We have a Jekyl and Hyde bass here in Georgia and it is taking over more and more of our waters each year. The Hyde side of spotted bass is that they are aggressive, meaning you can catch them easier under tough conditions. They are prolific, meaning you can catch a bunch. And they fight hard.
The Jekyll side is that they are aggressive, taking over habitat and eating food largemouth need. They are prolific, meaning they can take over a lake and crowd out largemouth and smallmouth. And they don’t grow nearly as big as largemouth, meaning your may give up catching a five pound largemouth to catch five one-pound spots.
Spots are native to a few north Georgia lakes and streams but misguided anglers have illegally transplanted them to many other waters. They do provide a good fishery in some of them, but often at the expense of other bass. Spots have almost eliminated smallmouth from most Georgia lakes where they once existed and have hurt populations of largemouth on many lakes.
The impact of spotted bass is reflected in the Georgia Bass Chapter Federation Creek Census Report compiled by Dr. Carl Quertermus at the University of West Georgia. Many middle Georgia lakes showed a spotted bass catch of less than ten percent in the early 1990s when they were first introduced. That percentage has increased to higher than 50 percent in many club tournaments now.
I remember the first spotted bass I ever saw at Jackson Lake. It was weighed in during a Spalding County Sportsman Club tournament in the early 1990s. Although the club fished Jackson several times a year that was the first one ever caught in a club tournament there. In December 2006 in a Sportsman Club tournament on Jackson 69.7 percent of the bass weighed in were spots.
Unless you have seen a lot of spots it is not easy to tell them from a largemouth without careful examination. Spots are usually a brighter color than largemouth, with more defined differences between the green blotches and the other areas. They have small black spots on their lower body below the lateral line, made up of the dark ends of scales there. And they have a smaller mouth.
The way most club fishermen identify spots is by rubbing their “tongue” and feeling a small rough spot. These so-called teeth are present in almost all spots and are absent in almost all largemouth. The identification is important because of the different size limits for spots and largemouth on some lakes.
The specific way to identify spots is the jaw does not extend back past the eye. Spots have scales on the base portion of the second dorsal fin and largemouth do not. A spot’s first and second dorsal fins are clearly connected and a largemouth’s are almost completely separated by a deep dip.
Spots seem to fight harder than largemouth. For some reason they pull harder for similar size largemouth. For that reason they are popular with fishermen. But spots do not grow as fast or as big as largemouth. The record largemouth was caught in Georgia and weighed 22 pounds, 4 ounces. A 25 pound plus largemouth was caught last year in California but was not submitted for the record.
The world record spot weighed 10 pounds 4 ounces and was caught in California. The Georgia record spot weighed 8 pounds 2 ounces. Ten pound largemouth are caught every year in Georgia but there has never been a ten pound spotted bass caught here. In most lakes spots average about a pound and you will seldom see a four pounder, but four pound largemouth are more common in those lakes.
Many of our middle Georgia lakes have cleared up significantly over the past 20 years and they helps spotted bass. Spots tend to bed deeper than largemouth and clearer water makes their spawn more successful. That habit also helps their spawn survive when lakes are pulled down during the spawn since their deeper beds are less likely to be left high and dry.
No matter how spots got in so many of our waters, and no matter their effect on other fish, they are fun to catch so we might as well take advantage of them. If you target spots you might need to change your tactics a little if you are used to fishing strictly for largemouth.
Rocks are a key to spots, as is deep water. Although you can catch them around other cover and structure, deep rocks are a favorite for them. Since they like open water the main lake is usually better for spots. So a deep rocky main lake point is ideal habitat for spotted bass.
Spots will hit a variety of baits but smaller baits seem to be better. They will take a 5 inch worm over a 10 inch worm most days, and they prefer a 1/4 ounce spinnerbait to a half ounce. Since they tend to be more aggressive a fast moving bait is usually better. So fishing a 1/4 ounce crankbait fast will produce more spots than a big crankbait reeled slowly under most conditions.
For some reason spots seem to have an affinity to chartreuse. Chartreuse crankbaits, spinnerbaits and worms all work well for spotted bass. Even the tip of a worm’s tail dipped in chartreuse dye increases your chance of catching a spot.
Since you are more likely to find spots in clear water and down deeper, lighter line is better. It also helps in throwing the smaller baits. And since spots tend to be smaller than largemouth and hold in more open water the lighter line on lighter outfits will allow you to take advantage of their stronger fight without as much risk losing them.
The preference of spots for smaller baits and lighter lines has lead to the popularity of small jig heads with small worms on them. Several brands like Spotsticker, Spot Remover and others attest to the popularity of fishing this kind of rig for spotted bass.
Some of our lakes are very good for spotted bass. If you want to target spots, give one of the following a try.
Lanier is Georgia’s premier spotted bass lake. Spots have been in it at least since the 1960s and may have been present when the lake was dammed in 1956. The introduction of blueback herring and the increase to 14 inches for the minimum size for bass at Lanier has made it a trophy spotted bass fishery.
Lanier has the qualities spots love. Deep rocky points cover the lake and the water is clear. There is also a lot of deep standing timber, another type cover spots like. Those characteristics combine with the herring and the size limit to make Lanier a special case in Georgia.
Spotted bass fishing is good all over the main lake. From the rocks at the dam to the riprap at Clark’s Bridge you will catch spots. In the 2005 Creel Census Report 87 percent of the bass weighed in at Lanier are spots, the second highest in the state. That is up from 78 percent in 1996.
By early summer there are two good ways to catch spots. Boat traffic makes fishing during the day tough, but if you can ride out the waves a topwater lure or soft jerkbait worked over humps and standing timber will bring spots up to eat them. Sunny days are best since blueback herring come toward the surface when it is sunny and spots wait to ambush the schools of herring as they pass over. Make your bait act like a herring being chased by a bass.
Fishing at night is a way to catch spots and avoid some of the boat traffic. Target humps and rocky points with spinnerbaits, crankbaits and Texas rigged worms. Try the Spotsticker jig on the bottom, fished with a shaking action. Fish as many different places as you can and you are likely to catch some good spots, often with a four pounder in your sack.
Spots are native to Allatoona and they are plentiful there but not as big as at Lanier. That may be changing with the illegal introduction of bluebacks, but the long term impact is yet to be seen. Boat traffic is a problem at Allatoona like it is at Lanier.
Although once called “The Dead Sea” by bass fishermen, the Creel Census Report actually shows Allatoona with the highest number of bass weighed in per angler hour of any Georgia lake. Almost 88 percent of the bass weighed in during 2005 tournaments are spots, and this may be skewed some since largemouth tend to weigh more than spots so spots are often culled in favor of largemouth. In 1996 it was 78 percent spots.
Night fishing is the way to go at Allatoona in warm weather. Target rocky points and sheer bluff walls with small jigs and worms, or try a crankbait and spinnerbait run parallel to them. Say on the main lake since spots like deeper water. You can catch some up the creeks but bigger spots tend to hold on bigger water.
The points and bluffs on the Etowah River from Little River down to the dam and back up the Allatoona Creek side to Clark Creek are best. Fishermen have put out a lot of brush piles on Allatoona and you can find them with a good depthfinder. Fish a Texas rigged five inch worm or small jig and pig in them for big spots, too.
Burton is a small lake with lots of big spots. They have been present there for a long time but the introduction of blueback herring made the population grow fast and now Burton is a trophy spot lake. The state record 8 pound, 2 ounce spot was caught there in 2005.
Burton gets crowded in warm weather and night fishing is best on the weekends. If you can fish during the week when the lake is not too crowded, try topwater baits over the points near on all main lake and bigger feeder creek points. After dark look for brush or fish the same points with a jig and pig or small worm.
Burton has limited access and is lined with docks. The fishing can be good around the deeper docks, too. Many have brush piles around them and the best ones are on rocky banks near points. Find that combination and there should be some quality spots nearby.
Russell is a good spot lake and its undeveloped shoreline make it a joy to fish if you like nature, not cabins and skidoos. The clear water and standing timber make it a perfect spot lake and they have really increased in number since being illegally introduced by bass fishermen.
In 1996 the Creel Census Report shows 98 percent largemouth weighed in during club tournaments with an average weight of 1.59 pounds and an average big fish of 4.04. By 2005 that changed to 48 percent spots with an average weight of 1.47 pounds and a big fish of 3.27 pounds. That gradual decrease in size is typical of lakes changing from mostly largemouth to mostly spots.
Russell has telephone poles as channel markers. They sit on the ends of points marking the edge of deep water. They also mark good spot holes. Many are rocky and a lot have brush piles around them. There is standing timber off most of them.
Spots at Russell like to hold in the timber and run in on the points to feed. You can sometimes catch them by fishing topwater baits over the timber or bouncing a Texas rigged worm through the limbs. Use a 1/4 ounce sinker and a green pumpkin five inch worm. That also works in the bigger feeder creeks with visible standing timber. Follow the channel and fish the timber near it.
Throw big crankbaits and Carolina or Texas rigged five inch worms on the points. When you hit rocks or brush shake the worm in it. Make repeated casts to any brush you find since it will often be the place feeding bass move to and look for food.
In the 1970s and 80s Jackson waters were often pea soup green from the discharge of sewage from Atlanta. The water is now much clearer and more suitable to the spots stocked there illegally. In the 1996 Creel Census Report over 95 percent of the bass were largemouth and by 2005 43 percent of the catch was spots. During the 1980s six pound and bigger largemouth were common in tournaments but now a six pounder is rare.
Spot fishing is good at Jackson and on this old lake you can catch more bass now than you could back when it was mostly largemouth. From the points at the dam up the Tussahaw Creek and up the river to Berry’s Boat Dock, spots abound in rocky areas and around brush. The lake is small enough to fish a lot of it in one day.
Hit rocky points with topwater early then switch to small worms during the day. Night fishing is also good with a jig and pig or a Texas rigged worm. If you catch a spot on a point make repeated casts to it since spots tend to school up with lots of fish in the same area.
Spots probably got into West Point naturally since Lanier upstream was full of them when West Point was built, but they have increased in number as the water cleared up. From almost 95 percent largemouth in the 1995 Creel Census Report with an average weight of 2.69 and a average big fish of 4.81 to a 62 percent catch of spots with an average weight of 1.75 and an average weight of 4.62, the lake has changed like many others. Some of that change is the reduction of size limit on largemouth from 16 inches to 14 inches in that time.
The main lake from Highland Marina to the dam and in Wehadkee, Stroud and Veasey Creeks spotted bass fishing is good. Fish rocky points and banks with a small crankbait, jig and pig or worm. Early in the morning throw a topwater bait like a Pop-R or Tiny Torpedo. A jig like the Spotsticker with a five inch green pumpkin worm is also good around the rocks.
There is no size limit on spots anywhere except at Lake Lanier because they don’t grow as fast or as big as largemouth. If you want some bass to eat target spots. Their average size of about a pound is a good size for filets and smaller ones can be cooked whole. Removing spots, especially the smaller ones, will not hurt the lake.
Target spots for some hard fighting fish that are good to eat. You will have fun, catch a bunch of bass and can take home some to eat without feeling guilty about practicing catch and hot grease.