While on different sides of the state, both Lanier and Seminole lakes provide excellent Georgia bass fishing.
By Craig James
After what seems like an eternity, winter is finally long gone and warm sunny days are here, which means bass anglers are getting excited, and preparing to put pressure on fish that are getting ready to lay eggs, meaning they are at their heaviest weight of the year.
Georgia has many great areas to pursue bass, within a drive from pretty much any region of the state. Even better, some of these lakes are among the best bass fishing locales in the country.
Lake Seminole has long been known as a big bass lake, and for good reason, as it continues to produce some of the biggest bags in the country. Last year from April through June, it regularly took 30 pounds to win tournaments on the lake, and 20-plus pounds to have a decent showing.
FLW pro Clint Brown (850-491-9199) has spent most of his life fishing and guiding on Seminole, and says that April is the month to plan a trip down to southwest Georgia. To top it off, he also holds the one-day tournament record on the lake with five bass weighing in at an unheard of 38.88 pounds. To further add to his credentials, he also has a first- and third-place finish in the Costa series the last two years.
"What makes Seminole so special in April is you can fish a lot of different ways and catch fish," Brown said. "You will find bass in all three stages of the spawn throughout the lake and you can fish for them accordingly."
A good place to start is looking for bedding fish in Fish Pond Drain. This area is typically the first part of the lake to experience the spawn, anywhere from mid-March into April. When he locates bedding fish, Clint likes to throw a Bass Addiction Gear Mat Craw Texas rigged on a 5/0 wide gap hook with a 1/8- ounce Flat Out Tungsten weight. Clint favors this set-up for bedding fish due to the hook reaching to the tail of the craw, resulting in better hook-ups on fish that pick the lure up to remove it from beds.
"That's the biggest mistake an angler can make when bed fishing for bass," Brown said. "Whatever offering you throw you don't want it to be too long, because many times bass are gonna bite just enough to pick the lure up and remove it from the bed."
If fish aren't found in Fish Pond, then the spawn has likely already occurred in the area and the next best place to look is a place locals refer to as the middle ground — the area between Spring Creek and the Flint River.
The best way to fish this area is to throw a craw or lizard in green pumpkin or junebug and work it slowly around the bars, fan casting around the boat. Brown generally deploys power poles and fishes an area thoroughly before moving a little further and repeating the process.
"By working these sandbars slowly and methodically, you can normally pick up some fish, regardless of spawning stage," Brown said. "Just don't get in too big of a hurry, and when you do pick up a fish, focus your efforts in that area."
Around mid-April on Seminole, anglers are likely to encounter the shad spawn. If bedding fish are hard to locate, it means that post spawn bass will be keying in on shad. Shad will be primarily located in the main lake and will be fairly easy to locate on top, particularly early in the mornings. Brown likes to throw a white Gold Digger buzzbait by GA Boy Lures early in the day to fool bass that are busting on shad. As the day lingers on, expect to find shad on gator grass, also known as peanut grass.
When the shad are staged in the grass, Brown uses a long rod and heavy line to swim a 3/8-ounce swim jig by Dirty Jigs through the grass quickly. A stiff rod and heavy braid are important to have the power to rip them away from the thick grass.
However, don't overlook the old faithful frog on Seminole in April. In the back of almost every Seminole Creek and slough are lily pad fields that are loaded with bass at times, particularly if experiencing warmer than average temperatures.
"That's what happened last year on the lake," said Brown. "Warm weather brought the shellcrackers up early to spawn near the pads, and the big bass followed."
The key is to look for movement in the pads and listen for popping noises made by bream feeding underneath. Clint throws a Bruiser Baits Kickin Frog in the Houdini color and works it quickly over the pads to draw reaction strikes from hungry bass.
"Whatever frog you throw, you want to move it quickly and force the bass to make a split-second decision," stated Brown. "This not only helps draw reaction strikes, but also enables you to cover a vast area of water in a short time."
For those planning a trip down to Seminole for a weekend or even a week, the Bainbridge area has several hotels, and for a real southern experience Clint recommends staying at Southwind Plantation. There are plenty of local tackle stores to stock up with necessary equipment, and Brown recommended a trip to Backwoods Outdoors in Albany if time permits.
As far as where to launch a boat, Brown says Big Jim's is the very best option. Though other ramps are located around the lake, Big Jim's has it all — bait store, restaurant and multiple launch lanes.
At 38,000 acres, Lake Lanier is also worth a trip this month, offering a wealth of bass fishing opportunities. Pat Snellings of the Region 1 Fisheries Office says there is no doubt in his mind that Lanier offers the best spotted bass fishing in Georgia.
"Last year in April we were consistently seeing tournaments won with 25- to 30-pound bags of spotted bass, and we have the same expectation for this year" Snellings said.
Sampling over the last few years show that the population of spots is under control, and even bigger fish are in the mix making for some good action for anglers.
Fishing dock lights at night is an excellent way to target big spots. Snellings recommends throwing topwater offerings, as well as plastic worms and jigs around Lanier's many docks.
"Night time fishing is a good way for newcomers to the lake to target giant spotted bass," said Snellings. "It's a simple pattern, and often produces lots of big fish. An added bonus is you don't have to contend with any boat traffic."
Jimbo Mathley (www.jimboonlanier.com) also likes fishing docks in April, except he prefers to go at it during the daytime. Mathley has been guiding on Lake Lanier for several years and spends about 300 days a year targeting spots on the lake.
Weather plays the biggest key in the April bite on the lake. Look for largemouth bass to move up shallow first to spawn, with spotted bass following about two to three weeks after their cousins. Pay careful attention to the lunar cycle, as spots will normally move up and onto beds around the full or new moon.
To fish docks, Mathley keeps things simple. He likes to throw a Zoom finesse worm in sand or green pumpkin color on a 3/16-ounce Picasso shakedown head. He fishes it on 8-pound Seaguar fluorocarbon line, insisting the sensitivity aids in detecting the slightest pick up by a bedding fish. A good 6-foot, 6-inch to 7-foot rod with a fast tip is perfect for this kind of fishing.
Try to stay off the dock and make long casts to bedding areas, working the shaky head with short hops and twitches, paying careful attention to the line.
"Another thing to look for this month on the lake is the herring spawn," said Mathley. "Rocky points are often loaded down with herring and you can bet the bass are under them. If you locate bait on top, you're on your way to a great day."
Schools of fish respond well to topwater offerings, such as wake baits, white spinnerbaits and pearl colored Zoom super flukes. Schooling action can be fast paced and is worth a try if the opportunity presents itself.
A final place to look on Lanier in April is among the many creeks on the lake. At times, particularly early in the month, pockets in the backs of creeks will be full of bedding largemouths. Mathley recommends using traditional bed fishing techniques to tempt spawners.
"If the largemouth are spawning heavy way up in the back of creeks, it's hard to beat a plastic worm or lizard worked slowly through the bed." said Mathley.
Shoal Creek, Big Creek and Flat Creek are some of the best areas annually, and tend to produce some real quality fish. If having difficulty locating fish shallow, try looking around the mouths of these creeks along points adjacent to deep water. If cooler temperatures keep fish from moving up to spawn, Mathley relies on his Lowrance electronics to locate pre-spawn fish that have yet to move up.
At Lanier, lodging is available practically in every direction around the lake. For those that prefer a resort type feel, the Lanier Islands offer top-notch accommodations. Mathley recommends hitting Hammond's Fishing Store for needed tackle. An added bonus is the staff is more than happy to share the latest tips as to where fish are biting. Launching at the lake is also a breeze; Tidwell and Charleston Park are among some of the best ramps to launch a rig.
Whether you choose to fish Seminole, Lanier or even both, now is the time to get on the water and catch some fish. April is as good as it gets, and now's the time to get it while the getting is good.