South Carolina is well known for some of its major reservoirs that commonly hold the Nation’s top bass fishing tournaments. Just in 2020, Bassmaster held an Open event on Lake Hartwell and an Elite Series event on Santee Cooper. We connected with Bassmaster Elite Series angler Patrick Walters and asked his opinion on the top bass fishing waterbodies in his home State of South Carolina based on quality of fish, not necessarily current popularity. Some of them might surprise you! We have listed our top bass fishing lakes in the State as well as a couple honorable mentions. Give a new waterbody a try and make sure you travel with good information and the right tackle and technique using Omnia’s Shop-by-Lake website. Here’s our top bass fishing lakes in South Carolina:
Lake Hartwell was an easy selection based on its size and ability to produce large bass. Hartwell is a man-made lake that sits on the border of Georgia and South Carolina. The reservoir was created by the Hartwell Dam after the convergence of the Savannah, Tugaloo, and Seneca Rivers. Hartwell has over 56,000 surface acres, a max depth of 185 feet and an average depth of 45 feet. Like other lakes in this area, fishing this part of the lake is heavily influenced by the movement of blueback herring. Bass can be caught in locations of the blue herring bait movements using techniques like j-walkers, crankbaits, and Carolina rigs.
Lake Hartwell (GA, SC)
🎣11 Fishing Reports
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Lake Murray is located in the center of South Carolina and has become one of the State’s most popular vacation destinations likely due to the clean water it holds and its location. Although it has been getting a considerable amount of pressure, Murray continues to be a great fishery. In addition to offering an opportunity at a lunker largemouth bass, these waters are home to crappie, bluegill, and striped bass. Largemouth bass are the most popular fish to target on Murray, however they are not an easy fish to catch. In the Saluda River portion of the lake, bass tend to chase the blueback herring. This is an incredibly difficult way of fishing as the herring roam the open water and can disappear from day to day. Many anglers find more success on the main lake side since fish behave in a much more patterned manner and can be caught in creek arms chasing shad, or on points feeding. The crappies and bluegills in Murray Lake are commonly caught on brush piles off main lake points and flats.
Lake Murray (SC)
🎣2 Fishing Reports
❤️88 User Favorites
Santee Cooper/Lake Marion
Lake Marion is the largest lake in South Carolina and offers exceptional fishing opportunities. The Lake has over 110,00 surface-acres of water and over 300-miles of shoreline. This massive Lake was created by damming the Santee River and is a major body of water consider part of Santee Cooper. The largest largemouth bass was caught in this lake with a weight of over 16 pounds. Anglers can also catch strippers, catfish, panfish, crappie, white bass, perch, and pickerel. A 2020 rescheduled Bass Master Elite event took place on Lake Marion launching from the John C Land III Public Boat Launch. Travel with caution because the submerged stumps can take a toll on your lower unit!
Lake Marion (SC) (SC)
🎣4 Fishing Reports
❤️75 User Favorites
Lake Greenwood is one of South Carolina’s most coveted bodies of water. The State DNR focuses energy on the care the Lake’s fish populations and the water quality. Greenwood Lake allows for top quality Largemouth Bass, Smallmouth Bass, Channel Catfish, Crappie, Bluegill, and Striped Bass. There are also some shore fishing opportunities that are most productive when shore anglers can find points and submerged brush.
Lake Greenwood (SC)
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Wateree Lake is roughly 13,000 acres and contains Largemouth Bass, Crappie, Bluegill, Perch, and Chain Pickerel. This is a popular place to vacation and camp, with many options for an overnight trip. There are boat rentals in the area and multiple boat ramps on the lake. Fishing for Largemouth Bass is the most common species to target in this lake but there’s also an opportunity to catch large strippers. Wateree will produce both size and numbers at period of the year so it was an easy decision to put the Lake on our list of top South Carolina bass fisheries.
Wateree Lake (SC)
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The Cooper River is a major tidal river in South Carolina. This section of the river is downstream from Lake Marion and Lake Moultrie that make up the sections of Santee Cooper and upstream from the mouth at Charleston. Abandoned rice fields in the Cooper River make up almost all the shoreline vegetation and support residency, spawning, and safe nursery grounds. Species present include largemouth bass, panfish, striped bass, and catfish, among others. Like other waterbodies in the Santee Cooper area, underwater trees and stumps make boating in Santee Cooper hazardous so move with caution.
Cooper River (SC)
❤️23 User Favorites
As the fourth largest estuary on the United States East Coast, Winyah Bay is a massive brackish fishery at the confluence of large Southeastern rivers like the Waccamaw and Pee Dee Rivers that flow through North Carolina. The estuary covers 525,000 surface acres of water and includes species like speckled trout, tarpon, drum and flounder. While many anglers travel to Winyah Bay for the redfish, large freshwater fish species can be found in the waterbody and include crappie and largemouth bass. The sheer number of diverse species make this a must try when looking for largemouth in South Carolina.
Winyah Bay (SC)
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The Monticello Reservoir is a large lake in South Carolina. This manmade lake was created to cool the turbines of the Virgil C. Summer Nuclear Plant. Hydroelectricity is also generated from the waterbody as pumps from the nuclear facility pump water into The Reservoir and then release it through the hydroelectric dam between Monticello and Parr Reservoir to the south. This cycling can cause large fluctuations in the surface level of Monticello by as many as 5 feet in a short period of time. The Reservoir is popular among anglers in the region and is managed by the South Carolina DNR. Popular sport fish on the Monticello Reservoir include catfish, largemouth bass, crappie, white bass, and panfish species such as bluegill.
Monticello Reservoir (SC)
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Lake Wylie is a more than 12,500-acre lake on the border of North Carolina and South Carolina and includes over 325 miles of shoreline of the Catawba River. Attractions in the area include McDowell Park on the North Carolina side of the Lake. Anglers flock to Lake Wylie for a chance to catch a largemouth, white bass, spot, striped bass, panfish, crappie, catfish and the occasional walleye. Wylie Lake is deeper than most in the area with a max depth of 82 feet and a mean depth of 23 feet. The wide range of present bass make this a great fishery in the State.
Lake Wylie (NC, SC)
🎣4 Fishing Reports
❤️43 User Favorites
That rounds out our list of top waterbodies in the State of South Carolina according to Bassmaster Elite angler Patrick Walters. Patrick grew up fishing all over his home state and continues to impress fans when he locates fish in these familiar reservoirs. Although they didn’t make the top waterbody list, Patrick did mention a few honorable mentions in South Carolina that are worth mentioning for anyone looking to fish a new waterbody or something off the beaten path. Since our list was based on the quality of fishing opportunity and not necessarily popularity, honorable mentions are the following:
Goose Creek Reservoir (Honorable Mention)
Goose Creek Reservoir is a 950-acre lake in Berkley County. Species present include largemouth bass, catfish, large crappies, and bream panfish like bluegills. The most popular time to fish Goose Creek is September and October when the air temperature begins to cool down and fish get ready to put on the feed bags. Fishing transient baitfish is key to fishing Goose Creek with success. Guide Chris Orvin reports in the North Carolina Sportsmen that "The key is to match the bait you use to the time of day you fish. My preference is early and late when I can use topwater lures most effectively, but bass are caught all-day long by fishing worms and Rat-L-Traps on offshore humps and stumpy flats and using frog lures in very heavy cover and around the pads." He added " The better lures for big bass are very large plastic worms, spinnerbaits, Rat-L-Traps or similar lures, shad-colored crankbaits and topwater lures."
Goose Creek Reservoir (SC)
❤️5 User Favorites
Saluda Lake (Honorable Mention)
Saluda Lake is a 330-acre and nearly 1.5-mile-long waterbody located near Greenville, South Carolina. Saulda is a much smaller waterbody than other South Carolina reservoirs but produces big largemouth bass and crappie. Lake Saluda was created by damming the Saluda River as a way to provide drinking water to the city of Easley in Pickens County. Species in this relatively small waterbody include largemouth bass, crappie, catfish, and bream or panfish. Like many lakes in this area, the Rat-L-Trap tends to be a popular bait. Saluda Landing is located at 605 Motor Boat Club Road off of Highway 25.
Saluda Lake (SC)
🎣1 Fishing Report
❤️2 User Favorites