

One tactic I think is overlooked for catching striper on many southern impoundments is cut bait. I feel like we used to see a lot more guys willing to set up and fish cut bait than we do these days. Recent fish kills and the reduction in trophy-sized fish on Lake Hartwell probably mostly to blame for the reduction in popularity of fishing cut bait. While it’s not a great tactic for filling coolers it’s definitely productive and gives anglers a fantastic chance at catching a bigger class fish. The guys that swear by cut bait will often employ huge spread with 15-30 rods out at a time and huge chum slicks. If anyone ever got to fish with one of the old guides on Lake Hartwell Gary Buck, he’d often fish 30+ rods and a chum slick you could see from across the lake. It’s definitely not a cheap way to target stripers from a bait cost perspective. Typical areas to try your hand at cut baiting would be major points, humps, and saddles. Think travel routes. Some type of bottom structure that the fish will travel over and smell your chum and baits and search for a quick easy bite. It’s often at its best after the primary feeding times for the morning when the fish have settled down and start roaming. Major creek and river arms and mid-lake areas producing better this time of year and transitioning south as the water warms. Depth is key with 20-35 feet being a good starting point for this time of year. If you notice the rods that are shallow or deeper are getting a bit better adjust to what the fish are telling you. The general rule of thumb is to give a place an hour to allow the chum and baits to attract fish. So it’s definitely not a way to cover a lot of water and look for fish. Target areas you know that are holding fish and really saturate a place you have confidence in.

Good Luck and Great Fishing!

Capt. Nathan Key


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