Originally created 11/17/06

Strikes at Big Branch come like clockwork



Thurmond Lake's Big Branch, also known as Pollard's Cove, is adjacent to Wildwood Park's boat ramps and for the past week or so has been red hot for schooling hybrid and striped bass.

You can nearly set your watch when they become the most active - about 4:30 p.m., daily. There is a mystery involved. The fish do not school in the mornings and when you cruise there in the early afternoons, few bait fish or game fish are marked on your depthfinder screen. Yet at 4:30ish, the surface literally explodes with feeding fish.

The area has become one of Larry Freeman's favorite honey holes. Why? The retired Warren County High School coach, who now lives in Martinez, late Tuesday afternoon cast a Japanese lure called a Sammy and began retrieving the surface lure back to the boat. It never made it.

I heard Larry screaming and hollering and feared he had fallen out of his boat. His reaction came when a 21-pound striped bass belted the lure and gave the angler such a strong battle before finally being netted. It was Freeman's biggest fish ever.

- The National Striped Bass Association will hold its Classic on Thurmond Lake on Dec. 1-2. Weigh-ins will take place daily at Wildwood Park from 2 p.m., to 5 p.m., and other activities have been scheduled. Check out Rob Pavey's story on Sunday's outdoors page for more details.

STROM THURMOND LAKE

Raysville Marina, near Thomson. (Doug Pentecost, Leon Buffington) (706) 595-5582 - Tyrone Cobb of Augusta caught 15 crappies in our fish house on minnows. Cooler temperatures ought to mark the beginning of schooling striped bass and hybrids in our area in the coming weeks. So far, little activity has been reported.

Capt. David Willard, U.S. Coast Guard-licensed full-time professional fishing guide specializing in hybrids and stripers and trophy largemouth bass. 410 Sprouse Road, Clarks Hill, S.C. 29821 (803) 637-6379 (crockettrocketstriper fishing.com) - One doesn't have to go to the mountains to see the fall colors. The scenery doesn't get any better along the lake than right now. Fishing is also at its peak and between the two experiences, everyone I've taken out has doubly enjoyed the trips. Richie Allen brought down a couple of friends from Canada. It's always been my experience that Canadians are real outdoorsmen and these guys were no exception. Steve Morris and Chris Carter from Toronto had a great time and limited out on hybrids and stripers in just a few hours. Pete Rickerd invited two friends down from Atlanta - Ted Young and Roger Matthews. They limited out on some really nice fish. Pete is a real fish magnet. He put on a clinic, hooking every fish within 50 feet of the boat. We're catching mostly stripers and a few hybrids and some really nice 5- and 6-pound largemouths, which we have been releasing.

Ralph Barbee, professional guide specializing in hybrids, stripers and largemouth bass, (706) 860-7373, 957 Windmill Lane, Evans. 30809 (Check out my web site at www.fishingwith ralphbarbee.com) - I went Wednesday morning by myself and caught seven bass. I fished the Little River Marina area and all the points from the Fort Gordon Rec Area up Little River. I caught two bass on the one-ounce "Diamond Dust" Bill Lewis Rat-L-Trap and three on the Bill Norman Thin crank bait in the crawdad color. It runs 2 to 5 feet deep on the retrieve. I caught two others on the Tournament Choice Minnow spinnerbait. The big fish weighed 6-pounder, with most of the others in the 3-pound range. I was on the lake for only three hours. The fish struck around windy points.

Capt. William Sasser, U.S. Coast Guard-licensed professional guide specializing in crappies, hybrids and striped bass. (706) 589-5468 - This week has been a good one for our fishing clients. Virgil Brantley of Townville, S.C., Eddie Hadden of Abbeville, S.C., and Eric Martin of Seneca, S.C., enjoyed a mixed catch of nice stripers and slab crappies. Kirk, Edie, Joel and Katie Hinson and Edie's mother, Barbara Kearse, all from Martinez, spent an afternoon with me. They fished until the bait was exhausted and caught a cooler full of stripers and crappies, the latter still reluctant to bite. They'd won the trip through a Georgia Waterfowl Association auction. Mike and Patty Yohe of Appling, Wayne Bradford of Appling and Mike's mother, Marge Yohe of Grovetown, spent an afternoon on the water with my wife, Donna, and I for whatever wanted to bite. The weatherman had called for it to be a bad day, but they caught striped bass, hybrids, white perch, largemouth bass and crappies. Marge and Patty outfished the men on this trip. My VHF radio handle is Crappie Master.

Capt. Tommy Dudley, U.S. Coast Guard-licensed professional guide specializing in stripers and hybrids. (706) 833-4807 - I fished the Fort Gordon, Shriver Creek and Benefield Creek areas last Friday through Sunday. I caught worlds of fish on downlines 30 feet down. The fish were aggressive, but had stopped hitting herring below planer boards.


SAVANNAH RIVER

NEW SAVANNAH BLUFF LOCK & DAM

Lock and Dam Bait and Tackle (Bob Baurle), (706) 793-8053 - As cooler weather moves into the area, look for an upswing in yellow perch catches, not only below the locks, but all the way upriver below the Thurmond Dam. The early perch spawning run is composed mostly of the larger female fish, some of which can reach more than a pound. Best bait are small golden shiners fished on gold wire hooks with just a split shot or two enough weight to take the bait to the bottom. Fishing small to medium shiners off the fishing platform at the lock and dam also can be effective. The perch are great food fish. Fillet and skin them out, fry them in butter, or bread them and deep-fat fry them for a few seconds.

ATLANTIC OCEAN

BEAUFORT, S.C. & VICINITY

Ralph Goodison, Fripp Island, (843) 838-2530, and Doug Gertis, professional guide, (843) 524-5250 - Goodison: Fishing remains excellent in inshore, near-shore and offshore waters. The bite continues strong for redfish and spotted sea trout, while flounder fishing is just fair. Gray trout fishing in near-shore waters is good, but the bluefish bite is just fair. Black sea bass, grouper, red snapper and vermilion fishing on live bottoms is good, while an occasional cobia is still showing up. Wahoo and dolphin were chasing trolled baits in the Gulf Stream, along with sailfish. Fripp Island Marina will play host to the eighth annual Kids' Turkey Fishing Tournament on Friday, Nov. 24. The free event is open to children 5 to 15 years of age, but adults need to be present to supervise. Participants must bring their own tackle and life preservers. Fishing will take place on docks or boats at the marina from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Free hot dogs and hamburgers will be served and prizes awarded. More information: the marina at (843) 838-1517.

SAVANNAH

Miss Judy Charters, Capt. Judy Helmey, (912) 897-4921 (www.missjudycharters.com.) P.O. Box 30771, Savannah, Ga. 31410-0771 - High spring tides because of the full moon have put a damper on most inshore fishing in our area, but tides should be in the seven-foot range for the rest of this month. The only negative is that demand for live shrimp may outstrip the available supply in the coming days.