The key words to remember during the Pride of Georgia presented by Evan Williams Bourbon Elite tournament this year are hydrilla, points and blueback herring. Chances are on or all will lay a major role in the outcome. Davy Hite, last year's Elite winner here with 71-12, keyed on all three.
Hydrilla has spread throughout much of this 70,000-acre impoundment, but it's more well-established in the open water of the lower lake. Keg Creek and Big Branch are well-known hot spots this time of year, and depending on late April water levels, spinnerbaits and frogs may be the top fish-producers.
The blueback herring, which first appeared in Clarks Hill in 1983, migrate up the lake and normally spawn in May, which corresponds to the normally slower postspawn bass season. The herring are a favorite largemouth forage, and when bass find and trap them, huge feeding sprees take place. It's a dreamed-of event for fishermen, who can enjoy excellent topwater fishing when it happens.
Those herring feeding sprees often take place up the main Savannah River arm of the lake, but if things are quiet, the Elite pros can still find bass in smaller tributaries like Fishing and Soap creeks. Here they can work shallow shoreline cover (if the water is up), scattered vegetation or long clay points. Crankbaits and Carolina rigs often rule the day.
Point-wise, the pros will fish them regardless of water levels. Many are covered with brush, which makes them major fish attracters in high water, but most are extremely long and still offer plenty of fishing opportunities even when the water is down. Jigs and Carolina rigs will be popular.
The Savannah Rapids Visitor Center in Columbia County, Ga., overlooks the picturesque Augusta Canal Headgates and the Savannah River. This historic building was originally the Gatekeeper's Cottage at the Augusta Canal Headgates. Visit the center for information on local attractions. While you're there, you can view a re-creation of what the gatekeeper's bedroom would have been like when he lived and worked here. (www.choosecolumbiacounty.com; www.columbiacountyga.gov )