Friday, October 30, 2009

From the Mountains to the Sea, Georgia is Hooked on Bass

Georgia has a diversity of bass that continues to reel in anglers from across the nation. As the only state in the nation with six of the seven black bass species, Georgia stands out as a bass angler’s paradise. This fall, regardless of where you are in the state, bass fishing opportunities abound, and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division is providing anglers with some helpful bass fishing information.

“Bass are a favorite species for anglers, and while people are most familiar with largemouth bass, it is by no means the only bass angling opportunity in the state,” says John Biagi, the division’s chief of Fisheries Management. “We encourage all anglers, beginners and experienced, to get out this fall, enjoy the weather and fish for bass – and don’t forget to take a kid fishing!”

Several species of black bass are fall favorites, including largemouth, smallmouth, shoal and spotted bass. Redeye and Suwannee round out the six available black bass species here in Georgia.

The knowledge of where to go is just part of the ammunition necessary to becoming a successful bass angler – having the right equipment is the other component for success. For species such as largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass, the division recommends using a six-foot medium action, spinning outfit spooled with 8-10 lb. test line. Next, you need to determine if you will be fishing top-water or deep-water. The top-water bite typically is best in the early morning and late evening.

During fall, bass key in on shad forage while feeding up for the winter. Floating or shallow running baits resembling small shad, minnows or blueback herring will entice bites from all three bass species. For deep-water bass angling, use 1/4 - 3/8 oz. jigheads with your favorite plastic curly-tailed grub or plastic shad lure skewered on it (recommended colors: green pumpkin and watermelon seed), Texas or Carolina rigged plastic worms and lizards, jigging spoons, deep diving crankbaits, live nightcrawlers or minnows. Deep-water angling can be utilized year-round, but can be especially effective in summer and winter when fish move offshore in a lake or reservoir.

Another fall favorite, striped bass, often confused as one of Georgia’s six black bass species, actually belong to the temperate bass family. Anglers can find some exceptional striped bass fishing in Georgia, including native coastal river populations.

When fishing for striped bass in Georgia’s estuaries, one should come equipped with a medium-heavy spinning outfit (20-30 lb. class) with one of the new small diameter superlines. This will assist in getting the bait to the bottom where striped bass are feeding on shrimp (Oct.-Nov.). Effective lures include 1/2 - 3/4 oz. bucktail jigs, 1 oz. rattle traps and 1 oz. swim shads.

For bass fishing throughout Georgia, the division recommends the following fishing spots and the species to pursue at each:

· Lakes Hartwell, Nottely and Lanier – Oct.-Dec. is a great time to catch spotted and largemouth bass on these major impoundments. Anglers should target deeper offshore areas of 10-30 ft. of water and structures such as standing timber, submerged islands with woody cover (brush and stumps) and rocks. Bass will often suspend over open water at these depths, feeding on shad and blueback herring.

· Chattahoochee River (below Morgan Falls Dam) – Fall provides excellent largemouth, spotted and shoal bass fishing on the Chattahoochee. Anglers can take many approaches – jon boats, wading and float tubes to get close to their favorite species. Fly-fishing also is a productive method for bass on the river.

· Lake Oconee – Largemouth bass are plentiful during fall on this reservoir. Anglers should concentrate on tributary arms such as Sugar Creek, Lick Creek, Sandy Creek and the upper ends of the three major tributary arms (Oconee River, Apalachee River and Richland Creek). Concentrate on depths less than five feet.

· Lake Richard B. Russell – Largemouth and spotted bass fishing is excellent during the fall when water temperature drops into the 60s. Concentrate on major creek arms where you’ll find bass following schools of baitfish (threadfin shad) as they migrate into creeks.

· Lakes Varner and Black Shoals – The upper half of these reservoirs are great spots to fish for largemouths, though there is no one particular hot spot. Light line and smaller lures are more effective at Black Shoals as the water tends to be clearer.

· West Point Lake – Serious largemouth bass anglers need to head to this lake to test their skills. As water temperatures cool, areas to target include creek mouths and points, the upper end of the lake and around the numerous blown down trees in the water.

· Big Lazer Public Fishing Area (PFA) – If you like fishing for largemouth on a smaller lake, give this 195-acre PFA a try. It’s intensely managed to produce extra pounds of bass. In the fall, bass often are caught in shallow to medium-depth water near structure and drop-offs in the coves or off the main channel.

· Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center/Marben Farms PFA – Bass fishing always picks up in the fall as bass become more aggressive when the water temperature drops. Bennett and Fox lakes are the best place for “lunker” size bass and anglers should concentrate on fishing flooded timber and calm waters in the mornings for their best chance at this PFA.

· Ocmulgee PFA – This new PFA is well on the way to developing into a trophy bass destination. Some of the bass in the reservoir have grown to more than 10 pounds in just about three years! Currently, the average size bass is 6.5 pounds. The standing timber left in the lake during construction and the aeration system, which creates a current for the lake, concentrates bass for anglers. Points, underwater high spots, standing timber and thicker cover will be good areas for anglers to target. Top-water baits fished around the edges of thicker brush are recommended for early morning while fishing swimming lures around the brush edges or pitching weedless baits into the thick brush may be best for later in the day.

· High Falls Lake – This 650-acre lake is an untapped resource for largemouth bass – quality bass catches are frequent, with an occasional “lunker” reeled in as well. Buck Creek is the most popular spot for largemouth anglers and fishermen are encouraged to target boat docks and aquatic vegetation mats.

· Coastal Rivers – Fall is the best time to fish for stripers in Georgia’s coastal rivers as they are moving down river as water temperatures drop, feeding on the abundantly available bait, such as shrimp and menhaden, in estuaries. Anglers should concentrate on fishing the upward current side of any bridge piling or structure. Most strikes occur within one ft. of some sort of structure, so get lines in there tight to get a bite.

· Toccoa River – The Toccoa River watershed is the best place to hook a homegrown smallmouth. They are present in the river just upstream (south) from Lake Blue Ridge, in the reservoir itself, and in the warmer, lower half of the lake's tailwater near McCaysville. Tossing a herring-imitating crankbait or a live crawfish toward rocky banks and points in the reservoir is a best bet for Georgia bassers wanting to add this species to their list of caught fish. More information is available in the Lake Blue Ridge fishing prospects, .

· Ochlockonee River – As the rarest of Georgia’s black bass species, Suwannee bass are most abundant in the Ochlockonee River in south Georgia. (They are also present in the Withlacoochee and Alapaha Rivers). Anglers wishing to pursue these feisty fish would be advised to use light tackle with plastic worms or small spinnerbaits. Anglers fishing for Suwannee bass on the Ochlockonee River should concentrate on areas south of Thomasville. Canoes and kayaks are the preferred craft for maneuvering the small, black, tree-laden waters of the Ochlockonee. Three boat ramps are located in this stretch of the Ochlockonee: Hwy. 19 in Thomasville; Hwy. 93 below Cairo; and Hadley’s Ferry off of Midway Rd.

· Flint River – Shoal bass are one of the signature species of the Flint River. Shoal bass can reach weights of over eight pounds and are an exciting challenge in the swift water. Shoal bass can be caught on a wide variety of lures, and some of the favorites are small swimming minnows, spinner baits, top water poppers and Texas-rigged worms and lizards. A favorite technique involves floating or motoring to a major shoal and then wade-fishing the pools and swift runs with spinning tackle or fly rod. Wading the shoals is particularly suited to fly-fishing. Just bring your six to eight weight bass or trout rod and plenty of wooly buggers and poppers.

· Ocmulgee River – Shoal, largemouth and spotted bass provide excellent fall fishing in the Ocmulgee River both upstream and downstream of Macon. Shoal and spotted bass are more common above Macon, though shoal bass also are found below the Fall Line and are fairly common as far south as Warner Robins. Preferred shoal bass lures are small to medium swimming minnows, spinner baits, poppers and artificial worms. Largemouth are the predominate black bass below Macon and good catches are possible using the right techniques. Most of the larger snags along the bank, particularly in areas of low current velocities, are home to one or more largemouth bass and they can be fooled with a lightly weighted plastic worm or lizard cast as close to the structure as possible. Spinner baits, medium Rapala-type crank baits, and plastic jerk baits are also effective but the key is triggering the fish to leave the cover to hit your bait.

· Savannah River – Largemouth bass are abundant in this river downstream of New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam to the estuary. When the river’s flow is low, good numbers of fish can be found around woody debris along the banks and diversion structures within the main channel. As the river’s flow increases and water fills backwater areas of the flood plain, fish tend to occupy sloughs and tributary creeks where water current is quite slower than in the main channel. When fishing these backwater areas, smaller lures and plastic worms tend to be effective, as a more subtle approach more often triggers strikes in these quiet, slow-moving spots.

· Ogeechee River – The Ogeechee is home to a very healthy largemouth bass population. Methods used in other coastal rivers will be effective here but anglers must scale down the size of their vessel and equipment in order to access a large portion of river above the tidal area. With many sand bars and fallen trees extending across almost the entire river, a lightweight, shallow-draft boat is essential in order to find the many miles of remote stretches of river that exist in this system. Also, with a low tree canopy reaching out over the river in many spots, a shorter fishing rod can be quite advantageous when trying to make that perfect cast.

For more information on each of the six species of black bass, check out Georgia’s Black Bass brochure online at . Also, log on for more bass fishing tips, fishing destinations and other bass-related information.

Take Me Fishing™! A recent national survey indicated that 87 percent of Americans believe
fishing and boating have a positive effect on family relationships. So take your family fishing and you will always have something in common.

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