Falling water levels, whether in a lake or river, usually gives fish like largemouth bass a case of the blahs, or makes it hard for fishermen to determine what feeding pattern to look for.
Cases in point are the fishing adventures of Tommy Shaw of Leah, Ga., and Ralph Barbee Jr., of Evans on Thursday. Strong west/southwest winds were white-capping Strom Thurmond Lake's surface.
"My boat had drifted into pretty shallow water near White Bass Island when fish started popping," Shaw said. "I picked up a rod with a Bomber Long A -- called a `stickbait' -- and a 7-pounder just inhaled it. I caught two more on the Long A and three others on Zoom Super Flukes."
Barbee couldn't find a bass willing to strike a Zara Super Spook along the bank or riprap, so he moved to long points where the wind was blowing in.
"I tried a buzz bait with chartreuse and white skirt and gold blades and the fish came up from 18 to 20 feet to strike it," said Barbee, whose largest fish weighed nearly 4 pounds."
Three days ago, the writer saw fish breaking over beds of hydrilla and sent a standard Spook in their direction. Nothing happened until he speeded up the retrieve and a 4-pound largemouth blasted it. The beds are located in the back of a cove on the Georgia side across from Horseshoe Island (Parksville, S.C.).
So fishermen shouldn't be afraid to try the unusual and need to stay alert for the unexpected, which is what happened to Shaw.
White perch are feisty little fish that can be caught easily on spoons jigged in 20 to 30 feet. Sometimes hybrids and largemouth bass can be caught in the same vicinity.
But Shaw, who has caught his share of white perch, hadn't caught one in more than a year...until Thursday.
"I found 'em in 21 feet of water in Grays Creek," he said. "I caught 10 or 12 from one spot -- they just ate up my spoon."
Don't forget that Saturday, June 5 and June 12, are free fishing days to residents of Georgia, and June 12-13 in South Carolina as part of National Fishing Week June 5-13. That means licenses aren't needed by anyone between 16 and 65 years of age, while a one-day, $3.50 license will serve as a wildlife management area stamp to fish a public fishing area.
STROM THURMOND LAKE
Soap Creek Lodge, Lincolnton, Ga. (Toye & Sue Hill, 706-359-3124) -- David and Elizabeth Duffy of Augusta and our other crappie fishing "regulars" are still catching fish despite last weekend's increased boat traffic. The fish are being caught over deep brush on live shiners. Tony Turner and Adam Rohrbaugh went bass fishing last Saturday morning and caught six keepers in the 3-to-5-pound range on crank baits and plastic worms.
David Willard, Little River Marina, U.S. Coast Guard-licensed professional fishing guide specializing in hybrids and stripers. (803-637-6379) -- If fishing was any better I'm not sure I could stand it. The full moon had me concerned, but it stayed low in the sky and had little effect. In fact, if anything, the bait (schools) got thicker and the fish got bigger. I spent more time washing blood off the boat than I've spent on the lake. Sheryl and Eric Chand of Augusta and her parents, Jerry and Betty Barney from El Paso, Texas, limited out on stripers and hybrids up to 5 pounds. After living in the desert, the lake looked especially good to them,. especially with rods bent double. David and Joe Eubanks of Augusta treated Joe's daughter, Linda, to a first day of summer vacation fishing trip. She caught the first, the largest and the most as they boated a limit in less than two hours. Cliff Channell, Roy Tripp and Scott Hoffmann caught 27 hybrids before being blown off the lake Wednesday night. Jimmy O'Neal of Liberty Plumbing, his son Jamie and David Turner smoked the fish on Thursday, catching a limit in one hour. Jimmy had been trying to get out with me for three years and we finally got together. I was especially glad he had a good trip and we were throwing back 5-pound hybrids toward the end of the trip. The fish are coming from 30 feet of water.
Ralph Barbee, professional guide, (706-860-7373) --Bass fishing has gotten strange, what with the lake level dropping. The bass have moved away from the banks and are staging in 18 to 20 feet of water off windy points, with deep banks located nearby. I couldn't get them to hit Zara Spooks or other surface plugs, but I caught six bass on a buzz bait with white and chartreuse skirt and gold blades. My biggest bass was not quite 4 pounds. The fish came from points in Grays, Cherokee and Moseley creeks on windy Thursday.
Billy Murphy, professional guide, Mike's Marina (706-733-0124) -- Despite a strong southwest wind on Thursday morning, I caught a 4-pound bass on a Zara Spook on a flat behind Bass Alley. I caught two small hybrids on the CC Spoon, casting, reeling fast for short spurts and letting the spoon drop. They'd hit it on the fall.
New Savannah Bluff, Lock & Dam
Lock and Dam Bait and Tackle, Bob Baurle, (706-793-8053) -- We had a good weekend, with 20-some boat trailers parked in the lot above the ramp. Some nice catfish are being caught, while some fishermen have been catching nice messes of bream and redbreasts. The mullet run continues. Striped bass and hybrids are being caught between the Sand Bar Ferry Bridge and the lock and dam. Others are being caught and released at or below it.
Fishermen are reminded striped bass and hybrid bass cannot be lawfully caught and kept from the river's mouth at Savannah to the New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam. The moratorium is in effect until at least the year 2000.
MERRY BROTHERS, BRICKYARD PONDS
Bill Gibson (706-722-2980) -- Joe and Jay Dilorenzo won the Friday night tournament, with a 9-pound, 13-ounce catch and big fish of 3 pounds, 12 ounces. Tony Grier and James Free were second with 7-3 and 3-9.
Greg Williams caught a 5 3/4 -pound bass, among others, on a pumpkinseed worm with chartreuse tail, fishing in the Middle Ditch on Wednesday.
We're holding a bass team tournament running from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., today, weather permitting. Entry fee is $20 per person and bass must be 12 inches or better.
FAY & JOANN'S LAKES
(706-722-8263) -- Leroy Eubanks caught catfish weighing 10 pounds, 6 pounds (3), 4 pounds, 3 pounds and 11 pounds for a total of 61 pounds. The fish bit liver. John Stoat caught a 10-pound catfish on liver. Leroy Gain caught three 15-pound catfish, one 25-pound carp and 11 smaller fish toting 20 pounds on cut herring. Bill Everhart caught two 10-pound catfish on liver. Eddie Lee Favors caught 62 shellcrackers on red worms. Bobby, Robert and Bernard Callison caught nine catfish toting 20 pounds on liver. Lee and Frank Legrand caught 10 catfish toting 48 pounds on cut shad. Roger Gay caught six catfish weighing 15 pounds on red worms and pinks. Michael D. Leaptrotte caught an 11-pound bass on an artificial lure. Stephen Merriett Jr., caught nine catfish toting 31 1/2 pounds on flat-tail worms. John Byee caught a 17 1/2 -pound catfish on chicken liver. Annie Thompson caught 12 catfish weighing 23 pounds on large minnows.
ATLANTIC OCEANBEAUFORT, S.C. & VICINITY
Includes Paradise Pier
Joe Mix, Island Outfitters, Ladys Island, (843-522-9900) -- Although this outstanding cobia season is beginning to taper off, we can expect another three to four weeks of good fishing. The two hot spots are the rips between Parris and Daws islands and the Highway 170 bridge. Live eels and de-finned catfish are effective baits, but better catches are coming on live menhaden and threadfin herring. Only menhaden can be caught using a cast net, while threadfins are taken by jigging, casting or trolling a line of four to six gold hooks. These rigs also are used offshore jigging for cigar minnows, probably the best bait for bottom-feeding species. While live-lining menhaden for cobia at the rips, charter captain Trevor Strever encountered a school of Spanish mackerel. He landed six, all weighing between 3 and 5 pounds.
On Monday, charter captain Wally Phinney's party caught two amberjacks up to 60 pounds and a 27-pound blackfin tuna live-lining over bottom structures about 35 miles out. His party also lost four hooked king mackerel and numerous bonita to various barracuda, but did manage to catch one undamaged king.
Miss Judy Charters, Capt. Judy Helmey, (912-897-4921) -- Offshore, king mackerel are to be found around the L and J buoys, with most of my success coming by fast-trolling black, silver or pink Drone spoons 30 feet behind a No. 3 planer at 6 knots. We also have been catching a few Spanish mackerel.
The bottom fishing at the artificial reefs is still holding, with large triggerfish and big black sea bass at the L Buoy. These fish can't resist the taste (smell) of squid. The Savannah Snapper Banks are holding some large red snapper and grouper. You have to use live fish like ruby redlips, bank sea bass and vermilion because other types of bait is sucked off the hook before it reaches bottom.
Dolphin, tuna and wahoo are to be found in large numbers in the Gulf Stream.
Bill Babb covers the outdoors for The Augusta Chronicle. He can be reached at 1 (706) 823-3304.