Bill Baab: Bitten long ago by 'school fever'

Fifty years or more ago, I caught my first schooling white bass (pre-hybrid days) on Thurmond Lake and have been bitten by “school fever” ever since.


The late Tommy Shaw was my guide. I followed his boat up to White Bass Island late one afternoon. This fabled island is not the big one up Little River, Ga., adjacent to shallow water markers (barrels), but rather a tiny one just north of it.

Each evening just before dark, the white bass made their way out of the deep water to chase schools of threadfin shad into the shallows around the island. We cast Little Cleo Spoons into the masses of fish, which sometimes covered an acre or more for just 30 to 45 minutes.

After hybrids were stocked in the lake during the mid 1960s, the white bass population dwindled until today, when you’ll sometimes catch one or two. But hybrids and sometimes striped bass dominate the catch.

There are a couple of “no-nos” while moving in on schools, whether shallow or deep. The main one is to cut off the outboard and use the trolling motor to ease into the action. Outboard exhaust comes out below the surface and can frighten the bait fish.

Schooling fish are becoming more commonplace as fall approaches. I prefer to fish late afternoons rather than having to (yawn) get up earlier in the day.

• Kids: Don’t forget the tryouts for the inaugural Columbia County Youth Fishing Team continue at Wildwood Park Sept. 27. Organizer Rosie DeAnnuntis said increased interest from other children is the reason. DeAnnuntis is still looking for help from local bass clubs. Rosie can be contacted at (803) 624-0463 or by e-mailing



Fishing Report


Raysville Marina (Leon Buffington), (706) 595-5582 – William Hawkins caught 15 crappies, 15 shellcrackers and one catfish, all on worms. Not many folks have come up our way, but that should change when fall arrives.

Capt. David Willard, U.S. Coast Guard-licensed, fulltime professional guide specializing in hybrids, striped bass and trophy largemouth bass. (Boat phone: (706) 214-0236. (803) 637-6379 (www.crockettrocket – Water temperatures are in the mid 80s and the lake is clear. Weatherwise, it’s been hot and humid with little chop most days. Some good schooling activity is taking place at and above the Highway 378 bridge over the Savannah River. The best fishing is when generation is taking place at Russell Dam. Some fish in the schools are small largemouth, but there are also some nice hybrids and stripers breaking. Sarah Sheffield and her group, from Panama City, Fla., fished with me over several days. Fishing ran the gamut of very good, especially in the early morning, slowing down at midday and picking back up in the afternoon. Bluebacks are living really good up there. The surface-breaking fish hitting a variety of baits as long as they are small – Baby Flukes and Pop-Rs did very well.

Ralph Barbee Jr., professional guide specializing in largemouth bass. (706) 831-8756 – A friend of mine was returning home from Lincolnton and while crossing the causeway heading to Little River Bridge spotted what he said were “thousands” of fish breaking the surface around that little island just off the causeway on the right. I am sure they were schooling hybrids and striped bass, Somebody needs to check out that area.

Fishing with Ralph Barbee airs Saturdays at 11 a.m., and Sundays at 1:30 p.m. on Comcast Channel 21, WRDW-My12, WOW! Ch. 7, Atlantic Broadband (Aiken) Ch. 7 and Charter Ch. 9 (Fort Gordon).

Bill Speer, The Fishing Coach, professional guide specializing in largemouth bass fishing on Lake Russell ( (706) 421-6630 – Well, the fish threw me a curve ball this week. I fished last Sunday with Brian Hall, of Lexington, S.C. I went to my resident fish that had been consistently biting for the last two months. And, of course, they had lockjaw. The water was 80 degrees and in good shape. But the fish would not take a crank bait. The only fish we caught were on soft plastics fished through the water column. I had a good time and Ryan was able to learn a lot of the lake, but the fishing sure could have been better. This week looks like it will be a fantastic time to be on the water. Remember though, post-frontal conditions usually mean you need to slow way, way down. Remember, if you have had a tournament on the lake, send me the results and I will be sure to post them here for you. On Lake Russell, I always put in at Beaver Dam Marina, where you can have a nice lunch as well as a safe launch.

Capt. Billy Murphy, U.S. Coast Guard-licensed professional guide, with twins Brad and Jim (706) 733-0124 (Web site – Dave Chiera, of Augusta, fished with me on Wednesday. The plan was to hit the water by 6 a.m. and we did. We fished downlines in 90 to 120 feet of water, dropping the herring 40 feet down. Nothing happened, so we started fishing 50 to 60 feet down. All our rods started going down. Dave had a ball, catching eight stripers and one hybrid. Most weighed 7 to 10 pounds, with the smallest at 4 pounds.

William Sasser’s Guide Service, (Capt. William Sasser, Capt. Bradd Sasser, Capt. Andrew Tubbs, U.S. Coast Guard-licensed, full time professional guides specializing in crappies, hybrids and striped bass). (706) 589-5468 (William), (Bradd) (706) 267-4313, (Andrew) (803) 507-5083 – An early to mid-morning bite was the pattern this week, with surface temperatures in the mid to upper 80s. We downlined live herring on humps and shoals in 40 to 50 feet of water at mid-lake to the lower end. Reports of bigger fish have come from the upper part of the lake around Russell Creek, using cut bait in 30 feet of water. Fishing with us this week were Steve and Jack Evans, Columbia, S.C.; Marty, Brett and Andy Spivey, Charleston, S.C., and Larry and Chris Montgomery, of Atlanta

We taped a new episode of Bob Redfern’s Outdoor Magazine that will be airing next week. Check your local TV schedule for time and channel. .

Check out our Facebook page for up-to-date pictures.

Capt. Tommy Dudley, U.S. Coast Guard-licensed professional guide specializing in stripers and hybrids. (706) 833-4807 – It’s been hot and cold. Until this lake quits turning over, fishing will stay inconsistent. We’re still fishing the Modoc area. There is bait everywhere and I’ve seen some small schooling fish. I think the Plum Branch to Hickory Knob area will turn on in a couple of weeks. Most of the fish we’re catching are down deep (50 feet and better).

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Carter and Hunter Morris, licensed professional guides specializing in fly fishing for rainbow, brook and brown trout. (706) 833-1083 ( ( – All of the private trophy trout streams of north Georgia will reopen this week. This fall promises to be one of the best fishing seasons we’ve had in many years. The Toccoa River is fishing really well, with recent float trips resulting in catches of lots of smaller trout and a few really big ones.



Check-in station, 1408 Doug Barnard Parkway, Gene Kirkland, (706 722-8263) – Brickyard report: Paul Wolf and Robbie Henderson caught six bass (one over 5 pounds) in the Membership Pond on artificial lures. Henry Mims caught 20 crappies in the Garden Pond on minnows and jigs. Bill and Laura Smith caught 25 crappies and five bass in the Expressway Pond on minnows. Jody Jones caught 40 bream on crickets and worms in the Cordell Pond. Judy and Bob Williams caught 30 catfish and 15 crappies on minnows and liver in the Ditch. Bill Hanes caught 30 bream on cricket and worms in the Clayton Pond. Joe King caught 25 bream and 10 crappies in the Shack Pond on minnows and crickets. Lock & Dam report: The mullet are running strongly and many anglers are catching good messes of redbellies, fishing the deep holes.




Ralph Goodison, Fripp Island, (843) 838-2530 – Fishing is good, but few fishermen are taking advantage. Inshore, some good catches of redfish and whiting are being made. The wreck of the Betsy Ross in Port Royal Sound is producing some good catches of red snapper, black sea bass, trigger fish and an occasional grouper. Schooling Spanish mackerel and kings also are being taken. The crabbing season has been slow. Coming up are the Owen Perry Memorial Inshore Tournament Oct. 25-26 and the Kids’ Thanksgiving Tournament on Nov. 29.


Miss Judy Charters, Capt. Judy Helmey, (912) 897-4921 ( P.O. Box 30771, Savannah, Ga. 31410-0771 – Huge flounder are being caught on live shrimp fished on the bottom. We saw tarpon busting pods of bait. We have to be careful when casting a net because we don’t want to catch one of those big fish. A few years ago, a charter captain threw his net and caught a tarpon, which pulled the hapless skipper out of his boat.