Question is, where are all the birds? Flocks of terns and sea gulls usually can be spotted this time of year, flying over Thurmond Lake in search of baitfish scared to the surface by marauding schools of hybrids and striped bass.
Birds can be fishermen's best friends because they can spot these schools when they are not yet apparent to anglers' eyes. A fisherman who spots a flock of diving birds knows that, if he can get there in time, he has a good chance to catch a few before the school disperses.
Ron Weber reports seeing a flock of gulls "just sitting on the lake" around Bussey Point this week, so maybe things will pick up. The cooler temperatures ought to help by moving fish into deep-water (20 to 45 feet) channels, ditch lines and road beds where action ought to get just right for spoon-jigging enthusiasts.
David Fritts of Lexington, N.C., caught five bass weighing 13 pounds to take the first-round lead in the Ranger Millenium M1 bass tournament at Florida's Cypress Gardens on Thursday.
The cold front and high winds exasperated many of the 200 anglers in the field, including Foster Key of Trenton, S.C., who is tied for 119th with one bass weighing 1 pound, 4 ounces.
"I've fished as hard as I've ever fished in my life, but just got one bite," he said.
"There's no structure to throw to. I really messed up by not sinking any brush piles when I was here during practice," he said, halfway jokingly.
"We're being treated like royalty. All the pros I've met are super-nice, while my wife's having a good time going on tours. She's going on a shopping spree Friday so I'd better get busy and try to win some money."
Danny Kirk of Bartow, Ga., caught one bass weighing 4 pounds, 12 ounces and is all alone at 29th, while Tony Couch of Buckhead, Ga., is 41st with two bass weighing 3 pounds, 14 ounces.
Randy Link of Elberton, Ga., is 10th in the Co-Angler Division with five bass and 5 pounds, 1 ounce. Co-Angler leader is Danny Moore of Henderson, N.C., with five bass weighing 9 pounds, 11 ounces.
After today's round, the field will be cut to the top 50 in each division. Anglers will start over on Saturday, with just the competitors making the top 10 spots in each division making Sunday's finals.
A guaranteed $400,000 will be earned by the Pro Division champion. Co-Angler winner is guaranteed at least $150,000. Those totals could rise if the winners meet sponsor bonus cash requirements.
Sunday's last round will be broadcast live from 2:30 p.m., to 4 p.m., over the FOX Sports network (Channel 38 on Comcast).
Neither high winds, nor rain (just lightning) can keep Bonnie and David Annis from their appointed Thurmond Lake rounds and windy Wednesday was no exception.
They found hybrids in 37 feet of water near a shallow water marker in Shriver Creek and caught a limit of fish on blueback herring. Bonnie's favorite jigging technique didn't work this time, but they were off the lake by 4 p.m.
STROM THURMOND LAKE
Buddy Edge, professional fishing guide specializing in stripers and hybrids, (803) 637-3226 -- Wayne Davis of Edgefield, S.C., treated his parents, from Camden, S.C., to a fishing trip last Saturday. We caught 18 fish weighing from 3 to 5 pounds each, fishing live herring 35 feet down.
Soap Creek Lodge, Lincolnton, Ga. (Toye & Sue Hill) (706) 359-3124 -- Henry Staples of Lincolnton took out a group last Saturday, starting at 6:30 a.m., but didn't find fish until 1:30 p.m. They found fish along the main river channel near Shriver Creek and boated 10 nice fish between then and 5:30 p.m. They marked fish from 20 to 60 feet down, but only the ones around 20 feet would bite. Otherwise, we've seen very few fishermen this week.
David Willard, Little River Marina, U.S. Coast Guard-licensed professional fishing guide specializing in hybrids and stripers. (803) 637-6379 -- I fished one day before the front moved in and we did well. I rescheduled some trips this week because of the high winds, but plan to hit it hard this weekend. Richard Klinger of Cincinnati caught a limit of hybrids and stripers, keeping six nice fish that were deeply hooked for supper. The fish were running 50 to 60 feet and hit live herring. We need some cold weather and this should really help the fishing.
Ralph Barbee, professional guide, (706) 860-7373 -- Pete Glabas and I fished on windy Tuesday after 1:30 p.m., staying put in Chigoe Creek. We fished Tin-Can Buzz Baits and the blue-backed, silver-sided Bang-O-Lure, Little Earl crankbait and Swimmin' Image. The latter only goes a foot down -- you crank it in real slow and if the bass are shallow, they'll kill it. It had to be a windy bank for it to work. We had six fish apiece -- he had one about 8 pounds at the boat and one bigger than that, probably closer to 10 pounds. We lost both because I didn't have a net in the boat. I caught some on the Little Earl and he caught some on the Bang-O-Lure. I went this morning about 9 a.m., and caught four bass, fishing Keg Creek. The four came from one bank and hit the Swimmin' Image. They wouldn't hit a buzz bait.
New Savannah Bluff Lock & Dam
Lock and Dam Bait and Tackle (Bob Baurle), (706) 793-8053 -- Chris Owens caught 15 bream on wax worms, fishing off the dam. John Thornton and John Brown caught 44 crappies and six shellcrackers over two trips down river, using minnows and Louisiana pinks.
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 and perhaps longer.
MERRY BROTHERS BRICKYARD PONDS
Bill Gibson (706) 722-2980 -- Crappie fishing from the bank has been excellent in a number of ponds. Jimmy Wong caught 15 crappies. Bill and Jennifer Rogers caught crappies out of the Willow Pond. James Drake caught more in the White Elephant Pond. Mike Murchison caught a 3-pound bass on a shiner in the Front Ditch. I've been tearing up the crappies and some nice catfish in the White Elephant Pond, not to mention three large mudfish, including one about 8 pounds.
(706) 722-8263 -- Arthur Prescott caught 16 shellcrackers on red worms. Mickey Prescott caught 18 crappies on minnows. Fay Stringfellow caught 16 crappies on small minnows and a 6 1/2 -pound bass on a Mepps spinner. Teresa Prather caught catfish weighing 13 1/2 , 11 and 9 1/2 pounds on cut bait. Erna Bauserman caught 8 1/2 - and 9-pound catfish on liver. Mike Miller caught 17 crappies on small minnows. Chuck Miller caught 21 crappies on small minnows. James Jewell caught 13 crappies on small minnows.
BEAUFORT, S.C. & VICINITY
Includes Paradise Pier
Joe Mix, Island Outfitters, Ladys Island, (843) 522-9900 -- Though primarily fishing for speckled trout, charter captain Trevor Strever continues to catch black drum, using live shrimp over rocky Port Royal Sound bottoms at depths to 20 feet. Most weigh between 5 and 15 pounds, but he did release a 40-pounder on Monday. All charter captains are reporting limit trout catches. Capt. Doug Gertis is using mud minnows with popping corks along current lines at creek mouths where trout are chasing shrimp and small glass minnows. All areas are productive including creek mouths around Parris and Daws islands and along the Colleton and Chechessee rivers. Electric Chicken grubs are outperforming all other artificials. Tidal stages seem to make little difference, but spottail bass catches are best over live shell rakes at high tide. Windy weather and churning seas precluded any offshore or surf action. Water temperatures have fallen to the mid-60s.
Miss Judy Charters, Capt. Judy Helmey, (912) 897-4921 -- If you love inshore fishing, now is the time to wet a hook. Plenty of live bait is available and easy to obtain, but there are so many ways to catch fish. Here are a few:
Traditional float rig with live shrimp -- popping cork adjusted to the depth of holding fish.
Plastic grubs and screw tails pitched or trolled after the bite turns on.
Live shrimp or mud minnows fished on the bottom with just a split shot as weight, or no weight at all.
Fresh dead shrimp or small fillets of finger mullet either on the bottom, or suspended.
Try fiddlers around pier and bridge pilings for sheepshead.
Savannah area artificial reefs are great this time of year, if the weather allows you to get out to them. Take the kids out for a fun day of fishing and you can expect to catch black sea bass, pig fish, sheepshead, bank sea bass and black drum. The short boat ride out to reefs such as the KC Buoy, CCA Buoy, Savannah Reef and DUA Buoy can turn out to be more than worth the effort.
Reach Bill Babb at (706) 823-3304