Big Fish Ready to Go Shallow at Clarks Hill

Published on 03-16-2021

Big Fish Ready to Go Shallow at Clarks Hill

By Pete Robbins

The annual Clarks Hill stop on the Big Bass Tour has been something of a wildcard over the past four years, not in terms of the quality of the fishing, which is always superlative, but in terms of when it has been held. From 2017 through 2020, the event was fished in April, May, October and March, respectively. Now we’re double-dipping, going there back-to-back early in the season for the first time since 2015 and 2016. Local pro Joey Sabbagha thinks that the timing couldn’t be much better.

The Prosperity, South Carolina angler said that the bite has been tough lately, but with lots of warm nights and warmer days on the calendar, the shallow bite should heat up.

“They’re finally starting to move back into the pockets,” he said. “I’d run and gun and hit as many backs of pockets with a little color in the water as I could. There may even be a few fish bedding by then.”

His primary weapons would be a variety of flipping baits – generally green pumpkin, some with green flake as well – like a four-inch Berkley Pit Boss or the compact PowerBait Bunker Hawg.

“I’d throw those soft plastics at any kind of shoreline cover,” he explained. “It could be laydowns or any sort of shoreline grass. I’d rig it with a ½ ounce weight on a 4/0 Berkley Fusion worm hook and get to work.”

He also likes the big Pit Boss as a trailer on a 3/8 or ½ ounce flipping jig, but he’d start with the Texas Rig. If the water were to be stained rather than just slightly off-color, he’d cover water even fast with a square billed crankbait like the Berkley Square Bull, complemented by a double willow spinnerbait.

Why the backs of pockets? Well, not only are the fish looking to spawn in protected water, but Sabbagha also believes that they rely on a bit of stain for predictability.

“The main lake clears up really fast,” he said. “As soon as areas clear up, the fish want to suspend. They get up off of stuff and that makes them pretty hard to catch. It takes that color to get them to sit on anything.”

If the pockets get too crowded, he said one sleeper pattern might be to target deep offshore rock.

“They don’t all move up at once,” he explained. “The fish that stay out deeper longer in their winter zones stop on that rock to stage before they finally move up to spawn. The relative lack of grass and brush in the lake puts even more of those fish on the deep rock.”

Fortunately, there are lots of big bass to go around. We’re not likely to see a teen-class entry like at the recent Big Bass Tour slugfest at Lake Conroe in Texas, but the sheer numbers of 5- to 7-pound largemouths could be staggering. Last year’s event here, which was held about two weeks earlier, produced five fish over 7 pounds and it took 6.44 to sneak into the top 10. The 2015 and 2016 tournaments, also held in March, both produced more seven pounders than our tournaments there any other month (even though it always takes a seven-plus to claim top honors). In fact, in 2015, the 10th place competitor was just shy of 7 pounds (6.88) and we had an 8.10 pound brute to lead the way. The top of the leaderboard is always tightly-packed, and while there may be chances to claim hourly prizes with fish in the 4- to 5-pound range, they’re highly unlikely to compete for top honors. Be sure to monitor the live leaderboard and plan your fishing day accordingly.