Baab: Oxygenation system could explain larger catches at Thurmond Lake

Kenny Vann shows off his 21 catfish caught in Merry Land Brickyard's Ditch Pond recently. He fished with cut bait.

As fishing page editor for more than 30 years, I get to see the results of most bass tournaments held on Thurmond Lake.


One trend to which I had no answer, until earlier this week, was seeing five-fish catches totaling 25 pounds and a bit more. Just five years ago, the average five-fish catch was 15 or so pounds.

So why are the fish getting bigger? Has Georgia stocked Florida bass in our lake? I asked John Biagi, Georgia’s chief of fisheries. if Florida largemouths grow larger and faster than do their northern strain cousins.

“The answer to your question is simple. No, we did not,” he said.

Biagi feels the oxygenation system operated in the Modoc area by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers during the hot summer months when oxygen depletion is a problem could be a part of the answer.

“That system created new quality habitat for most species of fish, including largemouths,” he said. “And we know all of the lake’s bass have Florida bass DNA at some level. I suspect they are at least 50 percent Florida. But that doesn’t mean half the bass have Florida genes.”


Fishing report


Billy Murphy, U.S. Coast Guard-licensed guide specializing in striped bass and hybrid bass. (706) 733-0124 – Our clients have had a great week catching striped bass up to 7 pounds. “We can’t believe how hard those fish pull,” they said. Last Wednesday, Ron Baker and Al Thompson, Florence, S.C., caught enough fish for fry, with Al catching the big fish of the trip of 6 pounds. Last Tuesday, Jake Jacobson, of Lexington, S.C., and his sons, Daniel, 12, and Ryan, 10, from Bend, Oregon, and daughter Emily, 11 were clients. Ryan landed a 7-pound fish. Last Saturday, my son, Jim, and his sons, James, 10, and Bentley, 3, fished with me. Bentley helped his dad catch a 5-pound striper. All in all, it was a great day for all of us, with a total catch of 20 fish. Last Thursday was a great fishing day for one of my former students, Wanda White, from Girard, Ga., and Joseph Lutz, Martinez. They limited out on downline fish with Wanda catching the most and biggest (7 pounds). Check out our Web site at

Bill Speer, The Fishing Coach, professional guide specializing in largemouth bass fishing on Lake Russell ( (706) 421-6630 – The only way to avoid heat stroke these hot days is to fish early and late in the day. Our fish have fallen into their summer routine. Water temperature is in the mid 80s and the lake is in great shape. You can find fish early by fishing a Zara Spook-like bait or, if you prefer, deep-diving crank baits on deep channel bends of major creeks. I have been running brush piles and throwing a Carolina rig or jig. If you can mark fish on the brush, you can catch them. Most of the fish are Kentucky Spotted Bass and when they hit, you’ll feel ’em. Some folks are catching bass on traditional summer patterns using a drop shot rig. Stay hydrated on the lake and drink plenty of water.

On Russell, I always put in at Beaver Dam Marina where you can have a nice lunch as well as a safe launch. It is open from 11:30 a.m., Friday, Saturday and Sunday until 9 p.m., on Friday and Saturday and 6 p.m., Sundays.

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 -- Bradd: Hot weather has sent hybrids and stripers into early morning feeding frenzies. Best bite is coming around daybreak and also around sunset, the fish stacking up in 30 to 45 feet of water off channel points in the lower end of the lake. South Carolina’s Little River is also producing some good catches. Baitfish are extremely plentiful and the fish are gorging. Downlining live herring 20 feet down to the bottom is producing some very nice slab hybrids with nice stripers 8 to 15 pounds thrown in. It is very hard to pinpoint any real areas that are better than others with so much good fishing taking place throughout the lake. With water temperatures hovering in the mid to high 80s, you’ll begin to see the fish stacked up off the sides of humps along the main channel. If it gets any hotter, the fish will move into deeper water (45 to 50 feet). One of the oxygenation lines coming out of Modoc has been turned on and we are starting to see a lot of bait and some fish congregating there.

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Capt. Tommy Dudley, U.S. Coast Guard-licensed professional guide specializing in stripers and hybrids. (706) 833-4807 --- We are just blistering the fish. We’re coming across tremendous schools of fish 20 to 30 feet thick. I’ve gotten at least one school to stick under the boat. I’ve learned that as long as you have a fish on the hook, they’ll stay with you. So after hooking one, let it stay in the water. The fish are solid 3 to 6 pounders, with 8s, 10s and 12s every now and then. I’m catching most of my fish in 40 to 80 feet of water. George Burttron and Paul Cook from McCormick, S.C., had a great day before the heat wave limiting out on fast downline fish. Tracy and Angie Phillips, with daughters Brittany and Gracie, and friend Becky, of Lincolnton, Ga., had a great day, catching a mix of hybrids and stripers. Terry and Ricky Milwood, Spartanburg, S.C., enjoyed fast downline action.

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Little River Guide Service, Tony Shepherd, U.S. Coast Guard licensed guide specializing in stripers and hybrids (with Captain O.G. Penner) (706) 210-3474) – Both the weather and the fish are heating up and lots of fish are being caught before the noonday sun runs us off the water. The fish are still relating to deep pockets, coves or alleys. The bait is present and that is the first ingredient to success. Both sides of the lake from Parksville, S.C., to Bass Alley (Lincoln County, Ga.) are holding fish. Find the bait, find the fish. Among those who enjoyed quality catches with us this week were the Nagel Clan (Lou, Konnor, Ken, Tina, Evie and Kaye), Augusta; Brenda and Calvin Jones, Martinez; Gerald, Terry, Vilena, Beans, Tala and Malian Hunt, North Augusta; Steve, Myra and Zac Dix with Jim Sager, Charleston, S.C., and Melrose, Jaleel and Regina Smith, Spartanburg, S.C. Follow us on Facebook (Little River Guide Service Appling) for current catches.



Check-in station, 1408 Doug Barnard Parkway, John Byars, (706 722-8263) --

We’ll continue our annual bass tournaments today from 6 to 10 p.m., and continue each Friday. Registration will take place no matter the weather conditions. Participants must meet at the bait shop off Molly Pond Road.

Austin Young and Ricky Johnson won the tournament with a 9.46-pound catch. Big fish was 6.58 pounds caught by Preston Crews and Brian Weaver. .


Miss Judy Charters, Capt. Judy Helmey, (912) 897-4921 ( P.O. Box 30771, Savannah, Ga. 31410-0771 -- The inshore bite has picked up with nice catches of spotted sea trout, redfish, flounder and whiting being reported. We also have seen a few tarpon. Spanish mackerel and lots of juvenile king mackerel have shown up at the artificial reefs. Cobia, amberjack and a few grouper are being caught at the Savannah Snapper Banks. Blue water trolling is pretty slow at the moment.