2 Options for Middle Georgia Bass: Toby & Juliette

These two small reservoirs near Macon both offer largemouth bass action, but the similarities end there. Join the author in exploring the bassin' on these lakes.

Photo by Ron Sinfelt

By Ronnie Garrison

If you live in central Georgia around the Macon area, you have two lakes almost in your back yard that offer great bass fishing. Both Lake Juliette and Lake Tobesofkee are small, easy to get to, and have good launching facilities for your boat. Bass tournaments are held on both Tobesofkee and Juliette, and the folks fishing them have learned how to cope with the special characteristics of each lake. Either one can pay off in big stringers of bass this month.

LAKE TOBESOFKEE
With 1,750 acres of water, Lake Tobesofkee, which lies just west of Macon, offers a lot of varied structure and cover to fish. Near the dam, the lake has open water and some good deep-water structure. As you go upstream the impoundment becomes more river-like, with steep banks and sharp drops. Above the Lower Thomaston Road Bridge, the water opens up again but is shallow and has lots of creek channel structure and grassbeds.

Boat docks line the lake, and many have brushpiles around them. Big houses on the bank signify that you are fishing a suburban reservoir rather than a pristine lake with a natural shoreline, but a bass pulling on your line will make you forget about the scenery.

Tobesofkee is very crowded on weekends during warm weather, with personal watercraft, cruisers, skiers and bass boats zooming everywhere. Not only is all the traffic annoying, but it can also make it tough to fish, especially on the lower lake.

At Tobesofkee there is a Saturday morning tournament during the winter, but at the beginning of May they start fishing at night to avoid the crowds. You also can fish night tournaments on Wednesday and Friday nights from May through September. Reggie Reeves and his wife, Cindy, run this tournament trail, as well as participate in it. They do well as a team and win their share of the tournaments.

"The weather is changing and the bass are moving toward deeper water," Reggie said with regard to the late spring and early summer.

The fish hold on the deeper structure but still run in to feed shallow as the sun goes down. Since the tournaments start at 7 p.m., there are a couple of hours of light left to fish.

Steep banks near deep water are good places to find bass feeding late in the afternoon. Reggie and Cindy start working these banks with crankbaits, topwater plugs and Texas-rigged plastic worms and keep fishing them until dark. Keep your boat out in 15 to 20 feet of water and cast right to the bank, especially if there is a seawall there.

Fish a crankbait like a No. 5 or No. 7 lipped crankbait in shad or perch colors in clearer water or firetiger in stained water. Also work the lure from the shallowest water all the way out to the boat. If two people are fishing, it is a good idea for one to throw a topwater plug or buzzbait and the other to fish a plug or worm to see what the fish want. Cast topwater plugs right to the edge of the water as well. Reggie likes a popping-style topwater lure and fishes it slowly along the banks, which he feels attracts bass from a good distance. Cindy often follows with either a crankbait or a worm to catch the ones that were drawn in by the topwater action but don't hit.

Both Reggie and Cindy like finesse-type worms rigged Texas style behind a 1/8-ounce lead. June bug and green pumpkin colors seem to be best, and Reggie and Cindy make the worm slide and hop along the bottom.

Bass still hit in these places after full dark, but lighted boat docks are also good then. The Reeves duo throws their worms around pilings and brush near the lighted docks. They also "shoot" the docks, getting the bait way back under the structure and floating boats to get to the hard-to-reach bass.

Let your bait sink on a tight line, watching it for any unusual movement. If it stops sinking before you think it should, set the hook. With the lights on the docks, it is relatively easy to see your line.

LAKE TOBESOFKEE


Lake Tobesofkee is located just a few miles west of I-475 and is owned and operated by Bibb County. The closest boat ramps to the interstate highway are at Claystone Park, and there is a large parking area on site. Camping is also available in this facility. The park is accessible from I-475 via State Route 74 and then Mosely Dixon Road. Entry fees are charged for using the facilities.

 

State fishing regulations apply on the lake, with a 10-bass creel limit and a 12-inch minimum size. You must have a Georgia fishing license.

 

On dark banks you have to feel for resistance or the thump of a bite and be ready to set the hook instantly.

Many good deep points and banks are on the lower lake, within sight of the dam. You can start in that area and search out banks that rise sharply from the water, since the drop probably continues underwater. In the narrower section upriver, some of the coves in the area have old creek channel ledges across them. All such sites are good places in which to cast.

Above the Lower Thomaston Road Bridge, you also find some steep banks and docks to fish. Again, look at the bank and notice where it is steeply sloped. The northeast shore bank upstream of the bridge has several places like that.

Rusty Cohen lives on Tobesofkee and has one of the lighted docks mentioned earlier. He fishes some of the night tournaments this time of year, but in the daytime, too. He says you can find bass surprisingly shallow all this month, even when there is a lot of boat traffic.

"Concentrate on the grassbeds in pockets below the bridge on Lower Thomaston Road and fish the big grassbeds above that bridge," Rusty suggested. "Bass hold in them and hit spinnerbaits and Texas-rigged worms all day long, especially if it is over

cast."

Even after boat traffic gets heavy, the bass still feed in the grass. If some wind is blowing into the beds, it is even better. Boat wakes washing through the grass also stir up the bait in there and get the bass feeding, so don't hesitate to fish them even when there are a lot of pleasure boaters around.

The color of the spinnerbait you throw really doesn't matter, according to Rusty, so pick the one you like best. You can also run a buzzbait through the grass, especially early and late in the day. With two people fishing, one should use a spinnerbait or buzzbait while the other follows with a Texas-rigged worm to cover all bases.

The bigger grassbeds upstream of the bridge don't get as churned up from boat traffic, so they are more fun to fish. You can find these beds on both sides of the lake above the bridge and in the extreme northeast corner where Tobesofkee Creek enters the impoundment.

To fish a night tournament this summer at Lake Tobesofkee, show up at the Claystone Park boat ramp by 6:30 and pay your entry fee. Wednesday night tournaments run from 7 to 11 p.m., and Friday night hours are 7 p.m. to 1 a.m.

For more information, call Reggie or Cindy Reeves at (478) 935-3829.

LAKE JULIETTE
Lake Juliette is a few miles up the road from Tobesofkee and is very different in character. Owned and operated by the Georgia Power Company, Juliette has no development along its banks other than the huge steam power plant that dominates the skyline. Its 3,600 acres of water are usually crystal clear, and grassbeds grow down to great depths. There is a lot of standing timber both above and below the surface, too.

There is a lot of big, open water near the dam at Juliette, and it can get surprisingly rough in a hurry. Be careful if there is much wind or if thunderstorms are in the area. This open water hides trees topped 35 feet below the surface, and huge beds of hydrilla and other aquatic weeds grow as deep as 30 feet.

The upper lake has stumps and trees everywhere, but it does have marked channels through them. Grass grows among the trees here, too. You must be careful running outside these channels. Both areas of the lake have big flats and shallow-water humps, and that can also cause problems for speeding boats. In the summer, grass emerges on the surface to mark the shallows, but in May they are mostly hidden.

The extremely clear water can cause problems for anglers not used to it. It can be disconcerting to throw a spinnerbait or crankbait and easily see it all the way back to the boat. Bass can get line-shy because visibility is so good. If you are not getting bites, consider switching to a lighter, less visible line.

Greg Putnal runs a tournament on Juliette the last Sunday of each month, and he also wins a lot of them. He and his partner won the point standings last year and took the championship in October with five bass weighing 15.75 pounds. With such an average per fish, you can see that some quality bass are caught from Juliette.

"For big fish in May, I would get back in the timber and target bass moving out of the spawning areas," Greg explained.

The bass bed in shallow water back behind the standing timber on the upper half of the lake and start working back out toward deeper water after the spawn.

Greg goes back in coves and follows submerged ditches, throwing a Texas-rigged worm to the trees and working it to the bottom. If there are limbs on the trees, he bounces the worm around on them, trying to entice nearby bass. On bare tree trunks he lets the bait sink to the bottom, watching for a twitch in his line on the fall.

You must put your worm right against the tree and make it fall down the trunk. Flip or pitch it so it hits the tree and falls straight down; then allow some slack to keep it from swinging away from the structure. Of course, it is a bit of a balancing act, since you still need to keep the line tight enough to detect strikes.

When the worm gets to the bottom, Putnal jigs it up and down. He often catches fish as deep as 25 feet doing this in May. To fish deep he uses a fairly big weight to get it there and keep it on the bottom. The ditches and channels are not very defined, as they are in some lakes, but they are usually the deepest water in the coves. Follow the ditch out, working all the trees you come to along its edge, which will keep you really busy since there are so many of them. If you find a fish, there should be more nearby.

Points and humps in the timber on the upper lake also hold bass this month. As the fish come out of the pockets, they hold in the trees on the edges of the contour breaks. Greg likes to get out in 25 feet of water and fish around the point or hump, looking for bigger bass down deep rather than up on top of the structure.

If that kind of fishing is too slow, try the humps on the main lake. Bass bed on them, too, and then hold around them all spring and summer. In May the largemouths feed shallow and you can catch them on soft-plastic jerkbaits or lipped crankbaits. The grass that gets thick on these humps later is scattered enough in May to allow you to run a crankbait across the shallows.

Steve Ward lives about 20 minutes from the Juliette and fishes the lake a lot. He often fishes the Sunday tournaments and has done well in them over the years. Steve says he grew up on Juliette and has fished it hard for bass for the past several years.

LAKE JULIETTE


Located about 10 miles east of I-75 and Forsyth via State Route 18, Lake Juliette has two boat ramps -- one at Dames Ferry Park near the dam and another at Holly Grove Park on the upper lake. Both have good launch facilities, but motor size on Juliette is limited to 25 horsepower. You can put your bass boat in and use the trolling motor to fish as long as you don't crank the big motor. Camping is available at Dames Ferry.

 

Although other Georgia fishing regulations apply, there is no minimum size on bass. There are good numbers of big bass in Juliette, but the lake is not very fertile. For that reason, fisheries biologists encourage you to keep some small bass to cut down on the competition for forage in the impoundment.

 

A popping topwater plug is Steve's choice first thing in

the mornings in May. He fishes it fast on humps and points on the lower lake, trying to find actively feeding bass early in the morning. They also hit it late in the day.

Even in May there are a few bass still bedding in Juliette, and there is nothing like sight-fishing for them. The clear water gives you a chance to find them and observe exactly what they do. Pitching a worm or lizard into a bed and watching a big bass inhale it makes your heart stop.

"Grass is the key to catching bass on Juliette year 'round, but especially in May," Steve said.

He fishes shallow in May, pitching a worm to the holes in the grass where the bass are waiting for passing food. Steve suggested hitting every piece of wood you come to, since bass often hold by that cover in the grass.

A green finesse-style worm is Steve's pick for throwing to bedding bass, and he fishes it with no weight, letting it sink into the bed and lie there. For fishing the grassbeds, he likes a watermelon worm fished 30 inches behind a split shot or 1/8-ounce bullet weight. That light rig allows him to fish the grass without hanging up too much.

To participate in the Lake Juliette tournaments, show up at the Dames Ferry Park boat ramp before daylight the last Sunday of each month. Tournaments run from about 30 minutes before sunrise to 3 p.m.

For more details, call Greg Putnal at (478) 471-1254.



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