We’ve heard and seen a lot about several of the top producers targeting drains leading into Lake Hartwell’s spawning pockets during the GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods. This deal has clearly been working for those who pursue it; but there’s a lot more than meets the eye.
Bassmaster Elite Series pro Mark Menendez explains: “The back of the creeks here aren’t flat until the very back so it’s a V-bottom that leads these fish in. You have docks, you have cover on both sides, but in these colder situations, everybody is focusing right down the middle — the fastball.
“We get this on other reservoirs that we go to, but the way Hartwell sets up, it’s just a geography deal and these guys have picked that up really quickly.”
Referring to the drains as highways that fish follow on their seasonal migrations, Menendez said the drains present year-round appeal.
“These are long fingers that go way back to the spawning areas, so they live there a long time,” he said. “They may be in the mouth of the drain all winter where the water may be 30-40 feet; and as the spring warms, they start moving right up that drain.
“It’s the quickest route. They don’t have quote-unquote creek channels here. You have that little, bitty drain and that is the direct street route that they take.”
The benefit for anglers is a well-defined target area.
“You can fish right in the middle of that drain and the fish tend to stay right on the bottom most of the time,” Menendez said. “The depth is the key; that’s why you get the one-two.
“You can start at the mouth of the drain with an underspin, move a little farther in with a plug, move in a little farther with a bladed jig. As it becomes shallower, you just change your tool to the correct depth to stay in that strike zone.”