Blueback bite, big largemouth should make for fat sacks at Clarks Hill - Major League Fishing
Blueback bite, big largemouth should make for fat sacks at Clarks Hill
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Blueback bite, big largemouth should make for fat sacks at Clarks Hill

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June 3, 2024 • Mike Pehanich • Phoenix Bass Fishing League

APPLING, Ga. — Anglers will gather at Wildwood Park in Appling, Georgia, when the Phoenix Bass Fishing League Presented by T-H Marine’s Savannah River Division hosts its June 15 tournament on Clarks Hill Lake. The fourth and final one-day event prior to the season-ending Super Tournament, it should see some solid spotted and largemouth bass brought to the scales.

Tournament details

Phoenix Bass Fishing League, presented by T-H Marine Savannah River Division

Clarks Hill

Appling, Georgia

June 15, 2024

Sign up today!

About the fishery

The Savannah, Broad and Little rivers converge to form Clarks Hill Lake, more than 70,000 acres large, at the South Carolina/Georgia border.

“The lake is big, and it fishes big,” said Marty Robinson, South Carolina native and Bass Pro Tour angler.

Known officially as J. Strom Thurmond Reservoir, the lake is a sister Savannah River impoundment to Lake Hartwell. Largemouth and spotted bass grow healthy on a diverse forage base, with blueback herring a menu favorite.

Largemouth have comprised the lion’s share of the catch in decades past, but spotted bass have come on strong in size and numbers over the last five years. Spots now get targeted attention from tournament anglers and frequently comprise 30 to 40 percent of a field’s catch.

What to expect

Topwater lures like buzzbaits should be popular tools at Clarks Hill. Photo by Charles Waldorf

Local experts anticipate the blueback herring spawn will be winding down by tournament takeoff.

“Some will be targeting bass feeding on herring, but guys will be able to catch them in the creeks and rivers, too,” says Robinson. “The bluegill bed bite is usually getting good this time of year as that herring spawn tapers off.”

The lake features lots of laydowns, clay points and rock, an advantageous mix for flipping/pitching as well as spinnerbait and crankbait fishing. Topwater action can be furious when bass herd herring. Walking baits are top choices.

“A Buckeye Berzerk Buzzbait and other topwaters catch a lot of fish, too,” adds Robinson, “You will also see some forward-facing sonar fishing. This is a good FFS lake.”

Flukes worked with rapid, skittish retrieves work well, particularly on spotted bass. Jerkbaits will factor into the FFS bite. Expect some glide bait, drop-shot, shaky head and Texas-rig worm action as well.

Joe Anders, winner of the Clarks Hill BFL event in 2022, has fished Savannah River reservoirs since 2009. He reported that single-day tournaments regularly require winning weights of 18 to 19 pounds. A 23-pound limit topped a recent tourney board.

Over the past five years, 3- and 4-pound spotted bass have factored into more winning totals. While it can be tricky to consistently find largemouth in that same size class, one big bite can make up for it in a hurry. Robinson’s best Clarks Hill catch was a largemouth of 8 pounds, 8 ounces.

“You can chase deep blueback fish or work shallow for largemouth,” offered Anders “Pick your poison.”

Anders expects deep cranking and football jigs to come into play on deep-water fish and favors a buzzbait for the early morning bite. In addition, May and June often find Clarks Hill bass occupying up-river grass beds.

“The water level is normal this year, and the main body of the lake is clear,” says Anders. “The year that I won, the water level was higher. I caught my fish around shallow trees on a buzz frog.”