Dangerously low water levels in the Santee Cooper Lakes will present serious challenges – both from a fishing standpoint and personal safety – to anglers fishing in the Carolinas Bass Challenge South Carolina Division Championship this Saturday.

“It’s getting pretty low,” said CBC angler Bradford Beavers of Summerville. “It’s about 4 ½ feet low in the upper lake and 3 ½ feet low in the lower lake.” 

On normal lakes like Lake Murray, Beavers said, that drop in water levels would not present nearly as serious a problem, but he noted, “On Santee, when it gets two feet low it starts getting pretty treacherous.”

The low water levels have also left normal fishable structure high and dry and the fish have pulled off into different areas on different types of structure, he said.

“I think the low levels will concentrate some of the fish. There is just not a lot of real estate up shallow right now, not a lot of flooded vegetation. A lot of trees people normally fish don’t have enough water on them to fish now. Even the local guys are having to re-learn the lake because it is not fishing like it would typically.”

Beavers, who fishes the CBC with his dad, Dwight Beavers, also of Summerville, said the swamp area in the upper lake has been where most of the tournaments have been won this year, but the low water makes it challenging to fish.

“Fishing frogs around the vegetation has been a big pattern, but finding the fish and being able to get to them with all the stumps and sandbars is going to be the challenge. It’s going to be hard to get back safely to where you found them earlier.”

The key in the championship will be to find the right vegetation flooded in 2 to 3 feet of water, he said.

“The floating heart is what is flooded right now in the upper end of the upper lake, hyacinths and flooded heart. It’s fishable, but it’s hard to find any fishable vegetation in the lower lake right now.”

Another key is the shad migration, he added.

“I am going to be looking for areas where the fish have been moving up into, like shallow bars, places like that,” Beavers said. “A lot of shad are starting to push shallow right now so I am going to be looking for concentrations of fish, groups of fish moving up and feeding on the shad.”

While the extremely low water levels present serious challenges to the fishermen, Beavers said some anglers will still catch sizable bags of fish.

“There was a Berkeley tournament recently and two guys weighed in bags of 27 and 28; pounds. In my mind, I am think 28 pounds will win Saturday, but it would not surprise me if somebody came in with over 30 pounds.”

The winning team in Saturday’s championship will trailer home a 215 Skeeter TZX190 with 150 Yamaha HPDI outboard.

All anglers who fish the S.C. Division Championship at Santee Cooper will qualify for the Carolinas Bass Challenge Classic, along with anglers from the North Carolina Division Championship, on Clarks Hill Lake Oct. 23. The Classic Champions will win a Skeeter ZX200/200SHO.