Kimmel Would Mix it Up on Staging Fish on Clarks Hill

Published on 03-03-2023

By Pete Robbins
In March tournaments on South Carolina’s Clarks Hill Reservoir, the biggest issue is whether the big bass will top 8 pounds. It’s a foregone conclusion that the top prize winner will exceed 7 – indeed, that’s been a truism for every Big Bass Tour event we’ve held there – but there’s no certainty until you get well past eight.
Last year a 7.95 took top honors, followed by a trio of other 7-pound-plus largemouths. The year before, that fish would not have sniffed the winner’s circle. Indeed, it would have ended up in 6th place.
As the contestants in this year’s event descend on the lake for three days of competition from March 10th through the 12th, that’s what they’ll have to contend with. A warm spell in mid-to-late February pushed massive numbers of bass shallow, but with nighttime temperatures expected to be in the 40s, local ace Justin Kimmel expects that’ll put a stop sign on their forward progress – and perhaps cause some of them to back off.
“I don’t think you’ll see any more of them pulling up on beds,” he said. “I’d focus on staging areas near the spawning zones. I’d love to have a giant sight fish to go to first thing in the morning, but I don’t think that’ll happen. On a really sunny day you might be able to look for one in the afternoon, but if you want to be competitive you’ll have to have some other things going on.”
His first choice would be to crank prespawn spots looking for a fattie with the flat-sided Berkley Frittside crankbait, a relative newcomer that has already produced hundreds of thousands of dollars in winnings across the country. “There are only two colors I’m going to throw,” he explained. “Ghost Morning Dawn works just about everywhere but sometimes they prefer something red, so I’ll go with Special Red Craw. I’d look for them on secondary points with rock or clay on them. Sometimes they prefer one over the other.”
For fish that have backed off a bit, or just haven’t fully progressed to the promised land, he’d look for isolated brush piles in similar areas. He’d choose from a variety of Berkley jigs, depending on the thickness of the cover, and rely on colors like watermelon or PB&J for a natural craw look. Of course he’d tip any and all of them with a powerful and irresistible Powerbait Maxscent Power Chunk. It’ll slow the fall and make for a more undulating movement, while also adding scent.
One other technique he’d use is a single-jointed glide bait, which closely resembles a blueback herring and works best in the upper 5 feet of the water column.
“I’d throw it on any wood a can find,” he explained. “There are a few docks in Clarks Hill, not a lot, but those fish pull up there in the middle of the day to sun their eggs. A lot of the best big bass fishermen on the lake know about that pattern and it consistently produces big fish.”
One other wildcard would be a buzzbait. It’s possible to cover water with one this time of year, and while it typically won’t produce a lot of bites, the ones that it attracts tend to be outsized.
Kimmel expects that top finishers will come from all portions of the lake, everywhere from down by the dam to the upper reaches of the rivers. This is a tournament where fractions of ounces will matter for hourly winners and checks, so pay attention to the live leaderboard to make sure that you get paid.