Last week I went to Lake Jordan just outside Montgomery, Alabama, and Lake Russell near Elberton, Georgia. Both are about three hours from Griffin and both have spotted bass, but they are totally different fisheries.
Jordan is a Coosa River lake and is full of the famous Coosa spots. Its waters are very fertile, the water has a greenish hue from algae, and the shoreline is covered with grass. Grass cover for bass is important for several reasons, among them giving young bass a place to hide from predators and giving adult bass great feeding areas.
Twenty-pound five-fish stringers of spotted bass are common in tournaments there. The fertility and cover make them grow fast and fat, and current moving in the lake brings them easy food, so they don’t have to expend much energy to feed.
Spots are native to Jordan, so they are well adapted to that environment. The population is in balance, with predator and prey at the right levels for the environment. Largemouth are also fairly common in the lake since they fill a slightly different niche and, since the spot population is balanced, they do not over compete with them.
We had a disappointing trip although the conditions seemed perfect. Even though it was Memorial Day, the clouds and threat of rain kept pleasure boaters off the lake. And the low light conditions, combined with current moving in the lake that day, should have put the fish in a feeding mood.
We caught a few fish and they were fat and healthy. The fish did not do what we thought they should, which is not unusual when fishing!
Lake Russell was very different on last Friday. The only common thing was the lack of pleasure boaters.
Shoreline development is not allowed on Russell and it is not near a big city, so it was not crowded. We saw a dozen or so fishing boats but no pleasure boaters even though it was a warm, sunny day.
Russel is not fertile. Its waters are very clear and shoreline grass is rare. Dammed in 1984, Russell is the newest lake in Georgia. It does have current since it has power generators and a pump back system at the dam. Power is generated during the day, so water flows downstream, then at night the same water is pumped back from Clarks Hill immediately downstream.
Since the water is recirculated, it does not carry a nutrient load like the water flowing down the Coosa River. Moving water does give bass easier feeding opportunities on Russell, but there is less food to move.
Spots are not native to Russell. In its early days it took 20-pound limits of largemouth to place in most tournaments. But midnight stocking of spots by bucket biologists introduced them in the 1990s and they have overcrowded the lake. It is rare to catch a largemouth there now.
Some fishermen think they can transport spots to lakes where they are not native and they will do as well as they do at Lake Lanier, a premier spot fishery. But Lanier is very fertile from run-off from chicken processing plants and has more food that spots like. Spots have just about taken over from largemouth at Lanier, too, but they grow fat there.
Not on Russell. We caught a lot of spots, but most were 11 to 13 inches long. You can easily catch 100 spots a day there but if your best five weigh 10 pounds you have caught a good limit of spots, and that weight would place in most tournaments.
Those little spots are fun to catch and good to eat. There is no size limit on spots anywhere in Georgia except Lake Lanier, to encourage fishermen to keep them. A trip to Russell to keep ten spots a day to eat is not only fun and good eating, it will not hurt the fishery.
Closer to home, Lake Jackson was an incredible fishery for big largemouth until the 1990s when spots started taking over. Fishermen put them in the lake and they have badly overpopulated it. We saw the first spots in our tournaments there in the early 1990s but they were rare. Now most of the fish we weigh in are spots.
Spots are more aggressive than largemouth and bed deeper, so they are not as affected by changes in the lake as much. But they do not grow as big as largemouth. An acre of lake can support only so many bass.
Where an acre of water at Jackson used to have, say 100 pounds of largemouth, ranging from one to five pounds or more, now it has 100 spots weighing a pound each.
If you catch spots on any of our lakes except Lanier and a couple of other far north Georgia lakes where they do well, keep a limit to eat.