Spawning run will improve bite

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Blueback herring, the No. 1 bait fish preferred by largemouth bass, hybrid and striped bass on Thurmond Lake, have moved into the shallows on their annual spawning run, making for exciting times for fishermen.

The game fish can be caught on a variety of lures, including the weightless Zoom Super Fluke and the top-water Zara Spook and Pencil Popper plugs. Murky water conditions should help fishermen avoid spooking the big fish in the shallows, but it's still recommended that longer casts be made from deeper water.

"The herring generally spawn between April's full moon (April 9) and that phase in May (May 9)," said veteran bass fisherman Noel Brown, of North Augusta. "So the next two weeks ought to be red hot, especially around blow-throughs." The latter are areas of water covering shallow gaps between islands or between islands and the mainland.

Crappies are to be found adjacent to the bank around cover such as stumps, logs or brush, and can be caught easily on jigs fished a foot or so below bobbers. Some fishermen like to "sweeten" the bait by hooking a small golden shiner or toughie minnow through its lips, but jigs work well by themselves most of the time.

THURMOND LAKE

Capt. 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) -- Water temperature is in the mid-60s and the lake is starting to clear. Bait fish are finally moving into the shallows and will start to spawn. This should drastically improve the fishing and the blow-throughs ought to start producing some huge largemouths, hybrids and stripers. My clients have been doing well early in the morning, but winds have been a real problem for us around midday. Johnny Smith, of Savannah, brought a couple of his fishing buddies, Jeff and Travis Bedso. They had fished the lake several times in the past, but were disappointed in the few fish they caught. We went over some planer board, cut baiting and downlining techniques, and we caught fish using them all. They left feeling much more confident as well as with a cooler full of fish. They saw they needed a better bait tank and some lighter rods to go with their reels. The next two months on the lake, fishing should be wide open.

Ralph Barbee Jr., professional guide, (706) 860-7373 -- My show features an archived feature: The Georgia DNR's fish hatchery at Richmond Hill, Ga., making "baby" hybrids and stripers and catching some big stripers in the Savannah River.

Dale Gibbs, professional guide specializing in largemouth bass, (706) 288-7510 -- I fished Tuesday as the wind howled, and did pretty well. I caught eight largemouths and lost two, my biggest fish weighing 5 pounds. The catch was made using three lures: two bass on a Zoom pearl white weightless Super Fluke, three bass on a Team Daiwa jerkbait and three on a r-ounce Buckeye chartreuse and white spinnerbait with gold blades and a pearl, blue flake YNO trailer (made by Tony Postell of Appling, Ga.) The spinnerbait enticed the largest fish of the eight and my best five bass weighed about 16 pounds. Look for the bite to improve as blueback herring come out of the depths to spawn.

Capt. Mark Crawford, U.S. Coast Guard-licensed professional guide specializing in hybrid and striped bass, (706) 373-8347 (www.teamsaveonemore.com) -- My son, Matthew, and I fished in a club tournament this week and caught some nice stripers on cut bait in 10 feet of water. I also took out Bubba Temkin, of Leesville, Ala., his son, John, and his father, Mike, of Las Vegas. We caught 35 stripers, but only a few were of good size. Most were small fish and were hard to find in the gusting 20-mph wind.

Capt. William Sasser, U.S. Coast Guard-licensed professional guide specializing in crappies, hybrids and striped bass, (706) 589-5468 -- Fishing this week has been up and down because of the weather fronts moving through our area. Most of the larger stripers are in shallow water feeding on spawning herring. Look for crappies to move in shallow around the banks where they can be caught on jigs beneath bobbers. Chris Willcox, George Willcox and Rick McBride, all of Augusta; Shane Chalker, of Harlem, David Workman, of Dearing, Ga., and Justin McBride, of Grovetown, fished with me this week. We fished cut bait on the bottom in the shallows and the group wound up with a nice cooler full of fish. Chris Willcox caught the day's big fish -- a 16-pound striper. 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 -- I think we'll be in good shape straight on through the summer. We're catching bigger fish and better numbers. I'm still catching most of my fish on downlines 16-20 feet. Bobby Miller, Tim McNeil and Larry Palmer, all of Augusta, enjoyed a pretty day on the lake. We got onto some fast downline fish, keeping their 30-fish limit out of 50 caught.

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 -- Pete Boone and Derek Brown caught a limit of hybrids and a 17-pound catfish, fishing around the sailboat club. Bill Howle, of Evans, who loves to fly-fish for bass, hybrids and stripers, reports blueback herring have moved onto shallow points. He caught seven nice fish Thursday morning.

MERRY LAND

BRICKYARD PONDS

Harrison Sears, (706) 722-8263 (www.brickyardponds.com) -- Adam Beckum continues to lead the big fish contest of the month with a 7.12-pound largemouth bass. Lonnie Pope and Clarence Gay won the big fish prize for a 4.39-pounder, and Marty Pearson and Paul Grubbs won last Friday's bass tournament with 9.29 pounds. Beckum and Flores were second with 8.28 pounds. Flores and Junior Stewart caught a 4.24-pounder and had a 15.85-pound catch to win the Sunday bass tournament. Bobby Young and Donna Smith had 8.86 pounds for second. Our bass tournaments run from 6 to 10 p.m. every Friday, and 7 a.m.-2 p.m. on Sundays. Entry fee is $20 per fisherman in each event.

A fishing license is not required to fish in our ponds.

ATLANTIC OCEAN

Beaufort, S.C. & vicinity

Ralph Goodison, Fripp Island, (843) 838-2530 -- It's cobia time in the Beaufort area, with a few fish showing. Two sport fishing boats ventured out to the Gulf Stream last week and ran into some big bull dolphin and a few wahoo. Trenchard's and Fripp inlets are producing good catches of grey trout. The redfish, the trout, the whiting and the sheepshead bites are on the upswing.


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