It has been well over three months since South Carolina was struck by an unprecedented rainfall event in early October, 2015.
During a five-day stretch from Oct. 1-5, upwards of 20 inches of rain fell across much of the coastal plain and Midlands.
Since that epic flooding disaster, rainfall has continued to be above average in the Carolinas, and local rivers, including the Waccamaw, Black and Pee Dee, have been the recipient of all that rainwater.
The rivers have not returned to normal levels and have remained just below, right at or above flood stage during the entire period.
Steve Path, meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Wilmington, N.C., offered some telling rainfall numbers for Florence, the centerpiece of the Pee Dee area and the rivers.
Path has rainfall data available dating back in 90 and 180-day increments, but the 90-day data does not include the major rain event in early October.
Thus, using the 180-day data ending on Thursday, Jan. 21, Florence had received 35.92 inches of rain during that approximate six-month stretch, not including the precipitation that has fallen during the current winter storm.
Typically for that 180-day period, Florence receives 21 inches of rainfall.
“That gives us an incredible departure from normal, that's a huge surplus (of rain),” said Path.
While the concern on the rivers has been with the flooded homes and property, river fishermen have largely been by the wayside, turning to saltwater or lake and pond fishing, or simply not fishing at all.
“It's pretty tough right now,” said Chris Jones, vice president and secretary/treasurer of the Conway Bassmasters. “Since we've had all this rain, it's been extremely tough. I don't recommend getting on the water. Homes are flooded and there is a lot of floating debris and submerged debris. The (debris) that is under the water, that's what's most dangerous.”
Jones, who has been active in the Conway club since 1998 and on the board of directors of the South Carolina Bass Federation since 1997, does have a recommendation for bass anglers who just can't wait any longer and must wet a hook.
“If you want to do some bass fishing, the very lower end of the Waccamaw in Georgetown County would be a good starting point,” said Jones. “From Hagley Landing south toward Georgetown, that area will make a small tide, but still not a normal tide. You can catch a few fish down there now.”
For lures, Jones recommends using a Rapala shad rap or a crankbait in a crawdad color or shad imitator. Also, Jones suggests a 1/4-ounce spinnerbait in white or white chartreuse and a Texas-rigged plastic worm or Yamamoto Senko in darker colors like June bug, black and blue or green pumpkin.
With the high water overflowing river banks, Jones has a pretty good idea where most bass are right now.
“They're out in the woods getting fat eating all the stuff they can't get to throughout the year," said Jones.
There are a couple of upcoming events Jones will be involved in, on both a local and national scale.
The Carroll Campbell Marine Complex in Georgetown will host the Bassmaster Elite Series Tournament, set for April 7-10.
“We're hoping the water level will get back down for that event,” said Jones. “If it will get down to normal it should be good fishing. Every year after a flood year, fishing is usually pretty good. I expect this spring and summer to be good.”
Jones also serves as boat captain for his son's bass fishing team in the local Student Angler League Tournament Trail (SALTT), as well as youth tournaments staged by the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
His son, Noah Jones, is an 8th grader at Conway Middle School. Along Manning Seldner the pair team up in bass tournaments with the elder Jones maneuvering the boat.
The next SALTT event is Feb. 20 out of the Campbell Marine Complex in Georgetown and the DNR Youth Bass Fishing Championship is held annually in early spring.
The Jones family will be on hand for an upcoming bass fishing seminar, scheduled for Conway High School Saturday, Jan. 30. The seminar is hosted by and benefits the Tiger Anglers of Conway and Whittemore Park Middle School.
Speakers include Colin Drew, a member of the Clemson University Bass Fishing Team, along with John Proctor and Andrew Young.
Admission is $10 with proceeds going to anglers from Conway middle and high schools, as well as Whittemore Park Middle School. The seminar is scheduled for 8 a.m. to noon.
“I'd like to see more participation from the community in (terms of) attendance especially from the local bass clubs, just to support the kids in what they’re doing,” said Capt. Rayburn Poston, coordinator of SALTT and coach of the Conway High, Conway Middle and Whittemore Park Middle school bass fishing teams. “These kids are the future members of those clubs.”
For more information, call Poston at 843-902-4274.