By Pete Rogers
Drifting slowly along the oil-black vein known as the Lumber River in Marion County, South Carolina, where swollen cypress trees draped with gray beards of Spanish moss line its banks, I cast a small spinning lure near the bank by one of the ancient trees. I can’t help but wonder how many fish have been pulled from this black river of the low country.
My companion today is Donald Ray Turner, the current state and world record holder for the redbreast sunfish. Turner landed the 2lb, 1oz behemoth from these very waters. He is also known in these parts as the “go-to” guy when it comes to catching stringers full of Redbreast in black water rivers.
Small Jon boats, sneak boats, kayaks, and canoes are the norm in black water rivers.
Highly regarded as the most popular fish in many of the local waters it finds home, the redbreast is unique to these black water rivers.
Turner is not keen on giving away his trade secrets, but he does say, “A lot of people like to fish for redbreast from the bottom, but I prefer to cover more ground by using light spinning gear.” Look at the end of Turner’s rod and you’ll usually find some kind of small beetle spin.
Preferring the 1/16-ounce or a 1/8-ounce size to others, Turner adds, “I’ll use any color as long as it’s black.”
He has tried them all, but the black beetle spin in the 1/16oz will out-fish any other artificial lure available.
“Sure, a lot of people catch redbreast on other spinners, Blue Fox, Mepps, and Rooster Tails, but I just stick with what I know works for me,” Turner explains.
For him, it’s keeping it simple. If the fish aren’t hitting the beetle spin, he jumps immediately to live bait.
For the live bait fishermen, crickets are the norm. Crickets suspended from a floating bobber when fishing beneath overhanging limbs is the method most preferred. It’s best to use a long, ten-foot “bream buster” or cane pole to reach these areas that are difficult to cast into, allowing anglers to reach fish that would normally be missed.
The best method is to float along and gently toss your rig beneath overhanging limbs and let it drift to waiting fish. Turner readily admits this is a very productive method of fishing.
As the summer comes along, watch water levels. If the water gets too low, the fishing is not as good.
“If we can get some rains, and keep the river where it should be, the fishing is great all summer,” Turner maintains.
On this day, as Donald Ray Turner and I floated along the Lumber, we caught a nice mess of redbreast sunfish and enjoyed one of the prettiest rivers in South Carolina.
For those who love fishing for panfish, there is little that compares to a day spent floating silently along the black rivers that flow through the southeast and catching a load of redbreast.
Like most pan fishing, fishing for redbreast is a light-duty affair. I used 4# test mono on a 5 foot Abu Garcia spinning rod and a Pflueger Patriarch spinning reel. Beetle Spins in the 1/32-1/8 oz are plenty big enough. Other inline spinning gear also work well.
Others use spincast gear like the legendary Zebco 33 on a 5’6” light duty rod.
- Little Pee Dee State park located at 1298 State Park RD, Dillon, SC 29536 Phone: 843-774-8872 offers 32 campsites with full hook ups and another 18-tent campsite with water but no electricity. Driving Directions: From I-95: Take exit #193 onto Hwy 9 through Dillon. From Hwy 9 take a right onto Hwy 57 for approximately 11 miles. Turn left onto county road 22 (State Park Road), cross two bridges over the Little Pee Dee River and the park will be one mile on the right.
- Marion County offers many hotels and inns. For more information contact the Pee Dee Tourism department at 843-669-0950 or at
SC Boat Ramps Listed by Body of Water: Little Pee Dee River
|Boat Ramp Name||County||Latitude||Longitude|
|Dillon County Park||Dillon||34.36872||-79.35397|