Love is catching a cooler full of shellcrackers

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Ahhhhh, fishing! How much do I love thee. Let me count the ways.

There are many ways to enjoy fishing, but one of the best is to go out with longtime friends as my wife, Bea, and I did on Thurmond Lake on Wednesday afternoon.

Capt. William Sasser's 22-foot pontoon boat was long enough to hold us; his wife, Donna, and their son, Austin; Albert Moody and David and Bonnie Annis. This shellcracker fishing trip had been planned for about two months.

A vote of thanks was given to Pat Moody, who minded the store (Herring Hut) to allow her husband to make the trip.

Capt. Sasser fishes primarily for stripers, hybrids and crappies, but said he had "some ideas" about where we could catch a mess of the popular panfish. The ideas panned out as we brought in a cooler full of quality "crackers" from their spawning beds in the shallows of Little River, Ga.

- Condolences to professional guide Capt. Mark Crawford and family. His mother-in-law died in Virginia earlier this week. His report will resume next Friday.

- The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources has stocked some 25,000 American shad fry into the Broad River, with the bulk of the tiny fish going in upstream of Columbia. The stocking is the first of a major program to restore the shad fishery in the Broad and Santee river systems.

THURMOND LAKE

Raysville Marina (Leon Buffington and Doug Pentecost), (706) 595-5582 -- Brad Carani, of Washington, Ga., caught 11 catfish on chicken livers.

David Willard, U.S. Coast Guard-licensed full-time professional fishing guide, specializing in hybrids and stripers and trophy largemouth bass. (Boat phone: (706) 214-0236. (803) 637-6379 (crockettrocket@bellsouth.net) -- On Thursday, my party and I were greeted by a 10 to 15 southwestern chop, one of my favorite winds. I had a group of fish killers from Augusta -- Alfonso Thomas, Greg Lee, Gary Wilder, Brian Page and Mike Hobbs. We located some fish on a 30-foot hump and commenced to have all the rods go down. Those guys boated 50 stripers and hybrids in about a three-hour period and are looking forward to a wonderful fish fry. Earlier, Mike and Dee Stratton, of St. Louis, Mo., fished with me for the 20th straight year. They caught their limits of stripers and hybrids every day and plan to throw a fish fry when they return home. Jimmy Lee, of Augusta, fished with them one day. All our fish came from 24 to 30 feet of water on live herring.

Ralph Barbee Jr., professional guide, (706) 860-7373 -- Danny Sheehan and I fished on Monday and Danny caught an 8-pound striper on a new Bass Pro Shops lure called "The Ghost." It's five inches long and dives five to seven feet. It looks like a blueback but is brown tint with a bit of green with red hooks. I caught two largemouth bass back-to-back on the Yellow Fellow -- both 4-pounders. I caught a 6-pound bass on the Pencil Popper and a 4-pounder. The four bass I caught weighed 18 pounds total. We fished Thursday morning. I caught one hybrid on "The Ghost" and Danny caught a five-pound bass on that lure. We left for 30 minutes and came back, and he caught a 20-pound striper, his biggest ever.

Billy Murphy, professional guide, (706) 733-0124 (Web site doubletroublefishing guides.com) with twins Brad and Jim) -- Clark McKissock, of Marietta, Ga., Gary Norton, of South Bend, Ind., and Dennis Degroot, from Anchorage, Alaska, fished with me Monday through Thursday, and we all had a great time. We wound up with 79 hybrids and stripers, a couple of crappies, some catfish and largemouth bass. Dennis caught a 6-pound, 13-ounce largemouth bass on Thursday, and Clark caught a 12-pound striper and Gary added an 8-pound striper. On Monday, Clark landed a 22-pound striper and a 16-pounder, both caught on cut bait, and two crappies weighing 3 and 2.5 pounds struck herring slow-trolled beneath planer boards. Clark figured he'd caught the big fish of the week, but Gary caught a 25-pounder and an 11-pounder on Wednesday. Most of the fish caught were released, except for a few for a fish dinner.

Dale Gibbs, professional guide, specializing in largemouth bass (706) 288-7510 -- Fishing for bass has been good to fair for me this week. It seemed like every species of fish came into the shallows to spawn, thanks to the new moon. I've seen bass, gar, catfish, shellcrackers, herring, suckers and carp, just to name a few. Bass are hitting top-water plugs, Zoom Super Flukes, jigs, worms and swim baits. Stripers and hybrids are schooling on and near the surface both early and late in the day.

William Sasser, U.S. Coast Guard-licensed professional guide, specializing in crappies, hybrids and striped bass. (706) 589-5468 -- We had a great week of hybrid and striper and shellcracker fishing. Andy and Dale Strasser, Calvin Hamby, Scott Taylor and Russ Markwalter, all of Appling, fished with us on a morning trip. They caught 22 fish on live herring. Tina Penny, of Acworth, Ga., treated her dad, Joe, and mom, Liz, of Augusta, to an afternoon trip. That it was a great trip is an understatement. We had six fish on at the same time several times until we quit. John and Yvonne O'Neal of North Augusta fished, and it didn't take long to learn who the family fisherman was. They caught their fish early with the final score Yvonne 17, John 3. Kenny Shockley, Blake Gay and Lee Ogden, all of Millen, Ga., and Ronnie Smith, of Ft. Worth, Texas, got clobbered by a passing mob of 5-pound hybrids. They wound up with 27 fish in all. Donna, my wife, and our son, Austin, fished with Bill and Bea Baab, Albert "Herring Hut" Moody and Bonnie and David Annis late Wednesday. We wound up with a cooler full of nice shellcrackers.

My VHF radio handle is Crappie Master and I can be reached on the lake on Channel 68. Check out my Web site at www.williamsasserfishing.com.

Capt. Tommy Dudley, U.S. Coast Guard-licensed professional guide, specializing in stripers and hybrids. (706) 833-4807 -- Fishing has been good this week, although it hasn't been as consistent as it was previously. That means I had to work to find them. Downline fish are plentiful, but are sort of small, so I've gone back to planer boards and cut bait to catch better quality fish. Most of my fish are coming over humps in 20 to 30 feet around the main river channel. Jay Wilson, Dr. Gerry Gordon, Shawn Bowden and Larry Sweeney, all of Aiken, got off to a slow start. They had to be patient until I could find some downline fish. Jack Alfredson and John Huffman, of Savannah Lakes, took a cut bait trip to try and beat the 24-pounder last week. They did catch 11 quality fish but no 25-pounder. Chris Tucker, Jerome Brundage, Rodney Burnett and Torossie Leslie, all of Thomson, Ga., had a fast start on some downline fish, and then the wind died and so did the fishing. My VHF radio handle is Boat Racer and I can be reached on Channel 68. My Web site is www.fishlakethurmond.com.

Albert Moody, Clark Hill Herring Hut, Clarks Hill, S.C. (864) 333-2000 -- Rick Green, of Appling, caught a 3-pound shellcracker in the Savannah River on hybrid pink worms. John Rooks and David Kaney, of Graniteville, S.C., caught a 59-pound, a 40-pound and two 20-pound catfish using jugs with cut herring. Clem Anderson, of Augusta, caught 30 big shellcrackers on hybrid pinks. Wade Smith and Mike Bates, of Edgefield, caught a 26-pound catfish, a 23-pounder and several largemouths. Frank Fields and Mary Tipton, of Bath, S.C., caught 60 shellcrackers on hybrid pink worms.

SAVANNAH RIVER

NEW SAVANNAH BLUFF LOCK & DAM

Lock and Dam Bait and Tackle (Bob Baurle), (706) 793-8053 -- Gerald Williams caught nine big redbellies on red worms fishing in Butler Creek off the bank. Kelly Nobles limited out on shad off the dam on Sabiki Rigs. Lots of good stripers are being caught on bucktails and shad early and late in the day. Bream fishing also is picking up, while mullet catches are growing larger.

MERRY LAND BRICKYARD PONDS

Harrison Sears (706) 722-8263 (www.brickyardponds.com) -- Adam Beckum and Adam Suarez won Friday's tournament with 5.16 pounds. J.J. Dickson and J.C. Dicks were second with 4.55 pounds and big fish with a 3.18-pounder. Eddie Darnell caught a 6.21-pounder on a plastic lizard in the White Elephant Pond and leads our big fish contest. Our bass tournaments are in progress on Fridays and Sundays. The Friday tournament runs from 6 to 10 p.m., and our Sunday tournament runs from 7 a.m., to 2 p.m. A fishing license is not required to fish in our ponds.


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