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Georgia's Best Bassin'

Georgia's Best Bassin'

No place in the country offers the variety and quality of bass fishing to match what thePeach State provides. Here's a look at some of the best of those waters for 2010! (April 2010)

Pity the poor bass fisherman in Georgia. There are so many good bass lakes around the state he can hardly know where to go. All the options make it tough to decide where to head to catch bass. What a terrible problem to face!

Tony Green was casting a Carolina-rigged lizard on a gravel bar point when he hooked this bass at Clarks Hill Lake.
Photo by Ronnie Garrison.

From our beautiful mountain lakes with steep rocky shorelines, clear water and aggressive spotted bass to flatland reservoirs full of stumps, grass and largemouths, we have it all. Good fishing always is within a short drive of a Georgia bass fisherman. But it's always fun to take a trip to a lake on the other end of the state to try something completely different.

Any lake in the Peach State produces good catches, but how do you decide which lake to go to if you want to improve your odds? A good indicator is the Georgia Bass Chapter Federation Creel Census Report compiled by Dr. Carl Quertermus at the University of West Georgia. He has been crunching the numbers reported by Georgia bass clubs since 1978. His data can be your guide.

First, you need to decide if you want to catch big bass or numbers of bass. Although you can do both at times, some lakes will always produce bigger than average bass, but they usually produce lower numbers per angler hour. Others consistently produce more bass, but their size won't be as good as on other lakes.

The following waters give you some good choices. You won't go wrong with any of them, no matter what your bass-fishing goals.

Thurmond Reservoir
Thurmond Reservoir, better known as Clarks Hill Lake to Georgia fishermen, is by far the most popular destination for state bass clubs. There were 125 tournaments reported there during the most recent creel census annual report. The next most popular lake, Sinclair, had just 76 tournaments reported.


There is a reason Clarks Hill is so popular -- it produces excellent numbers of good-sized bass. The average catch rate per man-hour of bass fishing there was .306, meaning it took just over three hours to produce a keeper. That doesn't sound great, but it is the third highest catch rate in the report. Since there are so many tournaments there that is a lot of bass.

The average size of bass from Clarks Hill was 1.77 pounds, not huge, but the second highest for a lake with a 12-inch size limit. And there are good numbers of 5-pound- plus bass in the lake. It took an average of 225 hours of fishing to produce a bass over 5 pounds, second shortest time in the state. A few spotted bass are showing up in Clarks Hill and may hurt the fishing over the long run, but right now the numbers and size of bass make Clarks Hill one of our best lakes to fish.

Dammed in 1950, Clarks Hill is our biggest lake with 72,000 acres of water covering the Savannah and Little River basins just north of Augusta. It is the last of the chain of lakes on the Savannah and the terrain the lake floods is rolling hills with creek and river channels. The lake is big enough to offer just about any kind of fishing conditions you want, from very clear to muddy water, deep drops to shallow flats and even hydrilla to fish.

The hydrilla is a new addition to the lake, as are blueback herring. Both have changed the lake. The hydrilla offers extensive heavy cover where little existed 15 years ago and the blueback have become a favorite food for the bass.

When the bluebacks are spawning in April, you can catch large numbers of quality bass throwing big topwater plugs like a Zara Spook, or soft jerkbaits like a Zoom Fluke and wake baits like Buckeye Lures' Wakeup over shallow gravel flats. The Georgia Little River arm of the lake is excellent for this, with many shallow gravel bars between islands, where the bluebacks spawn.

After the sun gets bright and the bluebacks disperse, dragging a Carolina-rigged lizard on gravel flats and points produces good catches. On bright, sunny days, pitching a jig-and-pig into holes in the hydrilla and popping it back can produce quality bass. And, if the lake is full, dropping a Texas-rigged worm around buttonbushes in the shallows is a fun way to catch fish.

Allatoona Lake
The lake with the highest catch rate in the state is quite surprising. But Allatoona Lake has consistently held that position in recent years. Although the number of tournaments is low, they produce a catch rate of .352 per hour, the highest in the state. The size of the bass is good, too, with the average fish weighing 1.75 pounds. But it is tough to catch a 5-pound-plus bass. None were reported in the most recent creel census report. Since spots account for 90 percent of bass weighed in, that is not surprising, and a 1.75-pound average for spotted bass is impressive.

Located almost in downtown Atlanta, Allatoona gets really crowded and is hard to fish during the warmer months, except at night. Just over 12,000 acres of water cover steep rocky hillsides, with some flats up the Etowah River. Filled in 1950, it is just 30 miles north of Atlanta and I-75 crosses it.

The lake is full of spotted bass and the steep rocky banks and points are great habitat for them. The reservoir is small enough that water levels change rapidly. A heavy rain will over-fill the lake, but it will be pulled down just as fast. Also, the average 17-foot drop for winter pool means there is not much shallow cover except rocks and manmade brushpiles.

Your best bet to catch spots on Allatoona is to get on the rocky bluff banks and fish them. You can parallel them with a crankbait while the water is still cool, keeping your boat in close and running your bait along the steep drop. Hopping a jighead worm or small jig-and-pig down the rocks also works well.

Topwater lures fished early in the morning along the steep rock walls draw strikes until the sun gets on the water. From big baits like a Spook to small ones like a Tiny Torpedo, spots hit most topwater plugs hard. Some days they want a small bait, sometimes the big one.

As the water warms, ride points, humps and channel drops and watch your depthfinder for brushpiles from 18 to 30 feet deep. Mark them, back off and drag a jighead worm or jig-and-pig through them. On the shallower ones, run a big crankbait over the pile within a couple of feet of the top of the brush. It is even better if you can tick it with the bait.

Lake Blackshear
Often overlooked by bass fishermen, Blackshear

has the highest average size for largemouths of any lake in the Creel Census Report, at 2.26 pounds. There aren't a lot of tournaments reported on the lake, but that average size still is impressive. It takes 261 hours to catch a 5-pound-plus bass, third lowest in the state.

The number of bass caught is what often holds fishermen back from going to Blackshear. It takes about six hours of club tournament fishing to produce a keeper bass, the longest time in the state. But the chance for bigger fish and the cover you get to target make Blackshear a fun lake.

Located near Cordele not far from I-75, Blackshear is in the middle of the state. Its 8,500 acres on the Flint River cover swamps and bottomland in this very shallow lake. Dammed in 1930, it is a very old lake, but it was drawn down in 1973, and much of the standing timber was removed from the main lake below the Highway 280 Bridge. Also, the flood of 1994 broke the dam and it was rebuilt, renewing the lake for few years.

If you like fishing cover for largemouths, you will love Blackshear. Its shallows are filled with cypress trees and various kinds of aquatic grass. Bass hold tight to this cover, but it is fun fishing visible targets rather than dredging unseen depths.

Pitch a Texas-rigged plastic worm or jig-and-pig to the base of a cypress tree and let if fall. Work it slowly through the root ball. Remember the roots of a cypress often extend several feet from the base of the tree and bass can hold anywhere in them.

A key to fishing cypress trees is to hit the trunk of the tree and let your bait slide into the water. A splash seems to turn off the bass holding so shallow. Use heavy tackle. You are likely to tangle with a 2- to 5-pound bass in this thick cover.

If you like topwater action, the grass-filled shallows are fun to fish, too. Use weedless baits like a frog or rat and work matted vegetation. You can also run a buzzbait over submerged grass, through holes and channels in grass and beside cypress trees. All methods will produce water-splashing strikes.

Lake Seminole
The best lake in Georgia for big bass should come as no surprise if you have followed the sport for any length of time. Seminole has long been known as the land of lunkers and the Creel Census Report shows it still produces the best fishing for quality bass in Georgia. It is well worth the trip south to experience its fishing and beautiful scenery. It has a few spotted bass in it, and shoal bass can be caught in the rivers, but largemouths are the main species.

The average size of bass at Seminole is a respectable 2.1 pounds, highest of any lake in the state with a 12-inch minimum limit for bass. The amount of time it takes to land a lunker over 5 pounds is only 131 hours, by far the shortest time of any lake. The catch rate is pretty good, with a keeper bass landed in less than five hours of fishing.

In the far southwest corner of the state, Seminole is bordered by Florida, but most of its waters are in Georgia. The dam was completed in 1957 on the Apalachicola River just south of where the Flint and Chattahoochee rivers join. It backs up 37,500 acres of very shallow water.

Seminole is full of standing timber, stumps, grassbeds and shallow bars. It is dangerous to navigate and visiting anglers need to stay in marked channels when running.

The rivers get stained to muddy pretty fast from upstream rain, but Spring Creek and Fish Pond Drain stay clear most of the time. Those areas offer great sight-fishing for bedding bass in the spring, and many tournaments are won using that method. It is exciting to look at a lunker bass and trying to make it hit.

Hydrilla fills the lake and bass live in it most of the year. You can fish it by running topwater baits over submerged beds, running crankbaits down the edges and where channels cut through it, or by dropping plastic worms or a jig-and-pig into holes in the vegetation.

Standing timber also holds bass, and many are caught on drop-shot worms jiggled at the base of trees along the edges of old river and creek channels. You can work the edges of the timber with a big crankbait or spinnerbait, or fish a Carolina-rigged worm by throwing into the trees and working it out. The key to catching bass in timber is to find a change in the bottom. A hump or a channel will hold bass along its edges.

For something different, run up the Flint River above Bainbridge to the rocks and shoals. Many fishermen use jet boats in this area because it is so dangerous, with big mid-river rocks that can ruin a lower unit. But you can catch some big shoal bass on crankbaits and plastic worms in the rocks. Five-pound shoal bass are possible and can be a real trophy.

Fish any of your baits with the current. You need a strong trolling motor to hold in the current to fish where the big shoalies live, and it is dangerous getting to them, but the action can be like no other fishing in Georgia.

West Point Lake
West Point is a popular lake with both bass club fishermen and other anglers. It has changed a lot in recent years, and spotted bass have largely replaced largemouths in most club tournament catches. For this reason, the average size of bass caught is not very high. A 13-inch spot does not weigh nearly as much as a 14-inch largemouth. You can keep any size spot at West Point, but largemouths must be at least 14 inches long.

The numbers of bass caught at West Point is third highest in the state at .303 per hour, but the average size is only 1.53 pounds, third lowest in the state. And it takes a whopping 743 hours to land a 5-pound-plus bass, second longest time in Georgia.

West Point is fun to fish because it is so varied and you can catch a lot of bass there. Located just west of LaGrange on the Chattahoochee River, its 26,000 acres are backed up by a dam built in 1974, making it one of our youngest lakes. Rolling hills and deep channels mark the lower lake, while extensive flats and river-like banks are filled with bass upstream of the railroad bridge near Abbottsford.

Spotted bass abound on the gravel and rock flats and points on the main lake. Crawling a jig-and-pig across them or dragging a Finesse-type worm on a Carolina rig is a good way to catch the bass. Spots fight hard and are fun to catch. They are also very tasty, and fishermen are encouraged to keep up to their limits of 10 bass per day of any size spot landed. Removing spotted bass from the lake probably won't help improve the size of the bass much at this point, but it surely won't hurt anything!

For largemouths, fish blown-down trees and brushpiles on the lower lake with a big Texas-rigged worm or Senko. Fish them slowly to give a big largemouth a chance to hit it. Also, run up the river and work big baits through the numerous blowdowns that line the steep riverbanks. Many tournaments are won up the river, since it tends to produce bigger fish.

Pick any of these lakes or just go to the one nearest where you live. You are going to catch bass in Georgia on all our lakes,

but these waters have some advantages. You can't go wrong on any of them.

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