Fall best time of the year to fish

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When hardwood tree leaves begin to change color, some folks head to New England, others to the Georgia and South Carolina mountain regions, but I head to Thurmond Lake.

You might call me a "fall guy" when it comes to my favorite time of year on the lake. Of course, I like springtime, too, and winter's not too bad and you'll find me somewhere on the lake during the pre-dawn hours of a hot summer day.

But fall is my favorite time, because Mother Nature's artist-in-residence is busily painting the golds, yellows, reds and oranges against a mostly green backdrop. "Spectacular" hardly describes the scene. At the same time, water temperatures are cooling and fishing success is getting better.

My success at catching 'em hasn't been anything to write home about, but that started to change late Wednesday afternoon. After limited success on top-water lures and bouncing spoons off the bottom, I returned to an old standby in the form of a soft plastic lure with an enticing wiggle called the Got-Cha Shad.

I threaded it onto an eighth-ounce lead-headed Buckeye jig and trolled it some 90 feet behind the boat. My trolling path led across shallow points coming out of deeper water and when the lure either approached or cleared the points, fish struck.

I caught two -- stripers weighing 2 and 4 pounds. No, not very big, but when my previous catches last week hardly approximated the size of the lures I was using, I was happy. The last one struck at sunset and by the time I netted it, darkness had fallen. So, we went home.

I won't be able to return to the lake until early next week, but you can bet I'll be thinking about how I caught those fish. With sunset coming around 5:30ish, I'll have to get to the lake earlier.

- The Clark Hill Striper Club will hold a tournament on Nov. 14 benefitting Robert and Mary Ann Edwards. Profits from the tournament, which will be held out of the Dorn Boating and Fishing Complex on Hawe Creek near McCormick, S.C., will be donated to Mr. Edwards, who is undergoing treatment for cancer. More information can be obtained from Joseph Pearson at (803) 221-8820.

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 (www.crockettrocket striperfishing.com) -- We've been killing the fish. It's been real easy. Water temperature is 66 degrees and the lake is clear. Fishing is about as good as it gets. I have seen better, but can't remember when that was. My parties caught more than 200 stripers and hybrids this week and I've really enjoyed the trips. I had some great people who were easy on the guide. Some of my trips included the famous fishing Kaufield Family from Aiken: Kurt, Heather, Ethan, Kyle and Patrick. They caught limits on their first trip and decided they really liked striper fishing. Other parties included Jon Barnhart, his son, Rhett; Joel Hiebert, Ross Wenger and Rodney Braswell. Twelve-year-old Rhett gave everybody a fishing lesson en route to a 50-fish limit. Donald and Susan Griffin and Co., of Marshville, N.C., also had a great morning, catching a cooler full of fish. They are retired and love to travel and catch fish on different lakes. A couple of days before coming with me, they'd been offshore after king mackerel. Scott Ferguson and his dad, Don, from Hilton Head, S.C., also had a great morning and were good to be out with. They, too, travel a lot and fish offshore and enjoyed catching the stripers. The fishing should continue to be hot until we get some really cold weather.

Check out my Web site for some recent catches.

Ralph Barbee Jr., professional guide, (706) 860-7373 -- Wednesday, I caught 16 non-keeper bass on a shallow-running No. 5 ShadRap in Big Branch (the Pollard cove). Then I fished a ditch line in the back of Chigoe Creek and caught five bass, each weighing more than 3 pounds. On Thursday, I caught two bass on a merthiolate floating worm near Cherokee Creek, two more in Grays Creek and two more near Mistletoe State Park. My show features Capt. Mack of umbrella rig fame, fishing in Lake Lanier for striped bass. It airs Saturdays at 11 a.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m. Stations are Comcast Ch. 21, Knology Ch. 7, Atlantic Broadband Ch. 7 (Aiken), Northland Ch. 9 (Statesboro-Swainsboro) and Ft. Gordon Ch. 9. You must have a special box from Comcast to view my show. The box is free.

Billy Murphy, professional guide, (706) 733-0124 (Web site www.doubletroublefishingguides.com) with twins Brad and Jim -- Ted Boileau, of Evans, and I fished together last Tuesday, out scouting for fish for future party fishing. We fished live herring on downlines 20 to 26 feet down in 30 to 40 feet of water. We had to move a lot to find the fish and wound up catching 23. Big fish of the day was a 5-pounder. I went scouting by myself on Wednesday, fishing 26 to 38 feet over humps in the main Savannah River channel. I caught and released 12 fish, largest of which weighed 4 pounds. I spotted some seagulls flying around, but they never stopped to feed.

My VHF radio handle is doubletrouble on Ch. 68.

Capt. William Sasser, U.S. Coast Guard-licensed professional guide specializing in crappies, hybrids and striped bass. (706) 589-5468 -- We caught most of our stripers off points in 35 feet, fishing live herring on the bottom. The Rev. Thurman Flusser is 90, but was as agile as me in the boat. He and his son, Mark Flusser, both of North Augusta, caught a limit of striped bass. His dad caught an 11-pounder, the biggest and last of the trip. Joe Kicklighter, Jerry Burkhalter, Cobb Copeland, Earl Hendrix, Hubert Blanton, all from the Glennville-Claxton, Ga., area. They had 24 crappies in the boat when the report was made in mid-afternoon. We're catching them on live shiners off the bottom in 30 to 35 feet of water around submerged trees. 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 fished a couple of days this week and hunted the rest of the time. Fishing has been really good. I haven't had any problem, catching limits of fish. One party of three caught its 30-fish limit. My fish are coming from the top end of the lake. Most of the fish are coming from right off the bottom in 30 to 35 feet of water. My VHF radio handle is Boat Racer and I can be reached on Channel 68. My Web site is www.fishlake thurmond.com.

Albert Moody, Clark Hill Herring Hut, Clarks Hill, S.C. (864) 333-2000 -- Billy Burch and I fished the Savannah River below the dam on Wednesday. We caught 35 or 40 bream and shellcracker and one yellow perch. The fish came on hybrid pinks fished on the bottom. Radim Broos, while fishing from the walkway below the dam with live herring, caught a 28-inch, 11-pound hybrid; and a 33-inch, 12-pound, 8-ounce striper. He caught the fish within a 30-minute period.

SAVANNAH RIVER

NEW SAVANNAH BLUFF LOCK & DAM

Lock and Dam Bait and Tackle (Bob Baurle, Billy Hambrick), (706) 496-1173 -- Crappies are biting in the river and in Butler Creek, as well as in the dead lakes downriver. The catfish bite remains strong, too, while a few small striped bass are being caught.

MERRY LAND BRICKYARD PONDS

Harrison Sears (706) 722-8263 (www.brickyardponds.com) -- Wallace Burns caught 35 catfish on chicken liver in the Ditch. Carl Smith caught 11 catfish in the Bradford Pond. Robert Hughes won our Big Fish Contest for October with a 5.02-pound bass. The prize was $50. No license is needed to fish in our ponds.

ATLANTIC OCEAN

BEAUFORT, S.C. & VICINITY

Ralph Goodison, Fripp Island, (843) 838-2530 -- Cooler weather has pushed spotted sea trout into schools and if you locate a school, you can clean up. Big redfish are biting, too. Offshore, black sea bass fishing is good, while an occasional grouper is being caught.

SAVANNAH

Miss Judy Charters, Capt. Judy Helmey, (912) 897-4921 (www.missjudycharters.com.) P.O. Box 30771, Savannah, Ga. 31410-0771 -- Cut shrimp fished on the bottom, in the surf this time of year will produce some nice catches of black drum. While vermilion snapper are now off limits from Oct. 31 until March 31, there are plenty of species of fish left to catch around our artificial reefs. And the closure comes during the time of year when we normally don't fish much offshore.


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