OCEANSIDE, Calif. — One of the most popular fisheries in the Southeast, sprawling Lake Hartwell in Anderson, S.C., is the next stop on the Hobie B.O.S. Anchored by Power-Pole series trail. Fed by the Tugaloo and Seneca Rivers, the waters here cover over 56,000 acres, feature 962 miles of shoreline and boast a terrific population of spotted bass, plus largemouth and a few smallmouth as well.
“This lake has been recognized as one of the Top 100 Bass Lakes in America by Bassmaster Magazine,” notes tournament director A.J. McWhorter. “It’s known for having plenty of bass and more shoreline than the entire state of California. It’s also loaded with blueback herring, a point likely to influence the standings over the two-day event as the big baitfish will put the bass on patrol just about anywhere from wide-open water to creek mouths and coves.”
Indeed, because the herring are prone to roam, this vast reservoir favors anglers who like to keep moving. “It’s a deep, clear-water lake with a lot of bank points that lend themselves well to drop-shotting and locating fish with your depth finder,” says local sharpie Lowell Brannan, 44, from Hartwell’s host town of Anderson. “There are also plenty of shallow coves where you can run up and cast around docks. There isn’t much in the way of grass or brush here, but those herring schools really hold the bass.”
Brannan, who turned in a sixth-place finish at the Hobie B.O.S. Anchored by Power-Pole Tournament of Champions (T.O.C.) at Lake Ouachita, Arkansas, in 2019, allows that Lake Hartwell can be intimidating because of its size, but suggests there are plenty of bass to be had here for those who put together a flexible game plan. “The spotted bass are really numerous here,” emphasizes Brannan. “They’ll probably account for most limits but adding a nice largemouth or two measuring 20 inches or more will help separate the top few finishers from the rest of the field.”
Because the lake is so big, deep and loaded with herring, Brannan suggest anglers consider throwing topwater lures all day long. If you’re not scoring at the docks, he says, you’ll need to head out to deeper water to stay in the game. “Get on the herring if you can and walk a Zara Spook or similar topwater bait,” he advises, “but keep in mind herring schools move around so don’t count on the bass being in the same spot from day to day – or even hour to hour. If that surface bite isn’t working out, use your electronics to find ledges and the occasional brush pile and get a drop-shot rig with a YUM Roboworm over the side. Once you get your limit, hit the docks again and hope for one big fish to top off your day. It’s often a kicker fish that wins a tournament here.”
Saturday Mel, 37, from Hendersonville, N.C., agrees flexibility can be the key to a big score on Lake Hartwell. “Have a couple of different plans in your head before heading out,” he says. “This is a blueback herring lake and those fish are always on the move, especially during the spawn. Wherever the herring head, the bass follow. That makes it hard to pin them down in one place for two days, so it’s okay to give up on a spot when the fish stop biting.”