Guide Wendell Wilson offers basic winter patterns for bass on Savannah River Lakes

The basic rule for winter bass fishing on two of the Savannah River Lakes – Hartwell and Russell – is to fish deep, but on Clarks Hill you need to fish much shallower, according to Wendell Wilson of Elberton, Ga., a veteran guide on all three lakes.

Wilson outlined his bass fishing strategy for all three lakes during the winter, noting that both largemouths and spotted bass are the targets in Hartwell and Russell while Clarks Hill harbors mainly largemouths:


Lake Hartwell: Here the basic pattern is to jig spoons around schools of baitfish in 30 to 40 feet of water. You can also cast jerkbaits into the centers of little pockets, although you will still be fishing over 30 to 40 feet of water. Sometimes the jerkbait will work better as the bass begin to move up a little bit out of the creek channels.

Another thing that works sometimes is to crawl a jig and pig on the bottom around brush in 30 to 40 feet of water. That is the way BASS pro Alton Jones won the Bassmaster Classic on Lake Hartwell in February about four years ago. He crawled a jig on the bottom most of the time and he also used a jigging spoon.

Those are the three basic ways to fish the clear water in the majority of the lake. But, if you run way up the rivers where the water has a little more color you will want to fish a little shallower with a small crankbait, like a No. 5 ShadRap or any other small crankbait that represents a threadfin shad.


Lake Russell: Start out with the same jigging school pattern around schools of shad in 30 to 40 feet of water. This will be the tactic that works day in and day out in the winter. Then where the water is stained, especially if the wind is blowing in, fish in 10 to 20 feet of water.

The jerkbait pattern will work in 20 to 30 feet of clear water in the pockets, but it will not be quite as good as it is on Lake Hartwell

You can also use a drop-shot worm in those same places, a 4- or 5-inch worm on a 2-foot leader with the weight 2 feet below the worm. Use that in places where the bait is in 30 to 40 feet of water.

That is about it on Lake Russell. The bass won't do much in stained water until spring.


Clarks Hill: Down on Clarks Hill, it's a totally different story. The water is stained compared to Russell and Hartwell and the fish are much shallower. Another reason is that the bass are mostly largemouths.

The best pattern is to fish 5 to 15 feet of water around the banks. Crawl a jig and pig around any wood cover you can see in the water along the sandy banks especially. That is a good pattern for some quality fish. At the same time, if you want to go for numbers, cast a lipless crankbait along the banks.

It helps if you get where there are a lot of baitfish. You can locate them by watching the seagulls. If you find a lot of bait activity in the creeks you will probably catch a mixed bag with bass, crappie, stripers and white perch.

The weather plays a role on all three lakes. They usually bite better on windy days than on flat, calm days. If you get three or four days of a warming trend, the jerkbait pattern and the Clarks Hill patterns will work better. If you have a cold front move through the jigging spoons and drop-shot work better.


Wilson guides for bass, crappie and stripers on all three lakes and for hybrids on Thurmond and Hartwell. You can check out his guide service at To book a fishing trip call him at (706) 283-3336.