Oconee Basin Late Summer Bassin'

In the heat of late summer, it is still possible to catch bass on lakes Oconee and Sinclair. You just have to know the places and patterns.

Guide Todd Lowe displays the kind of largemouth that a Carolina rig can coax from the water at Lake Oconee.
Photo by John Trussell

Late summer can be a challenging time to fish because of the high temperatures and increased recreational boating traffic, but no determined angler stays home when he really want to be fishing! Still, after the early spring angling season is over, you find that many anglers lose their interest in getting on the water. Thus the late summer is frequently a time of decreased fishing pressure. This can mean fewer anglers on the lake and more opportunity for serious fishermen.

Naturally, every season of the year calls for fishing techniques matched to the feeding habits of the fish at that particular time. Let's take a look at what draws a bass to swallow your lure in late summer on the reservoirs of the Oconee River valley.

Professional fishing guide Todd Lowe makes it his business to find and catch bass year 'round on lakes Oconee and Sinclair. He has also honed his fishing skills by competing in many regional and national bass fishing tournaments, often finishing in the money.

LAKE OCONEE

Lowe feels the best way to put fish in the boat on Lake Oconee is to go for the early bite, before the sun gets high. This means you must be on the lake and fishing your best spots at the crack of dawn.

"If you are just 30 minutes late, the fish might already be moved out to deeper water, so timing is very important," Low emphasized.

Hungry bass move up into the shallows to attack shad and other baitfish. To match that forage, Lowe has found that a white or chartreuse 1/2-ounce spinnerbait is the right lure for the job.

"The small minnows like to hide out in the grasses around the shallow portions of coves and in backs of feeder streams. Naturally, the bass skirt the edges and probe into the grass for prey," Lowe explained. "The spinnerbait is easy to cast and attracts bass with its swimming action, flash and vibration, so it's a lure that's very versatile."

Even better, he added, is the fact that the lure is nearly weedless and can be worked across the top of the water or into the mid-depths as needed. Lowe often works the spinnerbait parallel to the grassbeds and then into open pockets and lastly across the top of the grass.

On the thicker patches of grass, a weedless frog is his next choice. That lure often gets swallowed by a bass, so always carry one in your tackle box.

Another good location to try the spinnerbait is along the edges of the submerged timber. Lowe recommends that very early in the morning you work the lure across the surface where much of the timber is broken off at the water line. This type of structure is particularly prevalent on Lake Oconee.

According to Lowe, in the early morning bass cruise the surface or one to two feet below in these areas, even though the water may be 10 to 12 feet deep. A slow and steady retrieve is usually the best strategy, and don't worry about the lure bouncing off submerged limbs and tree trunks. In fact, that often entices a bass to attack the lure.

Lowe recommends having at least two other rods and reels rigged up in both the grass and the submerged timer. That's because he believes in giving reluctant bass a "one-two punch" whenever necessary. If he is working a bait across the surface and gets a half-hearted strike, Lowe quickly grabs a Texas-rigged worm and puts the worm near the location of the last strike. This works often enough to make the effort worthwhile.

Other good locations for an early morning bite on Oconee are the sea walls and docks in front of many of the homes along the shore. Cast mid-depth crankbaits parallel to the sea wall or use Texas-rigged worms on the bottom near the walls. Look for the walls with deeper water abutting them, especially in areas where the old river channel is near the shore.

Lowe pointed to several places on the reservoir that should be good this time of year. To locate the first one, look for three PVC pipes that stick up marking an obstruction as you go into the mouth of Double Branches. Lowe said the obstruction is several large rocks, but the water that juts off them is 14 feet deep and usually holds a few bass.

Another good location is around the numerous trees near the Armor Bridge boat ramp. Fairly easy to locate, the tops of these trees attract fish.

Additionally, the point off the 18th hole of the Ritz Carlton golf course also offers good bassin'. The water here drops off quickly from some large rocks into 19 feet of water.

LAKE SINCLAIR

On Lake Sinclair for late summer fishing, Lowe looks for actively feeding fish in moving water. The location that best fits this description is in the upper end of the lake. This section of the reservoir, from the Oconee Dam downstream for approximately two miles to Shoulderbone Creek, is riverine in nature with water moving on most days.

Lowe mentioned that the large rocks on the east bank in the area are usually productive as the sun comes up, but you need to be there early. Buzzbaits in white or chartreuse color are a good bet on the top, while a lightly weighted Texas-rigged worm in June bug, pumpkin seed or dark blue with red firetail is a good choice to work between the rocks.

THE OCONEE RIVER RESERVOIRS
Lake Oconee is the northern most impoundment on the Oconee River and covers 19,060 acres in Greene County. Wallace Dam, which created the lake, is a pump-back facility that releases water downstream to Lake Sinclair to produce electric power and then pumps thw water back upstream to refill Oconee.

The No. 1 largemouth bass recorded from the lake was taken by Derrell Waldrop on April 1, 1990, and weighed 12 pounds, 9 ounces.

Lake Sinclair spans 14, 750 acres of Baldwin, Hancock and Putnam counties, just south of Lake Oconee.

The biggest largemouth reported from this reservoir weighed 13 pounds, 2 ounces ans was taken by Jimmy Edge on Feb. 10, 1990.

Also look for any patches of grass in shallow water. Try a floating frog on top of the grass, a jerkbait in chrome with a blue back in the open patches, or a spinnerbait worked parallel to the grass.

After the sun is high, don't overlook one of the most heavily fished locations on the lake, which is around the U.S. Highway 441 bridge over the Little River arm of the lake. A multitude of bass tournaments are held out of Little River Park and Lakeside Bait and Tackle. After each of those tournaments, the bass are often released into this section of the lake.

Research has shown that these released bass hang around for several weeks before they migrate to other sections of the lake. So, despite plenty of fishing pressure, this restocking means the points in the Little River and the mouth of Beaver Dam Creek hold fish, as does the U.S. 441 riprap.

Although Sinclair is typically not noted as a trophy bass lake, anglers catch and release many harvestable largemouth bass here each year. There are good numbers of 15- to 20- inch fish. But do not expect to be alone in pursuing them. According to the most recent Georgia B.A.S.S. club data, Sinclair ranks second in the state, behind Clarks Hill, in the number of bass tournaments held.

Regardless of the area of the lake targeted, you should fish dropoffs, deep brushpiles, and lighted docks at night in summer for best results. Local anglers report their best success during the generation or pump-back phase at Wallace Dam, either of which gets the water moving. This is especially true on the Oconee River arm of the impoundment.

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